Staying in my Lane- Patreon reprint.

Enjoy a reprint for free from my patreon. To get the file referenced, click here.

 
First, please have a look at this amazing blog post
I was directed to it by K. Tempest Bradford  and have had it bookmarked because the questions in it for non-native authors really got me. Inside my ongoing project the Daiyuverse, several of our main characters are native. I have yet to get into their personal cultures/where they are from because I have plans for it. 
That said, I also am very concerned with staying in my lane. I want to talk about one of the questions from that post. 
Why did you select this particular tribal nation for your story? 
Without revealing too much I want to talk about why I chose X people from the PNW as the tribe of my Crow family. 
First up, it took me sitting down and comparing dates and plot elements and quite frankly location. I have a bit of knowledge about Indigenous people from the PNW. I really wanted to focus one of the Coast Salish peoples because geographically, it works with my needs in creating this work. 
Now, specifically what are those needs? 
  • Representation in an urban fantasy setting.  
  • To explore the impacts of colonization and assimilation on magical POC.  
Those two are uppermost in my thoughts. While I was doing research on creating my native characters, I started to look at the late 1890’s and the forced removal of Native children from their homes during that time. I had read an article about Native boys being forced to cut their hair last year and something clicked for me. I want to go back to that period in time in WA and (we’re getting to it in the verse) follow the fallout from being a victim of that practice to the creation of a space to counteract it. 
I come back to the original question quite often. The way I am working with my native characters, I feel that because I am not working from the perspective of trying to be an expert or speak for these peoples, I can tell this particular story. On one hand, I worry very deeply that I’m on entirely the wrong track here. I in no way want to position myself as an authority or one of those bhole types who thinks just because they can, they should. 
That said, I do want to talk more about why a large part of my cast is native. I really felt like in this world, creating The Institute would play a vital role in the idea of reclamation I thought who that I might meet in the Meat World, would benefit from that here in Seattle. I thought immediately of native people. I was partly inspired by a man I met who is native and we had a really great conversation about how so many of his own relatives were still cut off from their culture and how so many of us Brown folks just don’t have our cultures and myths close to us. 
With that conversation in mind, as well as having followed a lot of the fails of (generally speaking) White authors who decide to write a culture and position themselves as an authority and knowing how terribly that often goes, I am treading carefully and working to stay in my damn lane. My goal with these characters is to have them going through the entirely human struggle of reconnecting with their own roots and using The Institute (in this iteration of the ‘verse we are JUST getting to it) as a counter to assimilation. 
Writing extra-culturally especially when it comes to my fellow POC, is something I am still not sure is the best idea. On one hand, my plot arc for these characters is (at least so far) human first and foremost. They are whole living beings who are not trapped by the Mystical Native (or Negro) tropes. They have some foibles, we don’t know the whole of their history yet but, it is coming. 
I want to quote further from the blog post linked up top: 
The Devil is in the details . . . and the overall tone. Authors can have all their facts historically correct according to accepted sources available. But it is the interpretation of the facts into a story that makes the book harmful or helpful. I’ve seen a number of books that get most of the ‘facts’ correct, but the overall tone is that of stereotypes (which may be difficult for non-Indian writers, agents and editors to see when that has been the prevailing mode of American Indian representation). I’d highly recommend that agents and editors read the Revised Criteria from How to Tell the Difference: A Guide for Evaluating Children’s Books for Anti­-Indian Bias. Reading a manuscript through that lens and thinking deeply about Eurocentrism and colonialism will make all the difference. You can find guidelines, suggestions, statistics and a number of resources here at Writing
About Native Americans. It is a long post (as was this).  
Bolding for emphasis. 
My decisions as I work in this ‘verse are deeply influenced by the bolded. I am very mindful that I have the potential to cause harm and am doing the work not to do that. As I get further into the lives of the Crow family, I will start to include more specifics. Where they come from, how they got their names, what the curse on their family is about. I don’t want to spoil things but, most of the hardship they have gone through is a direct result of one of those forced boarding schools. 
I’m being a bit vague because we’re not quite there yet in terms of the story and I don’t want to give too much away. I am getting into some of the back history (before our heroine Daiyu is born) and honoring my native characters and their histories and culture has been uppermost in my mind. 
I’ll revisit this again when we start going back in time some more.  
For now, how about a peek at who I’m talking about here? 
First up Papa. Who along with Daiyu is as far as characters go, essential and part of the backbone of this whole universe.  
I’m keeping a neato spreadsheet with my characters, their full names, associations, list of magical abilities and other notes. I’m not going to give you everything but here’s a taste:
Papa Crow- 
Magical Abilities (so far, subject to change) Cursed-Prolonged life. Powers: charm, tactical aggressive magicks including but not limited to: elemental control, telekinesis, low level telepath (possible mentalist)- 
Nick Names- Papa, Old Crow, Crow, Bird, Nathan
Misc- Daiyu’s God father, estimated age between 180-300 years old, very good liar
Father Crow-
Magical Abilities- Lesser prolonged life curse. Summoning, Apothocary, traditional herbal healing, elemental magics, seer, demonaic tongue
Nick Names- Crow Jr, Black Wing, Joshua
Misc-Papa Crows grandson, inheritor of the Institute
Maria Crow-
Magical Abilities- Demoniac tongue, World walker
Nick Names- Maria- TBA
Misc- Father Crow/Joshua’s biological Mom
~
That isn’t everyone in the family.  
To wrap up, I am still so excited about this world I’m creating. I am very mindful of the temptation to just write what the fuck I wanna write and damn what anybody else feels but that’s not really who I am as a creator.  I am challenging myself here and putting a lot of trust in my readers to let me know if I’ve fucked up.
Does this tickle your fancy?
How about a bite from the current iteration of the Daiyuverse?
Download the PDF to get a context free look at some stuff happening in the Daiyuverse. Want to read more?
One buck a month gets you access to the full novella in progress, usually a love letter or an essay or an extra goodie.
Also, your contributions are real live, tactit change. Your support helps actual human beings and that’s pretty cool.
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How to be a Cool Reader

