The End of An Experiment.

So this is gonna be the last post about this era of my writing career. If you’ve missed it check out here and here. Go ahead I’ll wait.

Now I want to warn y’all this is gonna get long as fuck and real raw about a lot of things. If you’re new here, put on your hardhat and athletic cup. If you’ve been here. Sorry boo.

OKAY.

For background, a few years ago I decided it was time to level up my career. Post a fairly brutal doxxing by other writers, I felt like I really needed to re asses, set some goals and get the fuck to work. When I found out I had a book of poetry coming out, that was my cue.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in these lit streets since the late 90s. Like most writers, especially those of us swimming in the big ass ponds of poetry and short fiction, I’ve had ebbs and flows. I’ve rarely had a lot of success in poetry. There was a time period where I was a bit notorious amongst white poets because I’m a big ole mean ass Negro who hates free speech.

I was gonna link a bunch but nah. If you want to read my older stuff, links live in the sidebar.

I had a few minor moments, at one point my short fiction high my acceptance rate stayed up in the high 70s with about, 10-15 submissions per week so that was tits.

I got to know some poetry folks who made me feel great. I went to AWP (this is actually a hilarious story so I might try to make a video about it) I got to meet Roxane Gay at the first one and almost peed my pants. In the years between what like 2014-2016ish I was feeling myself in the, obscure but getting some great feedback area of writing.

In 2016 or so I decided that since I was armed with knowledge, a network of readers (a thing a writer I really admire complimented me on was how I engage with folks, that was just great) and I believed.

What I believed was that, in spite of my big mouth and all my shade at the lit community etc that I could carve out some kind of little financially sustainable writing life. I started with freelancing. After my first non-fiction publication I had a taste for it. I have an ability to write about things like racism, fatness etc in a way a lot of folks found good at the time. I had some experience from writing at XOJane. I’d figured out how to deal with things like:

  • Being told for years what a shitty asshole I am for writing things.
  • Being doxxed/harassed by angry racists, angry feminists and some other folks.
  • Being told explicitly (with pull quotes and footnotes) why folks were hate reading me and then why they wanted to make sure I know how much I suck.
  • Death threats.
  • Folks trying to get me fired from my dayjob.
  • Etc etc etc.

All those things continue to suck but I learned how to deal with it. My next plan for my glow up when I realized that to be a “successful” freelancer I’d have to eat a lot of shit, I decided to scale WAY back. Also real talk, dealing with white women in the sooper seekrit internet writing groups, fucked me up and in a lot of ways forced me out. That’s fine.

Some things I’ve been successful at in the last few years:

  • Figuring out I am not good on spec.
  • I am too stubborn to settle.
  • I refuse to eat shit for a byline.
  • I still write pretty ding dang good fuckin essays.

Don’t get it twisted. I am a fucking bad ass writer. I am. I cannot be fucked with and I continue to sometimes write some really bad shit. Overall. I’m a bad mother fucker.

I am Fat Laila. (MY FAVE INTERNET CHONKY KITTER DO NOT FAT SHAME HER THIS AIN’T THE PLACE BRO) Look at her. This is raw footage of my work and shit. No I just really wanted a giggle break. Stay with me.

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[image description: a fat black kitty mid run, she has airplane ears and looks like she is hissing. Text says, MOTHERFUCKERS!
So when I decided to level up, I felt intensely ready. I did some courses from places like the Void Academy.  FYI the links I share ARE good shit. They just aren’t the good shit for me in particular. When Medium launched their pay program. I put some stuff behind the paywall and pretty much failed hard. I learned SO MUCH from my beloved Milcah. I have held this advice so tight in my little hand. I very literally say it to myself a lot.

From my journal from the time, my number 1 goal was GET MY SHIT READ. Thus I embarked on the type of marketing and self-promotion folks say to do for years.

It didn’t go well.

I had a beautiful most amazing little poetry book come out. Buy her here.  Shit this part burns. But I did the thing folks say to do. I reached out to a LOT of people. I offered review copies and I think I got 2 reviews. more stuff I haven’t told anybody. I sent emails, queries etc to lit venues offering review copies, I answered a few very specific calls that put my book into their wheelhouse. Out of 60 emails of this nature sent, I got zero replies.

