Category Archives: writing life

Theory Vs Reality The Artist Ruminating on Money

I’m dealing with some shit, a pile of it and it’s got me thinking.

I’ve been studying and researching for a project I’d really like to launch this year. I’ve been pricing cameras, querying some folks, doing a shitload of math.

In theory, said Super Seekrit project could be amazing.

In theory, my recent study of business and whatnot would start paying off in 3-5 months or so.

In theory my savings schemes would flower into a delicious little blossom made of cash and I would be able to pay for Super Seekrit Project materials and start it happening.

In reality.

Including freelance and book sales I made about 5K less than I did last year.

That makes me feel like the worst bread winner ever.

I am going to be spending almost half of my income to have a place to live. I’m trying to process paying nice place to live prices for where I live.

I’m thinking about my seemingly gangster at the time decision to go to AWP and feeling like it was a fuck up. I’m going still, I’ve come too far with the gifts and fundraising to not go. But I booked zero readings. And am very, uh, uncertain about being able to sell enough little zines of printed stuff that nobody wanted to buy in eformat for less money.

In theory (as in, my self image) says that I can do the 12 hour day job days (all in with my commutes), get home. Work on writing stuff until 2-4 AM. Eat, bathe, sleep by 6 up by 10 AM and be fine.

I used to be that person.

I’m not anymore. Reality says that my fatigue and other health issues both mental and physical aren’t things I can just put my head down and bull through.

Reality tells me that my Super Seekrit project could be SO fucking cool and satisfying to me on a deep level, but, but but but- given how things have shifted in my life, could I really get into it and make it great?

I don’t know.

On one hand, I can crunch the available data and make a dry decision. Fuck the Etsy shop for my writing, Super Seekrit Project on the back burner, I can redo my budget- those decisions I can make dry. No blood.

On the other hand the wet decisions aren’t so easy. Is this another year I stare longingly at poems and don’t do a real chapbook? Am I going to regress in how I deal with the emotional impact of poverty shame? How much do I push? What do I sacrifice to try and make that money?

The cognitive dissonance involved in knowing I’m doing some really great work, but that doing it is a detriment to me bringing in more monies is hard.

Knowing that continuing to write what the fuck I want is a detriment to my bank account.

Understanding myself and how I work and produce the best work I can is a detriment to my bank account.

And I don’t like that shit.

I dunno.

At the moment I’m okay. Emotionally speaking I’m a little dull because of my two months of anxiety hell. I feel the weight but I’m calmish. I know how to do this part. I know how to hustle and grind.

I suppose most of this is my need to document and disclose. Y’all this shit ain’t a room of her own.

Now a little promo.

If you want to buy some lit, go on and get it at my etsy shop. Add everything to your cart and use the coupon code WORDSWORDSWORDS to get a lil tasty discount. Keep your eye out for crocheted items, later this year some jewelry.

My AWP fundraiser is still going and has been updated with some news and what else I still need. If you are gonna be there, keep your eye out for me I will have some lil fiction zines in my purse for sale and if the stars align a card reader in case you don’t have cash.

What else?

Not much else my friends. I’m working like a motherfucker.

I’ve been hiding from most of my friends, which isn’t cool, but most of them understand the level of my anxiety and not okayness.

I am figuring it out. Modifying some of my bucketlist arty shit so I can do it and not want to die in a month because I’ve burned myself out.

Now I love you all. I hope all your arty endevours and bucketlist shit is happening.


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

 


Further on Racial Uplift and Space.

As promised on facebooks I want to follow up this post .

I want to talk first about the feelings of conflict I still have. On one hand, I am still thirsty and desperate for solidarity with other Black people. A large part of that is trauma based in the fact that I had zero Black folks community growing up. Yes, I had family but most of my Black family I didn’t see often.

I spent time in my early 20s venturing into the POC neighborhoods and looking for that solidarity. I went to some community meetings, I went to see some speakers. Unfortunately, I did not really get to talk to folks. I showed up, gothy self in full effect. Loudly out Queer, concerned with the undesirables talking about drug addicts, sex workers, etc. And that did not fit the prescribed narrative of who deserved help and solidarity.

