A Weird Lil Thing

I’m finally heading out of the holy fuckballs I am so sick I want to die.

I’m back on the grind, writing fiction and poetry and shit.

Tis the season for me feeling some type of way about too many lit world things that aren’t the outright usual fuckery of the lit world but enough to hurt my lil feelings. The events I can’t go to, the residencies I can’t even afford to apply to, etc etc.

I’m trying to tuck those feelings away so I can work but, I realized recently that I have to let myself go through it otherwise it festers and I wind up creatively and physically constipated and I can’t work that way.

I struggle with a lot of feelings and as I’ve said before, it is part of my process.

That said, the struggle always ends with me, figuring some shit out.

So here’s what this round has brought.

I felt like I was regressing a bit. I’ve set myself a goal of continuing to write whatever the fuck I want to write and accepting that my profits are prolly not gonna happen. I’ve been wrestling with it and frankly, it is just not worth the stress.

That said.

I want my Patreon to flourish so, I have some expansion plans. I’ll talk more about that next month. Now, I may still make my expansions a separate thing. Stay tuned for some Be That Shit University news.

I’m actually going to be talking about this a lot more in my next tiny letter. Y’all should sign up. I’m pretty awesome and shit.

Basically, I’m tryin to lay the groundwork that will enable me to do more in the lit world that I wanna do without the financial stress BUT also not freak out about said hustles.

There is one other thing I want to explore, a little coaching but I’m still researching it and trying to figure out how I could invest the time.

The big change I’m experiencing is that I am aware of and understand what skills I just don’t have/have difficulty learning and am accepting it.

So if I’m gonna be side hustling, it is going to be doing shit I love not shit I feel like I have to do.

So that’s where I’m at y’all.

Now probably next week I’m going to do some major nerding about some books and writers I love so come back for that.

AND lastly, If you have some money and need to learn to write the other. Please go take this class. The Writing The Other by Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford. Y’all. If you are not a marginalized person, please take this class. These folks are experts.

On Rejection and Returning to the Lit World

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but I’ve been doing a little slow step back into the lit world. By that I mean doing a little submitting here and there.

So pardon me being in a really navel gazing mood here, but I’m in need of reflection.

If I look back 20 years, what was I submitting?

I had about ten “done” stories (done as in I could only ruin them) I printed them out for five cents a page on paper I was ashamed of at the library. I bought expensive envelopes and hand addressed them to various magazines. I probably had about a 20% answer ration. Zero actual publications. I recall hiding my few rejection slips because I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it. I wish I’d have kept them to be honest.

My stories back then were sort of erotic horror mainly, a little slasher, gore and a few that I thought of as literary. Not one character was Black or queer. They were all nice White folks who were attractive and I was very careful not to reveal or infuse any Blackness because, the places I was submitting didn’t really publish a lot of Black stories aside from the occasional racial pain porn or paean to Maya Angelou penned by White women.

I was also deeply reticent about the literary because I bought into the idea that in order for me to be a writer on that level, I had to be in a writing program.

My earliest publications on the internet were all porn or horror. My favorite early publication was Gay smut and that story is still one of my favorites. If I can find it, I’ll reprint it.

After a couple of years I went for it in the lit community but, I kept my stories either pretty White or unspecified so White by default. I was a very nervous submitter. I probably ruined more stories editing and trying to hone them for specific publications than I did submissions sent. Looking back, I have to laugh a little bit. I wanted so badly to get published, I pushed my instincts and real desires down and tried so hard.

Fast forward another few years and I read this piece on the Rumpus. It low key changed my entire writing life. I mean as far as writing advice goes this:

So write, Elissa Bassist. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.

Now um, y’all.

That set me on a whole new trajectory.

I hit literary fuck it.

For the next four or so years I wrote and submitted like a mother fucker. Sometime in HA I found it 2011 I stumbled on a thing by Brett Elizabeth Jenkins (who is a badass poet) and it took me a while but I got there. Proudly. I wrote Blackness into my work purposefully and with zero fucks given.

It was liberating and telling.

