What I’ve been Doing.

What have I been doing?

I’ve written some new poetry that you can find here and here.

I’ve got a few new things over here at Medium as well.

I’ve been working on essays and while I was looking at some calls for submissions etc and I keep running into a few issues.

When editors post their calls and have conversations about it in the comments I wonder if they go back and read them? I saw one call where a person asked about “non-standard” English and there was some banter and an ultimate answer of probably it wouldn’t get published.

What does that mean?

No AAVE?

No Spanish?

No mixture of Engish and other languages?

As I am delving deeper into the places where my voice goes and how I use language, I see these things and realize that where I want to go does not intersect well with getting paid or landing the big bylines.

I keep promising myself that I will figure out how to write less uh, something. Be more, uh, general or something. So I try that and find that I have nothing to say. Obviously, because I am just not that writer for good or ill.

It is a strange state of affairs.

While I’m writing things I have doubts as to how publishable they are in terms of commercial sales, I’m still pretty happy and writing what the fuck I want to write.

While I’m researching where to try to place that stuff, I feel not as happy and hear the call of my sad little bank account.

Sometimes I am very sure that my ideas are just not palatable to 90% of people and sometimes that gives me pause.

Other times I hunker down and just tell myself- WRITE THAT SHIT.

Today I’m telling myself to write that shit.

Be about that shit.

Do that shit.

All by myself if I have to.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow we’re back in The World and later this week I may or may not geek real hard about some stuff I’ve read recently.

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 Discomfort and Being Freaked Out.

OH Internets.

I’m still sick and at work doing some stuff and I have more confessions to make.

Craft related.

Sooo along with my general failures in accomplishing a lot of things I’ve also found myself in a very uncomfortable place with some of my work.

I’ve talked a bit about how hard it has been for me to teach myself how to write really personally. Not issue personally, not politic personal. The real naked, vulnerable Shannon personal.

I’m so uncomfortable.

Writing wise, my emotions are just right here. Bleeding all over while I sit in my chair at home or work quivering because I’m still having a deep anxiety problem and quivering because I just told y’all that.

After so many years of writing about somewhat personal shit, being fat, feminism, racism and how they’ve impacted my life but for as close to the bone as I’ve gotten with that, a lot of my new stuff is closer in ways that might be all in my head.

It’s been really fucking hard. And because I am who I am I worry a lot about things such as but not limited to:

  • If I’m not ranting or raving or pissed off does anyone give a shit?
  • Will anyone buy shit?
  • I know most trolling I can write off. But what if it’s really personal beyond OMG WE HATE THIS BLOGGER NOW SHE WRITES FOR A SITE WE HATE.
  • Who the fuck am I kidding?
  • I am not a real memorist.

Blablabla.

My general approach to fear in my work and often in my life (sometimes to my own detriment) is to put on my spiritual football helmet, put my head down and go.

However while I’m going, I’m also spending a lot of time staring at whatever I’ve just written talking to myself:

Me: The fuck did you just say?

Me: Uh, the thing I’m writing.

Me: Can you delete that please?

Me: No.

Me: DELETE ABORT ABORT ABORT ABORT

and it devolves into me sitting sweating swearing at myself.

But, I still write it.

And right now I have to go upload one of the things that has caused me bubble guts, sweating, trembling and cursing at self.

And I’m feeling echoes of this across other things.

I’m excited, but a little bit on the shit my pants in terror side of things too.

Now goodnight shiny people.

 

 

Yeah Write Entry #209- Book Slut

 

Book Slut: An Ode to Challenged Books

by

Shannon Barber

One of my fondest memories as a reader is the year when I was a tween I decided to read every book on the 100 most challenged book list as published by the King County Library System. One by one I devoured every one and thought about what made them so terrible in the eyes of a few people.

I cried. I got angry. I was sad. I read things I didn’t entirely understand and would return to years later. I read books I had no interest in and couldn’t connect to.

Given the frothy mouthed things I’d read about book censorship debates, I fully expected to be twisted by my adventure. I expected that I’d be struggling with being a drug addled, teenaged prostitute who was pregnant and running away and of spectacularly loose morals. I was under the impression that reading these books, that letting their wicked ideas into my head would change me.

I was down for it and I waited for some shift in my brain to happen. I waited for the inevitable rejection of my budding personal system of morality and ethics to dissolve under the weight of books like Private Parts by Howard Stern or The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison to just happen.

I waited.

I read more books.

