Yeah Write Entry #263- Down Home

Down Home

by

Shannon Barber

Mama said I’d know when the time was right. She skipped all the magical menses bullshit and woowoo sparkly nonsense. She sat me down and told me straight.

“I can’t tell you one way or the other if you got the gift or not. If The World wants you and you got what it want, it’ll call. Stop worrying about it and go do them dishes.”

I waited until I was thirty goddamn years old. I had accepted it. I would not be like other women in my family that way. I did not have the magic.

Two weeks after I turned thirty I felt it. I saw the Shadows gathered in the corner of my living room and I felt the heartbeat of The World. I felt the pull, I felt the need deep in my belly. Lower than lust, deeper than need, it pulled at the marrow in my bones.

The World did not call me home as I thought it would. Not my real home at any rate. It called me home to a swamp full of dank nightmares and thin places. When the air touched my skin, that is when it all really happened.

“Sss, errr, esss, ood. Mmmmm.”

The first voice came on the first current of hot wet air, the rest joined it in a susurrus of hissy, sibilance that I felt on my arms. I felt the little silky summer dress lifting away from my body, I felt them as silken paws of sensation.

“Stop.”

I signed desperately. The World, may have been speaking, but it did not listen. These were not things of the world and my body wanted them. I wasn’t speaking to them, I was talking to me.

My body opened to the voice of The World as it had never opened to any lover. My skin craved subvocalalizations that thrummed against me as if my skin was nothing more than the thinnest thing between air and something full of liquid and fit to burst. I was broken. Naked and brown in a hot swamp thousands of miles away from my Mother and on my knees.

I heard none of it. I felt it in the waters of my body, I felt fricatives devouring my cunt and the plosives I yearned for exploding against my eyelids and the tender flesh at the nape of my neck.

The World took me more completely than any lover and touched me deeper than any God. It called me to touch me with fingers made of language I will never hear.

I don’t know what it means. This was not my Mother’s calling.

I am the living secret of The World. I am deaf to the world and my body feels the true voice of The World and I don’t mind. I’m no Mage or Warrior, no Beholder or Scrivener. I am only a Secret.

The World wants me and it will have me.

###

Baby tries Fantasy. Ft Fancasting

Under the read more you’ll find the whole first page of my second try at fantasy. I tried it before with these characters and tried again. Actually I’ll show you the whole thing I have so far. In FACT I’ll include my fancast for it. Because that is a thing I do often. Also pardon if my train of thought wanders at times I haven’t really slept in two days.

My idea for this is this as follows:

  • Gender markers being fucked with. Our King is a woman named Nailah. Her wizard wears dresses because he likes them. King Nailah is a war king. She is a bad ass with a bad reputation and she likes to seduce everyone and hang out with her fellow warriors. Think Gina Torres would play her in a movie after beefing up a bit. Okay a lot of bit, like Linda Hamilton in T2. See here but picture her with locs and with some facial scars and tattoos.

king

 

  • Her Queen to be, is a literal cat person. So I spent some time studying feline social behaviors, etc. and came up with the assholest cat to be a cat person. Her name is Makatza and she’s somewhat of a mystical figure in this fantasy land. I thought a lot about how to incorporate some really specific cat behaviors into a human sized being. The tail swish, one turned ear, being a demanding but totally loveable little butthole. Imagine she’s furry, her middle body is beigy brown and as her fur goes around her body it turns black. But her fur isn’t like tiger fur, think more downy softy fur. Her ears are black, her tail is black and quite long. She isn’t a shape shifter, she is a cat person. Think a body type like Countess Vaughn here, but a bit less busty.
countess
Imagine her as a cat.
  • Our next important character is called Nazar and he is the King’s bestie, former lover and war wizard. He is also very shy and anxious. In this part of this story (there are longer versions and notes)he’s still a bit young and has a bit of puppy fat yet. But yes this face both the younger and the older are what I imagine when I think of Nazar. He’s very loyal, very good at his craft and is a bit confused as to what role he is to play with the King.
nazar
Nazar the Catalyst as a baby wizard.
  • So far we also get a peek at First Regent Bilale who is like the captain of the gaurd, confidant, tactical expert and potentially the man who will teach our King to be a husband. I haven’t decided yet. Picture this gorgeous gent a bit older and scarred up. Like he’s been swinging axes and shit.
bilale.jpg
I just..well. Yeah look at him.

So far those are most of the major players I imagine in my head. There are some others I can’t totally see yet.

But we see why this could be an issue don’t we?

I’m sure somebody will be asking themselves, but where are the White people Shannon?

Well………

Nope.

This magical land is full of black and brown folks (there is a char I picture as Margaret Cho with her shaved head, but that’ll happen later) but yeah. Naw.

What’s interesting is that one person I floated this idea to give me a little bit of the “but that’s not believable” I almost automatically spat out that Junot Diaz quote about motherfuckers reading shit in Elvish and inquired about how many places in medievil Europe were rocking dragons and shit?

