Musings on Patronage

After a really great month for my Patreon, Like the best month ever and I celebrated with some stickers for my planner, a couple of thrifted books and a double credit card payment. I also got a nice lil tip in my Venmo that netted me a couple of coffees and some time to sit down and make some plans.

This morning, I got a long rambly angry note from an anonymous person at a throwaway email address all about how they KNOW I take advantage of people and how I am a (this phrase is verbatim) Welfare Lady in Waiting and how I’m just fleecing people because my writing is not good enough to get the big bucks and shit from publishing.

Now, aside from the sheer saltiness and the fact that they cherry picked things I post about freely on social media as examples of how I’m rooking folks into funding my lavish lifestyle, I noticed that what came across was that this person is bitter as fuck but follows me closely.

Obviously their welfare lady in waiting thing is a racist as fuck, sexist as fuck and comes from what I think is probably a place of hurt that I, a Black person has dared to carve out an artist life of sorts.

Let’s use a super famous and successful White person as an example here. Now, I cannot stand her for many reasons, but Amanda Palmer is gonna be our example.  She literally makes more money per thing than I do in a year.

Cruising through the top writing creators, most of them make anywhere from 1200$ up through 12,000$.

The thing is, there is a very long and rich tradition of patronage to artists. All kinds of artists, writers, painters, singers etc. Folks giving people money to live so they can create is something that has gone on forever. What I find interesting about modern life is that in reality, often the argument I hear from people against my own search for patronage is wrapped up in age old stereotypes about Black people.

The uppermost layer revolves around the idea that unless you are extraordinary, if you don’t have ties in the world you work in you have zero access. If you are not the right negro, often the gatekeepers want nothing to do with you unless they are tickled by you.

If you can be an exotic pet for them to talk about to their friends. Or they will fuck you or display you or, at worst steal from you.

Some of those things have happened to me. Way back when, I had the “opportunity” to deal with some mentors who were older White men with money and pretty much they wanted a literate fuckdoll. They wanted to be the one to say they bagged the next Maya and I wasn’t having it.

I have read a lot of artist bios and in so many, patronage of one sort or another was the way through. It provided what we as humans need and what we creatives often need to make our work great.

Stability.

Less stress.

Time.

Now, Whiteness alone doesn’t necessarily protect an artist from being taken advantage of but often it protects against the insults and accusations.

You can even be an actual fraud and frankly, if you’re white enough a lot of people won’t ostracize you. Granted, some fare better than others, but, I think history shows us this is pretty true.

I think I’ve been painfully aware of these things since I was a baby potato writer dreaming of having patrons. I remember reading Henry Miller when I was 14 or whatever and after jerking off, I’d dream about mailing pages to publishers and getting wired money and having beautiful places to visit, having that life and writing wonderful broken things.

I outgrew thinking that was my path, but looking back, I see where Blackness became the thing I believed would keep me from having that access and support because I didn’t know about any living Black creators who had it.

I couldn’t have said it at that age, but I felt it.

I think that’s all. This topic/area has been on my mind because I’m writing about things that intersect with Blackness, patronage in the arts, fraud, etc.

So to wrap up, if you really follow me closely enough to know when I last was published by another person, when I bought new boots etc you know that I hustle.

So fuck off.

Before I go, later this week or next I am going to make some announcements about things. And for right now, you can read a free Daiyuverse story I posted on Wattpad. I will probably post more there as I write them if I don’t submit them places. You can follow me. Enjoy.

 

Giving what I have right now.

I can’t be in so much pain and anger today.

That said, I’d like to share some beauty.

First up, please enjoy a little video of me reading my story The Beloved of Colel Cab you may need to crank the volume, my new phone isn’t the greatest for video but here you go. Feel free to share it, like it, subscribe to my youtube channel. I will have more lit vids coming.

If you’d like a copy to read or read along (I am working on a good transcript) click here it is available as a free post at my Patreon. 

I have some new self-care stuff coming. Emergency stuff.

I have a new piece of work a prose-poem thing on Ink Node.

