But Can I be Honest? Or Can a Bitch live?

Okay, so, in this post election Trumpfuckian* nightmare, being that I am a creator of things, I have been creating things.

I already published one essay about my real feelings post election. Find it here at Medium. I put a general content warning on it for everything. If you’re feeling fragile do not read.

Ahem.

If you’ve been here for more than five minutes you could fairly say, I have a salty tongue. I’m a foul mouthed heathen. I use the Seven Dirty Words quite liberally in my work.

I have long understood that because I stand by my bad words as being necessary, that precludes me being published a lot of places. I get it. I know.

I know I am a difficult sell even when I’m not saying mother fucker every few words and it’s okay. I made peace with that.

I. know.

Now, before I was totally done with the essay, I had a nibble of interest that quickly turned into a, well if you (insert edits that would strip it of it’s power and turn it into Nice Black Lady Pap+end with hope I don’t feel) and I am not with that.

Now, since I published it myself, the reception has been pretty great. Way less pushback than I expected, some folks saw fit to use my tip jar and send some donations which is incredible. I’m about that life.

That said, I find it interesting that when I’m completely naked honest, I’m talking ass out bucky ass nekkid- I self publish and things tend to go well.

I take that same energy and what I think is an integral part of my voice to the markets and I fail. Miserably.

My literary partner in let us call it impending Unfuckwithableness Milcah has pointed out to me, I’ve succeeded when I’m just 100% about who I am and not trying to pretend.

It’s true.

And we come back around to me being me and my, uh, not quite fitting a lot of the narrative places have of what they want to say.

For instance, some okay, no let me be real about it all of my poetry lately has been bloody, bleak, and not uplifting. Basically how I’m feeling. I clocked some very swift rejections for a piece I’ll put at Ink node later on. Keep your eye out here.

Being rejected doesn’t but me by itself. What bothers me are the notes that came with the rejections about how these pubs are going for Hope and Unity and Feelgoodness (my word) right now.

But why isn’t there room for me too?

I really hate the idea that we as creators must immediately go to the hope and not document our grief and rage. My grief, my rage isn’t going to end with all of us holding hands and singing Old Negro Spirituals.

It’s going to end in blood because that’s how I feel.

There’s room for more than happy uplift.

There is space for those who are despairing and only know to make art or otherwise create to help get through it.

I’ve talked to some friends and a lot of us are in this same boat. We need to scream and make bloody rage filled art and we’d like for it to be valued as much as the uplift and shiny hope.

So yanno, if you have space, consider making space for us less shiny  minded folks.

Influences and Artistic Desires.

I’m having a hard day today so let’s talk about influences.

I have listened to Solange’s new album A Seat at the Table three times this week. Don’t tell the Beyhive but, I’m a way bigger Solange fan in general. The track that just knocks me down is the one Don’t Touch my Hair. 

What inspires me about this track in particular is that I want to make a little music video for it. Listening to the song put me in mind of strong visual like this video but maybe a bit more eh, violent maybe.

I dunno.

My interest in learning film making was rekindled a few years ago when I stumbled upon the Show Studio and fashion/art films. I HIGHLY suggest going to youtube and search for some of the work with Nick Knight and Gareth Pugh.

The thin/whiteness of it aside, conceptually I really love these type of things. I find a lot of inspiration in thinking about my writing in a very cinematic way. Very often I not only fan cast my work but I think about it in terms of movement on screen, how an actor may need to be in the scene in order for me to get deeper inside a character.

I also harbor delusions of film making myself.

Also I have a hankering for arty self portrait projects that experiment with my own concepts of ugly beauty and monstrosity and whatnot.

Eventually I’d like to be able to do 90% of the make up, styling, making of costumes and filming myself. I want to play with this as another outlet for me. I want to use those skills (that I’m working on learning) to create literature and poetry films I make myself.

