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.

 

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Busy busy busy.

Ready for the self promotion post of the week.

Okay first I have brand spanking new non fiction up at Gravel.  This little piece is one of the little things that could, it got rejected a lot and I had honestly forgotten I’d even sent it to Gravel. And then boom there it is.

Next I have a piece over at Fuck Fiction. Another one that was out in the wild for a long time before it got caught. Check that out here.

I realized yesterday I’m pretty fresh out of material to send out so I’ll be not submitting for a few weeks while I shiny up some new stories.

I also (finally) updated my website. I will have to update again in a couple of weeks because I think I have two new things coming out next month or so.

Per usual get everything else to read or buy from me here.

Also if you had planned to buy something from me via smashwords may I encourage you to do so now? I’m saving up to fix my teeth (I’m praying before AWP) because my left front tooth basically snapped in half. The fix I’m saving for is cosmetic because I’m really tired of being so self conscious when I smile. To get my teeth really fixed fixed is going to be about 15-20K and a few years of frequent work. 

So yeah.

I’ve so far saved p i[ 45$ out of 800. 

A few people have suggested I do another gofundme thing I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about that. 

I’m incredibly stressed out about it. I’m embarrassed, I’m trying so hard to save up. I wish you could hear the noise I just made. If this had happened in January it’d be fine. But yeah Summer is lean blablabla. Working poor blablabla.

Fuck me. Basically.

I’m imagining this will wind up as more fodder for too personal essays.

So yeah. Go forth, buy if you like.  I fixed my paypal donation button.

Now if you will excuse me I’m off to go write like a mother fucker.