I am very well and truly out of spoons and this is what I know how to do. This is what I can give to my community. Some things from my heart that might be a bit of a respite.

I also offer up the pieces on self-care I wrote a while back and put on Medium. Take them and share them if you know folks who need them. Here and Here.

Check this slipstream flash story. It’s a happy little thing.

And one more, a favorite story of mine. A little Queer Flash fiction love letter to my fellow Brown Femmes. Check the link for the story and an interview.

This is all I have right now. I’m so not okay I have nothin else.

When I have something, it’s yours.

Until then, take care of yourselves and each other and I love y’all.

Imagining the rest. Thinking about #blackspecfic

I have been scribbling away on a couple of way out of my comfort zone pieces.

In one I’ve created an origin story for a myth no one has heard before. It started out as an entire other thing, I wanted to practice finding a very particular voice to put on a narrator and as usual I started with a little character sketch to try and hear it in my head.

What’s interesting to me right now is that after reading this piece from Fireside when it came out, I’ve done a lot of looking at my body of work both published and unpublished. I’ve been looking at what interests me in terms of the new fiction I want to create.

It is all fucking speculative fiction in one way or another.

Wiki says this about speculative fiction:

Speculativefiction is a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements, notably science fiction, fantasy and horror. The popularity of the term is sometimes attributed to Robert Heinlein, who referenced it in 1947 in an editorial essay, although there are prior mentions of speculativefiction, or its variant “speculative literature”.

Well, yeah. That’s everything I write these days. Looking back, I can see points in my writing life where I’ve done my level best to not do spec fic. I’ve spent time trying to be straight up literary or horror or whatever.

I have found a comfortable *for me to create in* space that is both speculative and slipstream.

This is what wiki says about slipstream.

Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. The term slipstream was coined by cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling in an article originally published in SF Eye #5, in July 1989.

In terms of my work, I’ve found a freedom in living in this place because I don’t feel the pressure to do any particular type of performative Blackness in my work. In these worlds that are our world and other worlds, their Blackness is not othered they just are. They can be created without me being distracted by all the other bullshit that happens when you write to represent yourself (because that’s great advice if you’re a creator) and shit gets difficult.

Okay, now that I’m thinking about what I’ve been writing and potentially getting back into submitting to places that take stuff that lands on the spec fic spectrum, and I still have some trepidation.

I’ve seen some magazines, etc. try to respond.

I don’t know how I feel about it. If I’m going to be real about it, there are probably four magazines that take the more spec fic/slipstream stuff I think I’d even have a shot at. Not necessarily because of the quality of my work, but because the Blackness in my work has just been there. It’s not part of a larger point, these are just the people who populate these worlds. And that isn’t necessarily the type of work by POC that a lot of places feature.

I want to believe that the industry has heard the call and will start getting itself right. I don’t want to spend time reformatting (because how I work visually means I always have to overhaul when I submit to genre mags because so many still only take manuscript format..that’s a whole other thing), researching, editing, etc. etc. to submit to places where, I might feel like my work would be the token nod to “diversity”.

I don’t know. I guess I’m just suspicious.

I’m suspicious of the genre industries because I feel like I can’t turn around without seeing some kind of racist fuckery. I don’t mind being aware of it, I find that important, but as a writer who will be submitting, like I don’t want to fuck with it. Sometimes I wonder if I do gain traction in any of the genre areas I like, am I going to wind up as a target of the raging puppy types?

I have a lot of complicated feelings about it.

On one hand, I have come to understand that I will not be able to sell my fiction directly to my readership. This isn’t a plea right now it’s the plain truth. That particular adventure is pretty done. It was a grand experiment, but I need to shut it down because it’s been mostly stressful and cost me money. I don’t have money to spend like that.

So what now?

I think I’m ready to get back into the swing of submitting fiction around. I have been thinking about #blackspecfic and I want to be in it. I want to be part of it. I got my hard hat and big girl boxer briefs on, I’ve got stories to tell and I’m ready.

It feels kind of nice to have that particular ambition again. I have my new and shiny submission tracking spreadsheet started up and I’ve clocked in some nice rejections already.