I’m really attached to the idea of engaging with my own art and expression that way. For a while I was deeply shy about it. I don’t have a background in this stuff, I’ve never studied it beyond watching/consuming it in my way. I don’t really understand the academics of this kind of art/performance. And for a long time that put me off of trying it out.

And then of course, the Pretty Thin White Girl self portraits took over everything and honestly the bit of experimental self portraiture, I did years ago got such a weirdly racist/sizeist response I stopped doing it. Once upon a time, I also had some inclination to do some of it in a more erotic vein but that urge has mostly passed.

Every now and then I get the hankering to make self shot art porn but, not enough to really do it honestly.

I keep writing up ideas and plans and ditching them. I have a lot of boxed up garbage feelings about it based largely on interactions with “artists” and other weirdos back in the day. It left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s a lot like most of my other passions (horror, heavy metal, nerd shit) in that racism and other assorted bullshit really just put a stink on it that’s hard to get rid of.

I legit hate it.

I also am trying out being gentle with myself about it because honestly, I have zero built in coping mechanisms for this. Trying to heal myself of a particular kind of trauma through art is proving to be way more difficult than I anticipated.

I am starting. I have allowances in my fundraiser for some equipment. I’ve been practicing shooting myself and I have a couple of video editing software programs at home to learn.

I don’t know what I will produce, but it will be something. I might start documenting my feelings about this and vlogging it. I dunno.

More coming.

Maybe a video???

I got my new phone so some things is gonna happen.

 

Good News Everyone!

Oh hey you.

Been starved for some good news from your fave Indie writer?

FIRST up!

Check out that beauty! I have a new essay in Issue 3 of Witch Craft magazine. This one is a departure for me, it is about Blackness and witchery and a rejection of White washed witchery. Go check it out here and buy the issue!

Are you in Seattle?

Do you want to see me?

You have two chances in October. First, I’ll be facilitating a little workshop thing through Minor Arcana Press. I get to host a talk and writing session on..>DUNDUNDUN HORROR MOFOS!! Even if you don’t write horror come and check it out. We’ll have a little talk, a little write, some talk and stuff. Y’all know teaching writing is on my bucketlist and this is maybe a preview as to how I want to offer classes. Come on DOWN Y’all. RSVP on facebooks.

Can’t make it to that? Stay tuned because I will be reading the next day with some amazing QTPOC. So keep your eyes peeled.

In celebration of me getting to talk/teach about horror writing, I will post a few free flash/prompt type things so y’all can get your creepy on.

I will also for Spooktober, maybe keep the etsy store open and put together something special.

Hopefully if things continue going in a nice way, there will be some new and extra surprises towards the end of the month.

Come back tomorrow for talk about the Daiyuverse and stuff.

 

#BlackSpecFic Feelings.

First, please go check out the work Fireside Fiction put in on this. 

Ahem.

For our purposes here today I’m gonna use this definition of spec fic from wikipedia:

Speculativefiction is a broad umbrella category of narrative fiction referring to any fiction story that includes elements, settings and characters whose features are created out of human imagination and speculation rather than based on attested reality and everyday life. That encompasses the genres of science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, horror, alternative history, and magic realism.

If you’ve read me for a while, you know this is an area I love to live and play in. Also, please read this. 

My own experiences mirror a lot of those N.K. Jemison talks about. When I was a wee baby writer, I did not allow my Blackness in my work in a lot of ways. From the writing perspective my earliest lessons both overt and not were like so:

  • Anything involving Black characters would likely not be “believable” if they weren’t hood caricatures or portraits of racial uplift. That cut across all the genres I like to work in.
  • Blackness regardless of subject matter, genre, etc is often treated as a wee tiny box where ALL the Black stories must go.

I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t find all the links. There is a problem when as a writer, you do your due diligence and study the places you are submitting. For me personally if I go back more than 5 or so issues and see no POC or if the masthead headshots are all White men, if the stories are all in one vein under the guise of aesthetics and “goodness” those are not places I’m going to feel welcome.

