When I am Too Much

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

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

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

Editor #1 had reservations. Some of their feedback:

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

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

A story that is not mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it is, what it is.

A note for editors.

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

That’s it for now.

 

On my Mind

First of all.

Y’all this album is so fucking good.

This is my current soundtrack.

On my mind. Right now, y’all should check out this hashtag on tweeter.  And related read this. See also this.

Please note: I only use the word woman/women very loosely and to include Genderqueer/Femme presenting living folks.

How are these things related? Here’s what I’m thinking.

On the hashtag you’ll see it relates to Ebony which is a traditional Black publication. A lot of Black women write/have written for it. If you look at some of the responses they fall in line with the other link.

Everybody loves to ask or demand Black women do work. Whether it is the exhortation to get ourselves out there and hustle. HUSTLE and get those bylines to show the WHOLE goddamn world what we can do.

I’m here for it.

There is a trap in it. When the places that are supposed to be here for Black people, women in this case fucking fail. This is exploitation and as a larger issue, I see this constantly with freelancing. This is another reason why I hate it so much.

For me personally, living with my particular set of marginalizations I cannot fuck around with people who don’t pay what is agreed upon.

While there is an absolute cachet to scoring those home run bylines, there is peril. As with any industry, when you’re loud about how those in power fuck up, shit gets real. I’ve watched it play out time and time again from writing groups to twitter etc.

We say, hey fuck you pay me. Or say, this editor at X magazine will not respond to my need to be paid. And things can get so bad. Part of the reason for this is that nobody trusts or believes women, especially Black women.

If we say, I’ve been mistreated-BOOM suddenly we’re just being big ole meany face bully gossips. Echoes of rape culture and sexism and Misogynoir.

Y’all know.

Now, the person who started the dialogue about Ebony, has been subject to shitty ass trolling especially from other Black folks and from supposed professionals within Ebony. Ebony is not some little three person zine struggling for postage money. This is huge money, this is old money and like so many other things will celebrate Black women out of one side of their mouths and steal food off their table and talk shit about us from the other side.

This is from the big leagues. This is supposed to be the right way to be a writer or to be an activist. These are the people who’s nod we’re supposed to earn.

And they treat us like this.

So, some people like me decide, you know what?

Fuck your legitimate money.

nope
[image caption: A still from Godzilla. Lookng up at Godzilla, it looks like she is yelling. Underneath there is all caps white text that says NOPE]
Not that I won’t occasionally get me some but overall, nah.

For a variety of reasons.

So, as y’all know if you read me regularly, I have my donation area and my tipjar and my venmo. It is how a lot of people I know who put in a hell of a lot of work help ourselves survive.

For the type of work I do, for the type of activism I prefer and how I am able to create the shit I’m good at, patronage (YUP we’re going there again) is an ideal model. I have my dayjob and that mostly pays my rent and I have my art. When the mundane parts of my life are paid for, I’m a motherfucking artist juggernaut.

And a lot of the time, my tipjars and whatnot make up for the intense emotional labor I am prone to do in spaces where, a lot of folks don’t appreciate shit.

So then along comes this person who abused their platform to really shit on those of us who aren’t operating within spitting distance of legit money acceptability.

I’ll quote from the post I linked to above:

They discourage Black activists and organizers from Liberation, and inspire them to chase individual fame and fortune from white power. They reinforce respectability and funnel shared resources into their own crusty Black hands. They use us when needed, but abandon us when necessary.

This is why I will not and cannot fuck with people like this. And the person who started the bullshit about what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of the hustle and doing the work is the type person who helped drive me away from freelancing.

This culture of deciding that you ONLY count if you are acceptable. If you don’t tell, if you are a Good Negro, if you get by in an acceptable way is pure fucking garbage. There is nothing revolutionary or cute about replicating the macro world problems in a microcosm.

Nothing.

That said, there is money in aligning yourself with the “right” way.

I mean, that blogger is making some coin right?

Ebony is still making them coins.

I respect the hustle. Y’all know the old saying, don’t hate the player, hate the game. I hate the game.

Fuck that game.

That game and trying to play it really almost killed any desire I had to ever write another essay. These behaviors hurt me in what at times feels like an irrevocable way.

On the other hand, it does fire me up. Knowing that I am doing exactly what I need to do in order to be the best creator I can be is amazing.