Aside from the failure of my indie authoring, the other thing that has drawn me back into the industry this way is that I have hope. For every racist fuckery filled comment section or twitter tantrum or attempt to sway awards, I see people fighting for the things I believe in and I can’t completely resist.

All this is a very roundabout way of saying, you could likely start seeing my name again around in magazines. And it feels good.

That’s it for now. I have been doing my author loveletters *newsletter but whatever* and this weeks is a good one. Come check it out here and subscribe if you like. New one every Saturdayish and never any spam.

#BlackSpecFic Feelings.

First, please go check out the work Fireside Fiction put in on this. 

Ahem.

For our purposes here today I’m gonna use this definition of spec fic from wikipedia:

Speculativefiction is a broad umbrella category of narrative fiction referring to any fiction story that includes elements, settings and characters whose features are created out of human imagination and speculation rather than based on attested reality and everyday life. That encompasses the genres of science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, horror, alternative history, and magic realism.

If you’ve read me for a while, you know this is an area I love to live and play in. Also, please read this. 

My own experiences mirror a lot of those N.K. Jemison talks about. When I was a wee baby writer, I did not allow my Blackness in my work in a lot of ways. From the writing perspective my earliest lessons both overt and not were like so:

  • Anything involving Black characters would likely not be “believable” if they weren’t hood caricatures or portraits of racial uplift. That cut across all the genres I like to work in.
  • Blackness regardless of subject matter, genre, etc is often treated as a wee tiny box where ALL the Black stories must go.

I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t find all the links. There is a problem when as a writer, you do your due diligence and study the places you are submitting. For me personally if I go back more than 5 or so issues and see no POC or if the masthead headshots are all White men, if the stories are all in one vein under the guise of aesthetics and “goodness” those are not places I’m going to feel welcome.

A problem I (and I’ll venture to guess a lot of POC and especially Black authors) run into every now and then is when White editors are very obviously uncomfortable with Blackness or anything not White centric. Often this isn’t anything blatant, it can be felt in email exchanges where an editor doesn’t understand a phrase that isn’t “proper English”, or suggestions to do certain things (in my case it was an Orisha) more “mainstream”. The suggestion was to change the goddess/Orisha in this story to Aphrodite or, you know, a White one. Being questioned about not italicizing my Spanish. Being questioned about how “unlikely” (in a firmly spec fic story) it would be to have the protagonist be a little Black girl.

The first story I referenced, was published at Expanded Horizons and was my first publication in a spec fic magazine. That story (I just went a looked) was rejected 15 times. There was one nibble of interest, but the editor backed off when I said I would not rewrite to make it a Euro/White story.

The next story isn’t really spec fic (though my inspiration was) but the tiniest bit of unitalicized Spanish made it “difficult for most readers”.  (I can’t get to youtube but go there and search Daniel Jose Older and Italicized Spanish, it’s worth it)

The last story (it was Pushcart nominated) was rejected 16 times. The first nibble of interest, I spent about two weeks going back and forth with an editor who couldn’t see or understand how a little Black girl who is a shapeshifter would ever exist in a world where there are shapeshifters. This person also mentioned how my names for my creatures, Children of Apep, Daughter of Sekhmet etc would be too “esoteric” for “most” readers. I actually went back to read the exchange. Yes, references to Egyptian gods/esses as the names of shapeshifters is too “esoteric”. My references to Hyena and Crow were “not really relatable”.

For a lot of years, this is what I had to wade through when submitting so as I’ve mentioned before I just stopped.

This isn’t exclusive to spec-fic. The problem of overwhelming whiteness is one of literature in general. For me, the constancy of the racism in lit has just been exhausting. When I decided to start writing genre fiction again, I again found myself being unable to bear interacting with the community, reading fan stuff etc because shit always gets real racist real quick.

These are many of the reasons why I started self pubbbing my genre fiction. These are many of the reasons I stopped reading genre fiction too.

