The Soundtrack of Magical Blackness.

I’ve been writing a lot of magical Black folks this week. Not just in the Daiyuverse but, another mermaid story, a high fantasy story about a cat woman and her female King lover.

I always have a soundtrack. I don’t write well without music. When I’m working on these particular stories, I feel both weight and lightness. I feel the weight of representation and the constancy of the fight to be visible in the lit world.

I feel the weight of navigating this world as both a reader and a creator. I hear shit from people like this, (seriously read that hashtag), I watch known abusers and rapists get airtime and still have to deal with shit like:

So, I detach and try to immerse myself in Magical Blackness because there, I don’t have to deal with this shit. I can write what I want to write and be magical as fuck and it feels okay. It feels comfortable. I don’t have to think about the pitches gone unanswered, the unpaid predatory “opportunities” extended to me, the attempts to exploit my emotional labor all of the things that make the industry part of writing hell for me.

So I escape.

I work.

I create worlds where me and my ilk don’t have to fight. Well we do but it’s not the sort that takes food off of our tables and out of our children’s mouths.

This is the world we POC and especially multiply marginalized folks navigate. And sometimes, I really just gotta get away from it.

I go to this place of safety even though I know I probably won’t sell a single bit of it.

I know and I go anyway because if I don’t, I’ll just be angry and my stomach will hurt and nothing will ever feel better.

So I keep doing it. I go back to this place and write in it and read in it. I daydream about living a fantasy Artist life and then I go pay bills and juggle and struggle.

So I’ll keep my soundtracks going and go back to my magical words because I have to.

She looked down at the purring cat in her arms and smiled.

“I love him so much. What is his name?”

Before Dr. Emryss could speak the cat opened his eyes, yawned and spoke.

“My name, my dear beauty is Bastien Chevalier DuPuis. I do love you too, you are so brown and big and warm. I never want to leave your arms my love.”

Her eyes widened and she tried to say something like, nice to meet you but nothing came out. She’d seen and heard of shapeshifters resting in animal shapes, heard of those with an understanding of animals but never, one that spoke.

“Bastien, bad cat. I told you not to speak to her. I was going to introduce you two eventually.”

“Forgive me old friend but, she’s just she’s so soft. And so tall. Why didn’t you tell me you had a giantess coming for tea?”

The cat put one of his huge paws on her cheek, when he met her gaze he rubbed his face across her nose and nibbled her cheek.

“Forgive me being forward dear Linda. I can’t help myself. I’m a fool for someone like you.”

I have my little escapes and days like today when I watch the perks of Whiteness elevate the work of a rapist and abuser, and watch folks use their privilege to make money off of shit that they don’t even experience- I need to escape.

I do what I have to in order to be able to write what the fuck I wanna write.

It’s not lucrative, it sure as fuck won’t make me famous but, it still feels damn good.

I’ll end with this. And please do enjoy my soundtrack.

On my Mind

Yours truly is dog shit sick again and was flat on my ass for two days and I’m at work struggling to stay awake.

Very well meaning friends often send me listings to residencies and y’all I STILL have questions.

One of the very famous ones closed not too long ago and a friend was like OMG GO GO GO.

I added up the cost to basically take 3 weeks off of work and y’all. It would cost me (I estimated costs only eating once a day) more than I make in a month. Not including missed wages, my own travel anxiety etc etc.

For someone like me, breadwinner on a working poor budget, there is just nothing that would justify the cost and it makes me sad. Are there, residencies for folks like me? For single parents? For other folks with limited financial or other support?

Since switching shifts I’ve been looking into lit stuff locally and I run into a lot of the same issues on a smaller scale. I see some regular writer meet ups that are mid week, for me that’d mean during my work week, having to stay in the neighborhood with all my shit. Then either Lyft home (at least 35$) or take the bus and walk home carrying my laptop. Not really optimal because I’d not get home until late and have to get up early for work the next day.

It just feels so terrible. And honestly, if ONE more mother fucker talks to me about sacrifice.

What should I sacrifice?

My partners medication? Electricity? Eating? Menstrual products? My job and thus my home at some point?

