The End of An Experiment.

So this is gonna be the last post about this era of my writing career. If you’ve missed it check out here and here. Go ahead I’ll wait.

Now I want to warn y’all this is gonna get long as fuck and real raw about a lot of things. If you’re new here, put on your hardhat and athletic cup. If you’ve been here. Sorry boo.

OKAY.

For background, a few years ago I decided it was time to level up my career. Post a fairly brutal doxxing by other writers, I felt like I really needed to re asses, set some goals and get the fuck to work. When I found out I had a book of poetry coming out, that was my cue.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in these lit streets since the late 90s. Like most writers, especially those of us swimming in the big ass ponds of poetry and short fiction, I’ve had ebbs and flows. I’ve rarely had a lot of success in poetry. There was a time period where I was a bit notorious amongst white poets because I’m a big ole mean ass Negro who hates free speech.

I was gonna link a bunch but nah. If you want to read my older stuff, links live in the sidebar.

I had a few minor moments, at one point my short fiction high my acceptance rate stayed up in the high 70s with about, 10-15 submissions per week so that was tits.

I got to know some poetry folks who made me feel great. I went to AWP (this is actually a hilarious story so I might try to make a video about it) I got to meet Roxane Gay at the first one and almost peed my pants. In the years between what like 2014-2016ish I was feeling myself in the, obscure but getting some great feedback area of writing.

In 2016 or so I decided that since I was armed with knowledge, a network of readers (a thing a writer I really admire complimented me on was how I engage with folks, that was just great) and I believed.

What I believed was that, in spite of my big mouth and all my shade at the lit community etc that I could carve out some kind of little financially sustainable writing life. I started with freelancing. After my first non-fiction publication I had a taste for it. I have an ability to write about things like racism, fatness etc in a way a lot of folks found good at the time. I had some experience from writing at XOJane. I’d figured out how to deal with things like:

  • Being told for years what a shitty asshole I am for writing things.
  • Being doxxed/harassed by angry racists, angry feminists and some other folks.
  • Being told explicitly (with pull quotes and footnotes) why folks were hate reading me and then why they wanted to make sure I know how much I suck.
  • Death threats.
  • Folks trying to get me fired from my dayjob.
  • Etc etc etc.

All those things continue to suck but I learned how to deal with it. My next plan for my glow up when I realized that to be a “successful” freelancer I’d have to eat a lot of shit, I decided to scale WAY back. Also real talk, dealing with white women in the sooper seekrit internet writing groups, fucked me up and in a lot of ways forced me out. That’s fine.

Some things I’ve been successful at in the last few years:

  • Figuring out I am not good on spec.
  • I am too stubborn to settle.
  • I refuse to eat shit for a byline.
  • I still write pretty ding dang good fuckin essays.

Don’t get it twisted. I am a fucking bad ass writer. I am. I cannot be fucked with and I continue to sometimes write some really bad shit. Overall. I’m a bad mother fucker.

I am Fat Laila. (MY FAVE INTERNET CHONKY KITTER DO NOT FAT SHAME HER THIS AIN’T THE PLACE BRO) Look at her. This is raw footage of my work and shit. No I just really wanted a giggle break. Stay with me.

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[image description: a fat black kitty mid run, she has airplane ears and looks like she is hissing. Text says, MOTHERFUCKERS!
So when I decided to level up, I felt intensely ready. I did some courses from places like the Void Academy.  FYI the links I share ARE good shit. They just aren’t the good shit for me in particular. When Medium launched their pay program. I put some stuff behind the paywall and pretty much failed hard. I learned SO MUCH from my beloved Milcah. I have held this advice so tight in my little hand. I very literally say it to myself a lot.

From my journal from the time, my number 1 goal was GET MY SHIT READ. Thus I embarked on the type of marketing and self-promotion folks say to do for years.

It didn’t go well.

I had a beautiful most amazing little poetry book come out. Buy her here.  Shit this part burns. But I did the thing folks say to do. I reached out to a LOT of people. I offered review copies and I think I got 2 reviews. more stuff I haven’t told anybody. I sent emails, queries etc to lit venues offering review copies, I answered a few very specific calls that put my book into their wheelhouse. Out of 60 emails of this nature sent, I got zero replies.

Zero.

Nada.

Fuckin crickets.

Privately I was fucking devastated. Part of how I experience anxiety often means I want to apologize to people for bothering them with my needs or whatever. It is just a thing. I was really tempted and so heavily triggered I almost asked my publisher to cancel the book.

I’m glad I didn’t. It is a good little book.

Now here is where I really started to see the pattern of my career at work and exposing a lot to me. Now, in terms of how people respond to my work, even here in Seattle people really love it. On a personal level, people tell me how much they like things I do. Some folks wrote me really lovely notes about how much they enjoyed the book.

After publication, I tried another round of promotion in the review angles and again, nothing happened. Nothing. The few folks who took review copies never said anything about it again. It has taken most of my self control to not email ALL of those people to ask if they just hated it. I don’t need to know.

I know enough.

Those months are what my career is at this point. I’ve realized these things:

  • The agents I’ve queried have all been either super interested and then once they saw more of my work *who I actually am* they ghost. Or their advice is to cut the social justice stuff, talk about racism less etc.
  • There is something about ANY of my work that does not keep the attention of people enough to really support it in any material way.