For the cheap seats. As a White person in a position of power in the lit world, you can’t just say you’re all for inclusion and diversity if you can’t demonstrate it. Words in this matter are useless. You have to act. As I’ve said many times before, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to understand that using Whiteness as the measure for what is “good” is a problem. Even if you don’t mean it.

Understand that there will be things and elements of work that don’t resonate with you and that is okay.

You have to do the work or you’re part of the problem here.

There are SO many easy ways to find authors of color to approach to feature their work, editors you can talk to. It’s not that fucking hard. It is 20 mother fucking 16. You probably have a computer in your pocket.

Listen to what POC have to say.

Read work by POC.

If you are totally into inclusion, be that shit. Don’t just say it. Do it. Do the work.

We exist.

If you’re a reader. Find the stories and books. Buy them, read them, check them out at the library, talk about them.

As a creator of things, I’d also like to say this.

Stop pretending that the statistics are shocking. Stop it. We all know racism is a real thing and permeates everything. Including literature. Including speculative fiction. Including SF and horror and everything else. Stop. White folks, you are not helpless here. There are tons and tons of articles, stories, etc. written by and about POC so maybe start reading them.

Do the work.

That’s all for now.

On Rejections and Thangs

Behold first a list of places I’ve been rejected from in the last few years. These culled from my Submittable (OH sidebar: if you ever need help with your Submittable account their CS is FUCKING STELLAR. Like really great.) account.

I MADE THIS.

Publisher *Interrobang Magazine*Bone Bouquet*Portland Review*Two Serious Ladies*Corium Magazine*Black Fox Literary Magazine*Menacing Hedge*kill author*Quickly*Jersey Devil Press*Looseleaf Tea*MUD LUSCIOUS PRESS*Red Bridge Press*d.ustb.in*Cease  Cows*Wyvern Lit*The James Franco Review*The Butter*Storyglossia*Necessary Fiction*Atticus Books*Knockout Literary Magazine*Girls with Insurance*Linden Avenue Literary Journal*The Molotov Cocktail*Word Riot*Camroc Press Review*SmokeLong Quarterly*Vending Machine Press*The Rusty Nail*Side B Magazine*Curbside Splendor Publishing*Used Furniture Review*fwriction : review*Word Riot*Belletrist Coterie*The Offing*Specter: A Curated Literary Website*The Offing*A-Minor*Word Riot*Bloom*The Midwest Coast Review*Leodegraunce*Eclectic Flash*fwriction : review*Stone Highway Review*Specter: A Curated Literary Website*Metazen*tNY.Press*ExFic*wtf pwm*[PANK]*fwriction : review*Camroc Press Review*Used Furniture Review*Unshod Quills*BLACKBERRY: a magazine*Gravel*Birdfeast*Necessary Fiction*Slit Your Wrists! Magazine*Wilde Magazine*10 000 Tons of Black Ink*Monkeybicycle*Counterexample Poetics*deactivated TOSKA Magazine*Little Episodes*Gertrude Press*ABJECTIVE*Battered Suitcase*The Monarch Review*Out of the Gutter Online*[PANK]*freeze frame fiction*Publishing Genius*Menacing Hedge*The Citron Review*Dark Sky Magazine*DREGINALD*Behind Closed Doors*Barn Owl Review*decomP magazinE*Necessary Fiction*Word Riot*The Rumpus

So if you get through that, you’ll see some repeats. Places that are in my mind big swing and miss type submissions.

I’ve been reflecting about the process lately since I don’t submit on such a rigorous schedule anymore.

I was reading something about rejections and I frankly refute the idea that it is always the writer.

The thing is that if you are writing from a perspective or about marginalized people in a way that is not the accepted (generally when it decenters Whiteness, heteronormativity, etc etc) there is an uphill battle, whether people who are closer to acceptable want to recognize it as part of the process or not.

After doing the submission thing and research things and reading thousands upon thousands of pages of what journals/mags publish, the struggle is real. I look over this little rejection list and this one from my race to 100, there are some I can point to as having probably been based on how I was telling stories about Black folks or Queer folks, rather than just my shitty writing.