Tis the season for poor folks to be salty I guess. I go through it a lot because I know that folks pressure me sometimes and think that I demur because of a self-esteem thing but honestly, I just don’t usually have the energy to math it all out for them.

It’s like trying to explain that while I know why some lit mags charge, I’m not all in it. Like, to give myself good odds to get something place in one of them, I’m going to have to spend like 80-100 bucks and nah son. I’d rather get some sushi or some underwear.

Being poor often feels like having to constantly explain that it’s not that I don’t feel like my work is good enough, or that I’m good enough or that no I’m not wasting all my money, yes I know how to fuckin budget etc- so I don’t give the FULL breakdown every time because it’s just so exhausting.

I feel like I have to say this quarterly but you know, when folks talk about being poor, please don’t poorsplain to them. Please don’t assume they just don’t know how/how much something really costs. I feel like I get down this way every few months when whatever residency folks think I should go to opens up and honestly it just makes me sad.

Listen to us when we say what we need or why we’re not doing something. I had an aquaintance insist she needed to know why I wasn’t applying for a residency and it got to the interrogation point where I had to really go ALL the way into the finances of my life and no I don’t think I suck as a writer and just y’all…

Shit is exhausting.

So if y’all will excuse me, I need to do some work.

 

The 2016 Wrap Up

Okay, my annual wrap up of the year.

First:

trashfire
[image description: a moving gif of a fire in a dumpster.]
A moment of solidarity and well y’all, the gif says it all.

So let’s talk about some of the hard stuff first.

I learned that mainstream/monied lit world likes to flirt with me. It likes to tell people they know my work but nothing follows. That’s been hard and I haven’t really talked about it in depth, but yeah it was a thing.

I came to terms with a fact I’ve known about my general readership for years. And before I talk about it, understand I’m not grabbing for sympathy or trying to be shady. It’s just the facts.

I’ve known on some level for years that my audiences, let’s say for the past ten years are hard pressed to extend their support to buying my stories or whatever. I’ve talked before a bit about my essentially failed etsy store (2-5$ stories), my other money things. And this year I feel like I’ve finally started the work by making some peace with this.

It has been a hard process. I’ve been through bouts of questioning my very existence as an artist to rage and back. Real talk, sometimes I still get very salty when I see folks I know who are easier on the world than I am sell ALL the things. I really do.

That being what it is, I went through some things. I had a thought of going old school and just delivering ALL the content for free since whatever nobody is tryin to pay me. Nah.

I tried to freelance again to fill the gaps. Noah, son. Like super hella nah. It was a failure. I studied, I wrote pitches that mimicked a lot of what I saw get picked up and….crickets. And as any writer will tell you, crickets is way worse than rejection. That fucked me all the way up.

So I’m not okay with it, but I get it. I guess.

I also realized in the realest sense that, I’m just not going to be one of those writers. And it’s sorta okay. We can’t all do that. I know some kick ass amazing writers who can and I admire the fuck out of them. I just can’t be them.

During these months of strife and anxiety, I also had some shit happen. I had some huge data losses. Like a lot of work just gone. I was able to recover some but some not so much.

I went to AWP and felt terribly gross about it. From my anxiety, to feelign snubbed at the bookfair (which I STILL haven’t written about) it wasn’t awesome. I got to see Roxane super briefly and remembered not to fling myself at her, but I had to run away because I had to pee. I was too shy to say hello to writers I recognized. But, I had a stellar reading and got to spend time with my bestie.

And other stuff.

Let’s talk some goodness.

I got to teach about writing and it was amazing.

I finally shook off my feelings that I am not a real poet and am working on my first to be published poetry book.

I did some other stuff but I want to tell you the most important thing to be saved from the 2016 trashfire.

I am finally comfortable with the creator I am.

I am not an entrepreneur, artist. I’ve tried to learn how and do a lot of things I thought I HAD to do in order to make my work a bit more sustainable and frankly, I’m just bad at it. Promotion, not my thing. I like to share but doing the damn thing overwhelms me and makes me feel bad. My self-esteem suffered because I was trying so hard to follow the advice and lessons and ecourses and everything.