Again, I’m not talking about my ride or dies. I’m talking about the 5k+ folks in my social media, other people. I just ain’t it bro.

Superficially that makes my inner child wail. I want to lay face down on the floor. I want to suck out my personality and brains and everything and try to be more like the badass writers I’ve been compared to (or mistaken for in Ijeoma’s case) Roxane, Nikki.  All writers I admire deeply.

If I could in fact eat or otherwise ingest some of their successes and turn them into my own, maybe.

I am not them and that is okay. I don’t have to be.

I could honestly go on forever. I know a lot of super talented, successful amazing writers. I stan them. I get so excited when I see their names in the news and on best of lists etc.

And just this year I realize, that is probably not going to happen for me. I hate it and it breaks my heart into a million pieces but that is just what it is. Whatever it is about me, my work, etc is not gonna be the thing that gets me the big money or the big publication or probably a spot on any best of list.

I’ve accepted it and that my beloveds is why I’m closing my professional FB page. It is why I’m not doing a newsletter anymore, why I’m not going to bust my whole ass trying to get people to do the TWO things I need.

Action doesn’t happen for me when I ask. Unless I’m having a complete panic fueled meltdown and as I’ve said that is exhausting and humiliating and also doesn’t really work in terms of success I can link to it. When I do that, I might get a few bucks thrown at me on Kofi or maybe an extra 2 shares but folks ain’t reading, ain’t buying, ain’t sharing.

So that my friends is the end of this part of my writing career. When I publish on Medium I might use the paywall I might not. I’m writing a lot of fiction. I’ve got some horror coming out this year. I want to get back into noir.

My failure to not get famous, that wasn’t the point. The point was to move my life into a more sustainable model, maybe someday sell a book and keep writing and making some coin. I failed. There were a lot of reasons but I failed.

So like I been doing for 20 years, I’m gonna do what I know how to do.

Write like a mother fucker.

So that’s it y’all. A different adventure begins. Please stay tuned, next week I’m gonna talk about stuff I’ve got planned, we’re gonna nerd the fuck out about horror and weird fiction. It is gonna be lit.

 

Works in Progress and Whatnots.

State of the writer.

I’m drinking a pour over made with Kicking Horse Grizzly Claw coffee. Normally I drink their 454 but this blend is amazing. I added a wee bit of dark brown sugar and it really brought out the chocolatey flavor of this coffee. A fuckin plus.

What else is happening?

Well babes I’m still kind of really struggling trying to figure out how to write at home without a shitload of pain and not having to buy a desk because I don’t have the space. It is super frustrating. My body just cannot take not having some way to sit properly and work. Bummer.

But what’s good tho?

I am doing some new horror that I’m creating from my existing The World mythos. I’ve been wanting to play around and expand it. Also, y’all this is where I’m gonna plug Yeah, Write. I have talked a lot about playing and Yeah, Write is a great way to do that.

What else?

I’m not sure to be honest. My fiction writing is super damn slow for no reason and I’ve been writing essays that hurt my feelings. Like can I fucking not do that?

Also I’ve been poking at the self care book reboot and I feel some type of way about it. I dunno. On one hand, yes a good number of folks have said they want it but I am also too acutely aware of the toll writing it takes on me and given my recent performance in the sales dept, I don’t know if I can afford it.

I have reached the point with my Kindle singles experiment (I also had offered the work outside of amazon) where I’ll leave stuff there but that is also not really a viable method of both getting a little coin for my work and putting it out. Even with advertising designed by someone who is not me, nah.

So I’ve decided that there is not that much of a market for my work. That is fine. I won’t be dedicated myself to trying to make fetch happen. I’m still writing of course. I will submit to places when asked or if I see a juicy call but, yeah. I dunno y’all.

I will continue with Patreon. I average a bit over $200 a month and given that 90% of my audience in general doesn’t see value in purchasing my work, this is a huge deal. In the great big universe of Patreon that is bullshit ass money but, considering my track record with cash and my work it is pretty fuckin amazin.

So yeah. If I get a bug up my butt I might put out new medium content or Kofi or whatever. I might put more stuff on kindle. I’m not pressed about it. None of these things are remotely lucrative enough for me to put in more than a half hour a month at most. 10$ a month at the height (in June) of my side hustles just…nah.

Through this process I’ve been able to cement some things about myself as a writer.

  1. I am not great at on spec work.
  2. Sometimes I do what people who buy books want but, I am not the person they want the thing from.
  3. The writing I can sell, often hurts the most to write and I can’t do it full time.
  4. I’m not super attached to the financials at this point beyond working myself into a deficit of both coins and spoons.

I’m in a fairly peaceful place about this. Yes, I still get kinda really fucking mad when I see concepts I’ve written about extensively get picked up for $$$ when people who aren’t me write them (occasionally close enough to be plagiarism but whatevs) and I still am kinda sad that folks are just not that into me but I’ll live.

Thing is, I’ll be writing whatever bullshit anyway. I know myself. I’ve just really removed the pressure of making it sustainable for myself. Not happening. So yeah.