I’m not sure how much of this world, I will create but so far I’m pretty into it. I’m working on word-building, like a whole world that is Earthy but not Earth. I’m working on creating some language, some cultural stuff and so far I haven’t gone off the deep nerd end.

Yet.

So here you go folks. It is my birthday and my present to you is a bit of Cat Rules Queen, a fantasy WIP by yours truly. OH also this is entirely unedited exactly as it came out of my brain. No rewrites/correction so don’t trip.

Enjoy.

 

Continue reading “Baby tries Fantasy. Ft Fancasting”

Welcome To the Pit Mother Fucker.

Someone I know asked me recently what I would say to baby me about writing and publishing as a Black woman who has a lot of loud mouth opinions and who deploys them at will.

There is a Hed(pe) song where the dude says,

“Welcome to the Pit Mother Fucker.”

I am pretty sure that covers it. When I was a baby writer, I did not express my actual opinions on industry business. I fully believed that if The Industry found out how I felt about a lot of publishing and writing shenanigans.

I lurked industry boards and saw the racism and sexism. I gently tried to engage with White writers and other industry folks in my gentlest, sweetest Negress way about their racism.

Y’all, I tried.

I did workshop type things and kept my opinions about Magical Negroes and other terrible things to myself. I whitewashed characters, I didn’t share stories that did not cater to Whiteness.

I remember once talking to an older White lady author who told me that I was doing the right thing. That, to keep my “radical” (YES she said that, I remember it clearly) and “militant” thoughts to myself so as not to alienate the folks in power.

I thought it would lead to more publication, more visibility. Money! Recognition! Respect!

I WOULD GET TO BE IN THE FUCKIN CLUB!

But not really.

What happened was I was not writing the shit that moves me.

I felt frustrated, trapped, invisible and the worst, the very fucking worst part was that I felt like I was contributing to my own oppression with no pay off.

I was pretty miserable.

And then at some point after someone threatened to tell my dayjob that at the time I was writing custom smut for weirdo fetishists I decided to stop giving any fucks.

All of this is on my mind because last night I was doing research and working on some of my indie writer hustles and I came to a few conclusions.

  1. I just do not have the energy to promote things as hard as I need to in order to make my indie writer hustles financially viable. Likely if I didn’t work full time with the commute and whatnots, I would but that’s not gonna be a thing.
  2. The above being what it is, I’m cutting down on side hustles. It hurts my soul to lose the potential of that side hustle cash, but my fatigue is getting worse and there’s not a lot I can do about it at this point.
  3. I’m not putting stuff out by myself anymore. It’s been a losing venture and cost more time and money than it’s been worth.

Okay, I’ll stop there because #3 is important.

I decided to pull the lid from Etsy because frankly, it takes a while per piece, to get it ready make the cover and frankly nobody buys the shit. I know it’s not the prices really, but yeah. I do feel a bit sad, but whatever fuck it. I don’t know if I’ll just post them for free or what I’m gonna do.

So if you’ve wanted a thing from the Etsy shop, now is the time. I’m pulling all the lit stuff at the end of February. Go here.  I was going to do a huge price slash per item but it made me feel shitty. SO if you add all 8 pieces, (for a grand total of 17$) then use the coupon code WORDSWORDSWORDS that’ll net you a sweet little discount and put your total at 15.75$.

I have been convinced to not close the shop all together and start putting out some of my crocheted items. Shawls and scarves. Maybe my tactile stim objects. That’ll be a while yet.

I am going to focus more of my energy on producing stuff. Writing new stuff. Maybe doing a Queen Poems chapbook this year. My grand experiment in essentially rage quitting the publishing industry and only publishing either myself, with Milcah or in super select venues hasn’t been a real win for me.

A lot of that is largely due to #1 up on that list as well as, it’s just not my skill set to do it all indie and not feel like I’m wasting precious time energy and money.

I had a come to Jesus moment with myself about what kind of support my work gets and when and whether or not it’s enough to support my indie DIY ways. Frankly, it’s not.

Last time I had this out with myself, I decided I just wasn’t good enough (this was just a couple of months ago, well a few more than that it was post SCLAB release) and I really felt like my body of work was/is something I should be ashamed of because obviously if I was better at writing, marketing, rewriting, doing things the way I am supposed to- everything would be successful.

That might be true. Some of it or all of it, I don’t know.

What I do know is that me  punishing the fuck out of myself for failing so hard, SO fucking hard did not contribute to shit.

So I’m not doing that.

Changes is coming.

Dear Shannon,

Welcome to the Pit Mother Fucker.

Love,

Shannon

 

Yeah Write #250-Name. A Name. A Shadow.

Name. A Name. A Shadow.

by

Shannon Barber

This is my last work as a Professori. I can feel my mind slipping into the eventual madness that takes us all. The nightmares have started, I hear myself dryly describing the things I record as they tear me apart or burn me alive. On waking I see the Shadows standing watching me from every dark corner. I obsessively study the diaries of the Professori who have gone before, desperate for anecdotal evidence of the inevitable decline.