All these years and submissions and rejections have served to teach me some invaluable lessons in how I submit.

Lesson one: If I find guidelines too confusing or too twee, fuck that publication.

Lesson two: Write whatever the fuck you want to write. Regardless of whether or not you think it will be published. Really, write that shit.

Lesson three: Every now and then, it is okay to pushback against a rejection. For instance: once upon a time yours truly got a sweet job writing custom porn. I passed the initial writing test magnificently, the editor was all about it. And then he looked me up and read my personal online diary (anyone remember Diary-x?) and decided to question me. He wanted to know if- because I am Black and Queer and Out in my personal life) I was capable of writing not those things. I was fucking livid and though I desperately needed the money I read him the riot act and flounced from the job. Sometimes, you just gotta tell somebody they done fucked up. That said, do not be the asshole who emails editors back wanting all their damn time or telling them how stupid they are for not publishing your brilliant treatise on whatever bullshit.

Lesson four: Do please read, the places you are submitting to. That said, if you want to blaze a trail for representation, don’t stop get it get it. On the other side of that coin, you are under no obligation to blaze the trail. Remember, care for your heart y’all.

Lesson five: If you can’t be a certain type of writer, accept it and do what you can do. Don’t be like me and punish yourself for years because you suck at quick turnaround work. Don’t be me. Do you boo.

Lesson six: If you write some bullshit, be ready for blow ack. Also, understand that if you write something offensive or deadass wrong and people call you on it, question the editor this is not censorship. This is what’s called consequences for maybe showing your ass. Don’t be a douchebag about it.

Lesson seven: Trust your Weird Voice. Read all about what I have to say about that in the archives of my newsletter here.

Last, cherish the great rejections. I got one earlier today for one of my weird essays and it was wonderful.And when they say we like your voice or something, submit again.

Now that’s all for now. I’m off to get rejected some more.

You go do you boo.

Do. You.

 

My Body is Ready

Let’s talk about what happens when my ass is in the chair and I’m getting ready to put in work.

I thought I had no ritual but, apparently I do.

I get my beverage. Usually fresh coffee or tea. I have my smokes nearby if I’m at home. I need noise so if I’m at work and music ain’t cutting it, I’m a sucker for the trashiest of trash tv. Reality TV where people are hollering and fighting usually is the thing.

I get office open and go.

If shit is really good, I am rocking and/or somehow wriggling in my chair between sitting up stiff and weird, my feet kick, my tongue pokes out, I pull other weird faces. If I’m really cooking, I mumble, sometimes I read a bit out loud, yell FUCK or NO NO NO NO NO.

authoratwork
[image description: Black femme person wearing a lavender bob style wig, black framed glasses, the tip of their tongue is sticking out]
If I’m being honest, things get weird. Like it’s that scene from that movie Swordfish where NERD!WOLVERINE is at his fancy mega computer, mumbling, dancing around, spinning in his chair. If I’m alone enough, shit gets that real.

I mean, y’all see. Granted I’m looking a lot more put together in this photo than I am at home when I work. But yeah, this is the start of me evolving into your fave indie weirdo writer in composition mode.

Something I find really funny is that the older I get the more I feel writing in my body. Back in the day, while I wrote I fancied myself to be very uh, pretty in doing it. Like I imagined romantic poets to be. All loungy sex and artistic glow.

Y’all nah. When I’m really deep in it, I’m sweating and stinking and grumbling. The other night while I was working on PoetryBookBaby#1, I bit the inside of my fucking cheek so hard it bled and then I was like HOW ABOUT NO FUCK U POMES! Out loud.

It just makes me giggle because the actuality of being a working writer is so not what I thought it was going to be. I thought things would be like, okay BOOM I’M PUBLISHED AND PUBLISHED AGAIN BANG ZIP BOOM MONEY YEAH FUCK YEAH!! PARTIES!! BOOTY!! FAME!!

I’m giggling while I write this, but it is what I thought would happen.

I didn’t think I’d be sitting and swearing at a computer screen at a job that mostly pays my bills, and hoping the phone doesn’t ring and fuck up my flow.