One time sticks out in my brain. I showed up to a talk about various peer to peer community help type thing. I spoke to one of the head dudes about the sex ed curriculum I was developing for young people with a focus on high school age kids, street kids and sex workers. I was so hype for the chance to get some help producing printed materials or getting space.

Now, even though the meeting was in a church I did not realize it was essentially a church approved. I talked passionately about the diaspora and all the dude said was, “you pronounced diaspora wrong” and walked away.

That describes in spirit a lot of my early interactions with the larger Black community. I was pretty bitter about it for a long time and for a minute decided well fuck Black folks.

I stopped that thought, but it was really terrible for me.

Those experiences are what seeded my thoughts about racial uplift.

I had to untangle the why of it and the how of it. The reality is that in a culture that absolutely devalues everything Black until White culture absorbs it until they are tired of it, racial uplift is important.

Everybody wants to be a nigga..etc see Paul Mooney talk about that here.

America loves Blackness until it is attached to an actual Black person.

When I realized that, I realized that while it hurt(s) my heart it is a direct result of White supremacy, racism and the very human need for hope.

For many Black folks, there is so little representation that we scramble and grab at whatever we get. Inside of that action, we start to find the gold. The Uplift. The Maya Angelou’s (but we can’t talk about her history as a sex worker). We buy into the idea that if we can just be better Negroes, if we only hold up our icons who have their pants pulled up and don’t use AAVE, who don’t look thuggish- that is the path to our salvation.

And there we see the failure of respectability politics and where a narrow idea of Racial Uplift falls apart.

This model by showing the shiny White Approved- no, not approved let’s be real tolerated (until they aren’t) icons fails because we’re human and humans are flawed and multifaceted.

Now we come to how I’ve healed myself in regard to that feeling of rejection from my own community.

My hope is wider.

My hope is that as we steam into the future, racial uplift can be expanded to those of us who aren’t “positive”, who aren’t putting on a good face for Whiteness, who are Queer, who are not religious, who are hood as fuck, who are poor, who are trans, who produce art that is disturbing and strange.

Blackness is so hugely beautifully diverse in how we express it, live it, make art in it and about it.

Blackness is so precious because even though not all skinfolk are kinfolk, we don’t have to be kinfolk.

Blackness built an American culture in ways that a lot of people might heavily mourn if it weren’t for us.

Blackness has taught America how to protest.

Blackness is my life. And there is space in the diaspora, in the creative diaspora for me and for you.

At this age and point in my creative life I’m at peace with this. It doesn’t burn my heart when a Black folks thing doesn’t necessarily need my flavor of art but they appreciate it.

I do think that we have a lot of work to do in terms of how we as a people start dismantling racial uplift in the context of putting on that Good Negro dance for Whiteness.  That said, I also believe that we can change that part of our culture and get beyond it.

So there you have it.

 

 


On Racial Uplift and space.

I’ve had this on my mind for a while. This is something that bothers me and makes me feel somewhat conflicted.

For background, if you’ve read any of my work at all, y’all know I don’t really go in for racial uplift. If you don’t know what that means, very basically I’m talking about providing “positive” images of, stories about, and work about Black folks in my case. For some extra background this is a good place to start. 

When I was a lil baby writer, I tried very hard to work in the mode of racial uplift. For a while I stopped writing kinky fisting porn and overwrought vampire stories and tried to emulate the Wise Black Women writers who went before me. I wanted to write something like Phenomenal Woman, The Color Purple, The Bluest Eye- I remember writing in my journal fantasies about writing something that would set off a cultural bomb and fit into my ideas of racial uplift and what sort of Black writer I was supposed to be.

Given that all my writing at that time was done in absolute secret, by hand in notebooks I filled then destroyed. I wish I hadn’t, but that’s a whole other entry.

What I was doing during those years say about 16-20ish was desperately trying to discipline myself away from my porny, bloody, dark leanings and into the light. Into the Wise Black Woman ideal. Along with that I tried very hard to stop enjoying “bad” Black folks things.

I stopped watching Yo MTV raps, tried not to like any of my favorite rappers. I tried to glue some respectability to myself and my entertainment because it’s what I thought I was supposed to do.

I don’t want to get too deep into respectability politics but in my experiences those and racial uplift often occupy the same space.

So moving along.