A problem I (and I’ll venture to guess a lot of POC and especially Black authors) run into every now and then is when White editors are very obviously uncomfortable with Blackness or anything not White centric. Often this isn’t anything blatant, it can be felt in email exchanges where an editor doesn’t understand a phrase that isn’t “proper English”, or suggestions to do certain things (in my case it was an Orisha) more “mainstream”. The suggestion was to change the goddess/Orisha in this story to Aphrodite or, you know, a White one. Being questioned about not italicizing my Spanish. Being questioned about how “unlikely” (in a firmly spec fic story) it would be to have the protagonist be a little Black girl.

The first story I referenced, was published at Expanded Horizons and was my first publication in a spec fic magazine. That story (I just went a looked) was rejected 15 times. There was one nibble of interest, but the editor backed off when I said I would not rewrite to make it a Euro/White story.

The next story isn’t really spec fic (though my inspiration was) but the tiniest bit of unitalicized Spanish made it “difficult for most readers”.  (I can’t get to youtube but go there and search Daniel Jose Older and Italicized Spanish, it’s worth it)

The last story (it was Pushcart nominated) was rejected 16 times. The first nibble of interest, I spent about two weeks going back and forth with an editor who couldn’t see or understand how a little Black girl who is a shapeshifter would ever exist in a world where there are shapeshifters. This person also mentioned how my names for my creatures, Children of Apep, Daughter of Sekhmet etc would be too “esoteric” for “most” readers. I actually went back to read the exchange. Yes, references to Egyptian gods/esses as the names of shapeshifters is too “esoteric”. My references to Hyena and Crow were “not really relatable”.

For a lot of years, this is what I had to wade through when submitting so as I’ve mentioned before I just stopped.

This isn’t exclusive to spec-fic. The problem of overwhelming whiteness is one of literature in general. For me, the constancy of the racism in lit has just been exhausting. When I decided to start writing genre fiction again, I again found myself being unable to bear interacting with the community, reading fan stuff etc because shit always gets real racist real quick.

These are many of the reasons why I started self pubbbing my genre fiction. These are many of the reasons I stopped reading genre fiction too.

For the cheap seats. As a White person in a position of power in the lit world, you can’t just say you’re all for inclusion and diversity if you can’t demonstrate it. Words in this matter are useless. You have to act. As I’ve said many times before, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to understand that using Whiteness as the measure for what is “good” is a problem. Even if you don’t mean it.

Understand that there will be things and elements of work that don’t resonate with you and that is okay.

You have to do the work or you’re part of the problem here.

There are SO many easy ways to find authors of color to approach to feature their work, editors you can talk to. It’s not that fucking hard. It is 20 mother fucking 16. You probably have a computer in your pocket.

Listen to what POC have to say.

Read work by POC.

If you are totally into inclusion, be that shit. Don’t just say it. Do it. Do the work.

We exist.

If you’re a reader. Find the stories and books. Buy them, read them, check them out at the library, talk about them.

As a creator of things, I’d also like to say this.

Stop pretending that the statistics are shocking. Stop it. We all know racism is a real thing and permeates everything. Including literature. Including speculative fiction. Including SF and horror and everything else. Stop. White folks, you are not helpless here. There are tons and tons of articles, stories, etc. written by and about POC so maybe start reading them.

Do the work.

That’s all for now.

On Rejections and Thangs

Behold first a list of places I’ve been rejected from in the last few years. These culled from my Submittable (OH sidebar: if you ever need help with your Submittable account their CS is FUCKING STELLAR. Like really great.) account.

I MADE THIS.