Zero.

Nada.

Fuckin crickets.

Privately I was fucking devastated. Part of how I experience anxiety often means I want to apologize to people for bothering them with my needs or whatever. It is just a thing. I was really tempted and so heavily triggered I almost asked my publisher to cancel the book.

I’m glad I didn’t. It is a good little book.

Now here is where I really started to see the pattern of my career at work and exposing a lot to me. Now, in terms of how people respond to my work, even here in Seattle people really love it. On a personal level, people tell me how much they like things I do. Some folks wrote me really lovely notes about how much they enjoyed the book.

After publication, I tried another round of promotion in the review angles and again, nothing happened. Nothing. The few folks who took review copies never said anything about it again. It has taken most of my self control to not email ALL of those people to ask if they just hated it. I don’t need to know.

I know enough.

Those months are what my career is at this point. I’ve realized these things:

  • The agents I’ve queried have all been either super interested and then once they saw more of my work *who I actually am* they ghost. Or their advice is to cut the social justice stuff, talk about racism less etc.
  • There is something about ANY of my work that does not keep the attention of people enough to really support it in any material way.

Again, I’m not talking about my ride or dies. I’m talking about the 5k+ folks in my social media, other people. I just ain’t it bro.

Superficially that makes my inner child wail. I want to lay face down on the floor. I want to suck out my personality and brains and everything and try to be more like the badass writers I’ve been compared to (or mistaken for in Ijeoma’s case) Roxane, Nikki.  All writers I admire deeply.

If I could in fact eat or otherwise ingest some of their successes and turn them into my own, maybe.

I am not them and that is okay. I don’t have to be.

I could honestly go on forever. I know a lot of super talented, successful amazing writers. I stan them. I get so excited when I see their names in the news and on best of lists etc.

And just this year I realize, that is probably not going to happen for me. I hate it and it breaks my heart into a million pieces but that is just what it is. Whatever it is about me, my work, etc is not gonna be the thing that gets me the big money or the big publication or probably a spot on any best of list.

I’ve accepted it and that my beloveds is why I’m closing my professional FB page. It is why I’m not doing a newsletter anymore, why I’m not going to bust my whole ass trying to get people to do the TWO things I need.

Action doesn’t happen for me when I ask. Unless I’m having a complete panic fueled meltdown and as I’ve said that is exhausting and humiliating and also doesn’t really work in terms of success I can link to it. When I do that, I might get a few bucks thrown at me on Kofi or maybe an extra 2 shares but folks ain’t reading, ain’t buying, ain’t sharing.

So that my friends is the end of this part of my writing career. When I publish on Medium I might use the paywall I might not. I’m writing a lot of fiction. I’ve got some horror coming out this year. I want to get back into noir.

My failure to not get famous, that wasn’t the point. The point was to move my life into a more sustainable model, maybe someday sell a book and keep writing and making some coin. I failed. There were a lot of reasons but I failed.

So like I been doing for 20 years, I’m gonna do what I know how to do.

Write like a mother fucker.

So that’s it y’all. A different adventure begins. Please stay tuned, next week I’m gonna talk about stuff I’ve got planned, we’re gonna nerd the fuck out about horror and weird fiction. It is gonna be lit.

 

On Risk and some other thoughts.

I was talking to another writer not long ago and the subject of risk came up.

This got me thinking about the risks I take to do this.

Like poor folks everywhere, every word I write that I don’t get paid for pains me in a special way. The time I spend writing, editing and trying to promote those things, could be time spent earning income some other way.

This is a mode of thinking I fight daily, or every time I need a new pair of pants or socks. I look back at things like my pieces at Medium, or the reprints/originals I put up at Etsy (I even have a coupon code right now PCMADNESS for 15% off your total order). And those do little for me in the way of income. And income is the thing that I tend to need the most.

