Craft Talk: When things are not going well.

Hello my darling friends.

Today we’re gonna talk about when creating is hard.

I’ve been struggling with my Patreon story this month. I’m struggling getting from point z to point 7.87 and feeling fairly uninspired about it. I’m at the point where I stare at it, mutter fuck I hate you bro and close the doc. That is not really productive so I want to share with y’all some of the things I do to get going.

First thing, I remember this. If you’re an OG here you know how much I absolutely adore Daniel Jose Older. I have his essay bookmarked because I need to absorb the message often. I came up with the very shitty advice that to be a real writer one MUST write every day at a special desk, at a special time of day, with the right coffee cup blablabla. I spent a lot of time in my 20s punishing myself for being unable to work two jobs, take care of my home AND dedicate writing time. That was not good.

Shit happens. I think a lot of the YOU MUST WRITE every day thing comes from the idea that more of us have the privilege of doing that. I put it into the same category as the idea that everyone can and should just quit their dayjobs and follow the stars. Some of us cannot for a lot of reasons. That is fine. What actually matters is that we find ways to fit the work into our lives.

Second thing. I allow myself to do other things. For many years I’ve had a habit of having a good number of things I can work on. Blog posts, my other blog, Amazon releases, other stuff. The way my brain works, if I have a thing I need to figure out I can’t fight myself. If I let the thing simmer in my backbrain, most of the time I figure it out while I’m doing other stuff.

Third. I read a lot. I’m literally currently reading three books:

Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias. Second read before I do a review. Y’all know I fucking stan for his work. Honestly, his book Zero Saints (prev link is my review) STILL has literally the best fucking ending.

Naked: The Rhythm and Groove of It. The Depth and Length to It. By  Nastashia Minto.  Also on my second read ahead of a review. Spoiler alert this is a really beautiful book. Just…gut punched and held and seen and it is so good.

AND my first read of On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard by Jennifer Pastiloff. I really love Jen. Like she is very good human people. Seriously, look here where I featured her. The book so far is I love it. More when I finish.

I also will read any and everything that catches my eye via social media. I read some lit mags. I read.

Fourth. Sometimes I do other writing biz stuff. Update my bios (pro tip, save a doc with a short and a long bio so you don’t scramble to make new ones), take care of any things like invoices, updating my submission spreadsheet.

Last, sometimes I just don’t write. I’m very paranoid about disappointing my patrons so I will sorta force it but sometimes I really just don’t.

Now some tips for jumpstarting your brain:

  • If you are working on something long, copy the last say 500 words you did and open a new document. Paste those words and go from there.
  • Write a flash or other stand alone part of the story. Tired of your main characters? Write a scene or something with a minor character or expand on a small event.
  • Let yourself screw up.

Let’s expand on that last bit. A lot of the time what I could call writers block is actually me being afraid to fuck it up. It is a lot of pressure to want to do the thing and just knock it out of the park. That will happen probably at some point but a lot of the time we’re gonna fuck it up.

Art is not a finite resource. You can’t use yours up. It is okay to fuck up. What matters is what you do after said fuck up. For instance, when I was almost to the end of the Daiyuverse Cycle 2 I literally trashed the whole thing. Now, I’m not under like a publishing house deadline so I don’t know how folks deal with that but, I was terrified that the change would screw my patreon forever.

It didn’t.

Also, I’m a write when I can how I can type. Sometimes that means I write on the memo pad on my phone, in microsoft word. Sometimes in a text doc. Or an email draft. I do what feels right and sometimes just gotta calm the shit down and do the thing.

I also have learned that I have to let myself have feelings about the work I’m doing. I will complain on social media, cry to my bestie about the essay I’m writing giving me bubble guts. Sweat, flail, sometimes I get the anxiety shits because of stuff I’m writing and I’ve come to accept that is just part of my process. I can’t do the work and not let it happen in my body the way it does.

OKAY my darling friends.

That is all about the work today. I’ve got work to do. Stay tuned, I’ll have some exciting writing biz news coming up in the next couple of weeks.

Stay Frosty.

 

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Yeah, Write #430

Yeah, Write #430 

-you’ll Laugh

You Know.

by Shannon Barber

You know.

-you’ll laugh.

You want to call them faceless, nameless, formless even- it would be easier wouldn’t it? Everything would be better if you didn’t feel their name songs in your bones when you lay down to sleep, if you didn’t see their faces smile at you from darkened corners, if your skin didn’t remember the heat of their touch. Easy, you crave any ease and moments of illusory peace.

