Why I am Still Going to AWP Next Year.

First, I encourage y’all to do some googling because I cannot rehash a lot of stuff, but I’ll give you one link to get started. Start here and I warn you there is a lot of ugly art involved.

While I was waiting for AWP to make the linked decision I started thinking very hard about boycotting along with a lot of other folks.

I calculated how expensive it will be, travel, hotel, books etc. And it is a lot of money. I will probably spend almost a month of my dayjob pay.

That money could do a lot of things.  New tech for my partner and I, it could go into a moving fund, it could do a lot of things.

I was very close to not going. Very, very close.

And then I saw this:

AWP must protect the efficacy of the conference subcommittee’s work. The group’s work must focus on the adjudication of the 1,800 submitted proposals, not upon the management of a controversy that has stirred strong objections and much ill-will toward AWP and the subcommittee. Perpetuating the controversy would not be fair to the many writers who have submitted the proposals.

These disrespectful mother fuckers.

As if those of us who weren’t acting out of “ill-will” but justifiable concern that someone who engages in and profits from playing with racism and using literary Blackface would be in that kind of position of power.  I will not pay to have anything to do with that person.

I got angrier.

I’m going.

I am going because I want the people in charge to see that in spite of their anti-Blackness I am still there. I will have things to sell. I will meet other authors.

I will read as much as I can.

In spite of how nervous the crowds and everything make me I will be known. I will be seen. I will not be shuttled into the shadows because AWP values freedom of speech, but not protecting their POC members who also pay to be members from racists.

I also have an idea that I might want to do some guerilla reading. I will tweet my wee heart out. I will make as much of my presence known as I can because I want them, and the writer in question to know that their actions have not scared me away.

I want to make people I KNOW have not supported or even shown a little bit of willingness to do the work of anti-racism that their lack of action hasn’t made me docile.

As I said to MCAG on twitter last week, I’ve got a heart full of gasoline and a book of matches. My boots are on this ground.

Not just because of Vanessa Place. Fuck, Vanessa Place and her ilk.

Because this is my life.

This- literature and writing means more to me than everything.

I am not a concept.

I refuse to hand over my life, my history, my pain to Whiteness, so that it can be regurgitated and fed back to Whiteness.

If I have to go to mother fucking AWP and stand in the middle of the book fair sobbing because of all this it will happen.

If I have to read EVERY single poem I’ve written about how this shit make me feel I will.

I will be seen.

I will be heard.

So fair warning.

AWP I am coming.

I will not be cowed.

I will not be silenced.

I will also probably do some dedicated fundraising to help with costs. In the meantime scroll down to your right for my new masterpost on supporting my work.

 

Updates, financial stuff and whatnot.

In the past couple of weeks the Lit world and by association a lot of people I thought were allies have been showing their ass and okay, Imma be real.

When it comes to art and lit, yes, I too like a lot of problematic things.

But right now my problem is that whether or not the art happening (no I’m not linking I can’t look at any more of that after the research I did) is that White people who are making a good chunk of cash, and who are sitting in positions of power (AWP) and who are teaching, are using what I feel is literary Blackface for shits and giggles and career advancement.

What burns my ass most about this, is not that I’m a poor struggling writer.  It burns me that (I here being used loosely/plural) can’t write my experience as a Black person in any old way and have the same doors open to me.

It burns my ass that, another White person wants to play with reclaiming “nigger” and racist imagery from America’s past without any responsibility and dead silence.

And because I refuse to remain silent about why I find this harmful and disgusting. I’m told that well they have the right, Jeeze Y SO SENSITIVE NEGRESS? I’m told that because I have a strong and loud opinion on this and these people being lauded, coddled and generally held to no accountability for their actions I am a problem.

Just this morning some woman I don’t know did “research” on me and decided nothing I have to say about it is worth anything because I am “aggressive” and “threatening”.