While I’d love to breezily give my words away whenever I damn well please, it’s a risk for me. It doesn’t always but days like today when I realize how badly I need new glasses and I feel slightly guilty for buying stuff for my house- well the risk and the reward just don’t really add up together.

Before I started this entry I had to fight myself pretty hard not to go into a spiral of shame because my freelancer abilities aren’t up to whatever random ass standard I think they should be at today, part of this is also sparked by the loss of a bunch of work because of tech problems.

I know damn well that I’m not good at being a timely money making machine type writer.

I know that.

That said, I do get discouraged when I see folks banking on work that is very similar to my own in terms of content. And when I realize how much shit I need for my house, and I need new underwear and glasses it stings a bit more.

I’m struggling with not feeling good enough. If X person can write about the same stuff I do and make money at it, I must be shit at at it.

And please I’m not fishing for compliments here. I’m trying to keep it 100% as I keep promising.

So this is yet another risk.

I don’t want to be poverty, pain porn for anyone.

Yet, I do feel like  it’s probably valuable in some way to talk about this stuff shame and all.

This feels like a bigger risk than all my yelling about racism in literature, my ragey poetry where I name names, or anything else I holler about. Showing my tender underbelly and expressing my fears about money and art is fucking hard.

I think a lot of my difficulty is that while intellectually I can shout from the rooftops that my work, my voice, my labor is worth compensation.

Emotionally, I still grapple with this. Emotionally, I still don’t feel good enough. I still don’t feel confident enough to just say hey fuck you pay me.

Sometimes I am crippled by a wide ranging reeking jealousy that I can’t always shake.

Today isn’t that day, but I’m struggling today.

All that said, I have work to do.

I am going to pout about my data loss for another ten minutes, then get to work.

Including, later today a brand new love letter from me to you if you’d like to sign up for my official writer loveletters.

Get to Know the Writer.

The writer at work.
The writer at work.

In case you haven’t seen me before there I am.

How about a list of some random shit about yours truly?

  • My two favorite types of tea are genmaicha brewed extra strong and pu-erh.
  • My absolute favorite coffee in the ENTIRE fucking world is Death Wish.
  • I am extremely persnickety about what ink pens I use. I only write in purple ink and these are my favorite pens. Pentel R.S.V.P. Ballpoint Pen, 0.7mm Fine Tip, Violet Ink. YES sorry amazon affiliate link.
  • My favorite Yankee Candle scent is Midsummer’s Night. I hardly ever buy it because it’s fuckin expensive but I love it.
  • I am an aging Goth. I am totally unashamed of this fact.
  • I have trashbag taste in TV but at the same time am extremely picky about what I watch.
  • I LOVE perfume oils. Generally indie. A gift of some BPAL started it all like 12 years ago. My favorite notes are: smoke, leather, tobacco, dark vanilla, honey, clove, cardamom, chocolate, roses, dirt, musk, dragons blood. I am so good at buying unsmelled that 99% of the time if a scent doesn’t work on my body, it works on my partner. My tastes tend to run to spicy/more masculine.
  • I can talk about things like makeup, skin care, body care, bath fancies, perfumes etc FOREVER.
  • I really love creepy things. Bones, teeth, taxidermied animal parts all as jewelry.
  • I am a compulsive reader. If I get desperate I read shampoo and body wash bottles while I poop.
  • I have an undying love of the original Castlevania (OG Nintendo) because it was the first video game I ever finished by myself.

There was an actual purpose to this.

I’m teaching myself to write more autobiographically without relying on issues. For me, it’s easier to write about how racism or sexism or whatever thing hits me personally and make it a lesson. I think those are my activist roots showing.

So I’m working on writing about who I am as a human and how I got to be this human.

Behold what some of us lovingly call The Stabby, or The Establishment. This is woman funded, woman founded media.

Holy fucking shit.

These are the folks I met with in person months ago and had my first writer/editors in person dinner meeting.

What I pitched to them at dinner was the piece I will link in a minute. I had been wanting to write about being a big nerd and some of my trials and tribulations in my life. Now, initially my notes for this were very rigid and I am a dork and nerd culture makes me upset type thing.