Publisher *Interrobang Magazine*Bone Bouquet*Portland Review*Two Serious Ladies*Corium Magazine*Black Fox Literary Magazine*Menacing Hedge*kill author*Quickly*Jersey Devil Press*Looseleaf Tea*MUD LUSCIOUS PRESS*Red Bridge Press*d.ustb.in*Cease  Cows*Wyvern Lit*The James Franco Review*The Butter*Storyglossia*Necessary Fiction*Atticus Books*Knockout Literary Magazine*Girls with Insurance*Linden Avenue Literary Journal*The Molotov Cocktail*Word Riot*Camroc Press Review*SmokeLong Quarterly*Vending Machine Press*The Rusty Nail*Side B Magazine*Curbside Splendor Publishing*Used Furniture Review*fwriction : review*Word Riot*Belletrist Coterie*The Offing*Specter: A Curated Literary Website*The Offing*A-Minor*Word Riot*Bloom*The Midwest Coast Review*Leodegraunce*Eclectic Flash*fwriction : review*Stone Highway Review*Specter: A Curated Literary Website*Metazen*tNY.Press*ExFic*wtf pwm*[PANK]*fwriction : review*Camroc Press Review*Used Furniture Review*Unshod Quills*BLACKBERRY: a magazine*Gravel*Birdfeast*Necessary Fiction*Slit Your Wrists! Magazine*Wilde Magazine*10 000 Tons of Black Ink*Monkeybicycle*Counterexample Poetics*deactivated TOSKA Magazine*Little Episodes*Gertrude Press*ABJECTIVE*Battered Suitcase*The Monarch Review*Out of the Gutter Online*[PANK]*freeze frame fiction*Publishing Genius*Menacing Hedge*The Citron Review*Dark Sky Magazine*DREGINALD*Behind Closed Doors*Barn Owl Review*decomP magazinE*Necessary Fiction*Word Riot*The Rumpus

So if you get through that, you’ll see some repeats. Places that are in my mind big swing and miss type submissions.

I’ve been reflecting about the process lately since I don’t submit on such a rigorous schedule anymore.

I was reading something about rejections and I frankly refute the idea that it is always the writer.

The thing is that if you are writing from a perspective or about marginalized people in a way that is not the accepted (generally when it decenters Whiteness, heteronormativity, etc etc) there is an uphill battle, whether people who are closer to acceptable want to recognize it as part of the process or not.

After doing the submission thing and research things and reading thousands upon thousands of pages of what journals/mags publish, the struggle is real. I look over this little rejection list and this one from my race to 100, there are some I can point to as having probably been based on how I was telling stories about Black folks or Queer folks, rather than just my shitty writing.

Of course, there are times when I look back and cringe because things can always be better, tighter, more perfect, etc.

However, after going back through a lot of that work (and many of those pieces found homes eventually) and looking at the language in a lot of rejections (not just from this list but over a ten year period) I can say that I’ve seen some patterns and the patterns have fit in with my research.

Here is where I invite editors to pay some full attention, marginalized writers too:

  1. If I go through say five back issues of your thing and I see no POC, no stories about anyone other than White people in whatever form, I’m 99% sure if I submit a story about POC/other marginalized people you won’t take it. I often envision the, we love your work, but no fit yadda yada. For me, over the years, this has been a thing a lot.
  2. If you have words like diversity, inclusion or anything related and you haven’t done the work in your previous however many issues, see #1.
  3. If I’ve been reading and following your thing and you have a few POC or other marginalized folks and tend to only publish certain types of narratives, whether fictional or not, or the only POC you interview fall into a few distinct categories, see #1.

Etc.

One of the habits that has been ingrained in me since I was a wee baby writer age 19 in 1996 carefully copying addresses out of the back of Poets&Writers, I read where I want to be. At one point after I had my own computer (I think I got my first one in like 2001?) I had dozens of pages of individual notes on publications. I transcribed them from PW, from websites, from notebooks. I had a system. I spent two months writing like a motherfucker as much as humanly possible, I spent a month editing everything and then a month submitting.