What wound up happening was that I ran out of energy to actually create. My brain was so full of fuck that actually making/doing the things I was trying to hustle was impossible for me.

A big part of this has been that I’ve had health problems all year. The ones I’ve had since I was a kid have just been extra and I’ve learned I have to be very careful as to how I ration my energy. I can’t just burn until I break down anymore.

I’ve had to work through a mountain of guilt and shame about this. I’ve really started to brush it off and not feel less than or like I’m being some weirdo poseur.

One of my goals last year was to make my creative life sustainable in 2016. At the time I was only thinking about the financials.

This year I realized I have to not only consider the cash, but consider my heart.

I kept my little patreon going and it has been a joy and actively makes my real lived life better. There were points I wanted to close it because I felt like I wasn’t providing anything of value and thus didn’t deserve the patronage. Fuck that.

I started what was supposed to be my official writer newsletter. But, it has turned into a weekly love letter to my fellow creative folks. I don’t just talk about my work, I talk about art and it is my real heart. It’s where I give encouragement and talk about my creative failings and wins. I’m pretty into it and look forward to writing it every Saturday.

I started blogging again for me. As with my fatty blog, I’m using my blog to teach myself how I want to write about things like fashion, aging and beauty. I raised enough money during my fundraiser to go pro with it so at some point I can fully customize it.

What else?

I also have felt incredibly supported through this process by my people. I have a mother fucking literary squad.

I have people who understand me and my processes and my foibles and help me get along.

Realizing that while I’m a very solitary type of creator, I don’t have to go it all alone has been the best thing.

So, to wrap up.

2017 is gonna be mother fucking lit.

I’m scaling back on my political posts and essays so I can finish my poetry book and get SCLAB going the right way. I’m settling in and will post work when I feel like it. And feel okay with that.

If you want to get a peek at what the new Self-Care Like A Boss is gonna be, sign up for our email list here. Wanna see me read a tiny bit from the old version? See here. Also check my channel there for longer readings by me.

That’s it for now. I’ll come back with more stuff here and there through the remainder of the sparkle season.

Thanks for being here. I hope you have a good whatever you celebrate and that 2017 brings you what you need.

Literary Radical Vulnerability- The Author is Naked.

I’ve had a very eventful October.

Behind the scenes I’ve been doing some submitting, I got an awesome acceptance. It was a big swing for me and a fuckin home run. I’m so excited.

I’m also facilitating a horror writing thing. See details here.

Um..y’all.

Y’ALL.

I’m so excited and nervous.  I know at least four people will be there so I’m ready. My handout is about done. And I can’t wait.

One of the other things I’ve been working on is another little germ of an idea I have. I don’t want to talk about it overmuch, but I see a need and I want to figure out how to fill it in a way that is satisfying both for my soul and my bank account.

I have a tradition of reprinting my first and only zombie story I’ve ever had published. You can see it here at Medium. I was going to put it on Etsy but, yeah no.

I’m working really (really fucking hard) on letting myself have these dreams and not fall into a hole because I know my overall stats on shit I try to do. Part of that is my depression/anxiety manifesting but part of that is also the real shit of my analytics and statistics. I struggle with it.

I struggle really hard feeling like/knowing that the small ride or die support I have is rock fucking solid and then reconciling that knowing/feeling like outside support is just, steam. I get really gun shy about sharing/asking for anything because one part of me always knows it’s not gonna happen.

And please I’m not soliciting for butt pats or ego stroking.

I’m keeping it 100% with y’all.

This is the reality I live with doing what I do. It’s been the same for a long time. I spent a whole lot of time at one point studying the secrets of going viral and marketing and whatnot.

I put a lot of energy into learning those things and utilizing them.

My results weren’t great and it put me in a pretty deep depression about it to be honest. Part of me returning to submitting more in the lit world is a direct result of these experiences. I know how to navigate that rejection, I know what to expect for the most part and it doesn’t hurt.