Yes, these things are still exhausting and painful. It hurts me as a Black Femme/mostly womanish type person to see Black women shit on each other to get ahead.

It hurts my actual soul. It hurts my heart because these are the tools of White Supremacy and if we can’t stop using them against each other what chance do we have of expecting White people to not use them against us?

Now here’s the thing.

I have zero expectation of agreeing with or kumbayahing our way out of it.

What I hope is that at the very least we stop shitting on each other for cash.

I know, we ALL need to make money. Y’all know I am about that hustle and grind life. But not at the exposure of people who are also marginalized.

Let’s not. We can do better.

 

 

Craft Notes- Deconstructing Desiderium*

Okay.

Buckle up.

It is fixing to get super nerdy today.

First, open this entry from the other day so you can see what I’m talking about.

I did one last Yeah, Write for the year. I posted a little erotic flash story I wrote on my phone titled Desiderium.

I’m going to take it apart and show y’all what I was doing and why I made the choices I made with it.

First the title.

Desiderium is in the group of Latin words relating to desire.  I am a major nerd about things like where words come from and while I was perusing wiktionary for inspiration, I found this:

Etymology[edit]

From dēsīderō(want, desire, wish for; miss, lack, need).

I had bookmarked the entry for desiderium, I have had the word, knocking around my brain for a little while. The other thing that is always rumbling in my brain is the concept of limerence as it was introduced to me by Remittance Girl a few years ago. I can’t remember the context of how it happened, but I do recall that conceptually limerence interests me as a thing to explore.

What the fuck is limerence?

For simplicity, let’s work from this definition from wiki:

Limerence (also infatuated love) is a state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person and typically includes obsessive thoughts and fantasies and a desire to form or maintain a relationship with the object of love and have one’s feelings reciprocated. PsychologistDorothy Tennov coined the term “limerence” for her 1979 book, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, to describe a concept that had grown out of her work in the mid-1960s, when she interviewed over 500 people on the topic of love.[1]

In the context of themes I want to play with, I wanted to explore what I call Dark Limerence.

The place where things get weird and bloody. That said, I didn’t want to explore it from a kind of typical Dude sees girl, dude stalks girl..y’all know.

I like to explore lust and limerence through the lens of a female perspective that lives firmly in the taboo. Violent sex, aggression, predation. The very typically “masculine” methods of seduction as presented to us as romance or erotic.

While I’m playing with these themes, I also want to avoid the rape fantasy. Not because I dislike or disapprove. I have zero opinions on whether or not women can have them.

I want to avoid it because often, women are presented only with rape fantasies as a means of exploring eroticized violence and I don’t like that. I think it’s limiting and silly.

I also like to play with the erotic being presented in such a way that maybe it’s erotic but it’s not really explicit but it is absolutely grown folks business.

This narrator, she is in the throes of the kind of memory that makes you wriggle around in your chair because your crotch is tingling. In writing it I wrote it to appear like this:

I want.

I need.

Black wings, a flutter against my skull. I see you and can’t stop the thoughts. Is this mania? When I see the skin beneath your ear, all I can think about is how soft it is, how vulnerable. Teeth or blade? Kiss or bite? Predation. Lust.

I use the two short phrases: I want. I need. To give the reader a moment to start to understand what is happening, the narrator is telling us that she needs. I used the right justification in order to give a visual to almost hearing this in dual voice. The Id “Id rattling the bars. I am a shell.” is almost fighting with itself. We have the simple but powerful phrases: I want. I need. And then we have the poetry of black wings and these questions.

This voice is a secret voice. It is the sort of voice we tend not to see women have in literature erotic or not. This isn’t performative sluthood, this is desire-need- with a big bold face.

I use italics in a few places more for visual aesthetic reasons than any other.

At the end, I bring it to where you the reader know what she’s thinking of. Rough sex. But, I don’t give you enough to figure out the context. Is it make up sex? Hate fuck?

Later, when we are spent, bruised and battered we will weep.

Drop salt tears on my breast, your cock hard again in my hand.

This isn’t a desire we often get to see from women. We see her move from talking to herself, to talking to her lover. She’s talking to both of us and at the end again, tells us exactly what she wants and who she is.

I am want.

I am need.

*I am longing for what is lost. 

A few things about the end here.