BUT-

I decided to try something new.

I showed my tender little nerd underbelly and talked about who I am in real life. I talked about some crap that happened and getting through it.

You can read my piece here.

Y’all that was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written. I battled and sweated. I had to fight myself, like knock down drag out fight myself to not rescind my pitch and not to try so hard to be a Strong Black Woman Who Don’t NEed Nobody.

And you know what?

It went live during their launch week and people like it. I got messages from other Black nerds my age who experienced some of what I did. I got fist pumps. I had baby Black nerds telling me YASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

That kind of freaked me out if I’m gonna be real about it. It was such a departure from my rage pieces where people are angry along with me.

I don’t know how to put it, but it just felt different and gave me some deep pause.

It feels alien (and yes, I know this is my anxiety and shit talking) that people like it because it’s me. Like the actual MeatWorld Shannon, who often flails and twitches and flaps and squeals.

That me.

DIS ME.

Most of what I say here is me. Like pretty close to actually talking to me though, I am nicer on the internet. But it still feels weird that someone gave me money to write about how much of a potsie nerd I am.

Okay that’s all.

Goodnight.

Promote ALL THE THINGS!

Oh y’all. Go get yourself some coffee and then come back because I have MANY things to show you. Per usual any Amazon links will be affiliate links.

Some of this stuff I bookmarked for this other stuff I asked for. All of it is awesome. Hand curated stuff to look at, read, buy and otherwise enjoy.

SO.

First up, my fave Milcah has announced they are relaunching their blog with a WHOLE NEW THING. I’m very excited about it and you can go read about it here.

Next, my friend s. j. bagley turned me onto a new project he got involved with called Thinking Horror. The blurb from Amazon:

THINKING HORROR: a Journal of Horror Philosophy is a nonfiction journal devoted to modern and contemporary horror literature consisting of essays, editorials, and in-depth interviews. The journal will be focused on the contexts and concepts of horror fiction.

I am SO FUCKING INTO IT HOLY SHIT. I just yeah. No for real go check it out at Amazon. I’ve been waiting since he announced it forever ago.

Next a new thing by someone I admire greatly. My friend Aaminah Shakur writing about art and watching you watch art. Y’all, their writing about art even when I don’t understand it just floors me. GO LOOK.

Now how about some poetry? My friend Noemi Martinez has a new piece up that I just love. Check that out here. Also check out Hermana Resist here. Fucking awesome.

My friend Lily has launched something really amazing. I can’t even…I mean. Okay, just go here to facebook (and like her page while you’re there) and look at her message pills. Buy some for someone because it’s a fantastic, loving idea. Lily is fucking magical.

This essay by Sarah Boyle at Gorgon Poetics, YASSSSSS. BURN IT DOWN! Um..that is how I express my love of this sort of thing. BURN IT BURN IT BURN IT!

How about more poetry? Hear my homie Kenzie Allen read her poetry and read the rest of this mag there is a lot of loveliness to be had. AND audio…I swooned.

A writer I adore is doing tiny letter. HOLY CRAP. GO GO GO and get letters from Mo Daviau. It will be great I promise.

WOW. Just going back and LOOKING at all these things is just making me do a little happy wriggle in my chair. I legit know the most talented amazing people in the whole world.

Ready okay let’s continue.

Next up I read this book by Ki Russell a while back and it just stayed with me. How to Become Baba Yaga by Ki Russell..it is just. It’s so beautiful and mystic. I love it so fucking much. Read it.

I came across this piece via my FB feed and it is really great. I am a black woman in the American south. And I’m not leaving by
Latria Graham. It just, yeah it gave me a lot of feels.

MORE POEMS. This time by the delectable Sonya Vatomsky. Their poetry is just…just buy the book.  Their book Salt is for Curing is just..yeah. Go. 

LOOK at how lovely Sarah Khan’s official website is.  Check the photos tab. The b/w shot of the stem and leaf is just..totally my aesthetic and I would put that on my wall.

You want to see some more stuff to check out? My homie Sara Habien does Notes from Elsewhere over at WordRiot and real talk I totally stole the format from there. Go check out more things.