Okay, my darling’ friends.

Can we talk a minute about being a reader on the internet?

So let’s pretend you come across a writer on the internet whom you’ve never heard of before. You read an article somewhere like Medium or here on wordpress let’s talk about stuff not to say to them.

  1. Don’t troll.
  2. Don’t point out that you are doing something they are talking about wanting folks not to do?
  3. Don’t assume they are brand new writers just because you’ve never read their work.
  4. Don’t ask them to give you their entire bibliography.
  5. Use fuckin google.
  6. Don’t be an asshole.
  7. Don’t use google to then find everything that person has written and comment on everything you can to tell them how much they suck.

I don’t say these things because feelings.

Most of the writers I know who have been doing so for more than five minutes have heard it all. I personally went through a lot with a group of commenters who hated a blog I had a long time ago, then when they realized I was a hated blogger who was writing at XoJane, they had at it.

Most of what they said made me scratch my head or just sort of chuckle. I mean, XoJane wasn’t known for the sweetness and light of their community, but y’all, some of them were just so silly. And yes, YES, I really did use a half a sentence in a 1200 word piece to poke a little gentle fun at them because it was funny. And as y’all might imagine, that didn’t go over well either.

That said, they did help me make the decision to no longer publish with Xo. The thing is, my feelings weren’t really hurt. I’ve heard worse from better. What bothered me was that I had to take the time to wade through that bullshit in order to get through to the folks who really had questions or wanted to talk.

People who take up space with bullshit are a pain in the ass.

I have made it a personal goal to never post extraneous comments on shit just because. If I kind of like something, if I really hate it. I just don’t. Mainly because my opinion is not that important and neither is yours.

Most of us who write on the internet, have to deal with a lot of shit. And frankly, there’s no reason for any of us to pipe up to be the shitty one.

I also say this because, most of the time the internet is a crap filled enough place. And really, if you have to point out that you don’t like a random article or blog post on the internet, ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Was this thing I don’t like for me? By that I mean, is it addressing you personally? Do you exhibit the behavior the author is talking about? If so, do you need to do it on their piece?
  2. Is what you have to say actually relevant?
  3. Are you just talking shit because you’re bored or whatever?

If you have to talk shit, here’s how without bothering the author, unless your main goal is to be an asshole.

  • Don’t direct link to the piece. If the author uses analytics and sees a shitload of traffic from one source, they are gonna come and look.
  • Don’t hotlink to their images.
  • Don’t decide that the author is wrong because of their looks, because you’ve never heard of them before etc. Especially if they are talking about their lived life.
  • Keep it amongst your friends. Talk about it in a group chat, text messages whatever.

Basically, keep the author out of it.

Lastly, I say these things because often people who engage in this behavior think they are offering some sort of critical response when 90% of the time they aren’t. They are sealioning, trolling or just being an asshole.