Stuff will happen. Things will be made to read. Dassit.

Why My Side Hustles Fail.

I’ve been doing a lot of deep analysis after some rounds of advertising in different ways. And we all know that looking deep into my statistics usually hurts my feelings but, if I’m gonna do this indie shit it is my job to do it.

So let’s get into it. My official FB author page.  My Amazon page where you can buy some stories and a couple of little collections (new one coming soon). Also note, the FB page will be where I do a LOT of my sharing and stuff. So for real it is best to follow there for the most up to date info.

Let’s talk about the performance of some things.

First thing. The general trend I see through analyzing both engagement with and action on things I share across social media (counting tweeter, tumblr, fb all in I have about 5-6k followers across all the platforms) is that I get shares and clicks when I share other folks work.

Now, I don’t grudge the other folks because I love them and want to share their work. I share things I care about. The part of the trend that bugs me is when a large number of those shares of other folks work, come from people I know rather than rando followers. I actually had a sample group and ALL of their interaction with things I’ve shared has only been the work of other people and was heavily skewed towards white women.

The subject matter also matters. I will get shares if I post something where I am exposing my own racial pain, performing poverty by ranting about my cash situation (however it doesn’t translate into action but we’ll get there) or if I’m just being my ain’t shit self and saying something shady.

Those stats are mainly from my actual following.

When it comes to randos, I see more interaction, more shares, of my work. My little kindle books, my Ko Fi.

These are two groups of people responding to the same marketing shits. The call to action, my pleases and thank yous.

Looking deeper at my FB page stats, the trend I’ve talked about for the last decade is made very very clear.

Like a lot of other Black women and femmes, when I ask for action directly folks don’t wanna do so in public. In private I’ve had many offers of boosts, help, sales etc and the numbers don’t lie that it doesn’t happen.

There is no outright public refusal which would be easier to deal with. This constant factor in my life (and the lives of MANY in my community) baffles some of my friends. When I’ve told them stats on things they are boggled.

For instance, my most read public piece (I won’t link to it right now) this year so far involves very deep racial pain. It has the most shares, the most reads. That one thing, flawed as it is has more reads and shares than everything else I’ve put out this year. From that one piece I’ve gotten DMs and notes from folks holding out the offers of whatever I need. Support etc and none of it has materialized.

Now I look at twitter and the most staunch advice I’ve got about using it as part of my publicity/marketing is the imperative ask to RT. On average, I have to RT myself and ask 3 times to get on the whole about 2.8 (some weird number close to this) shares.

The more interesting thing about tweeter is this. When someone who isn’t me or who doesn’t use my name shares something I’ve done, even if they have a significantly smaller following than I do, RTs galore. Clicks. Sometimes sales.

I’ve also seen this happen on FB.

Now let’s talk supporters. My most staunch and constant source of sales has been the folks with the least. The marginalized folks. The other poor people I know. Not the privileged folks I know. There are a few but I’ve also seen the issue of when they tag me or mention my name, that post goes silent. I watched it happen with a friend who is way more famous than me. Their posts generally get HUNDREDS of reactions, the one with me got about 10 and no comments and no shares.

My friend Dom said this the other day and it really strikes at the heart of my continued failed creative hustles:

When people offer help publicly on social media, yet don’t follow through, it gives the appearance that a person has support, when they really don’t.

This isn’t about one person or incident. It’s happened so much, for many complex reasons, and surely happens to others too. It’s just sad that this stops people from getting care they need.

Bolding mine.

I think what Dom is saying here is a large part of my ongoing problems with getting my work seen. A lot of the time if I mention I’m working on something, a good number of folks will be HYPE about it and saying they will share it. But, when the thing happens crickets.

I’ve tried a few methods of doing this. Returning to the original thread(s) to post the link, doing the random FB tricks and well…meh.

One of the things I am very conscientious about is giving folks options. If you follow me on FB or tweeter, you know that I am very specific about the actions that are helpful.

As I’ve mentioned many times, I have an entire community of folks like me who have this same problem. Folks (especially more privileged people) LOVE to get all in our stuff cheering for us. And yet, when we ask specifically for what we need, well…..

All this said.

If you are in a position where you can’t drop a couple of bucks on a book or magazine etc, you can still do the work to support the artists you care about. That is what I do. I share links when asked when I can. I pay attention. Right now, I’m stoked to say that my Patreon is “successful” enough that I am supporting three other folks. Not much but it means a lot.

I also want to be very clear.

I’ve been told that me talking about these things in this way is “excuses” and “negative”. Look. If you really believe that, I got nothing for you. The only way that the going advice will EVER work is if all things are equal. And they are absolutely not.

I also want to say that I am very grateful for my ride or die magical space babes. Y’all know who you are.

I am not alone in this. My community suffers from this. Folks tell us how much they want to see us do X thing but do nothing to help us get that thing done. I watch a lot of my community rage out about it because it is fucking hard. A lot of us don’t get action unless we’re doing long ass twitter rants about how broke and scared we are. Or we rant about these issues and get some pity likes.

It is exhausting.

However, I’m gonna keep doing me. I guess. I have reservations but, I gotta do the shit I do.

Dassit.

