When I am Too Much

Recently, I had an essay published in one of my bucketlist magazines. See it here at The Offing. I have a story to tell y’all about publishing and what happens when you are in fact too much.

That essay came about because I was contacted by an editor I am familiar with and they asked if I could do a piece about race and gender. The first version of this essay was more dry. It lacked flavor to me and I felt like I was trying to engage too many things when this story was very enclosed to me. The original version had lukewarm feedback and the editor wanted more.

I did this version and to me this is it. I’ve been experimenting with trying to place more literary styled essays in not lit mags specifically. A successful example of that is here at Wear Your Voice.

Editor #1 had reservations. Some of their feedback:

  • I lead with fear of death as a Black Man
  • I refer to my masculine gender expression with a personified phrase “the boy”.

However, the most tap danced around feedback came down to the fact that this work doesn’t engage with gender in the way that they wanted. They wanted Sassy Black Queen and got Terrified Black Femme. The suggested edits stripped specific mention of Blackness to turn it into a #metoo piece without the connective tissue.

A story that is not mine.

I decided not to go further with that editor because the story they wanted was a pastel version of my story with a rainbow on it and not a memory and meditation on a real fear in my life.

I shopped the piece as it appears at The Offing around for a while. Most responses were lukewarm and boiled down to, yes this but not like this.

Much of the feedback was tentative and trying very hard not to say, this is way too Black while saying, this is way too Black. One editor said that they didn’t think it was broad enough. For a memoir based issue of a magazine. I read broad as relatable to White folks and I noped out. The feedback was never about the quality of the piece. Every editor said the work was solid, it was always related to my expression of Gender, Blackness and fear.

The problem here is this. If you are not a marginalized person and you are seeking work from marginalized people, insisting on “broader relatability” backfires. You won’t get authentic work. You won’t get the best work. If you can’t engage with things that aren’t strictly uplift, either mention it up front or don’t seek the work.

This is the same problem I talked about in this entry,  When in the Wear Your Voice piece I talk about being denied humanity, this is what I am talking about. I am talking about the idea that work from marginalized people must be palatable to whiteness is to deny us our humanity. When folks insist that, my story about gender expression and sexual harassment end on a more chipper note, that is a denial of what actually happened.

To demand this shiny version of someone, the happy ending, the creator is turned into a 2d version of themselves and that is erasure and it feels shitty. You can’t ask for the realness of talking about identity, and then say, no not like that. It just don’t work.

Back to the piece at the Offing. Chanda specifically told me they loved it and it made me cry. I’d put it on Etsy for a minute because y’all know that’s how I do. If I can’t sell a piece to a magazine I’ll do that. Or put it on Medium etc. Or tuck it away for later. Here’s the thing.

My experience with gender expression isn’t theirs and yet, they still enjoyed the work. I’ve heard from readers who are White cis folks who felt something and enjoyed the work. Some folks who read the piece thinking it would just be a nice read because they are not Black Femmes and found some part of themselves in the work.

And it is, what it is.

A note for editors.

If you want to feature or highlight marginalized folks, take what they give you. Don’t try and plasticize it or tone it down or make it nice for non marginalized folks to read. Be uncomfortable. Be willing to let your readership be uncomfortable because, isn’t that what art is.

That’s it for now.

 

Advertisements

But Can I be Honest? Or Can a Bitch live?

Okay, so, in this post election Trumpfuckian* nightmare, being that I am a creator of things, I have been creating things.

I already published one essay about my real feelings post election. Find it here at Medium. I put a general content warning on it for everything. If you’re feeling fragile do not read.

Ahem.

If you’ve been here for more than five minutes you could fairly say, I have a salty tongue. I’m a foul mouthed heathen. I use the Seven Dirty Words quite liberally in my work.

I have long understood that because I stand by my bad words as being necessary, that precludes me being published a lot of places. I get it. I know.

I know I am a difficult sell even when I’m not saying mother fucker every few words and it’s okay. I made peace with that.

I. know.

Now, before I was totally done with the essay, I had a nibble of interest that quickly turned into a, well if you (insert edits that would strip it of it’s power and turn it into Nice Black Lady Pap+end with hope I don’t feel) and I am not with that.

Now, since I published it myself, the reception has been pretty great. Way less pushback than I expected, some folks saw fit to use my tip jar and send some donations which is incredible. I’m about that life.

That said, I find it interesting that when I’m completely naked honest, I’m talking ass out bucky ass nekkid- I self publish and things tend to go well.

I take that same energy and what I think is an integral part of my voice to the markets and I fail. Miserably.

My literary partner in let us call it impending Unfuckwithableness Milcah has pointed out to me, I’ve succeeded when I’m just 100% about who I am and not trying to pretend.

It’s true.

And we come back around to me being me and my, uh, not quite fitting a lot of the narrative places have of what they want to say.