You know.

-you’ll laugh.

You watch everyone else. Their petty struggles and their ignorance of the name songs and weight of the dead that hangs on them make you smile when everything else is- as is. You hold your truth close, truth is your secret. Watch the rest of the fools dance and squirm. You tell yourself while your bones vibrate with name songs and your skin buzzes with ghosts, at least you know. Tonight you’ll laugh.

You know.

-you’ll laugh.

You know. You will take your complexities and one foot on the other side life because-

You know-

-you’ll laugh.

###

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.

What I’m hype to read.

Hello Space Babes. Before we get to the stuff I’m excited to read this summer a few bits of official business.

If you haven’t already, come over to bookface and like my new author page.  I’m just getting rolling and I want y’all to come be a part of the Magical Space Babe Army. Also FYI I will be using amazon affiliate links. Y’all know baby likes makin a few coins.

I’m slowly rolling out some new stuff. At the bottom of this, you’ll find some promo stuff I’ve got going on.

SO holy shit y’all I swear every writer I know has out some great stuff.

First up, do y’all remember beloved Jen from this post? Well her book On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard is out now.   I want to mention one of the 1 star ratings. Look, writers NEED to ask for reviews. This is not unethical this is the modern world we live in. Most writers don’t have the cash to hire PR teams to ask this for them. Don’t let that deter you. Jen is good human people and quite frankly, her methodology of working with folks in an intimate way to help herself AND others is pretty fucking great.

Next up, most delicious Craig Laurance Gidney has a new book out and I am SO READY. A Spectral Hue has landed. I don’t remember how I was introduced to his work, HA no wait I DO remember. It was from this story in Expanded Horizons.  (Side note if you like spec fic you should read ALL their archives. Myself included. There is a WHOLE ass story about that story). Y’all, this book, it looks so good. You can read a chonky ass excerpt over at Heavy Feather Review. 

I am currently reading tiny bits of Naked: The Rhythm and Groove of It. The Depth and Length to It by Nastashia Minto. Shit y’all. This is such a beautiful piece of work. I’m barely halfway through because I want it to last forever. I’ll be doing a big ole review soonish and I HIGHLY recommend you read this book.

OKAY I’m gonna fangirl for a hot second. I’m about to dig into Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets by Feminista Jones. I have been following FJ for years. I really love how she speaks to folks and have been deeply inspired by her in my own work. Y’all, shit just read it.

Next thing I’m super excited about is this slice of fat ass deliciousness. THINKING HORROR: A JOURNAL OF HORROR PHILOSOPHY VOLUME 2: THE HORROR BOOM edited by some real solid folks and y’all. This is 400 pages of deep beautiful thought. Volume 1 was pretty fucking spectacular and if you are super into horror, get it.

The homie Joe Clifford (check here) who’s work I really enjoy has wrapped up the Jay Porter series and you can get ALL FIVE. Y’all, I really like Joe and his work. If you enjoy relatable asshole characters (please read my first link there to get what I’m saying) he writes these lovable dudes so well. Very enjoyable.

For my woo folks, one of my fave magical mother fuckers The Misha Magdalene has a book coming out I’m so excited to read. Outside the Charmed Circle: Exploring Gender & Sexuality in Magical Practice. Y’ALLS.  I met Misha at a reading I did and they are just a really delightful fucking person. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it but, I am SUPER AWKWARD and usually run away from folks at readings and didn’t from Misha. They interviewed me here  and gosh y’all. I am very excited about this book.

Next up a dude I enjoy, Richard Kadrey. I don’t know him well at all but I dig his brainmeats. His Sandman Slim series is probably responsible for my return to reading some urban fantasy noir type shits. He has a new book coming out this month called The Grand Dark. I am so here for it.

I feel like i’m forgetting books…

But for real tho. There is a LOT of greatness out.

OKAY now I’m gonna promo some of my own shits.

First up, I’ve released some stuff on Kindle. Please head on over to the evil empire and check out my author page. So far I’ve got some spec fic, a few old collections I put up ages ago and one really dirty lesbian story. If you do that thing, please follow my author page there and stuff. My kindle shop is going to expand. I am enjoying just putting the things in the world and moving it right along. If you do Kindle Unlimited you can even read some for free.

Next thing, I’ve got a Redbubble merch shop. So far there are some weird graphic things I made AND Magical Space Babe Army merch. Enjoy.