Layers of racism aside, in what universe does someone like me (and there are a shitload of us) have enough pull in the lit world to be threatening to the careers and wallets of these people?

So rather than doing what allies are SUPPOSED to do when POC say, hey this shit is fucking racist. Again, people who have held on to their ally badges tightly are telling me I’m the problem. Again.

To be honest. I had nightmares all week. Most of them revolved around an issue I already had combined with me running into racist, but totally not racist people in the lit world and having them ruin shit for me. That is the shit I have nightmares about because many of the people I’m annoyed with right now are people I’ve considered friends.

This is something that is causing me a level of struggle I just don’t know what to do with.

I’m just heartbroken. I keep feeling like I have all this faith in people whom I KNOW understand intersectionality and power. But, again, when it comes to POC or two Black people specifically all I hear is crickets and it hurts. The gentrification of the experiences and history of POC and specifically Black people just wrecks me.

This is not what I wanted to talk about, but out it comes. Fuck.

Shit, okay.

Now back to what I actually wanted to talk about.

In light of our rent increase and some other extra expenses I’ve redone my writing things (what I call stuff related to my writing) budget. I’ve cut out a couple of things.

I am thinking that I need to raise my Patreon monthly goal to about 125$. I’d really like to move a few of my personal household expenses to my writing related budget. Mainly small things, pens, notebooks. I’d also like to put more away for my laptop fund. Not having one I can work on at home is just painful. I also include stuff like the occasional celebratory pastry, coffee for work and big cups of ice for work as well in that budget.

Even without a fully functional tech situation, I do feel good about my output so far. The things I’m writing are what I really want to write and what feels important to me.

Longer term say between now and next March, I also have some handmade zine type things I want to create but I need to buy supplies. I want to hand make some wee stories to sell in my etsy shop. I’ve been kicking around the idea of also doing heavy card stock “art” poem cards. Hand colored (but not written because my handwriting is shit) pretty little art cards. But again, the capital thing.

I’m in a better emotional place right now than I was the other day. I’ve calmed down and I can see the way through the financial anxiety, but, I just have to wait a bit and do some balancing.

I’m also looking into doing something serialized maybe available via Amazon? I have to do some research.

What else is going on?

I’ve started what I hope to grow into a series of essays about healing myself of poverty brain and figuring out how to navigate my feelings without panic or undue stress. Shit is so hard and after talking to some friends I really believe this is an important thing for me to do. Not as something aspirational, or inspiration porn but more as an open hey, this is shit I go through and if you’re going through it too, you’re not alone.

The importance of visibility and acknowledgement has been something that a lot of my readers have talked to me about and it feels deeply fulfilling to be that for some folks.

Blablabla.

That’s going on. I have a post coming up about writing that I’ve been sitting on. A young (HI BB) writer asked me a couple of important questions and I want to give good answers. I also want to talk about navigating Double COnsciousness since a lot of non Black folks are discovering it and don’t know what to do.

So that’s all the news. I’m trying to learn a new way to hustle that won’t destroy my heart.

What are y’all up to?

Also I should do a whole hustle tag.

 

 

After the Ballad.

So the rage fueled thing I wrote about the Paris Review the other day has grown some wings. Mentioned in a Huffpo article by Annie Finch.

I am a tad overwhelmed. I’m very tired of clearing messages (fifteen er twenty today) telling me how racist I am and what a shitty poet etc etc. The best though was the accusation that I am bullying the Paris Review.

Because obviously a relatively unknown Black writer from Seattle has the power to bully the Paris Review.

Okay so here’s the thing and I want this to be absolutely clear because I think some folks have got it twisted.

I don’t actually give a hot shit about Seidel’s work. After I read the piece on PR I read some of his other work and frankly it is just not my jam. I don’t give a shit.

The thing I care about is the usual response to Black people’s pain. White people running us over to make their own pain the focal point. I care about a publication I have read for most of my life when I have been able to, doing the same shit again.