I very purposefully used a vague sense of time in this piece. We don’t know when any of this happened, if it happened, if it is fantasy or what? This could be playing out in her head on the subway, in traffic. She might be washing dishes and having this fantasy/memory.

I did that on purpose. I had a more concrete ending to the original version of this piece. The original ending was that she got home and beat up/fucked her partner.

I scrapped it because in terms of when I wrote prose poems/flash fiction, I love leaving it wide open. I know a lot of readers hate it, I hate it sometimes, but when it works, it leaves things that crawl under your skin and I like that.

The last line with the asterisk is also an easter egg if you’re a nerd. You’ll notice that the title is asterisked

Desiderium*

And the last line *I am longing for what is lost.  

The last line gives the meaning to the title if you hadn’t already figured it out.

So there you go.

If you would like a writing lesson for the day here it is.

Tuck away things you learn from other writers. There are times when while other artists talk about their work, what things mean to them it might help you identify something you like to play with.

And play.

Play with themes, play with what words make happen in your head. Play with tropes and commonly held ideas about how people are supposed to be.

Have some fuckin fun y’all.

On Pandering and a few Other thoughts.

I don’t feel like linking but there’s an essay going around about the lit world and I’ve seen a lot of fist pumping excitement about it.

My initial response was tepid.

Mainly because these are issues I know I’ve written and talked about and as usual, it’s another topic where I see a lot of folks get excited when a nice White lady says it, when I said it for years I got a lot of very shitty responses.

Part of that is because I don’t say it like this:

Let us not make people at the margins into scouts or spies for the mainstream. Let us stop asking people to speak for the entire cacophonic segment of humanity that shares their pigmentation, genitalia, or turn-ons.

Let us spend more time in those uncomfortable moments when our privilege is showing. Let us reflect there, let us linger, rather than recoil into the status quo.

I say things like yo this is racist.

I say, this is sexist.

I am not a nice White lady so when I buck up against the status quo I become a threat and a bully. White writers presume I don’t understand the differences between aesthetics, technically “good” writing, that I am a fascist and pro censorship, that my knee jerk reactions are bad, that my writing sucks, blablabla. All things that have been said to me personally in the comments, via messages on social media etc. A personal favorite from some dude I’ve never heard of via email, “You’re no Roxane Gay.”

No sir, I am not.

I understand why it is that my own work in regard to certain topics in publishing aren’t met with the same AWWW YEAH response that On Pandering was. I get it.

When Marlon James said that authors of color pander to White women I fist pumped.

My reasons for agreeing with that statement by itself, aren’t the same reasons he gave so let’s talk about that shall we?

Being a Black woman author, I’ve spent a lot of my time yes pandering to White women in lit.

In super seekrit supposedly feminist writer spaces where, I experienced some of the worst abuse, gaslighting and racism of my entire fucking life. Pure disrespect and a boot in the neck wearing White Privilege Nikes that I still feel the bruises from. I discovered yet another literary space where, solidarity and support and professional connections were promised so long as I maintained my Nice Negress face. It got to be straight up abuse and I flounced like a mother fucker to the point where I removed ALL links to my work at my own peril because fuck those people.

This was not one group it was most of them.

I spent months biting my tongue, politely educating, sharing my work on how not to be a fucking racist, and got a lot of bullshit in return.

I remember very clearly just prior to me rage quitting the big super seekrit lady group, a White woman writer/publisher/mover shaker sent me a very long private message on facebook detailing ALL the ways she had decided that because of my aggression (I said no to White women), my “unsisterly attitude” (I said no to White women who were demanding my emotional labor for free and with a smile) and the one that hurt me the most “if you weren’t so aggressive I would have read your piece” (after I linked this piece in a long and awful “discussion” about White women and racism) she went on to explain that she has connections in the industry and if my name came up in her circles she’d be sure to caution people about working with me because I did not lay down and get fucked by her and other White women writers Whiteness hard ons.

Since I removed myself from that group and most of the others associated with it, I’ve watched other WOC try so hard to not do what I did.

I watch them and we talk, and they cry and we all burn because unlike me a lot of the WOC writers I am connected have oceans more patience than I do.

The fact is, many White women are in fact gatekeepers. They might not be the gatekeepers of big house publishing, but as publishing in the trenches goes, they are. They are editors and in other positions where many WOC have to choose between pandering, indulging, pleasing those White women or staying true to their vision.