I eventually grew out of that phase after a buttload of growing pains. And when I started seriously working on being published etc my first/strongest instincts led me to some magazines for Black folks.

However, being that I am who I am and the things I like to write I had a very hard time finding places to fit.

I remember sitting going through submission guidelines and ticking off all of the things I did in my work that were a problem. My horror had a hard time finding a home. My earliest non-fiction stories were mostly about things I liked then: being a Goth, going to punk shows/rock shows and my experience being an Alt oriented Black person in Seattle.

An aside. I remember I didn’t know how to write personal essays at that age. I didn’t know they were a thing and I wrote my non-fiction like school essays. I wish I had some now to look at.

Remember, I didn’t have Duotrope or the google machine. I had library copies of Poets & Writers, the occasional Black folks magazine. I can’t say I didn’t swing for the fences. I submitted to Ebony and Essence both. I also submitted to small Black folks lit zines and found that my work was not “positive” enough, my experiences being an Alt Black person were at that time (the 90s remember) too weird and exotic.

Fast forward to the last ten or so years and I observe a lot of the same thing.

I’ve worked with some folks who were very very kind about our difference of opinion about what voices and stories get to be told.

I’ve also worked with some folks who were violently opposed to my work because it is not generally “positive”.

What boggles me is that if we step back and look at the diaspora, there is space for all of us. There is such a rich diversity of Blackness and the expressions of Blackness, why are we still tryin to shuck and jive and present a happy face?

There are times when I see this in Black folks zines and can’t help but think that they are presented for the White gaze. And it makes me sad.

My fondest wish for us is that we can stop doing that.

I want us to feel safe in creating work that is not made to make White folks feel good.

I want hoodrat graffiti artists and fine artists and animators and rappers and violinists and country singers and battle rappers and love poets and resistance writers and Queers and disabled Black folks and trans Black folks and ALL of us to know that there’s space for us. All of us.

We can tell hood stories that don’t revolve around White saviors, sports scholarships, morality tales or redemption stories.

We can do these things and we all need to be about that life.

I’m not saying all Black folks things must include ALL Black folks experiences because that would be impossible. I’m saying, it’s possible to be open to things that don’t fit neatly into a racial uplift narrative.

We can read things that don’t fit that narrative.

I fully believe that in expanding our world and acceptance of the world intraracially, even problematic shit we can be better able to face the rest of the world that often hates us.

As we get closer to The Most Racist Time Of The Year (sung to the tune of The most wonderful time of the year Christmas song) let me remind White folks that not everything is yours. You can do your own research if you want to know more about what I’m laying down here. And your opinion on intraracial matters is never needed.


On Discomfort and Being Freaked Out.

OH Internets.

I’m still sick and at work doing some stuff and I have more confessions to make.

Craft related.

Sooo along with my general failures in accomplishing a lot of things I’ve also found myself in a very uncomfortable place with some of my work.

I’ve talked a bit about how hard it has been for me to teach myself how to write really personally. Not issue personally, not politic personal. The real naked, vulnerable Shannon personal.

I’m so uncomfortable.

Writing wise, my emotions are just right here. Bleeding all over while I sit in my chair at home or work quivering because I’m still having a deep anxiety problem and quivering because I just told y’all that.

After so many years of writing about somewhat personal shit, being fat, feminism, racism and how they’ve impacted my life but for as close to the bone as I’ve gotten with that, a lot of my new stuff is closer in ways that might be all in my head.

It’s been really fucking hard. And because I am who I am I worry a lot about things such as but not limited to:

  • If I’m not ranting or raving or pissed off does anyone give a shit?
  • Will anyone buy shit?
  • I know most trolling I can write off. But what if it’s really personal beyond OMG WE HATE THIS BLOGGER NOW SHE WRITES FOR A SITE WE HATE.
  • Who the fuck am I kidding?
  • I am not a real memorist.

Blablabla.

My general approach to fear in my work and often in my life (sometimes to my own detriment) is to put on my spiritual football helmet, put my head down and go.

However while I’m going, I’m also spending a lot of time staring at whatever I’ve just written talking to myself:

Me: The fuck did you just say?

Me: Uh, the thing I’m writing.

Me: Can you delete that please?

Me: No.

