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.

 

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Dwelling in Darkness

Before I get to the darkness, some light. My first fiction publication of the year has gone live at the new magazine Rigorous. Read my cowboy/mermaid myth here. I’ll nerd about it later because I worked on it for months and the original inspiration might make y’all giggle.

I’ll nerd about the origin story for that piece later this week.

Per usual, when things are pretty much non-stop bullshit, I turn to the darker end of lit for comfort. Let’s talk about what I’ve been reading/listening to.

House of Horrors: The Shocking True Story of Anthony Sowell, the Cleveland Strangler. (Amazon affiliate links ahoy y’all.)This book is pretty dingdang good. I actually followed this case with a lot of interest because really we don’t get to see/read about a lot of non-white serial killers. This book was missing the racial analysis I was craving, something more in depth than poverty and shit. BUT, that said a lot of the early history and behaviors of this killer cut across racial lines to intersect with other serial killers. Pretty good read.

I also reread Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Y’all if you’ve never read this book please read it. This one is a hard one for me to read. Every time I read it, the sameness of many of the struggles I have as a Black person are devastating. On the other hand, I also am soothed by the rhythm of this book and the familiarity. Read the thing.

I have a habit of dipping back into the darkness as y’all know.

May I also suggest some of my fave noir?

I really loved this piece in Out of the Gutter, The Flash Fiction Offensive. Initiation by Brendan Bakala.

For some other noir reading, may I suggest back issues of Thuglit. Like issue #5 (I’m in this one) I also suggest reading stuff by the publisher of Thuglit Todd Robinson. He’s good people and his writing is fucking tight. Read The Hard Bounce. I really fell in love with his characters Boo and Junior. His work is vivid and has a beating heart. Get into it.

Lamentation by my homie Joe Clifford, another one that I love. Y’all, like get on that. It is a series and it’s good.

Want something lighter?

Battle Hill Bolero (Bone Street Rumba) by my dude Daniel Jose Older. If I’m not mistaken, this is the last in the Bone Street Rumba series (noooooooooooooooo) and it is so fucking good. It’s just, god damn it. I love this world so much I never want it to end for purely selfish reasons. Just…start at the beginning and read them all.

For an intense but not totally heart breaking read, start up the Broken Earth books by N.K. Jemisin. Start with The Fifth Season. If you like your fantasy with some literary bent and really detailed and showcasing some major, major researching skills, get it. These books are gorgeous.

If you need to get really sucked in deep into a whole other world, read The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu. I liked this book, it wasn’t totally what I needed but it is very very good and goes deep into world building and the language is beautiful. 

Thing is, right now we all need some fucking space that isn’t littered with the actual fire that is burning up America right now and fixing to light up the rest of the world.

Don’t feel bad if you need to get away because we all need some of that lately.

What have I been doing?

Well I’ve been writing poems and SCLAB and a few stories. Trying to hang on to my sanity.

Before I go, how about a look at a bite of a hood noir story I started. Another one with a brother and sister duo, I’ve got a thing for that.

“You-‘

Tyrell heard his sister yelling from the front hall all the way into his office and cringed.

“Rusty ass. No account ass. Trifling ass. Shitty ass mother fucker.”

He heard her stomp past his door, steady talking shit.

“One more fuckin’ time I gotta do some nasty shit like that, you gonna take a dick for the team. Chicken ass, scary ass, useless looking bullshitting ass, but you’re better at this Tye Tye, lying ass-“

Her voice muted as the bathroom door slammed. Tyrell heaved a sigh and made a gesture at the other man in his office.

OH one more thing.

My birthday is in March and per request here is my wishlist.

Giving what I have right now.

I can’t be in so much pain and anger today.

That said, I’d like to share some beauty.

First up, please enjoy a little video of me reading my story The Beloved of Colel Cab you may need to crank the volume, my new phone isn’t the greatest for video but here you go. Feel free to share it, like it, subscribe to my youtube channel. I will have more lit vids coming.

If you’d like a copy to read or read along (I am working on a good transcript) click here it is available as a free post at my Patreon. 

I have some new self-care stuff coming. Emergency stuff.

I have a new piece of work a prose-poem thing on Ink Node.

I am very well and truly out of spoons and this is what I know how to do. This is what I can give to my community. Some things from my heart that might be a bit of a respite.

I also offer up the pieces on self-care I wrote a while back and put on Medium. Take them and share them if you know folks who need them. Here and Here.

Check this slipstream flash story. It’s a happy little thing.

And one more, a favorite story of mine. A little Queer Flash fiction love letter to my fellow Brown Femmes. Check the link for the story and an interview.

This is all I have right now. I’m so not okay I have nothin else.

When I have something, it’s yours.

Until then, take care of yourselves and each other and I love y’all.

On Ambition and publication news

First the publication news.

I wrote a poem about/inspired by my dear friend Haddayr and it got picked up at Leaves of Ink. I’ve known Haddayr around the intertubes for years now and there is something about her that just touches me in my soul area and I love her so much I want to hug her until she farts and then we can laugh and yell and probably fall down. This poem was inspired by something she said and I am so so honored it got published. ALSO she is a kick ass fucking writer. Seriously. Essays, fiction. Read her.