My hope that a highly visible publication would take the opportunity to say to everyone these are the voices we need right now has just been dashed. No fuck that. My hopes that the mainstream literary community would step up in a time of such great need has been shit on, set on fire and tossed.

This was a chance for an organization to say loudly and without qualification, Black Voices Matter right now and we are here for it.

Now is the moment.

Now is not the time to make White voices the voices. That is how everything is all the time. Literature is now and has been the outlet for every White opinion ever about everything.

And yet, people keep telling me that those are the voices to be given primacy right now.

Because that’s how it always is.

I’m tired. I’m tired of hearing that if we damn loud ass Negroes want to be heard to do it ourselves. And when we do that, White people run in to make sure they get their piece. Or when we have the audacity to hint that maybe we know a little something something about an issue, we’re “reverse racists” and oppressing the White Voice.

This is me and I am fucking exhausted.

 

Portrait of the author right now.
Portrait of the author right now. 

Why at this point in time, in 2014 when so many White people want to claim to be anti-racist is it so goddamn hard to admit that sometimes, their voices are not the ones that need to be heard?

That maybe Black Lives Matter is a.) something being said, because clearly culturally America doesn’t believe it and b.) such a controversial thought, that Black people specifically matter.

And before anyone busts in here with that “all people” bullshit let me shut it down.

If you would not walk into a Breast cancer awareness event saying, ALL CANCERS. If you would not walk into a stranger’s funeral and say, BUT I KNOW DEAD PEOPLE TOO, shut the fuck up and work it the fuck out. If you cannot abide the idea that Black people need and want to make it clear that we matter, you have some racist shit to deal with and I am not here for that.

Moving on.

We live in the fucking future. It is 2014. Even a publication as old as the Paris Review knows this. They have a social media person I’ve followed them (I have unfollowed).

It took me approximately two minutes on google to find over a thousand amazing poems written by Black people young and old, known and unknown. THOUSANDS.

And they chose Seidel.

I took to facebook and searched the hashtag #BlackPoetsSpeakOut.

THOUSANDS OF POEMS.

How is it that while working my dayjob, writing a fiction piece and eating I could find current amazing poetry by Black people that could fill forty five Paris Reviews and they picked an old White Man.

That is what this is about.

It’s not about the quality of the poem. He can write whatever he wants to.

It is about the gatekeepers of the literary canon in this case the Paris Review isn’t coming through.

It is about how disgusting it is to me that organizations that wield power in the lit world in a real big way, didn’t do shit.

This happens over and over again.

Don’t get it twisted.

I don’t care about how that crusty ass old man writes his poems or what he writes about.

I don’t care if EVERYONE writes about Ferguson.

I care about representation and the missed opportunity to show that that Black lives and Black voices matter.

Understand that White folks you can write a million poems about Ferguson, Eric Garner, lynching, racism whatever. Just remember that when you prioritize your own voices over the voices of those of us living this shit, you are upholding White Supremacy and taking the easy way out of owning your own racism.

And we see you.

We. See. You.

For those of you who want to see what Black poets are saying I’ll make it easy for you. Check out this tumblr project and listen to every single poem.

 

Some thoughts on Genre Fiction, the reader who also writes edition.

Okay for my purposes and thought processes, when I say genre fiction I’m including Horror, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, SF, Spec fit etc.

I started reading the last in the Borderland series of anthologies this week. The whole reason I wanted to read it was because I heard Nalo Hopkinson’s piece in it via Podcastle and wanted more of that world.

I also did some research and whatnot and I’m having a problem with this book already.

I learned a bit more about the background of this world and everything and was really looking forward to it.

Going from the impression I got in Nalo Hopkinson’s story, I thought there would be more POC. Four stories in, there aren’t really.

I realize this is supposed to be YA but I had to stop at one point while a White character was giving a character from India the ever charming “but where are you really from” type speech.