That said, it is not bad.

It’s not always greatness and cash, but you know.

I’m working through some shit and writing and writing and WRITING AND WRITING AND FUCK…I’m feeling kinda prolific but at the same time like there’s not enough energy and time in the day.

I think I’ll feel like I’m not getting the output I want forever. I’m not a machine but I want to be a word machine.

Now that’s this. I have LOTS of stuff to do.

So go read/subscribe to my newsletter. There is a fart joke AND I talk about Impostor Syndrome. come back next week and I’ll talk some more (GEEK SHIT YO) about some recurring themes in my work and how I deal with them in various genres.

 

 

I nerded hard

SO the thing happened this weekend.

I sat in a room full of writers and nerded hard on them about writing.

It was pretty great. I feel like I babbled a bit more than I planned but I was only super nervous for the first couple of minutes. I really, really enjoy talking to folks about writing. I talked a lot about just letting yourself do it.

You can find the handout with an attached story here. Feel free to download it and play with it.

And right now I can say with a lot of enthusiasm that I would like to do this more often.

I heard that folks felt inspired and ready to write and that is perfect.

So, um.

I don’t know how to make that happen but it does make me want to do some classes even more.

The reading on Monday was great though I have stuff to say about being on the UW campus that isn’t so great.

The event itself was……holy fuckballs y’all. It was fire. There will be some video, taken vertically (all apologies) but it’ll happen.

Okay I think that’s all for right now I have a cold and I’m terribly tired.

Influences and Artistic Desires.

I’m having a hard day today so let’s talk about influences.

I have listened to Solange’s new album A Seat at the Table three times this week. Don’t tell the Beyhive but, I’m a way bigger Solange fan in general. The track that just knocks me down is the one Don’t Touch my Hair. 

What inspires me about this track in particular is that I want to make a little music video for it. Listening to the song put me in mind of strong visual like this video but maybe a bit more eh, violent maybe.

I dunno.

My interest in learning film making was rekindled a few years ago when I stumbled upon the Show Studio and fashion/art films. I HIGHLY suggest going to youtube and search for some of the work with Nick Knight and Gareth Pugh.

The thin/whiteness of it aside, conceptually I really love these type of things. I find a lot of inspiration in thinking about my writing in a very cinematic way. Very often I not only fan cast my work but I think about it in terms of movement on screen, how an actor may need to be in the scene in order for me to get deeper inside a character.

I also harbor delusions of film making myself.

Also I have a hankering for arty self portrait projects that experiment with my own concepts of ugly beauty and monstrosity and whatnot.

Eventually I’d like to be able to do 90% of the make up, styling, making of costumes and filming myself. I want to play with this as another outlet for me. I want to use those skills (that I’m working on learning) to create literature and poetry films I make myself.

I’m really attached to the idea of engaging with my own art and expression that way. For a while I was deeply shy about it. I don’t have a background in this stuff, I’ve never studied it beyond watching/consuming it in my way. I don’t really understand the academics of this kind of art/performance. And for a long time that put me off of trying it out.

And then of course, the Pretty Thin White Girl self portraits took over everything and honestly the bit of experimental self portraiture, I did years ago got such a weirdly racist/sizeist response I stopped doing it. Once upon a time, I also had some inclination to do some of it in a more erotic vein but that urge has mostly passed.

Every now and then I get the hankering to make self shot art porn but, not enough to really do it honestly.

I keep writing up ideas and plans and ditching them. I have a lot of boxed up garbage feelings about it based largely on interactions with “artists” and other weirdos back in the day. It left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s a lot like most of my other passions (horror, heavy metal, nerd shit) in that racism and other assorted bullshit really just put a stink on it that’s hard to get rid of.

I legit hate it.

I also am trying out being gentle with myself about it because honestly, I have zero built in coping mechanisms for this. Trying to heal myself of a particular kind of trauma through art is proving to be way more difficult than I anticipated.

I am starting. I have allowances in my fundraiser for some equipment. I’ve been practicing shooting myself and I have a couple of video editing software programs at home to learn.