Don’t Throw That Shit Away

HELLO my favorite Space Babes.

Let’s talk about holding onto your stuff.

I write a lot of shit. I have tons of scraps of stories, bits of poems, lil snatches of research and whatnots. From one of my fave books about writing, the classic On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King,  one of the lasting lessons for me was to stop throwing stuff away. Way back when I was a baby potato, writing in absolute secret I was terrified of anyone finding out and I was so embarrassed by how bad I was at writing, I’d write stories, read them once and tear them up. If I was feeling particularly upset, I’d burn the pieces.

Very dramatic.

Once I started using computers regularly, I did about the same thing. I wrote stuff, decided I was too shitty to live and deleted them. I did this for probably the first decade (from let’s say age 13 through about 24) of me becoming a writer.

After my first reading of On Writing, the first thing I put into practice was not in fact keeping what I wrote. I still had a bad habit of just deleting anything I didn’t believe in immediately. Back then, I was very vested in being published in very specific ways. I was mainly writing a lot of erotica and copy for a few adult sites. I occasionally got a horror publication here and there.

My criteria for what I’d keep or not keep came down to being held hostage by the Literary Canon. Cis, white, hetero unless it was queer for hetero eyes. That was what got me into the industry. I didn’t believe that my secret work (the baby versions of a lot of what I’m doing now) was worth keeping because I was taught otherwise. On occasion, I ventured into literary Black territory and was usually not rewarded in any way by doing so. There was a time when, I had the audacity to be very Black and Queer on the internet and I lost a really lucrative job because after my employer checked my personal stuff (a blog and whatnot) he sent me a very worried email that I couldn’t really write “normal”.

Fast forward to earlier this morning. I was casting about looking for an older story I was thinking about reprinting and I found a treasure trove of things I tucked away in my cloud storage. In the past five or so years I’ve suffered some catastrophic data losses and computers dying and taking years of work with them so, stumbling on things I wrote in 2010/2011 feels so good.

I spent some time reading some of my early noir, I have the first 60 pages of a super natural/werewolf buddy detective thing I wrote way back in 2010ish. I know that much of the going writer culture is to be terribly embarrassed by your old work. Hide that first novel in a drawer, be charmingly embarassed in interviews when asked about your early work.

I reject that entirely. I am not embarrassed that once upon a time I didn’t know how to walk and routinely shit my pants. Now, I can (well I’m not great at it but) walk and I learned how to use the toilet. I’ve evolved. I’m proud of my growth as a human. I am so proud of myself for learning and changing.

From being confined to writing explicit work featuring a LOT of white people to now I have tucked away in a folder erotica that transgresses gender, race, and a few very creepy kings with impunity. It was purchased by a now defunct publisher so I might go ahead and publish it.

Look.

You cannot step back and appreciate your own growth if you hide where you were. I don’t believe in shame about how we become the artists we are. That is why I’m rarely ashamed to show a first draft. I’m rarely upset that I have a snippet of a story that just will never ever work. I’m proud that I’ve found my voice and having this back catalog of stuff that shows me the way I got here is fucking amazing.

Don’t be ashamed.

Keep doing what you’re doing.

Play. When I say play I mean just fuck around. Never written sf? Give it a shot. Try stuff. Let go and play on the swingset and write a crappy ass horror story or a super cheesy love story. As I’ve said in my creative loveletters, make something ugly. Paint something, put together a puzzle, just do something. Get a weird idea and see where it goes.

Don’t throw it away.

Okay below, find a good chunk of the weird buddy werewolf thing I started and may yet finish.

Continue reading “Don’t Throw That Shit Away”

Ay listen.

Hi babes.

Can we talk about some shit I’ve been learning lately?

First thing I’ve not learned but we’ll say that has been reinforced to me is that, a lot of general promotional advice is woefully out of date. It doesn’t account how a lot of us have our links on platforms like FB throttled so hard, even our “close” friends don’t see them.

So I kinda am trying to make a deeper peace with that. I’m working on it.

The other thing is that, I’ve noticed that even with me taking pains to reduce how much stuff I give away, I STILL don’t really generate things that are buyable by my general audience across a few platforms. How do I know?

Medium for instance. I currently have 19 pieces behind the paywall, a good variety of type of content. Here in 2019 I’ve made less than a dollar. I mean…my read ratio regardless of topic or length is under 2 out of 10. Then of course when I can read stuff on medium, I see a LOT of bullshit that makes hundreds of dollars likely.

It makes me tired.

I’ve been using KoFi for almost a month exactly and have three things to read. One poem, two essay type things. And goose eggs.

I talked about it on my main fb account a while back. And funnily enough when I said, don’t blow smoke up my ass if you’re not going to at the very least share, my share rate went from few to literally 2-4. And so did engagement.

So really, I’ve learned that the call to action, the asking my community for help etc etc. Ain’t for me. I’ve tried. I’ve modified my tone, I’ve changed what I’m giving, etc. I think I can make some peace with that. Silence and inaction says volumes. More so when the folks who do the share because they don’t have $$ to support, are literally the same 4-6 people it has been for a decade. That’s my real audience. They are the real Gs and I’m not talking about them.

What else?