Lynn B. Johnson has the Oldest Blog Alive. And I am so delighted by that. HOW can you not love that?

We have a shy poet in the house too. Bronwyn Petry  has a website and writes and edits and has one of my favorite names. I know that’s a weird thing to say but I think Bronwyn is just a really lovely name okay. Go show some love.

Let’s take a reading break and how about some art? I stumbled across Hal Rotting Graphics on Tumblr forever ago and I just..unf. I want ALL of the things and am probably going to snag a sticker pack for my laptop here soon.

Next up, nerds pay attention. Go like the page for American Witch comics. I AM SO HYPE ABOUT THIS!

Are you Canadian? In or around Toronto and into film? My homie Trista DeVries has somethin for you! Pretty cool magazine on the film scene.

Are you writing things? I have some stuff for my writing friends.

First up read and then submit to Dead Housekeeping. It’s just, heartbreaking and so good. I cherish it while I read it. AND if you’ve been here a while you’ve heard me say it time and again, COME JOIN US AT YEAH, WRITE.  No for real do it do it do it do it.

Need translation? Some bad ass poems? Non fiction? You need to meet Shabnam Nadiya. All the yes.

And we all need more amazing non binary trans-masculine types in our lives right? NO seriously, you do. Meet AJ Ripley and well, you’re welcome.

Listen to Gyda Arber talk about her new really cool project.  It is a podcast AND one you can download and listen to on the go. Fuck to the yes.

Now meet Stephanie Georgopulos. Freelance writer and she runs Human Parts. Awww, yiss.

Speaking of Human Parts, my friend Laurence Dumortier did this really great piece over there. Go read it. 

More stuff to listen to! Katie Klabusich hosts a podcast I really enjoy called The Katie Speak Show. I’m SO here for it. Bookmark, listen love.

More stuff? How about some real good nerd stuff? Via my homie  Alisha Karabinus and her academic team, ALL THE THINGS GAMING! Podcasts, videos awesomeness. If you are trying to get your nerd on in the context of amazing stuff like race and gaming, get it.

I also want you to meet Jen Selk writer and editor of awesome. Reviews, journalism, checkout her statement at the bottom of the page. TROLL BE GONE!

NOW okay this is pretty cool. Via Hanna Brooks Olson and Sarah Anne Lloyd, SEATTLISH. I didn’t realize I KNEW THEM. And that’s pretty fucking cool.

WOW this was a beast. Are you still here? Thanks for hanging out. I’ve been squirreling links away for weeks and I just get so excited about sharing my community with y’all. AND I don’t want you starved for great stuff to read and look at.

What about yours truly?

Well, actually naw. Check out the sidebar for my stuff. We’ll do me another day.

Except to say that I’ve been crocheting again after not doing it for a while and it feels great. I’m working really hard to work up the courage to sell some of my wares. Until then look at this beauty I’m working on now. I will be adding some gorgeous deep, vibrant teal and he’ll be done.

Thanks for reading and as always, if you have stuff you want to share with everybody, LEAVE THEM LINKS BOO!

shawl

Something happened, and another thing.

This year has started off pretty fucking good outside of insomnia to the point of hallucination (YAY ME) and I’ve already fallen down once.

First up my friend Dena interviewed me for Luna Luna Magazine and you can get it here.

Also I got my first poetry acceptance in forever. I am pretty stoked about that.

I am three rejections deep into the new year. One stung like a son of a bitch and two were super complimentary.

The shit balances out.

Uh other than that nothing super new is going down.

I have been writing some flash. I tried some noirish gangster flash. It’s not particularly a story-story but I like it.

I need to get to going with submissions and shit. I feel like I need to rearrange my writing time. Do I want to wait until I get home where I want to just go the fuck to bed or do I bring Bloop (my computer) with me and write somewhere for an hour at night and thus make my day outside of home go up to 14 hours?

Probably the former. My partner got me an adorable lap desk and I will get myself one of those bed recliner pillow things.

I will be updating my website here soon and please don’t forget. Women writers, if you know wo