Next I had an essay edited and published by Antonia Mother fucking Crane. I admit I freaked out a bit when she asked me for a thing about kink and the first thing that came to mind was the topic of my failure to fulfill the pisser portion of being a piss queen. Read it here at The Weeklings. There are few things I love more than having a good editor and Antonia is a fine editor. She coaxed better timing out of me, writing in a world that is very stuck on quick fast and in a hurry she encouraged me to get back to a slow burn.  It was also my first serious try at being on purpose funny. I am a funny person, but never when I am trying to be funny.

I am also cruising along at Xojane with my self care series. Some folks hate it and hate me and that is kind of great. So many other people have left comments there and elsewhere telling me that they need to hear this stuff.  This is my first thing I’ve been paid for on the regular and had it be such a serious affirmation of things that make me feel like a better human. I have a lot of feelings about it.

I am still working really hard on figuring out how to balance writing freelance things, submitting things, writing fiction and working my day job and managing my fucking feelings and holy shit it is all so much.

OH I also relaunched my personal blog. You can see my new spot here.

Watch me segue really smoothly here.

As I am doing these things and gaining exposure to new audiences and doing so while feeling like an actual part of a writing community that accepts and loves me for who I actually am and what I actually write and not my potential to be the next Alice Walker, I am realizing that my ambitions are changing in ways I did not anticipate.

At one time, maybe six years ago I would have said that my ambition was to write novels, get them published with some critical acclaim and to ease off the teat of the dayjob.

Right now honestly all I want is that spreading readership, my writer homies backing me and maybe enough spare money made to get some tattoos, replace my electronics and whatnot.

Some fun money and an awesome readership is what it boils down to.

I am still only semi invested in mainstream publishing and that finally feels okay to me. The more I learn about big deal “serious” publishing the less I see a place there for myself.

I feel like I am learning to put less pressure on myself to be the Big Bad Black Trailblazing Negress. I do it when I feel like it. When I can but I’m not going to eat myself up trying.

I think that’s all for right now. I should update my website but I don’t feel like it. Instead I’m going to eat something tasty and do some work on something close to my little heart.

Later taters.

I find Jerry Stahl Comforting and other shit that is wrong with me.

I mentioned before that I have been comfort reading.

For me that means I read authors who don’t dissapoint me, I read books I’ve already read. I read stuff that I’ve not read before but is delightful.

I don’t have money for all the new books I want to read right now so I got the audiobook of Happy Mutant Baby Pills by Jerry Stahl.

And god damn it a few things.

First of all having Jerry Stahl’s work read to you is explicitly more dirty than reading them in print.

Selby reference, shitty jokes and the narrator who knows how much of a douchebag he is but you kind of like him anyway, okay he got me again.

Many of the people in this book are people I have been around, people I”ve loved and it makes me feel comfortable. I like laughing at shit that people who have never been ass deep in a certain type of drug culture will probably not get.

I honestly don’t know if I want to hug him, pinch him, push him or kick him in his ass. This is a sign of true love in my life. If I call you an asshole then hug you and want to give you a piece of pie, well I love you forever.

Don’t ask I don’t know.

Back to the book. It is really not for the faint of heart. Like if you have any sort of sensitive feelings about motherhood, sex or intimacy this is probably not for you. I however have issues and I loved it. I sat on the bus crocheting and giggling.

Just wow.

What else have I done?

I’ve watched the talk between Junot Diaz and Toni Morrison for real about four times. I think Junot Diaz is also one of those people I just get. His reaction at the start of the talk is what would go through my mind. When I heard about the talk I spread the word in flaily all caps and  I had to watch it alone so I could pause it and freak out from time to time.

Honestly that shit gave me fucking life y’all I can’t even lie. I think if I ever met or saw Toni Morrison I would probably either burst into tears and run away, or stand there like a moron and burst into tears.

It has happened.

I also spent some time reading and listening, wait seriously finding people reading poems that I love on youtube is one of my joys in life, to poetry. I’ve been watching nature documentaries and DS9.

Now it is dayjob time. I’m going to put a documentary of some sort on in the background or maybe an old horror movie. Do my work and hope to get some writing done.

After giftmas I’ll finish and put up my overlong and nerdy review of Dr. Sleep. And do my annual end of year holy shit look what I did entry.

Self Promotion Thursday.

I’m still learning about this self promotion thing so lets just do this.

Okay first up I’ve got a story up over at the Flash Fiction Offensive.

I’m super excited about this one because it was sitting in the slush pile through two editors and had previously been rejected by about 6-7 others because they were uncomfortable with the subject matter. It’s about racism and the one time a Black woman hears the words Black Bitch and she loses her shit.

Several people have asked and no I have not as of yet beat up a stranger for calling me a Black bitch but I’ve been pretty close.

Next, I have a piece up over at Scars.tv Children, Churches and Daddies. I think I already posted that one but here it is again.

Those are my two latest. I need to update my website with the info. I’m also doing just a slight redesign. I’m going to add tiny descriptors I think.

Okay I’ve exhausted my self promotion energy for now.