I’ve seen it happen time and again. WOC writers having to fight against “aesthetics” that prevent them from capitalizing or specifying Black, having editors change their work to the degree that it strips racial identity from it, being in a position where they don’t have enough power to really be demanding because let’s face it, if you are not a name authors it is an extra hill to climb to be able to get your work out AND be defiant.

I’ve watched WOC be pushed out of groups intended to be resources and sources of support and opportunity because they got too uppity and refused to be silent when bullshit was bullshit.

It’s happened to me.

I’m sure it’s happened to a lot of us.

So yes, YES many of us have to pander.

We have to learn how to navigate places where Whiteness is wielded like a weapon and it is our opportunities to be published being held hostage. It is fucking up our livelihoods.

So, while we’re all fist pumping about “pigmentation differences” remember that a lot of us who are not name authors, we’re not midlist, you’ve probably never heard of us are already in the trenches. Maybe start with paying attention to what the fuck we’ve been saying for years.

Then fist pump.

Or you know, do something.

Against Diversity.

Given the further ramping up of racism in the lit world, I have to confess something.

In recent weeks I’ve watched digital yellowface, more White lady authors defending each other from us savage Brown, Black, Queer, Disabled and countless others, I have seen White people do intellectual 10.0 tumbling routines in order to make sure everyone knows that it’s never their fault, they aren’t racists, they are just trying to get what we others have.

I have witnessed male poets sexually harass, objectify and gaslight women.

I haven’t commented on every single thing because I was busy putting out a book.

Here is something I’ve come to understand.

When they say they aren’t against, diversity they just are against censorship and racial nepotism they want us others around but quiet.

Yes, it’s reassuring to know that we Wise Old Negresses exists, but naturally only a precious few of us should be visible or audible at any one time.

If more than one of us speaks at one time, it’s just PCness taking over and tantamount to murderous terrorism and censorship on the level of book burnings and religious extremism.

Right.

I see exactly what’s happening.

Solidarity amongst us others is threatening to Whiteness because we have our own voices, and will not only have our own spaces but will be heard in those spaces as well.

I see the patterns in this behavior.

The fear based posturing. The apparently righteous cause of freedom of speech. The White Flight. The victim pose, oh poor picked on White people being held accountable for their words and actions. All of it.

And it is exhausting.

I endure the micro aggressions. I quietly unfollow, unfriend, put literary magazines on my verboten list. I note who I will and won’t EVER work with at my own peril.

And yet, YET I am still right here.

I wrote an amazing book that is vital and important and yes, it is fucking expensive. 

I’ve stood up for my work because god damn it, this is years of my life, deep life changing work for both my publisher and I. And yes, it is that valuable.

I do this work in the face of the wall of White tears, White outrage, Silencing, Othering, and cowpie dodging that is the publishing industry.

I do this work because it is what I am meant to do.

I don’t do it in order to lead White folks and publishers by the hand into the land of milk, honey & diversity.

I do it because I have things to say. Because my voice, the voice that I have struggled to find and learn how to wield like a machete and like a lover’s hand is important.

So yes, YES, by all means keep tumbling and cartwheeling to justify why I should remain silent.

I will not name you all.

But I see you.

I see you.

 

 

So many things.

So I wrote a thing and Lisa over at Luna Luna magazine published it.

In a matter of about ten minutes after I posted it I was inundated with angry White Lady Tears.

And then while I was on my way to work I dropped my protein/snack bar thingy, I lost one of my beloved 8g steel swan earrings AND I am having major sinus issues right now.

On the other hand.

I got a book in a book giveaway, the other responses to my piece at Luna Luna have been fucking awesome. Lisa made me feel super welcome and I can’t explain how much I appreciate that.

Self Care Like a Boss V2.0 is about set to launch tomorrow and I am SUPER excited about what I have done.

Someone I admire a lot who does not internet a whole lot, said some stuff about my work last night that just- y’all. I sat at my desk at work trying to fight back tears while beautiful things were being said to me and it was great.

I’m a little overwhelmed that really great writing things are going on, that is just part of my personality.

So to keep myself from having a melt down or panic attack (WHO the fuck has happiness panic attacks? I have had enough of myself right now) I am going to do the finishing bits on V2.0. Get the cover ready. Write up the listing.

And okay here are some links.