In terms of Gasoline Heart here’s some interesting things. (NOTE TO SELF ASK PUBLISHER FOR NEW BOX O BOOKS) Some of the folks who’ve read it, really loved it. one of the things I’ve seen in several reviews are along the lines of, HOW DID I MISS THIS/THE WORLD MISS IT?

Easily. SO the above issues. I mean, a few people (the book has been out for a while now) who’ve known me for a long time have said, I didn’t see X links. Sorta believable. Also I am not represented, I am not a darling, I am not very famous or really even connected in the poetry world. So yeah, you won’t find my lil book in lists and shit. That is just how it is.

Also, I learned that I do not have the cash on hand to be trying to get my lil book awards. Shit is expensive. In secret I spent a few months last fall really dedicating hours of my week to submitting to free publicity or award things with my lil book. The hours cost me in terms of spoons and time not spent writing and netted me one very nice rejection letter.

And real talk. I STILL can’t get poetry published. At last submission spree, even with mentioning the book and including a poem or two from it, I don’t really get no love from the lit poetry world. That’s fine but it also means that I’m chasing my tail trying to promote my fucking book.

So yeah. That’s been a struggle but I’m glad I did it. I can see the whole pathway and what obstacles exist for me in particular and that I don’t honestly have the spoons to try to get around them. So I do what I have energy for.

NON BULLSHITS.

So last year I decided to focus more on getting back into the fiction world and boy howdy. Quite a few years ago I had about a 60% acceptance rate in the short fiction world. That was huge.

My return to it has been fucking lit.

This year I’ve placed stories in two anthologies that are both HUGE DEALS to me. Huge. I got an experimental horrory story into Would but Time Await: An Anthology of New England

I was REALLY nervous because the story was an experiment. It is a Black story and I haven’t really been in the horror community for a while.

THEN I got a little tiny horror story accepted over at Heavy Feather (will announce when it goes up). The editor Jason dropped me a note months ago and I FINALLY made something I’m into.

And then, I got the notification and one of the best damn acceptance notes ever. My lil supernatural noir story got into the Gimme the Loot: Stories Inspired by The Notorious B.I.G. Forthcoming from Clash.

The uniting theme in these is that, I’m at my best when I write what the fuck I want to write. I think freelancing really kind of crushed that in me to a degree. Yes there are some publishers who have been all the way the fuck in with me. But, largely that is not the case. This is the same thing with the flirtations with agents and mainstream publishing.

It is like, OKAY we fuck with you but about 40% so dial it back.

I don’t write great things with that in mind. I don’t write great things when I’m trying so hard to get paid what I’m worth.

All of this is really about me pupating so I can in fact find my place in the lit world. Someone who was trying really hard to be encouraging was comparing me to two very famous, very amazing Black writers and y’all, it made me cry. I like both authors. But, I am not like them and cannot be.

I hate this whole struggle between wanting a seat at the table, wanting some “success” (as termed by our culture) and just wanting to be my weird little self, make some writing, make some pomes, do my shit and maybe sometimes be shown appreciation in the form of coins.

I’m working on it. One lil thing at a time.

Featuring- Most Beloved Jen Pastiloff. Writer, teacher, Mom, delightful human.

HI babes. Get a snack.

If you don’t know Jen I am so happy to introduce you to her. I’m not completely sure how our paths crossed but, she is one of the most giving, Jen Pastiloff is the founder of one of my favorite lit sites The Manifest Station and if you’ve been here a while, you might remember she published an essay of mine about my mental health (TW it is a lot of issues) and treated me with such love and dignity. That particular piece was one that I could not for the life of me sell in any form and she was so kind in her treatment of it. SMOL UPDATE:THE BOOK IS OUT NOW GET IT GET IT GET IT HERE. 

Jen is, the antidote to the sort of shiny, BE POSI all the time Mommyness, yoga doing, life living thing. Y’all know I am purely allergic to both bullshit and aggressive positivity and Jen gives me a person who reflects how I want to talk to myself. Y’all know what I’m saying? She speaks my language. When I see her post, don’t be an asshole followed with how she’s being an asshole to herself, and to stop I feel seen and heard.

Jen is a relentlessly loving person. A real person who wears some really bomb lash extensions and has a lovely family and chunky biscuit baby whoms

What’s your name/pen name.