Me: DELETE ABORT ABORT ABORT ABORT

and it devolves into me sitting sweating swearing at myself.

But, I still write it.

And right now I have to go upload one of the things that has caused me bubble guts, sweating, trembling and cursing at self.

And I’m feeling echoes of this across other things.

I’m excited, but a little bit on the shit my pants in terror side of things too.

Now goodnight shiny people.

 

 


Craft Notes: On voice and tropes.

Okay, first I need y’all to read this and listen to this interview with Idris Elba about playing Stringer Bell. 

Next listen to a couple of minutes of this show from the 90s about horror and in particular the woman who voiced the devil in the Exorcist.

Tuck in, it’s gettin nerdy up in here today.

Now in the Elba interview (goddamn he is just…goddamn) listening to how he talks about how the characters he plays command him, are his new therapists. He says something about the warlord character he plays and he uses the phrase “voice texture”. I heard this interview weeks ago and that phrase has been stuck in my head.

Also, this quote touched me:

“There were so many dark issues explored with my character that I just thought, ‘Can I really pull it across? Can I pull it off?’ ” he said. “I’ve got children. I felt very uncomfortable with being associated with a film that had a character like that. But I realize that my purpose in this world as an artist is to leave an impression.”

If you’ve read a lot of my work you already know I have a thing for the texture of a voice. Whiskey, velvet, promises of sex and death in the tone and timbre of a voice. I am very audibly sensitive to tones, timbre, intent etc in voices and a lot of that fuels my writing. This idea of not only voice in the context of my voice as an author, but voice as in the voice of a character and the feel of that voice is something I love to dig into and play with.

I have mentioned before that I feel like one of my personal abilities *also see things I just love to play with* is making a world or story more intimate. Close. What’s closer than a voice against your skin or ear?

I mention skin because not  everyone can hear a voice in their ear right? We know that but, we know or can imagine what silk feels like, or an emory board.

Another reason I linked these two things are to give you a peek at how other mediums/modes of art inspire me.

I love listening to actors, Foley artists, voice actors etc talk about how they arrive at The Voice or The Sound. There is a certain level of resonance I feel with that. I spend a lot of time in my fiction looking for that moment. The Voice. Sometimes it is literal and I write a few lines and listen to different people speak until The Voice happens or The Sound happens and I’m off to the races.

There are times when this leads to a different POV or at times a whole new story. A lot of this work happens outside of the actual ass in chair part of writing. Often I have one or two lines from any given story I’m working on playing in my head in different tones and voices until it happens.

Currently I’m working on a horror (used loosely) story I’ve been playing with forever. It is a passion story that I originally wrote in a more classic horror possession thing (read the TV tropes thing about demonic possession here) as told by the demon. Then I rewrote it in third person and started over again with a tight first (plural..I’ll explain in a minute) person from the POV of the girl who is possessed.

Now, as I toyed with the passion thing, and how to get a satisfying narrative out of it. I tried researching Judeo Christian demons and coming at it from a this is X demon and this is their, uh.. qualities (?) and telling the story that way. That didn’t satisfy. I toyed with making it some kind of weird auto erotic situation which didn’t pan out.

Ultimately, what I settled on was creating a plural first person POV of Lola and Sam living and using one body with two voices. I spent a lot of time using specifically non gendered language, and using both and We as the central pronouns through the story. This bit is a good example of how I did that:

I panicked and held tight to Sam and we hurled that old bastard off of us, wailing that we would not be torn apart. We waged war for seven days and nights.  We broke one of the priest’s legs, the young one had impure thoughts when we spread our legs and offered him sweet, young virgin pussy.

I worked really hard to go from both the genesis of this relationship with a kind of resolution in under 2k words which has been difficult. I wanted to have very distinct time periods demonstrated by both the evolution of the singular I to the plural I/We and go from Sam and Lola meeting, to being exorcised to living.

I’m in the editing stage and I want to make it a bit more sparingly. I’m working on getting it leaner and more uncomfortable. I want a reader who expects the tragedy of the innocent young girl being possessed and then gaining redemption to be frustrated and made uncomfortable.