I’ve also been sighing with the number of white coded halfies/elves with dreads.

And just like every other fantasy related thing save for the story I already know, everything is White coded for the most part.

I’m sad.

I’m not saying any of the stories are bad. They aren’t really. I also (four stories deep) see that within this framework of interconnected stories and locations, I have yet to see any of the other stories characters interact in a meaningful way with the characters from Nalo Hopkinson’s characters and that feels low key gross to me.

Again my ability to enjoy a fantastical world is pretty broken up because I do feel like there isn’t anything ground breaking about White Elves, with Blonde Hair who are super slim and beautiful and wait REMEMBER THEY ARE WHITE.

Now I have been expanding my reading a bit and doing some study on “Urban” Fantasy.

I’ve been comparing some of the feedback about my own urban fantasy with what I know about the genre.

Several people have said that one of my stories ‘relies too much on horror’ (though it deals wit mythos, Gods, and yes some violence) yet, when I read about the history of the genre and read about the conventions used in the literature, I see a lot of vampires and distinctly horror conventions being included.

Further, I don’t do romance. So there is that.

I thought that writing Urban Fantasy means for me that I can explore the way culterally divergent mythos can blend, how I can use mythos and conventions in a way that is not so firmly rooted in the European/Norse/etc canon.

When I hear the same type of feedback from various sources, I tend to work on whatever it is by researching, reading, rewriting etc.

What I’m finding as I’m doing that with my genre fiction is a pretty strong message that a lot of genre fiction can stand stepping outside of the conventions including those Euro/White roots only so far.

Even when I have conversations about what I’m writing about with a few folks, I have felt the discomfort surrounding my ideas and execution of those ideas.

Also a bit of pushback because this is genre for grown folks. Strippers, street life, in cities, unitalicized Spanish (watch the linked video it is great), etc etc.

I have been spending some time asking for recommendations to read here and there.

Out of four spots with different readers/authors I’ve asked for SF/F/Horror/Spec fic recs for books, magazines and writers.

Every list of recommendations I’ve gotten is the same.

The list of recommended authors is the same give or take one or two. They are all authors, magazines, books I like and some I love.

But is that really all?

My parameters are as follows:

  • POC friendly
  • Not necessarily romance focused
  • Queer focused/friendly.

That is pretty much it.

Given that what I’ve been writing does not really fit into what I’ve been reading in the genre world, as time goes on I am pretty sure I will put some stuff out myself because granted there are a few literary oriented magazines I know of who like the slipstream and genre flavored but most of the literary world shits itself if something is too genre.

I don’t know.

The other side of this problem is that as a reader, I’m just so disappointed so often. If  I’m rolling my eyes because all the Whitey White White WHITE creatures have dreads or give a nod to brown people, or every time there is the Most Magical of Negroes, or whatever it is that just reinforces the idea of the box that genre likes to sit in like an angry cat, I’m just not really reading as much as I want to.

Shit is hard.

I’m disappointed and tired.

That said I am going to keep working on my genre shit. Playing with Gods who step outside their Pantheons (somehow totally okay when Gaiman does it right?), Elven mythos that is not tall white and skinny.

Black fairies.

Shapeshifters trying to live in the modern world.

Yanno.

That shit I like.

Okay that’s all. I’m tired and want to write more.

 

 

Dear Former Fan.

I’ve mentioned before that I occasionally get long missives about my work and awfulness.

Over the weekend I got one that is very long and from a lot of the “critique” this person is at least superficially aware of my work and they are now as they put it, a former fan.

Put your goggles on I’m going in. I’m not quoting the whole thing because it was hurtful and I rage deleted it but some key phrases have stuck with me.

Consider this an open letter to Former Fan and anyone else who believes that if I’d just be a good Negress I’d succeed.

Dear Former Fan,

First of all, I appreciate you having some knowledge of the body of my work. If as you said you’ve been a supporter since my first ventures in getting published online, most of those being erotica thanks. I do appreciate the ride or die type.