I don’t know what I will produce, but it will be something. I might start documenting my feelings about this and vlogging it. I dunno.

More coming.

Maybe a video???

I got my new phone so some things is gonna happen.

 

The Protest of a Dangerous Black Person

defiant

Last night on my way home, I could not stop thinking of Keith Lamont. With all of the extra judicial murders of Black people, this one has hit me in a way the others haven’t quite.

The reason is, I could have been him. In the most real way.

When I was young, one of my first negative interactions with a police officer was over a book and being a young Black child in public. I was waiting outside of the library for my Mom to get off of work and was as kids do kind of sprawled out in a messy way, in the sun reading. Prior to that, like most kids my age I was taught that the police were my friends. Prior to that, my image of police was based on being handed a teddy bear after an incident and hugged. I remember a tall White policeman promising to protect my Mother and I until my Dad arrived on scene.

I remembered, a policeman knocking on the door while I was home alone to make sure I was okay because there was someone terrorizing my neighborhood.

That first negative interaction changed it all.

I was accused of trolling for Johns,  I didn’t look like a grown woman, I wasn’t walking or flagging. I was sitting on a concrete bench thing, reading a book. When I was confused, he insisted I provide ID. I didn’t understand because I was a child. No one prepared me for it. Nobody ever told me that a cop might criminalize me and I’d need to figure out how to be safe.

He accused me of stealing the stack of books next to me. Said I was lying about waiting for my Mom. Accused me of doing all sorts of things I didn’t understand. He did go away eventually and I was so terrified I had done something wrong I never told my Mom.

As an adult, I have been questioned for being Black in public at a bus stop and reading. Again, informed that I was under suspicion or someone called the police because I was reading.

In the era of #BlacklivesMatter I’ve been at a deep loss as to how to deal with my terror, despair and rage. Because of my work schedule and need to go to work, I haven’t been to protests. My personal mental health issues make marching not really ideal or good for me at all.

Last night, while I was waiting for the bus and I watched a White woman scoot away from me because I must have looked very scary in my platform shoes and tired face, I decided to protest silently in the way that works for me.

I pulled a book out of my bag, put some music on and read.

Blatantly.

When I got to my second bus stop for the last leg of my commute, I sat quietly on a bench by myself, book in hand. It took less than ten minutes for me to get cruised by police. I watched the cruiser slow down and I looked up at them, then glanced behind me and no one was there.

While the officer was watching me read, I heard men yelling, I saw drunks stumbling but I was the clear danger.

For a minute, I was close to putting my book away and going into the little store by the bus stop or getting up and walking to another stop out of fear of being “contacted” and questioned about who knows what and potentially harmed.

Then, I didn’t.

I made eye contact (a thing I do not do with the police ever) and continued to read my book.

Is this the loudest form of protest? No.

I don’t know if it would be recognized at all. And I’ve realized that isn’t important to me. Because I am Black and have to be outside and in public and cannot hide from the gaze of the police here, I will keep reading in public.

I also want to say this. I’ve heard from people over the past couple of years that me writing about these things doesn’t count. That because I’m not a marching type of person, I am doing nothing.

And then nights like the one I had earlier this week, I managed to walk home with my head held up high, alone while being followed by police. The same police who see me every night, at the same time give or take 20 minutes who have never said hello to me. Who have followed me, spotlighted me, lingered in a creepy fashion for years. I’m still able to get home and I leave my house every day and I’m alive.

I am terrified a lot. Sometimes, I text my partner if I’m nervous, so he knows if I’m too late something might have happened. Sometimes, while I’m walking I have to keep my hands in my pockets because I am shaking.

I’m still here.

I’m still using my voice to the best of my ability so it counts.

 

If I become a hashtag. I know that entries like this will be pointed at as reasons why I deserved it.

That’s all.

 

 

Imagining the rest. Thinking about #blackspecfic

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

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

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

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

Wiki says this about speculative fiction:

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

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

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

This is what wiki says about slipstream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have a lot of complicated feelings about it.

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

So what now?

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

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

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

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

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