For instance, some okay, no let me be real about it all of my poetry lately has been bloody, bleak, and not uplifting. Basically how I’m feeling. I clocked some very swift rejections for a piece I’ll put at Ink node later on. Keep your eye out here.

Being rejected doesn’t but me by itself. What bothers me are the notes that came with the rejections about how these pubs are going for Hope and Unity and Feelgoodness (my word) right now.

But why isn’t there room for me too?

I really hate the idea that we as creators must immediately go to the hope and not document our grief and rage. My grief, my rage isn’t going to end with all of us holding hands and singing Old Negro Spirituals.

It’s going to end in blood because that’s how I feel.

There’s room for more than happy uplift.

There is space for those who are despairing and only know to make art or otherwise create to help get through it.

I’ve talked to some friends and a lot of us are in this same boat. We need to scream and make bloody rage filled art and we’d like for it to be valued as much as the uplift and shiny hope.

So yanno, if you have space, consider making space for us less shiny  minded folks.

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.

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

Welcome To the Pit Mother Fucker.

Someone I know asked me recently what I would say to baby me about writing and publishing as a Black woman who has a lot of loud mouth opinions and who deploys them at will.

There is a Hed(pe) song where the dude says,

“Welcome to the Pit Mother Fucker.”

I am pretty sure that covers it. When I was a baby writer, I did not express my actual opinions on industry business. I fully believed that if The Industry found out how I felt about a lot of publishing and writing shenanigans.

I lurked industry boards and saw the racism and sexism. I gently tried to engage with White writers and other industry folks in my gentlest, sweetest Negress way about their racism.

Y’all, I tried.

I did workshop type things and kept my opinions about Magical Negroes and other terrible things to myself. I whitewashed characters, I didn’t share stories that did not cater to Whiteness.

I remember once talking to an older White lady author who told me that I was doing the right thing. That, to keep my “radical” (YES she said that, I remember it clearly) and “militant” thoughts to myself so as not to alienate the folks in power.

I thought it would lead to more publication, more visibility. Money! Recognition! Respect!

I WOULD GET TO BE IN THE FUCKIN CLUB!

But not really.

What happened was I was not writing the shit that moves me.

I felt frustrated, trapped, invisible and the worst, the very fucking worst part was that I felt like I was contributing to my own oppression with no pay off.

I was pretty miserable.

And then at some point after someone threatened to tell my dayjob that at the time I was writing custom smut for weirdo fetishists I decided to stop giving any fucks.

All of this is on my mind because last night I was doing research and working on some of my indie writer hustles and I came to a few conclusions.

  1. I just do not have the energy to promote things as hard as I need to in order to make my indie writer hustles financially viable. Likely if I didn’t work full time with the commute and whatnots, I would but that’s not gonna be a thing.
  2. The above being what it is, I’m cutting down on side hustles. It hurts my soul to lose the potential of that side hustle cash, but my fatigue is getting worse and there’s not a lot I can do about it at this point.
  3. I’m not putting stuff out by myself anymore. It’s been a losing venture and cost more time and money than it’s been worth.

Okay, I’ll stop there because #3 is important.

I decided to pull the lid from Etsy because frankly, it takes a while per piece, to get it ready make the cover and frankly nobody buys the shit. I know it’s not the prices really, but yeah. I do feel a bit sad, but whatever fuck it. I don’t know if I’ll just post them for free or what I’m gonna do.

So if you’ve wanted a thing from the Etsy shop, now is the time. I’m pulling all the lit stuff at the end of February. Go here.  I was going to do a huge price slash per item but it made me feel shitty. SO if you add all 8 pieces, (for a grand total of 17$) then use the coupon code WORDSWORDSWORDS that’ll net you a sweet little discount and put your total at 15.75$.

I have been convinced to not close the shop all together and start putting out some of my crocheted items. Shawls and scarves. Maybe my tactile stim objects. That’ll be a while yet.

I am going to focus more of my energy on producing stuff. Writing new stuff. Maybe doing a Queen Poems chapbook this year. My grand experiment in essentially rage quitting the publishing industry and only publishing either myself, with Milcah or in super select venues hasn’t been a real win for me.

A lot of that is largely due to #1 up on that list as well as, it’s just not my skill set to do it all indie and not feel like I’m wasting precious time energy and money.

I had a come to Jesus moment with myself about what kind of support my work gets and when and whether or not it’s enough to support my indie DIY ways. Frankly, it’s not.

Last time I had this out with myself, I decided I just wasn’t good enough (this was just a couple of months ago, well a few more than that it was post SCLAB release) and I really felt like my body of work was/is something I should be ashamed of because obviously if I was better at writing, marketing, rewriting, doing things the way I am supposed to- everything would be successful.

That might be true. Some of it or all of it, I don’t know.

What I do know is that me  punishing the fuck out of myself for failing so hard, SO fucking hard did not contribute to shit.