What hurts were my attempts at drumming up clicks and likes and shares and at some point cash and failing hard enough that it cost me money and time I didn’t have. I spent a lot of time just wallowing in buyer’s remorse after paying for stuff like ecourses and informational packets and whatnot because I learned it but I’m not good at it if my results are anything to be believed.

I was really bitter about this for a lot of this year. I mean the kind of bitter that turns your stomach and makes you feel constipated. Not just bitter but also I was really disappointed in myself. I really wanted to believe that I could reclaim some bit of trailblazing AND also have it be lucrative.

In the context of say freelancing, I just couldn’t and it really fucking hurt. I really was depending on the concept and what other folks have told me that I would be able to find paid space for my voice and have a little bit of a happily ever after.

I don’t think it’s going to happen and that’s been a big dry pill to swallow. I really wanted to know that experience that so many of my friends have been having of having that success roll in and being (rightfully because I know some BOMB ass writers) in a position to pay them bills and write and everything.

Fact is, a lot of the interests I have I will not write fluffy. Beauty, fashion, style, make up blablabla. I’m getting my feet writing about that stuff and you know what? My voice is political as fuck. And that’s just me doing me.  A lot of stuff I write about, I’m just not successful in toning down my voice enough for big bucks.

I’m not famous enough for that.

*deep breath*

I’m not crying right now and that is progress.

I can accept these things as they are. I have cared myself out of the deep shame spiral about this.

All this said, I’m also experiencing some really great wins because of the reasons why I don’t make it in freelance life.

I also have something else that had I not gone through so much failure I wouldn’t have.

I have been able to ask for help, for myself and my projects.

Self Care Like A Boss lives because I told my literary partner Milcah what I need in order to work and he has worked damn hard to help me. His help has meant that I am cautiously dreaming again. I’m giving myself space to learn and work.

I mean, my other blog is where I’m figuring out my voice in fashion and beauty. Granted my voice caused me to lose a lucrative review thing but fuck it. Imma do me. Blogging is how I learned to do non fiction my way in the first place so, I’m into it.

Um, wow this went off the rails.

BUT I really was tired of trying to hold most of my feelings about what’s been happening in my career in. I don’t like that. I’m really invested in being vulnerable even when it puts me in not a great light. It’s important to me.

So that’s what it is right now.

I’ve got lots of literary pots boiling and I’m working it out.

 

 

 

On My Mind

Before I get into what’s on my mind right now I have to tell y’all the most exciting thing.

My passion, my real hearts work is making a come back. Milcah and I are re-embarking on the best thing I do.

Self Care Like A Boss is coming back. We’re relaunching. We’re doing it together in a whole new way and I’m terrified and excited because this is really, REALLY important to me and what I want my life’s work to involve.

So y’all, please head on over here to check out our poll on our new merch and if you’ve got a mind to, sign up for our email newsletter. More news is coming soon, this is step 1.

Next.

I’ve got other stuff on my mind.

I started what could become a small series of essays about living in the mouth of the beast that is gentrification and my terror at being swallowed up by it. This is a subject that is constantly on my mind because I’m living it. I’m a little hesitant to write about it deeply for a few reasons:

  • Obviously given my body of work I know -how- to write personally. I’m a bit reticent about writing about this in particular. Mainly because if I do, I’ll need to do it for The Stabby maybe where I don’t have to deal with comments.
  • Emotionally it will be a lot of labor.

Okay on point 2. Here is sort of where freelancing and I disagree. I like to write first then pitch. It takes way more time and is generally a larger financial risk for me because do I spend the hours on the thing and hope I can get paid or do I try harder to pitch then write?

I find both incredibly stressful.

That stress has made me want to turn back towards the lit world. I feel more comfortable in a large way there. I know how it works. I can work the way that means I’ve got a self satisfying output, and when I’m really on that shit a fairly good acceptance/publication ratio.

That said, that also leaves me as poor if not more poor than I already am if we factor in the whole time is money thing.

That said, a lot of my non-fiction work lately has been weird and likely unpublishable anyway, so I’m mostly worried about future work or stuff I have going all ready.