Of course, there are times when I look back and cringe because things can always be better, tighter, more perfect, etc.

However, after going back through a lot of that work (and many of those pieces found homes eventually) and looking at the language in a lot of rejections (not just from this list but over a ten year period) I can say that I’ve seen some patterns and the patterns have fit in with my research.

Here is where I invite editors to pay some full attention, marginalized writers too:

  1. If I go through say five back issues of your thing and I see no POC, no stories about anyone other than White people in whatever form, I’m 99% sure if I submit a story about POC/other marginalized people you won’t take it. I often envision the, we love your work, but no fit yadda yada. For me, over the years, this has been a thing a lot.
  2. If you have words like diversity, inclusion or anything related and you haven’t done the work in your previous however many issues, see #1.
  3. If I’ve been reading and following your thing and you have a few POC or other marginalized folks and tend to only publish certain types of narratives, whether fictional or not, or the only POC you interview fall into a few distinct categories, see #1.

Etc.

One of the habits that has been ingrained in me since I was a wee baby writer age 19 in 1996 carefully copying addresses out of the back of Poets&Writers, I read where I want to be. At one point after I had my own computer (I think I got my first one in like 2001?) I had dozens of pages of individual notes on publications. I transcribed them from PW, from websites, from notebooks. I had a system. I spent two months writing like a motherfucker as much as humanly possible, I spent a month editing everything and then a month submitting.

This habit has remained with me, though I have learned to use trackers (GODS damn I wish someone had told me to do that back then) and figured myself out in terms of the truth of what I do, I’ve learned to read more closely and that is how I’ve figured out my system for parsing rejections and figuring out where to submit.

There have been times where I’ve spoken with editors, I can think of a few who really went to bat for me because I did not fit their standard narratives. That is gratifying.

Experience informs how I deal with my rejections.

In this phase of my writing life, I’m not as interested in trying to blaze trails.

I’ve got a big fucking mouth and I do indeed talk a lot of shit and occasionally name names. I’ve decided that rather than hold that in, I’m letting it out. I’m sure that will cause me rejections over time. It’s fine.

I realized during AWP and some subsequent interactions with lit world folks that I just don’t have the energy or mental health reserves to be one of the brick wall busting types.

I’ve hit fuck it.

I’ve figured out that I feel okay being a terrible self-published author.

I’m fine trying to hustle fiction out of my Etsy store like a literary pusherman.

I don’t hold out hope to be raised up by the loving hands of some literary agent.

I don’t really care if I get the Big Book Deal.

I’ve discovered the depths of joy I feel when small indie bootleg ass presses tell me if I do X thing, they want first look.

I’ve discovered the joy of putting something from my heart out that is flawed but touches other hearts.

It still fucks with me that people don’t buy my shit when I sell it.

It still fucks with me when I read things and I don’t see myself or other marginalized folks represented.

It still fucks with me when the literary community is largely a burning tire fire of racism and bullshit.

After all this, the real lesson is this.

This is a grind. Rejection alone won’t be the end of you. It is up to you as an artist to decide how to deal with it.

Now if y’all will excuse me, I have anxiety to deal with and shit to do.

Showing up Bloody.

Recently, I’ve been trying to deal with some trauma that I thought I had pretty much handled. Poverty trauma that reaches deeper than I realized it did.

I found myself having a really terrible day, flashbacks, really awful feelings, repressed panic attacks, bad enough to give me the shits for three days.

So I did what I always think is the thing to do and started writing. I started an essay (maybe my first long form) that is a testament to a lifetime of mental illness and how it has manifested and how the idea of the Strong Black Woman almost killed me.

The thing I’m most surprised about is that given my memory issues (related to my sleep disorders mainly) is the clarity of certain memories. Smells, how my skin felt, I close my eyes and see it. This is beyond confessional writing, I’ve done a ton of that over the last 20 years. This is exposure.

This piece is not the sort of confessional, I can smirk about and shrug because Shannon is gonna Shannon and not be embarrassed. This is stuff that makes me cringe. I want to say I’m sorry if I ask anyone to read it because it burns me. I know it will hurt the people who love me to know that has been my life and in some ways still is.