However.

Your objection to the changing of my voice and the tone of my work is fucking bullshit.

Given that you went to some lengths to conceal your identity and used a fake no longer functional email address. I’m going to assume you are sitting back reading my blogs through an anonymizer and that’s fine. So listen because I’m talking to you.

How dare you put your racist feelings on me. How. Dare. You.

You took the time to quote me some passages of my own work as examples of how “brain washed, ” I’ve become in terms of how I talk about race, racism etc. You quoted this piece as the penultimate example of just how far I’ve fallen into what I can only assume is a type of Blackness and Black expression that makes you uncomfortable.

One of the things that I have learned about the nonfiction I write is that when people are the most uncomfortable or buck the hardest are probably the people I’m talking about. You are the people I am talking about.

If the only way you can find value in my work is if I am expressing a type of racialized pain, or erotica that is just queer or non white related enough to seem exotic to you-you are a fucking racist.

Let me explain you a thing.

As I have mentioned in this very blog previously if you cannot look beyond your own Whiteness (and don’t front like you didn’t lead with “I”m White and I think”) to understand that Whiteness is just not ever going to fit me or my expression and that is okay it is natural and real; I am not for you.

If you “agree with other commenters on XOJane” that my writing is terrible and harmful, it is not for you.

If I am not the kind of fat bitch you fucks with, don’t fuck with me.

Don’t contact me again.

If you are really serious about making sure that folks know that my work is “against White People” as you put it, go ahead and leave me the fuck out of it.

If your goal is to somehow shame or hurt me into silence. Nice try. You tried but that is just not going to work.

Let me confess something here. I have a terrible need to accept people at face value for what they have said. Including when people don’t like my writing. In the case of some of the commentary on my XOJane series I have taken the time to talk out some of the points that folks have had because I couldn’t see it and find a lot of the constant cherry picking and nit picking disheartening and hurtful.

I had a few very important realizations after talking to others about it. In spite of how invested in being of service especially in terms of that particular subject matter, I can feel about the useless commentary the way I feel about it in my real life.

I don’t have to explain things that are pretty clear to a lot of other people.

I don’t have to sit and be hurt because I feel like regardless of what I do or don’t say, the same three points are going to be made over and over again.

Also as this article says about trolling:

“Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun and the Internet is their playground!”

This applies to you Former Fan.

You seem to be deeply concerned for my well being but only if I behave and write in ways that make you feel good about how racist and shitty your behavior is.

Wrong. Negro.

As I have gotten older, I am exploring being more vulnerable in my writing. It’s fucking hard. It hurts. And knowing that there are “fans” who wait for me to be vulnerable and then use that vulnerability to attack is fucking awful.

You are fucking awful.

So 800 some odd words later it boils down to this.

I will say again.

Don’t buy my shit.

Don’t read my shit.

Don’t fucking contact me again.

Don’t contact my friends/peers.

Don’t come here proffering your hurt fucking feelings couched in, I was just trying to help.

Understand that I do not ever want to be in a position where my “success” is defined by my proximity to and acceptance of Whiteness as rightness.

Not. Fucking. Ever.

If you want to hold that against me, tell potential publishers on me or follow me around so you can have proof of my malfeasance come the fuck on.

I’m fucking tired of you and your ilk.

Find a new hobby or just don’t talk to me about your shit cause ain’t nobody got time for that.

And no, lastly I will not cease code switching in both my speech and writing.

You have fucking google.

Okay that’s all.

There is your response Former Fan. I hope it hurt your fucking feelings.

 

On Feels, decisions and shit I find questionable.

I have a little stash of micro/flash fiction sitting around and as I am thinking about submitting it I keep running into things.

For one, when I write flash fiction apparently something I like to do is to play with conflict that is outside of the Western literary idea of what plot is.  I didn’t even really realize it until I read this.