Again, this is probably why I have such a hard time in genre markets. But when I write horror, I don’t necessarily want to scare  the reader. I think it’s far more difficult as a writer to create a sense of lasting discomfort. I don’t want the reader to be smiling or feel satisfaction at the end of the story. I want the reader to be kinda mad. Grossed out. Maybe dwelling on something in it that made them uncomfortable.

I really enjoy the idea of taking very literary devices and kneading them into horror.

I want Reign in Blood by Slayer AND I want the Moonlit Sonata.

I want cake AND I want dragon’s breath spicy crispy chicken.

We all know I’m a greedy and promiscuous reader.

Of course, my writing tends to go the same way.

I’ve been writing this while drinking tea and doing stuff for the dayjob.

I think I’m done now.

So there you go, another view into how I function and create. Next time we’ll talk soundtracks and how music gets into my work.


First Lessons of 2016

Oi y’all.

I’m starting out 2016 in the fuckin trenches yo.

I’m learning that writing personally, just about me as a person in any memoirish capacity is just so fucking hard. I am still not used to showing folks my tender belly and I want to scrap it and cry and hide but, that burning in my gut says I’m going the right way.

I’m also very unsure about a lot of things.

I’ve been in such a state for so long that seeing light at the end of the tunnel feels like a lie. I’m angry because I can’t produce the way I used to. I can’t get through my fatigue the way I used to. There have been a lot of nights where I lay in bed in an absolute red rage because I’m awake, but I’m so exhausted I can’t think straight let alone write.

I’m very very angry.

I’m also very ashamed.

I’m disappointed in myself.

And wading through a puddle of shit knee high and feeling like I deserve to be wading through the shit because obviously I suck at everything.

Some of this is my anxiety and insomnia talking. I know that. I recognize that flavor of my own crazy. They chase each other around, getting each other riled up until my hands are shaking and my gut is full of bile and all I want to do is throw myself in a hole and cry for two hundred years. Or die of terror.

This is not a state of being I’m used to. This is not the crazy, I’m familiar with and I feel fairly lost.

My existing crazybrain tells me I should apologize to everyone constantly. Because my exhaustion causes me some memory problems and cognition problems and my bit of dyslexia stands up and joins the party and everything -terrible- in me says, you apologize to that person. If they said something nice to me or have supported me etc.

I try not to but it comes out.

And I’m embarassed.

For the sake of my mental health and my work (note I said mental health first, it took me three tries to do that) I have to sit the fuck down and figure it out.

My approach has been head down and bull through it. Grind my teeth and crave speed because obviously that would solve all my problems right? Get back into that kind of seething constant rage. I’d still be an anxiety riddled insomniac shitbag but at least I’d get stuff done right.

Well judging by my inability to finish SCLAB rewrites, blog posts etc and my struggle doing anything else, that ain’t gonna work.

Instead I will go to the doctor. Hopefully get my hormones checked out because I’m suspicious that part of my current state of being is due to perimenopause (THE FUCKING SWEATING, THE STRUGGLE IS REAL), I have some of my hippy woowoo herbal shit on the way to help me sleep/shit and remain calm.

I suppose this is a confession.

Y’all I’m in deep shit over here.

But I’m shoveling my way out.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom.

I had the distinct honor of working with one of my favorite authors Court Merrigan on some Country Noir for The Big Click Magazine.  So not only is Court a bad ass writer BUT he is a bad ass fuckin editor yo. That little story turned out so much better after working with him. There is something so wonderfully intimate about having someone edit your work who really gets you and trusts you. Go read it. Buy the issue. That story has lesbians, cows, meth and booty shaking.

I’m working with The Stabby again on something I’m really into and is really hard.

So in the big picture of the life of the shit bucket of nerves writer, things aren’t awful. AWP plans are coming together nicely. I have some zine supplies and one of those square things so I’ll have stuff to sell on my person at the thing. I just- yeah.

I’ve mourned my failures. I don’t know if that is a thing you’re supposed to do but I did it. I mourned the hardcore me who could stomp through this level of mental health fuckery.

Now I’m trying to figure it out.

I’m going to work on some fiction.

Take it uh, yeah I dunno.

So things around here might be weird or maudlin or whatever. I’m not sure.

All I know is that I’m listening to my loved ones and not myself this time because my brain is deadass wrong in this instance and that bitch needs to calm down.

I love you all.

That’s it for now.


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