“Ugh, why is this always so hard? Let’s see: I can’t hear without my hearing aids so that is kind of annoying. I have terrible tinnitus (ringing in my ears) 24/7 so I have a high tolerance for getting used to things, as well as pain. This is not always a good thing. I stayed at the same waitressing job for almost 14 years in Hollywood because I “”was used to it.”” I stayed in an abusive relationship for 2 years because I was “”used to it.”” You get the point.
I have a fear of dentists. I watch too much Netflix (thank God for subtitles and blue-tooth hearing aids), I drink way too much coffee and wine, I have a 2.5 year old who is the love of my life and also a high pain in the ass. I live in a one bedroom apartment and share a bed with my husband and son and my dream is to have another bedroom and a washer and drier. Really, those are my dreams. Oh: also finding a cure for Prader Willi Syndrome, which is the rare genetic disorder my nephew Blaise has. It manifests itself in many hideous ways but the worst is that it makes the person feel starving all the time. Like, he could literally eat himself to death. It’s straight out of a science fiction film. Fuck Prader Willi.
I went to NYU but took a semester off after junior year and that turned into… what year is it? So yea, I am a college dropout. And I have a memoir publishing June 4 from Dutton Books. No, I am not suggesting you drop out of college but for the love of coffee, sometimes our paths are crooked. Maybe college is not for everyone. Maybe the person I am is because I did not finish? Who’s to say?
I am saying this: Embrace the not knowing. You have no idea where life will take you or what will happen. The sooner you accept this, the happier (slightly happier, at least) you will be.
I post a lot on instagram at @jenpastiloff. Especially with the hashtags #realmotherfuckinglife and #nopantssunday which are exactly what they sound like.
I like being real and pantlessless.
I think Lidia Yuknvaitch is a fucking goddess. I lead workshops with her called Writing & The Body and it has changed me to my core. In the best possible way.
I don’t sleep with my hearing aids in so mornings and the middle of night are hilarious. “”What? What did you say? Mommy doesn’t have hearing aids in.”” I 99% mishear what you are saying, even with my hearing aids in, and usually what I hear is way funnier.
My father died when I was 8. He was my entire world. It messed me up real good but I turned out okay. Also; I wrote a book about it one million years later, so there is that.
I believe we get to change our minds about who we are and what we want, despite what the world (or our own Inner Asshole has told us.) \Ugh, I curse a lot.
My motto is “”Don’t be an asshole”” but I believe we are all sometimes assholes. Because: humans.
Sometimes I feel like a walking dead person. Less than I used to, but still. Sometimes I do.
I take anti-depressants. I teach yoga. I lead workshops around the world that I made up where I encourage people to become free and give less fucks what anyone else thinks. I love what I do.
I give away more than I have. I don’t mind that.

How do you like to work? Do you need your workspace to be any particular way?

I need quiet, which is hilarious because I am deaf. No, I was not born deaf. I am not Deaf with a capital “D.” I just get distracted easily so I can’t have noise (besides the ringing in my head.) That is the only thing I need. I need to be surrounded with books or mementos or photos. Things that inspire me, remind me who I am, make me feel grounded. Books do that. They make me feel less lonely. I feel like they whisper to me, “Go on, girl. You got this.” I know it’s corny but I do. My favorite words are “I got you” and I need things around me to remind me of that sentiment. My other faves are: It’s going to be okay. Basically, I need to feel that to write. I have no system. No routine. No high demands. I can’t even type. But, I get it done. Which is again to say: you do you. You do not need to fit inside any kind of box. I call it the “just-a’box.” I am just a waitress, just a mom, just a yoga teacher. Barf in my mouth. You (and me) are not JUST an anything nor do we fit inside a box. Make up your own damn rules.

Who are your favorite artists or authors?

“You, Shannon Barber. Truly. Your poetry. Lidia Yuknavitch. Roxane Gay. George Saunders. Cheryl Strayed. Sam Irby. Emily Rapp Black. Rene Denfeld. Alice Anderson. Naomi Shihab Nye. Toni Morrison. Jesmyn Ward. Alexander Chee. Claudia Rankine. Marlon James. Christa Parravani. Rumi. Stephen Dunn. Stanley Kunitz. Liz Gilbert. Zadie Smith. Brenda Shaughnessy, Miriam (Mimi) Feldman (paintinga and her writing!!) Megan Stielstra. Elizabeth Crane. Rob Roberge. Gina Frangello. Paul Auster. Virginia Woolf. Annie Dillard. Maya Angelou. Jess Walter. Jeanette Winterson. Tana French. Kate Atkinson. Omg- this is so hard. I could go on and on. Hold on, let me get more coffee.
Sylvia Plath. Caroline Knapp. Hanya Yanagihara. Margaret Atwood. Leslie Jamison. Nicole Krauss. patti Smith. Joan Didion. Alice Walker. Judy Blume. On and on…. ”

Do you have any memories of the first piece of art or literature that really moved you?

My first thought is Judy Blume. The first real book I ever read as a teeny kid was “Forever.” It was full of sex. I loved it. I hid in my room behind my bed and read it in 2 days. It was before my dad died so those memories are hardwired into my DNA. I have a deep love of Judy Blume. Hi, Judy! You make the best art. You inspired me as a small human to write and look at me now. It’s your fault! Also, you named a penis Ralph in your book and that still makes me laugh. Ralph!

What makes you ridiculously happy?

“My son’s laughter. Napping in the middle of the fucking day. My fake ass eyelashes. Finishing something I am proud to have written. Leading my On Being Human workshops. A book I cannot book down. When my husband brings me coffee in bed (he does this every day. Not to brag, but, okay, I am bragging.)
A show I cannot stop watching (I am a binger to the core!) When there is no traffic in LA, which is basically like two days a year (Christmas and Jan 1.), Italian food in Italy, Paris, light coming through a window. The idea of my own washer and dryer! The handmade “”don’t be an asshole’ and “”don’t should all over yourself”” mugs someone made and mailed me. They are just just so stinkin’ cute! I can’t even make chicken and someone made me these!”