Y’all know I love me some Mensah and he has teamed up with Literary Orphans for an all Black issue of LO. Go check out the call black folks. No I’m serious. Lynx and a few others of you I know are lurking. GET ON THAT. Also FYI the background of this page moves around and there is an autoplay so be prepared.

Go listen to this interview with the magnificent Antonia Crane.

Um okay that’s all for right now I have so much work to do and my face hurts.

Later taters.

This is Not Okay.

Some poet I’ve only heard of a little bit and the Huffington Post did this. Warning it is the “remixed” last words of the young man who shot people at UCSB. I’ve used do not link so they don’t get clickbait money.

One of this persons responses is here.

This is taken from the huffpo page itself:

The aim of this metamodern poem is to turn on their heads the words of hatred Elliot Rodger left behind him as he exited this world. The author condemns in the strongest terms the actions of Elliot Rodger; the aim here is to rescue language from the perversion of language, not to glorify an individual whose actions were incontrovertibly evil. Note that this poem is intended as an address to, not an address from, Elliot Rodger.

Are you fucking joking?

He exited and left hate? No he left blood, death, and families who have senselessly lost their loved ones because they were women or men in the wrong place.

This man killed those people because he hated women. There is no reclamation of that.

None.

Now I’ve only seen this discussed so far at VIDA on their facebook page see that here.

I don’t know if this poet thinks that it will do something great for his career to ride the coattails of the murder of innocent women, or if it is one of those fucking hipster I’m totally not sexist but I’m really fucking awfully sexist type things or what but, this is not okay.

I’ve seen calls about being censored.

Okay you are a professional and educated writer. If you don’t understand that tolerance of bullshit is not censorship maybe your fancy degrees and publication credits are wasted.

I have seen (usually) men do this often because they feel something for their brethren but this faux concern is aimed at the wrong place.

I would like to see Mr. Abramson stand in front of the families of the murdered people and explain to them how his poem is “addressed to” the man who murdered their loved one because he felt entitled to posessing the bodies of “blond sluts”.

How about standing in front of every woman who has ever been terrified and in fear for her actual life because she said no and telling them how on the Huffington Post, how

the aim here is to rescue language from the perversion of language, not to glorify an individual whose actions were incontrovertibly evil. 

This is sick.

This is disgusting.

This is one of the ways we see that there is no respect for the victims in a situation like this because this douchebag thinks that “fixing” the perverted language will do something.

Here is a fact.

The language was not perverted it was crystal clear.

That man hated women.

He felt entitled to getting fucked regardless of his behavior.

Even his family thought he was dangerous.

People died because he couldn’t get his fucking dick sucked.

Where is the poetry to fix the perverted language women hear every day? Where is the remix of the men who chased me for blocks alternately telling me they were going to rape me or that I could get 20$ if I sucked their dicks?

Where is the fix for the times women are called bitches because we have the NERVE to not be sexually available to every dude who wants it?

…………….

nope?

That’s what I thought.

Beyond my general loathing of Clickbait Huffington post nonsense, the fact that this is what the lit world serves up as a response to something that was a.) entirely preventable and b.) so deeply terrifying to so many women I am disgusted.

I am disgusted at the click bait.

I am disgusted with this poet.

I am disgusted that the word censorship has even entered into it.

I am disgusted by the level of privilege it takes to say I don’t want to fight but I like to talk. It is the the same song fake allies use to silence the voices of anyone who makes them uncomfortable.

This entire thing is a circle jerk of privilege and it makes me want to vomit.

Personally given that this writer is now on my radar, I will seek to avoid him and his work entirely. I will warn any women to avoid it. This is yet another instance where I am left wondering, who the fuck is driving the bus.

I had planned on writing about something else but I couldn’t. I hope that after the holiday weekend there is more discussion about this.

Also if you’re going to comment understand that I will not put up with bullshit. None. So don’t.

And let me say this as well.

The real fact is this sort of tragedy is something I think about constantly. As I said in my essay about “Female Privilege”,

What matters is that in my real actual life, at least a few times a month I am forced into the position of being ready to defend myself while taking note of the look of the man/men, while being aware of my surroundings, while being hyper aware that- that night might be the night I get assaulted.

It makes me sick that some douchebag would do this for his own purposes (regardless of his intent) on the back of that kind of pervasive fear.

That’s all. I can’t.