This habit has remained with me, though I have learned to use trackers (GODS damn I wish someone had told me to do that back then) and figured myself out in terms of the truth of what I do, I’ve learned to read more closely and that is how I’ve figured out my system for parsing rejections and figuring out where to submit.

There have been times where I’ve spoken with editors, I can think of a few who really went to bat for me because I did not fit their standard narratives. That is gratifying.

Experience informs how I deal with my rejections.

In this phase of my writing life, I’m not as interested in trying to blaze trails.

I’ve got a big fucking mouth and I do indeed talk a lot of shit and occasionally name names. I’ve decided that rather than hold that in, I’m letting it out. I’m sure that will cause me rejections over time. It’s fine.

I realized during AWP and some subsequent interactions with lit world folks that I just don’t have the energy or mental health reserves to be one of the brick wall busting types.

I’ve hit fuck it.

I’ve figured out that I feel okay being a terrible self-published author.

I’m fine trying to hustle fiction out of my Etsy store like a literary pusherman.

I don’t hold out hope to be raised up by the loving hands of some literary agent.

I don’t really care if I get the Big Book Deal.

I’ve discovered the depths of joy I feel when small indie bootleg ass presses tell me if I do X thing, they want first look.

I’ve discovered the joy of putting something from my heart out that is flawed but touches other hearts.

It still fucks with me that people don’t buy my shit when I sell it.

It still fucks with me when I read things and I don’t see myself or other marginalized folks represented.

It still fucks with me when the literary community is largely a burning tire fire of racism and bullshit.

After all this, the real lesson is this.

This is a grind. Rejection alone won’t be the end of you. It is up to you as an artist to decide how to deal with it.

Now if y’all will excuse me, I have anxiety to deal with and shit to do.

Showing up Bloody.

Recently, I’ve been trying to deal with some trauma that I thought I had pretty much handled. Poverty trauma that reaches deeper than I realized it did.

I found myself having a really terrible day, flashbacks, really awful feelings, repressed panic attacks, bad enough to give me the shits for three days.

So I did what I always think is the thing to do and started writing. I started an essay (maybe my first long form) that is a testament to a lifetime of mental illness and how it has manifested and how the idea of the Strong Black Woman almost killed me.

The thing I’m most surprised about is that given my memory issues (related to my sleep disorders mainly) is the clarity of certain memories. Smells, how my skin felt, I close my eyes and see it. This is beyond confessional writing, I’ve done a ton of that over the last 20 years. This is exposure.

This piece is not the sort of confessional, I can smirk about and shrug because Shannon is gonna Shannon and not be embarrassed. This is stuff that makes me cringe. I want to say I’m sorry if I ask anyone to read it because it burns me. I know it will hurt the people who love me to know that has been my life and in some ways still is.

I’m fucking terrified.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I find being a memorist of any seriousness fucking scary. I know that in the scheme of Black writers and Black people and Black women, especially, what I’m working on could be one of those important little pockets of solidarity. I’m considering pitching it when it is closer to being done.

As I’m thinking about/researching that, of course I stop to wonder outside of a handful of pubs I already know, who would give space and cash to this story?

I know it is still very hard for the world (Lemonade or no Lemonade) to see that Black people have feelings, that we are human beyond the photos of our bleeding, broken bodies or scoring points or generally being acceptable but not quite human enough to see into. I know that when some people look at me, they want the Sassy Shannon Don’t Take No Shit and Don’t Need Nobody type. I know.

What I don’t know is where do I go to be a different facet of the purple lipstick wearing loudmouth? Where do I go not to rail about racism or other fuckery, but to show the world my emotionally bloody self?

I don’t know.

Or maybe I will self pub it as a mini memoir.

Who knows.

What’s important for me right now is to get it written. To confess. To strip off the last vestiges of the stone faced person I thought I wanted to be and show up naked and terrified but fucking there.

I’m there and right now that’s what matters.

On Racial Uplift and space.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So moving along.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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