Don’t be an asshole.

If your critical response amounts to LOL LOOK AT ME TROLL, nah son.

Nah.

I personally either ignore that flavor of comment or, do the following:

stares
[image description: photo of Samual L Jackson from the film Pulp Fiction with white text that reads: Stares mutha fucker’ly]

What had happened was…

Currently I’m in an obsessive work mode.

I’m working on:

  • Finishing two poetry chapbooks.
  • SCLAB materials.
  • Protest fictions.
  • Daiyuverse. 

That’s pretty much all I can focus on. I am not a huge fan of the holidays so keeping them off my mind with work helps. This year has been particularly difficult, regular mundane life stuff has been intense.

As per usual for me, this time of year also brings me way down into a deep navel gazey type space. I’m looking at a lot of my endeavors, looking at what has been good, what has failed.

Some things that have happened this year more than other years:

  1. Me having to explain repeatedly when being criticized for not being journalistic in my work that I am not a journalist. Never have claimed to be. Not one time.
  2. Related, dealing with critique that my work is too personal or too emotional when I’m writing about my own lived life. Not theory- my actual history.
  3. Noticing that as I’ve expanded my audience somewhat, a lot of that audience *mainly white folks* seem to only read my work when I’m hurt or angry.
  4. Realizing that as hungry for my pain as those readers are, they are loathe to pay for my pain.
  5. When I’ve pointed this out to a couple of people who have wanted to give me exposure, crickets.
  6. I applied for four artist/writer grants. Got none.
  7. I still don’t really understand residencies you pay for. like, what about the rest of us?
  8. I’ve had to figure out when I will and won’t write about politics because I find it too emotionally draining to do for free.
  9. I’ve made way less money writing than I did in 2015. By a lot.

#9 has been the hardest. I spent a lot of time at points this year pitching, not hearing anything back, stressing. I also had the biggest dip in self confidence as far as the monetary worth of my work as a writer.

Y’all if I’m gonna keep it 100, that shit was the hardest thing. The disparity between what people I respect have said to me about work I’ve done and ideas I’ve had and the essential non response in the industry or offers of “exposure” etc fucked me all the way up. It got to the point of me really questioning whether or not I should start SCLAB again with Milcah, it had me freaking out that people don’t buy the work in my Etsy store even at rock bottom prices.

I was prepared to shut down all my writing related hustles because the failure of them really got to me. I really couldn’t get over the level of nobody gives three bucks worth of a fuck. A lot of my struggle was also due to finances being so much tighter this year. That living expenses, increase I had in early 2016 fucked everything up.

Add that with my failure to be a successful freelancer and y’all, shit has been a struggle.

My friend Ayla wrote this piece I’m Too Busy Being Poor To Be Creative. It is an old piece but super true.

My biggest challenge as a writer has been to find that place where I can do my best work and survive and it ain’t been easy. Shit is hard as fuck.

That said, how about some highlights from 2016?

There’s other stuff that happened.

So things were not all bad. it has been a huge struggle and a lot of things have flopped. I’ve had some really wonderful success as well.

As the year draws to a close, I’m mostly having to struggle with myself. I don’t want to succomb to bitterness and the salty anger I feel when I see shit get published and paid for. Yeah, it hurts a lot, but I can’t fix it.

Okay that’s it for right now. I will likely queue up some posts for a while so I can get down with my work.

If I don’t see y’all before hand, have a safe and happy new year.

 

Doing the Work

The greatest and best method for me to do the work and show my love for my community is to write.

In the last few years, every word I’ve written. Every. Single. One of thousands comes from my deep need to express my love for my community.

The essays, the stories, the rants the everything.

It is how I say I love you when I’m too overwhelmed to talk.

It is how I do the work.

That said, I need y’all to do me a favor.

Go to this piece on Medium and share the fuck out of it.

From the piece:

Right now in our political climate in the US, folks like me are not only dealing with our usual shit but also the added terror of worrying about being attacked, watching our White “allies” forget how to say White Supremacy, being called on for extra emotional/intellectual labor, having to (for my fellow writers this one is especially terrible right now) watch our White lady ‘allies’ do the most in order to get our help/labor for their own work and they offer nothing in return.

My community is in need.

This is the work.

Please help us.

Thank you.

Staying in my lane and some other noodling.

Over at Patreon I posted a chapter from my OG Daiyuverse and talked a bit about a chunk of plot I took out of the story. Here have a looksy.