I’m fucking terrified.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I find being a memorist of any seriousness fucking scary. I know that in the scheme of Black writers and Black people and Black women, especially, what I’m working on could be one of those important little pockets of solidarity. I’m considering pitching it when it is closer to being done.

As I’m thinking about/researching that, of course I stop to wonder outside of a handful of pubs I already know, who would give space and cash to this story?

I know it is still very hard for the world (Lemonade or no Lemonade) to see that Black people have feelings, that we are human beyond the photos of our bleeding, broken bodies or scoring points or generally being acceptable but not quite human enough to see into. I know that when some people look at me, they want the Sassy Shannon Don’t Take No Shit and Don’t Need Nobody type. I know.

What I don’t know is where do I go to be a different facet of the purple lipstick wearing loudmouth? Where do I go not to rail about racism or other fuckery, but to show the world my emotionally bloody self?

I don’t know.

Or maybe I will self pub it as a mini memoir.

Who knows.

What’s important for me right now is to get it written. To confess. To strip off the last vestiges of the stone faced person I thought I wanted to be and show up naked and terrified but fucking there.

I’m there and right now that’s what matters.

Puppies, Hugos and Good Lordt.

If you’re not familiar with what I’m referencing here have a look.

Looking at a lot of conversations in blogs etc about this whole shitshow y’all, if I’m going to be honest, it really makes me even more hesitant to enter the arena.

A lot of what I’ve seen said by whatever flavor of puppies is automatically booting work that I do out of hand because “message’ which I generally read to mean about anything but White straight men.

For me a lot of my fiction is escape. My non-fiction tends to draw the uh, day to day version of pupppies of one sort or another. The White men who email me to tell me how “loud” and “terrible SJW” I am because I write about my life and that often includes my Blackness. The same type who, when I was just a little online journal writing type, would first ask to see my tits or to meet up and when I said no would call me a nigger bitch.

These are the same type of dudes who will correct me about any number of dumb things usually ending with, well YOU’RE THE RACIST.

And I’ve been following this since it started.

Thing is, the fact that this is still a fucking problem that I watch a lot of authors I respect both personally and professionally either be very stressed out about this or show their racist ass.

I watch and read all the commentary and links. I read a lot of the books in question.

At this point, all this whole situation does is show me more reasons I don’t even want to fuck with the industry.

It’s not that I wouldn’t love getting paid for my genre work, reaching a wider audience and all that shit. I just don’t want it ruined. I don’t want yet another part of my literary life to be speckled with this flavor of bullshit.

Not too long ago I had a pretty good sized list of mags and whatnot that would help me in getting SFWA membership. I had stories ready to shiny up and fling out into the nerdverse. Now, nah.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got the same amount of side eye for the horror areas as well. Especially given some professional organization fuckery that occurred right after getting a pretty warm sell on joining up and getting back into the horror genre in a larger fashion.

I keep telling myself things like the following:

Posi Brain: No, it’ll totally be fine. You’re being paranoid not everything is awful.

Non Posi Brain: Bitch whet? You saw that last note, we got right? You’re being a dipshit. Nothing is fine. Everything is awful.

Remix- repeat.

All this said, I don’t think I’m gonna be fuckin with it. I am stressed out enough. I hear enough about ALL the reasons why anything I say ever whether fictional or not are, somehow the end of White men everywhere.

My audience isn’t huge nor are they throwing big dollars but, I feel like we get each other and that feels good.

That’s how I feel about it for the couple of people who’ve asked me. Basically, I see it and I don’t like it so I ain’t fuckin with it.

Now, speaking to my audience, oh hey you.

Rewrites on The Daiyu Saga have begun and if you want to see the second draft of my first urban fantasy novel as it goes along, all it takes is like 2$ a month and BOOM access to every chapter and love letter that goes along with it. Head over here to check it out.

In other news, I will have some new lit in the etsy shop soon and you can still get this bad bitch right here, for a few dollars. Come get all your life.

 

mfcover