Do you still feel awe? If so what fills you full of it? If not, tell me.

“All the time. I call it “”beauty hunting.”” My son’s awe fills me with awe. Watching his toddler brain process something. Last night i was working on this interview at my computer and he comes over and says, “”It’s not time for work. It’s bedtime.”” He was right. I closed the computer and cuddled with him. My 2 year old is teaching me boundaries.
Nature brings me to my knees. I am no Mary Oliver, but, my God, look at the sky. It’s breathtaking. How do we get to live in the world? Look what it does.
Honestly, wifi while I am flying. Utter awe. I am just dumbstruck. Like: how can I text you on your couch while I am high in the clouds above Cleveland? My hearing aids. Sometimes just the shock of sound when I put them back in brings me to tears. Anti-depressants. Look dudes, I probably still wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them so that is all sorts of awe-inspiring.
What happens in my workshops. Transformation, connection, lifetime friendship, fear gets told to buzz off, people find their voices, change their minds, allow themselves to be held, listen to other people in ways they maybe never had. I can’t believe I get to do this and IF I EVER STOP BEING ASTONISHED I WILL BE DEAD.”

Free for all: Tell me something good. (Yes I did just quote Chaka Khan at you)

“Well, I recently started lifting weights and I feel really great. I remember when I was nearly dying from anorexia, if someone said that I looked “”strong”” or “”healthy”” I would have a literal panic attack. Now, I soar. It’s a tangible feeling of growth. I don’t think we necessarily “”overcome”” things or “”get over them”” but we learn how to live so that they are not controlling us, so that we are able to find slivers of happiness, or awe, as you aptly put it. I have bad days but the majority are good.
I am part of something SHAPE magazine is launching called WOMEN RUN THE WORLD and I will be featured in the June 2019 issue. I sold my book in The UK to John Murray (Hachette UK .) I have clean sheets as opposed to cookie crumb sheets (I sleep with a toddler.) I have a retreat coming up to France and the day after I return from Europe, my book launches. That is actually good, or very, very bad. Hashtag jet lag.
We are closer to 2020 when we can vote the evil cheeto out of office.
I no longer care (as much) what other people think.
Something else good? Here’s the good news: I know it feels sometimes like there isn’t enough room (for you, for me, for all of us) but there is. That€™s a lie. That€™s a bullshit story-as I call it.
Sometimes it may feel like about she got there first & SO WHAT IF SHE DID? There’s room for all of our stories, voices, creations.
If you get sucked into that spiral of Not Enoughness “you won’t create. You’ll think â what’s the point?
The point is YOU. You are the point. There’s no other you.
It’s not a cliche. Or it is, but for good reason.
I lived in the Land of Lack for years but I escaped! Not unscathed: I have moments where I slip back.
But I remind myself that there’s room! And I surround myself with people who remind me, who lift me up, who make me see THE ROOM I WAS INSISTENT ON DENYING THE EXISTENCE OF. Find those people. Do your thing. We need you. Don’t be an asshole & hide. Tattoo this on your heart: THERE IS ROOM FOR ME.
your inner a-hole will try & trick you & tell you that it’s too late. It’s been done, there’s too many ______ (whatevs your blank is), you’re too old, too fat, too sad, too single, too smart, too dumb, too open, too potty-mouthed….WHATEVER THE F! It’s a dirty trick. Don’t listen. There’s room There’s room There’s room There’s room There’s room. MAKE ROOM FOR YOURSELF. We need you.

Extras?

“I have a workshop coming up in NYC March 16. PDX with Lidia Yuknavitch april 5-7, Ft Worth April 27, France May 25-June 1, London June 2, Book launch at Skylight Books in LA with Lidia June 4, Powells in PDX with Lidia June 7, DC July 14, Malaprops Books in Asheville July 16, Kripalu in Massachusetts July 19-21, Philly Aug 24. All info at jenniferpastiloff.com. Or go here https://www.jenniferpastiloff.com/events

Preorders are so important. And, if you send proof of purchase by Feb 28 you get a gift. order wherever you like and submit proof here https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfOG-KBufmq-DE5t7NnUekkOi0enMt_Dld_5sSNhICW9xZguA/viewform. Thanks for preordering. It truly means the world. I got you, too.
I have a scholarship fund for a woman who has lost a child called The Aleksander Fund https://www.themanifeststation.net/2016/10/17/aleksander-scholarship-fund/. I run a literary magazine with Angela Giles called The Manifest-Station https://www.themanifeststation.net.
Besides my own instagram at @jenpastiloff I also have @nobullshitmotherhood and @GPowerYouAreEnough.

More info here https://www.jenniferpastiloff.com/onbeinghuman”

~

AND y’alls I’m serious. You see why I love her.

Featuring- Caroline Blicq of Hexennacht.

Hello my friends.

A very long time ago on a blog far far away, I liked to post little interviews with folks I like. I decided that, we’re gonna do that here.

I’ll be featuring writers, artisans, other folks I find cool. First up the amazing scent witch Caroline Blicq, head spoopy babe in charge of and creator of Hexennacht. What is Hexennacht? First some background.