This is an area of the intersection of art and commerce that I do not negotiate very well. What I want isn’t always the best for my bank accounts nor my art. Being in a position where I’m both really too poor to be doing anything for free and not wanting to have to only write saleable material is a hell of a thing.

The other thing on my mind is how difficult it has been for me to just be glad to be read. On one hand it has always been such a deep and wonderful thing for me to know that I have an audience. From the early days of having a tiny 10 person devoted readership of a long dead online journal to here, it is a miracle and wonderful to me to be read ever.

Inside that thankfulness and joy, there is also the struggle of knowing that most of the time mine is not a paying audience. Poverty strikes again. And the minute I have those feelings, I also feel terrible for feeling upset. I don’t want to feel bitter or jealous or whatever.

At the same time, I still need a new pair of pants and have bills to pay.

It’s hard to write from that place of conflict and fear and just general shitty feelings.

Real talk, the most fucked up thing about this is that having this problem/these feelings is somewhat of a personal artistic milestone. The fact that I have the belief in my work to say I should be paid and paid well for this is pretty huge. Ten years ago, I would have the smallest inkling of these feelings. They were nebulous and unformed.

Back then, I didn’t believe my work had real value other than maybe some entertainment. Not even when I had some writing jobs. Not even when on occasion lit mags gave me money.

Back then I didn’t really know how to write non-fiction of any flavor. I didn’t know that one didn’t have to be a journalist necessarily to publish non-fiction. I thought that the arty essays were strictly for “real” writers who were absolutely not me.

I felt bad about not making money writing, but didn’t feel like I deserved it.

Funny ain’t it? I mean now I know that my work has worth, but getting that proves to be fucking really hard for me.

Like, I FINALLy allow myself to view myself as an artist and legit creator.

I allow myself to understand that my work has worth.

And suck at making it work.

I am only laughing because otherwise I’ll cry.

Okay, that’s it for now. I have stuff to do and write.

Updates and whatnots.

Hello People.

Or robots.

So I’ve been a bit AWOL. I went on vacation and while I was on vacation, I had grand plans for celebrating my partner’s birthday, a day out including dinner and movie and some writing time.

Instead, I got dog shit sick AND got a bit of shit news and paid one large bill that rendered us too broke to buy a pizza for a number of days. Thus, I got very depressed as well and anxious.

Shit was not awesome.You can read more about it here, this is my author newsletter. I call it a love letter and it is a more intimate rambly type thing with the occasional announcement. I promise no spam.

The other thing that’s going on right now is I’m trying to recalibrate myself and how I’m working. I’ve been trying the method of see a call, start a thing, pitch-wait.

That ain’t working.

I’m coaxing myself back into doing things the way they were working (if not in a profitable way, but in a less soul killing type way) write the things, peruse the calls, maybe pitch, submit.

To that end I’ve got myself a few new spreadsheets. I started a new submission tracking one for both fiction/non fiction, whatever.

A maybe I’d like to pitch these ideas/write these things doc.

This is not the most profitable. However, I have to stop punching myself in the heartballs over it. I keep trying to force some seismic change in how I work and what I do and it just never fucking works out. I always wind up feeling like shit.

Y’all, I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself.

No that’s bullshit I do. Because money and poverty brain and my small financial ambitions.

Currently the reality of trying to survive and take care of my family in a rapidly gentrifying area when my income is not going up at all is so stressful. Reality is that we could very well be priced out of our home come next March and that could mean having to move another hour away from my job.

A lot of bad things are right here in my face.

That said, I’m trying very hard to trust that I will get through and be able to keep writing the shit I want. I want to trust that the work I’ve done on myself around these issues won’t keep me from achieving what I want.

Now that my panic has passed a little bit. And I’ve allowed myself to cry and be bitter and be angry I am poor- I’m back to a bit of calm.

I’m struggling to balance my artiness with my need to, you know live and whatnots. I’m trying.

Now I’m off to work on Patreon stuff.

If y’all could be so kind, feel free to check out my Etsy because I’m gong to be taking everything down in a week or so. Also I’ve got my teespring shop up and running so check that out and get u a poetry sticker.