The problem is that 90% of the rejections I have gotten for these stories (especially the ones that are completely outside of Whiteness in an explicit way) is that they are not understood, that the readers don’t “feel” anything, that some of my references to Black culture both past and present are not understood. Etc.

The other problem is that as far as magazines for POC go, I feel out of place because a lot of my writing is dark as fuck and a lot of those magazines strive for uplift. I understand that philosophically but, personally I feel like the odd kid out.

As I get older I keep finding myself in this position with the shit I like to write. Too much that is too sexually explicit or says fuck too much for the literary minded, but that is not quite erotica.

Drugs, whores, badly behaved queers, POC narratives that are not pain porn but are also not racially uplifting, hood life that is not the scare all the white people or eventual escape from the hood stories.

I dunno.

I have a cache of things that are just not really what I see in the market. And even though sometimes editors really like them, they just don’t fit anywhere.

That being what it is I’m still really hesitant about writing a novella, or putting together a proper chapbook, or really digging into the horror stories I have been working on.

Granted I could self publish everything but honestly I just don’t have the energy to really devote to that level of I don’t give a fuck.

On one hand I feel like when I was told to write the stories I want to read I took that and am running with it. I am marathoning the fuck out of that.

On the other hand, while I’m running with it I’m seeing fewer and fewer promising leads on being published. I like being published. I like people other than the people I know seeing my work.

I don’t know how to feel or what to do with myself and my shit.

What really trips me out is that my non fiction, not essays but article type things are finding homes and shit. People like them and I like that. I like helping people and it feels really good but that isn’t all I want to do.

Is this some kind of writer leveling up shit?

I don’t know or understand how to navigate my own feelings about it. I keep alternating between sad and rage.

Okay here is what I know:

  • I am not going to purposefully censor myself or what I’m writing.
  • I am working on not tying my sense of identity as a writer to the publishing industry at large.
  • I am not one story. I am multitudes. (See here for reference).
  • I may not know what the fuck I am doing but I am doing it.

Okay I feel a little better and I have a fuckload of writing to do.

/end bleating.

Random Writing Angst.

I’m full of angst today.

Writing angst.

I have been jotting down little bits of fiction. I am worried that the time I took to finish V2.0 did something averse to my fiction. This particular angst fueled by the fact that nobody likes my flash fiction but me.

Add in a lot of good rejections, the ones that say good writing/powerful writing but not for us.

I’m having not good enough feels.

These angsts are also fucking with my sleepy ambition to finish my novella. I have many notes and about 2000 words of it written. And then I stop. I think about what if I lose what little momentum/being known I have, will I have to start the fuck over?

I’ve been reading some really great chapbooks and novellas.

Who the fuck would buy mine?

As new writing opportunities come in,I get scared that the editors who believe in me will be disappointed.

I’m feeling stuck in a little fear bubble.

What if the last two years were as good as I get?

But really the thing that freezes my fingers is the idea that I won’t be able to live up to my own expectations of my work.

I work so hard I don’t want to disappoint myself.

My ambitions have moved from being publication based to craft based. I want to make my ideas live and sometimes I am very disappointed that I can’t do it the way I want it.

I hope my feels are hormonal and I will stop being so angsty.

I keep hearing Lil Jon yelling in my head,

YOU SCARED

YOU SCARED

YOU SCARED MOTHA FUCKA YOU SCARED

From one of my favorite Ice Cube Songs Go To Church.

Maybe I’m feeling a bit too tender to get gangster with myself as I usually do.

Maybe I should calm my shit down for a minute. Write some writer business emails and then hide in a bubble of background noise and just fucking write.

Write like a mother fucker.

Write the stories.

Stop feeling some type of way self. Make a pot of tea, eat your sushi and fucking write.

Take a deep breath.

Okay.

Also before I forget my new piece is up at Luna Luna. The second part of my series addressing White Ladies.