In the aforementioned blog far far away, I met someone who introduced me to the world of hand made perfume oils. For a good portion of my adult life, I was one of those people who would chase down the hood guy who sold oils out of his backpack, or I’d go to the Pan-African import stores for perfume oils. I love them.

I’ve used lots of brands and have a small but delicious collection. Right now, Caroline makes my faves.

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[image description: HEXENNACHT in stylized font]
Before we get to the interview, let me give y’all a little review.

First of all, Caroline creates scents that are evocative, skin loving and frankly every one I’ve tried including my first order of currently unavailable scents, has just been delicious. My tastes tend to run to darker scents. I like notes like tobacco, leather, honey, candles, incense. My first two favorites were these:

Coffin Nails – Tobacco leaves, tobacco flower, whiskey, ginger, anise, coriander, clove, spices, fruitwood sap, juniper berry, hay, vetiver, benzoin, labdanum, vanilla pods, tonka bean, honey.

AND another classic fave:

Papa Legba – Aged dark Maduro cigars, spiced vanilla, beeswax votives, golden honeycomb.

If you click around the scent descriptions, you’ll Caroline has a nice hand at both humour and scent description. These perfumes are extra, the packaging is extra and much to my delight the human I adore, Caroline is also extra af.

Now, my last order was just a beauty. Check it out:

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[image description: a black package with silver writing on it that has my name on it, Shannon  a heart and a planchette shaped logo with Hexennacht in silver ink]
One of the reasons I love handmade items is, I like to feel special. Caroline puts care into her packaging and even just the touch of having my name written all pretty like that makes me really happy.

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[image description from the left: two sample sized vials of perfume oil. The top one is labeled Holy Water, the bottom is labeled Morning Star. In the middle there is a brown toned sticker with a photo of a pentegram on a wooden floor, it says hexennacht in lower case letters. On the right there are two perfume oil roll ons, the left hand one is labeled Black Phillip and the one on the left is labeled The Gunslinger.
Now, ahem. Y’ALL. Black Phillip is so fucking sexy. I feel like a whole ass Love Witch when I wear it. The description:

Black Phillip – black amber, dragon’s blood, black musk, tonka, black oak, firewood embers, black currant, soft woods, black pepper.

On my skin, immediately upon application I smell mostly the dragon’s blood and musk. Once it dries down it turns into this lightly sweet, peppery warm amazingness.

The Gunslinger I got for my partner (who by the way will wear whatever I put on him and perfume isn’t a thing that must be gendered), well actually I got it for me but it smells better on him.

The Gunslinger – Hints of sulphurous gunpowder, smoky, dark, mildly sweet, and spicy with notes of smoke and wood.

I LOVE the note of gunpowder. LOVE IT. It does not work with my body chemistry and turns weird and sour. On the partner, it is a sharp smell that mellows into that mildsweetness on his skin. Pure. Hotness.

Today I am wearing Inferno – orange pekoe tea, orange, clove, cinnamon, ginger. Y’alls. There is a tea here in WA that is so good and she managed to not only capture it, but on the skin it just smells so warm and soothing and another sexy scent. This scent is so fucking sexy, a straight woman kinda hit on me while we were sitting next to each other on the bus. That is how good she is.

Caroline’s scents are beautifully complex and so easy to wear in ways that have a low impact on folks around you. You can adjust the intensity to your own preferences. If you don’t like scent on your skin, try it in a scent locket. I have one I wear sometimes if I just want something to lift my mood.

NOW my loves, meet the divine Caroline.

What’s your name/pen name: Caroline Blicq

First tell my friends as much as you’d like to about yourself and your work.

I’m a Canadian transplant, and have lived in Seattle for 22 years. I started out making herbal infusions, tinctures, and tisanes 25 years ago, and over time, it gradually evolved into perfumery.

How do you like to work? Do you need your workspace to be any particular way?

I like to work in either complete silence or loud music. There’s no in-between. I also NEED to have an inordinate amount of “alone” time. I’ve always thrived on having minimal interpersonal interaction, and thankfully, working out of my home makes that possible. As far as my workspace goes, it doesn’t appear to be in any set “order”, but I know exactly where every single one of my 300+ blends is located at any given moment. For that reason alone, I’ll never be able to have assistants, but then again, that would cut into my alone time, so it all works out very well for me.

Who are your favorite artists or authors?

“Music: Kate Bush, Etta James, Fiona Apple, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder.
Authors: Paul Beyerl, Judika Illes, c.s. lewis, Stephen King, Joe Hill”

Do you have any memories of the first piece of art or literature that really moved you?

I was OBSESSED with Lynda Barry’s graphic novels as a teen. I still am.

What makes you ridiculously happy?

Music, my home/sanctuary, my family, getting to make a living doing what I love the most.

Do you still feel awe? If so what fills you full of it? If not, tell me.

I was gifted a Hawaiian vacation last year, and snorkeling with tropical fish is by far the most amazing, exhilarating thing I have ever done in my life. I’m obsessed with going back there someday.

Free for all: Tell me something good. (Yes I did just quote Chaka Khan at you)

It’s 2019. I’m having to dig deep to come up with something good these days. Is it re-election time yet? Haha-

Extras?

Shop: http://www.hexennacht.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hexennacht.scents
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1510610669028654/