And again (I may say it too often) seriously if you know folks who might be into what I’m up to, please share my links. I know a lot of y’all are poor like me and getting more eyes on my stuff matters pretty heavily.

Thanks for coming along y’all.

(I’ll be x-posting this to medium.)

 

When it Burns or rather I beez in the trap.

Lately, as I’ve been working on The Poems (current name of my untitled poetry book thing) I’ve also been working on some fairly emotionally intense non-fiction.

Today I finished an essay thing that is about how I experience anxiety. It’s not really something I necessarily want people to read, I feel a mix of shame and ridiculousness and like it is a risk I don’t know if I can afford taking. Writing it hurt. I talked a little bit about it on twitter, but the truth is I feel flayed.

I am feeling the mix of feelings where I’m very keenly aware that I have a not entirely unexpected expense (I need to buy a new phone soon) and I know I should write something more saleable and that’s what came out. That piece in particular is like a piece I have out already in that it doesn’t end on a note that really engages with bigger issues. It is intimate in that at the end, we (reader and writer) are face to face, nose to nose breathing the same tainted air that came out of me.

Neither of these pieces (and at least one other that is in progress) is what I intended to write. I wanted to write something bigger, something that engages with the big issues. That at the end comes out like a powerful telling and calling to The Issue at hand. That’s not what happened.

For years, I have avoided writing intimately this way. Mainly because, I don’t always have the wherewithal to cut that deep in that way. I can write about being harassed and being a Black person in the world and what that is really like in this age. I tell myself this is because I’m good at Big Issues. I’m good at making the connection from my lived experience to racism and sexism etc. I know how to do that.

I also lie to myself and say that I’m not good at intimate. That showing my scars this way is not in my wheelhouse. Leave it to the famous lady writers who lead workshops on writing dangerously and writing from the body. I explain it to myself in terms of profit. They are already famous enough to do this and make it. Their bills are paid, mine are mostly but not comfortably. Their risk is as risk goes, not the type of risk that takes food out of their mouths. The risk for me is food off the table.

I tell myself, this is stupid. Why are you doing this? Why can’t you write to sell? Why can’t you write on spec? Why can’t you write something about lipstick that doesn’t involve Blackness or intersectionality? Why can’t you write something that will titillate just enough, but won’t burn? Why can’t you write timely? Why? Why? Why?

Rational writer me understands that these questions are part of my anxiety brain and will pass. That I know why, it’s just not what I do and logically that’s okay. There’s room in the big bad world for all of this and what I do. I know. Sometimes, it’s okay.

And then I poke around in my drafts and I see blood. Part of me sees it wasted, not profitable because I have bills to pay. Part of me sees freedom and my naked heart on a page in a way that baby me would have cherished. That part of me knows that while I have an aversion to pain porn it is important to be a vulnerable, sad, anxious, fucked up Black person with problems. That part of me knows that vacillating between being proud of me for saying HEY I AM FUCKED UP and being ashamed is natural and saying that I do vacillate between those things, is valid and necessary.

I know that.

I feel that, fuck it, I don’t know it, I feel it. That is the level of importance that representation means to me. I know that right now my 39 year old fucked up baby self can be conflicted about this and work on it and express it because that is part of who I am.

I am conflicted and wounded.

I beez in the trap.

I don’t say all of this to engender pity. Don’t feel sorry for me. Understand that my honesty about my situation in life, whatever it is and how I talk about it, isn’t’ about your  out eyes it is about mine. I have to remember that yeah, I’m poor and I’m terrible at ambition in the proscribed ways, and I’m bad at even nodding at journalism and I’m not palatable to a lot of people and it’s fucking great.

It’s not pleasant. It’s not lucrative. It’s not even easy 99% of the time.

But really, if I’m honest-

it is satisfying.

I think baby Shannon would maybe be disappointed that things like dayjobs and bills have an impact on the work but, baby Shannon would read all of this and feel it and feel seen and validated. So right now, I’m okay.

I’m anxious and a jittery shitbucket of terrible feelings-

but I’m all right.

The work hurt but I’m okay.