*

I think I have four, maybe six months left. No one knows quite what happens to us. Our bodies are never found, we are never reported missing. If we have families they know the lore and that someday we will just be gone. When the madness begins, we say our goodbye’s and inhabit our remaining days like ghosts. I chose to have no family. I can only say goodbye to my books and my works.

I hate this.

It was my job to know. To record. To contribute to a very particular zeitgeist. I admit, I don’t want it to end in madness and mystery.

*

Write- to write so hard. Time short. Coming, it comes. No read, can’t read. Goodbye book.

I don’t know how long been. Leaves are turn, Shadow touch and whisper. I try- try remember my work. Yes, my work I did this work and record and wish to see The World I

*

Shadow come. I had a name a name a name oh please please what name? Name? Name like Sasha? Sarah? Mine? Please a name. Shadow? Shadow a name? Shadow please?

**

I hear now. They come. They come and reach from inside the shadow behind, behind the what? Name? Names is gone. Gone. Dark. Dark, world gone dark Shadow.

Home.

Name.

Shadow Shadow Shadow Shadow Shadow s-

Recovery team note in the diary of Professori Ana Pasquale.

She was right. Like the others there was no body. Only the final emptiness of a small house blazing with light and reeking with the remnants of madness. Her last writings were only a page and only The World will know. Only the Shadows and Shadows covet their secrets.

Go now Professori.

Goodnight.

###

PS

This one was not inspired by the inspiration pic, but by the header pic on the Fiction/Poetry post AND the inspo line “Seven hours left of the day and it’s only Tuesday.”

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.

First Lessons of 2016

Oi y’all.

I’m starting out 2016 in the fuckin trenches yo.

I’m learning that writing personally, just about me as a person in any memoirish capacity is just so fucking hard. I am still not used to showing folks my tender belly and I want to scrap it and cry and hide but, that burning in my gut says I’m going the right way.

I’m also very unsure about a lot of things.

I’ve been in such a state for so long that seeing light at the end of the tunnel feels like a lie. I’m angry because I can’t produce the way I used to. I can’t get through my fatigue the way I used to. There have been a lot of nights where I lay in bed in an absolute red rage because I’m awake, but I’m so exhausted I can’t think straight let alone write.

I’m very very angry.

I’m also very ashamed.

I’m disappointed in myself.

And wading through a puddle of shit knee high and feeling like I deserve to be wading through the shit because obviously I suck at everything.

Some of this is my anxiety and insomnia talking. I know that. I recognize that flavor of my own crazy. They chase each other around, getting each other riled up until my hands are shaking and my gut is full of bile and all I want to do is throw myself in a hole and cry for two hundred years. Or die of terror.

This is not a state of being I’m used to. This is not the crazy, I’m familiar with and I feel fairly lost.

My existing crazybrain tells me I should apologize to everyone constantly. Because my exhaustion causes me some memory problems and cognition problems and my bit of dyslexia stands up and joins the party and everything -terrible- in me says, you apologize to that person. If they said something nice to me or have supported me etc.

I try not to but it comes out.

And I’m embarassed.

For the sake of my mental health and my work (note I said mental health first, it took me three tries to do that) I have to sit the fuck down and figure it out.

My approach has been head down and bull through it. Grind my teeth and crave speed because obviously that would solve all my problems right? Get back into that kind of seething constant rage. I’d still be an anxiety riddled insomniac shitbag but at least I’d get stuff done right.

Well judging by my inability to finish SCLAB rewrites, blog posts etc and my struggle doing anything else, that ain’t gonna work.

Instead I will go to the doctor. Hopefully get my hormones checked out because I’m suspicious that part of my current state of being is due to perimenopause (THE FUCKING SWEATING, THE STRUGGLE IS REAL), I have some of my hippy woowoo herbal shit on the way to help me sleep/shit and remain calm.

I suppose this is a confession.

Y’all I’m in deep shit over here.

But I’m shoveling my way out.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom.

I had the distinct honor of working with one of my favorite authors Court Merrigan on some Country Noir for The Big Click Magazine.  So not only is Court a bad ass writer BUT he is a bad ass fuckin editor yo. That little story turned out so much better after working with him. There is something so wonderfully intimate about having someone edit your work who really gets you and trusts you. Go read it. Buy the issue. That story has lesbians, cows, meth and booty shaking.

I’m working with The Stabby again on something I’m really into and is really hard.

So in the big picture of the life of the shit bucket of nerves writer, things aren’t awful. AWP plans are coming together nicely. I have some zine supplies and one of those square things so I’ll have stuff to sell on my person at the thing. I just- yeah.

I’ve mourned my failures. I don’t know if that is a thing you’re supposed to do but I did it. I mourned the hardcore me who could stomp through this level of mental health fuckery.

Now I’m trying to figure it out.

I’m going to work on some fiction.

Take it uh, yeah I dunno.

So things around here might be weird or maudlin or whatever. I’m not sure.

All I know is that I’m listening to my loved ones and not myself this time because my brain is deadass wrong in this instance and that bitch needs to calm down.

I love you all.

That’s it for now.

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.