So I’m not doing that.

Changes is coming.

Dear Shannon,

Welcome to the Pit Mother Fucker.

Love,

Shannon

 

Genre Bending Problems.

We know I’m not the most constant when it comes to genre writing. I like to use whatever the story calls for and frequently that means writing in a way that is not standard for whatever genre.

I was talking to a friend of mine who is also a writer and a rabid fan of urban fiction, SF/F and Horror and she is kind of upset about the difficulty I’ve had over the years getting published in those realms.

Generally speaking my first instinct when I don’t manage to get stories into genre publications has been okay, well it’s just not good enough, after all they published X author’s piece and that was amazing.

After that passes, I realize that most of my problem/good thing is that I do genre bend.

While that makes for my work having its own little thing, that is not a thing that a lot of publications are fuckin’ with.

So I hole up and work on stuff. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not super into workshops, but I do have some trusted beta readers and often their responses are like YES YES YES.

However, industry reactions have been tepid. I have gotten some amazing rejections that had the ever hard to come by feedback. One for my story Bernie’s Warg, (BY AND THE WAY, this is my low key way of telling you for Happy Spoopy October, I’m relisting some stuff at Etsy) was that the story was gorgeous, great mix of cultures, but stepped too far (I typed fart… how apt) out of the bounds of the genre of the magazine and there was too much horror.

A horror mag said almost the same thing, but too much of the fantasy.

All in the original long version of Bernie’s Warg got it about 20 rejections, about 5 rewrites, cut about 4K words and the industry still don’t want it.

Folks who’ve read it have enjoyed it.

Now a few years ago I’d have just tucked it away and been sad.

These days breaking into these publications and in genre fiction is not really so important to me. I know how to put stuff out by myself. I know my work is worth a few bucks.

I’m starting to figure out that I will likely not get into the magazines I love so much because I write the way I do. I have tried to change that, to study and emulate more of the traditional forms in the genres I love but it’s unnatural. It’s not really my voice.

It’s my voice speaking, someone else’s words.

I have to thank working with Milcah for me being so comfortable in this position. While my case to be published slowed before we started working together, I felt so weird about it. I felt uncomfortable with my decisions and like I was doing it wrong.

While yes, I want to sell a novel someday.

Yes, I still want to write some great American novel.

Yes, I still want to write a vampire novel.

YES, I still write short stories.

I’m just doing it at my own pace on my own terms and that’s okay.

I don’t have to do things the way other folks do them. And that’s okay too.

Now my darling homiepies.

That’s now a thing, I’m calling everyone homiepie.

I have SO much work to do.

Tomorrow look out for yeah write.

Also later this week a super important announcement.

Welcome to Rejectionland.

As promised when I hit 100 rejections I’d share with y’all.

Go here and have a look. It is in alphabetical order.

So holy shit I finally made it. I had no idea it would take so damn long.

Overall I’m mostly pleased.  Some of my acceptances have been stellar. I haven’t submitted quite as much as I had planned but on the other hand I’m really into what I have been doing. I think I have found the happy medium between super productivity and keeping a bit of a submission schedule.

Also on that page you’ll see I made swings at a few magazines more than once. We can consider these my personal LET ME LOVE YOU WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME list.

There are certain magazines I love so much I just want to be in them…yeah I know that sounds creepy.

I’m pretty happy right now. I’m trying to get into a slightly different rhythm as far as writing time does.  I’m trying to figure out given my sleep difficulties, if I can try getting up earlier and going to sit at Starbucks and work for a couple of hours before work or if I want to try going to sit in a diner and work for an hour or so at night. Or I need one of those bed rest things and a lapdesk to work at home.

I’ll probably do that last thing especially with the weather getting ready to take a turn.

What else?

I’m going to be one of the featured authors in a new thing curated by Anna March over at Literary Orphans. Due out October 16th!. I am so honored and excited to be a part of this series exploring identity. That was the important thing that made me throw up.  Even if people don’t like or get my essay I know for a dead ass fact that I wrote the fuck out of that shit. That my friends is my blood and guts on the page and I am very proud of myself.

As far as writing non fiction goes I’m not super afraid to reveal just how much of an asshole I am. What I am terrified of is being naked and vulnerable. That piece is showing my tender underbelly to the entire fucking world and it makes me feel weird.

I don’t have any other news right now. I’m trying to restock my larder and working on finishing up some stuff. A few old stories pulled out of the ether, some new stories. Here’s a tidbit from one where the MC is trying to channel Lydia Lunch for reasons. Here’s said bite:

The woman in the mirror smiles at me, I smile back. I look good tonight. Lashes are right, lips deep bloody red, my new weave is a work of pink and black magic. I stand up and examine myself in one of the full length mirrors.

“God damn girl, take a week off and come back looking like that. Lemme see.”

And why yes it is about/narrated by a stripper why do you ask?

And that’s all. Later taters.