SO hi. If you’re new welcome to the Magical Space Babe Army. If you have a book or something you want folks to see, please leave a link in comments!

 

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”

Reprint-What is More Beautiful Than Beyonce?

This was originally printed in Roar magazine. I was solicited by Anna March to review There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker. Read about my experience with Anna March here. 

I will be writing a follow up to that soon. And about this review in particular.

 

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The short version of this review is- you should read this book. The work in There Are Things More Beautiful Than Beyonce is beautiful and immaculate, it is excellent work. Morgan Parker is an exciting and wonderful poet. Stick around for the long version.

I have a habit of yelling at things I like, especially writing I like. After the first poem, I put this book face down on my lap and started muttering to myself in public. Oh shit, first poem, okay, fine, just fucks me up fam. I had to take my time reading Morgan Parker’s beautiful collection because it felt private. I felt invaded and read to filth in the best kind of way.

I love poetry. Poetry for me is the highest kind of art. Poetry bleeds, it weeps, when it is good to me, it has a hard steady pulse and reaches inside me to rearrange things a little. Parker’s work in this book, is the type of art I dream about.

To say there are things more beautiful than Beyonce, is throwing a major gauntlet. Beyond the potential wrath of the Beyhive, what is more beautiful than Beyonce? What can be more beautiful than Beyonce? As I (or you) the reader enters into the little world of this book, we gon’ learn today.

I know my pussy is real good because they said so.

Poetry when it is good for me reaches in and starts grabbing. Words put together in ways that thrill me and pull me in tight to the work. Aesthetically, the way the poems are put together, I can hear breath in the spacing, silence where appropriate. The way Morgan has interwoven Blackness, beauty, sex, vice and desire gives her work a body, a pulse, a wet mouth, tears.  It is bodied and embodied. This is poetry that sees and loves my Black body and I am here for it.

Confuse the meanings

of castle and slum, exotic

and erotic.

When you get deeper into the book, settle into a comfortable rhythm, it’s easy to devour this book whole. I read it in a bus ride and read it again on my next bus ride. This isn’t overly fancy, poetryYou don’t need a stack of reference books and your lifeline on speed dial. This is accessible and but not easy. To be a Black poet who boldly and nakedly talks about Blackness, the beauty and the pain is by default not doing anything simple. Blackness is so varied and capturing nuance of being Black in America is no small thing.

We low hum of satisfaction. We is is is is is is is is

Touch, touch, shine, a little taste.

The level of skill it takes to use simple, easily understood imagery and keep the complexity and intricacy of the work intact and in this case, presented with dignified coolness is testament to both Morgan’s skill as a poet and the skill of the other people who worked on this book.  In terms of the things I as a reader crave, this book has it all.

I am hungry for myself.

As a reader, I am hungry for representation. I am in need of hearing a voice that could be my own, even if I can’t write poetry. Many of the poetry collections that are recommended to me, are absolutely lovely, but am not there. Being seen and heard, especially in the lit world is a rare thing that is more beautiful than Beyonce. Given the deleterious Whiteness of the poetry world, as a reader it can be difficult and hurtful to be invisible in the pages of poetry collections. To be seen and loved in the way this collection does, is wonderful.

What if I said I’m tired?

I am a writer and sometimes a poet. Real talk, I’m pissed off that I didn’t write this.  As an artist, one of the things I can freely admit to is a certain amount of peevishness when I read or see beautiful things that I did not create. I want to have birthed this beautiful, magical book. I want people like me, to read such a book and feel what I feel. Mind you, this is not a lasting peevishness. I’m not mad at Morgan Parker or Tin House, I just love it that much.

Do you think I could be a witch?

Can shine be caught like a fever?

Overall, Morgan Parker’s collection There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce is more beautiful than Beyonce. The flesh and bone of this volume is thick as my thighs and solid. Morgan Parker’s voice is strong and sure and sad and gorgeous and drunk on wine and bodies and itself. I want to tell Morgan Parker, thank you. I want to hear her read these poems to me until I fall into the most satisfied of sleeps.  Read this book. Cherish it. Live with it in your heart.

Dear reader, I’m sure you noticed the bolded lines above. These are some of my favorite lines from this book. I didn’t attribute each poem because I’m kind of a weirdo and I want you to find them when you read this book. Because, you need to read this book.

~

And one last thing, I now have an official writer page over at Facebook. Come like it. Share it with your friends.