I started reading really dirty books by Henry Miller, Anne Rice and other perverse people. I daydreamed about being a beautiful gay boy and having Kerouac or Burroughs or Corso as my lovers. I thought about running away to befriend Alice Walker and sit at her feet to learn to be a writer.

I thought about my Queerness and how to deal with it.

I turned 16 and started trying to plan a life as a writer.

I wanted a girlfriend.

I still hadn’t been ruined by my promiscuous reading.

I exposed myself to violent texts, queer sex, drug use, prostitution, smoking, bullying, offensive language, adult situations, weird or extreme political viewpoints- I didn’t only expose myself to these things I craved them. I gorged on them.

Inside those inappropriate pages I found visions of myself. I discovered worlds I might not have been able to reach out and touch, but that made sense to me and thus helped the outside world to make sense to me.

I was still a child.

When I had problems and questions I didn’t have the voice to ask, they were inside books. When I wanted to be deliciously terrified, books were there. When the whole world seemed too big and terrifying, I had books.

For every person who says that children or teenagers shouldn’t read this or that, I say calm down maybe you shouldn’t read it.

I joyfully encourage the kids and the teens and everyone to read promiscuously. Read things that churn your stomach. Read things that terrify you. Read about people you hate. Read.

The world is waiting for you and if you are a tween like I was, it just might save you.

###

PS for some more info on banned or challenged books, read here.

Because sometimes it just comes out.

For reference I’m going to talk about this essay of mine that is up at Nailed Magazine right now. It’s small and intense so go ahead and read it.

I wrote the above essay a few weeks ago in the middle of having fallen down a hole reading about Black victims of various crimes.

As difficult as I find writing the tear your heart out shit, sometimes it just happens. What’s on my mind right now is the fact that I felt such a strong need to write that. Also that as opposed to say five years ago, I would have maybe submitted it somewhere obscure gotten rejected and tucked it away.

Not because of the subject matter but because that is my fucking heart right there.

I bled to say that.

I cried and shat myself stupid.

It hurt while I was writing it, it hurt to edit it it hurt to get it ready for submission.

Today I’m pretty okay. I am proud of my work. I am happy to share my heart, bleeding and raw with the world.

But y’all, this shit right here is hard as fuck.

It really is.

Thanks for reading.

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.

New Things

So my first article at XOjane went live over the weekend and you can read that here.

I also have a kink essay to finish, a new article for Luna Luna to get ready and more for XOjane.

Now while I am really into these non fictional someone likes me (OH MY FUCK YOU LIKE ME) things happening something else has happened that I’m not so about.

So I’ve written about it, meditated about it, steamed about it.

I feel like this is a level up moment.

The thing is I am really fucking angry but beyond being angry I just-

okay I just don’t understand WHY the need to make shit personal about me when I didn’t make it personal about you.

Fuck.

These are the kind of mother fuckers I can’t fuck with. if you can’t be grown enough to say, I don’t like you and then hear, well I don’t like you either and we go our separate ways. I am not the droids you are looking for.

I have shit to do that does not involve trying to negotiate feeling victimized and then consequently really angry every fucking day.

As a dear dear friend guided me a couple of years ago, when my guts are churning I’m going in the right direction.

So with my new non fiction I’m putting my head down and coming through like a tweaked out train.

I am not here for other people’s bullshit.

Okay I had to get that out.

Later this week I have some other announcements. AND really if y’all could swing through the etsy store and maybe drop a few bucks I’d be delighted. I’m trying desperately to save up enough via my writing to buy a new phone because mine is failing and I do not feel safe commuting without my phone.

Thank you.

OH and before I go here how about some stuff to read that I am really excited about right now.

First, Tannarive Due has a new story at Lightspeed and I freaked out. GO read it or listen to it right now.

This piece by Rebecca Carroll at XO is hella relevant to my life right now and I want you to read it.

My dear friend Anna March wrote this piece in Salon. It is about the Pope and save your sanity stay out of the comments.

Another love of my Dena Rash Guzman wrote this about monoculture in farming at Stir.  Read it.

Actually here, that whole Lightspeed issue is fucking great so you should read or listen to all of it.

Literary Orphans got a good nod in Poets and Writers so check that out here.

Solarcide is expanding and has a new release out. Go check them out I’m pretty into it.

And you should check out the new issue of Flapperhouse.  I have it and I am into it.

Okay now I have a lot of work to do and should eat food because I’m a grown up.