I want to talk a bit more about staying in my lane and how I’m looking to pull inspiration from other cultures in this particular verse.

My particular situation arose from a subplot involving a cultural misunderstanding between a Creole Skinwalker and a young Navajo man over the name Skinwalker. The Creole boys people are able to literally walk in the skin of animals by psychically occupying their consciousness. Navajo Skinwalkers are not that in any way.

While I was making notes and researching this, my uppermost concern was that I wasn’t just being appropriative and grabby because it could make for a shiny bit of conflict. I am working really hard on creating ways of bringing together disparate cultures and creating magical traditions within those cultures and not falling on OH MAGICAL NEGRO tropes.

This bit of storyline in particular, I think I can do without being disrespectful, but in terms of the Daiyuverse it may not happen there. I’m not trying to be hamfisted about it. Also, I wasn’t entirely ready to talk about things like tribal solidarity and how that wound function in a sort of pancultural thing like The Institute, how could a Navajo sorcerer reconcile sharing his cultural religious practices AND his magic with outsiders?

I didn’t have answers for that so- bloop plotline put aside.

And this is where I say, I’m gonna stay in my damn lane.

Too many writers I see decide to take something shiny from a culture and run with it without there being a foundation of understanding of both the shiny bits and the struggles of a culture. Personally, I think that is how we wind up with so many Magical Negroes, and sooper spiritual Native folks etc. Too many people don’t take the time to dig deeper and work from a space where yes, YAY magical and brown, but also, this is shit going on within that culture that would shape this character.

For me, this is where I’ve seen things like the Strong Black Woman that don’t need nobody tropes come from and flourish. Even other Black writers can fall into the trap of wanting so badly to create a bad ass amazing character, that they forget that nobody can be that all the time. In the need to defy negative stereotypes, folks forget the squishy bloodiness that makes us human and characters become cardboard cutouts.

I’m currently re-reading Midnight Taxi Tango: A Bone Street Rumba by  my homie Daniel José Older and this is an area where I will point to and say LOOK at how he builds the humanity of his characters through their moments of weakness. In his universe, he’s populated this book with bad ass killers. These are mother fuckers you should be afraid of.

My personal favorite character Reza (if you haven’t read the book read this short and meet her) is one of the folks to be scared of. She’s confident and a gangster and through her swag and gun toting badassery, we see her afraid. We get to see her heart aching for Angie. We see her in full vengeance mode and she’s a person. 

Daniel took what could have been a badass butch cardboard cutout of a gangster and gave her a pulse.

In the context of my own work, especially within this urban fantasy Seattle/US I’m building, I’m paying close attention to the people who are inhabiting this world. I want them to have life and pulses and I don’t want to reread what I’ve done and wind up rolling my eyes cause I’ve not taken enough care to incorporate what I feel is important into the framework of these people.

I’m also taking an opportunity to poke some meta fun at Whiteness tropes. Especially in terms of the hippy dippy pretendian White lady fucking things up with her ignorance and sealioning (I JUST learned that word and it fit so perfectly in what I had notes about doing) causing problems with the legit magical culture in this world. I’m also doing it in an urban fantasy short that makes fun of the Whiteness of Elves type fantasy and the justification of it being “tradition”.

An interesting side effect of not only Turnip Winning but also of my own reactions and health is that, I’ve found a certain freedom I’ve not felt before and I’ll talk about it more when I don’t have a cold.

That’s all for right now y’all. I’m at work and really tired and about to pound coffee and pie until my teeth vibrate.

I will probably be doing some more process/craft nerdery soon because I have many thoughts.

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.

Nope.

Or I could call this survival in the face of White Supremacy clocking a big win.

If I’ve questioned myself as an artist lately, last night and today changed my mind.

I don’t know a lot of things. Including what my future holds, but I know this. I know why Trump won and I’m not surprised. If you are surprised, you’ve not paid attention to what people like me have been saying.

White Supremacy is a mother fucker.

The only reason I was with her was because I didn’t want this.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been having nightmares, I’ve been anxiety shitting and living with aimless terror.

Today I’m enraged.

I’m angry on multiple fronts. Last night I wrote this poem because I had to remember that’s what I know how to do.

Now I need to talk about something else entirely.

This is a real bad time for so called progressives to be abusing POC creators. Don’t ask us to contribute for free. Don’t ask us to continue to do the heavy lifting. Don’t turn to use to teach you how to fight, how to organize or where to pitch your bullshit.

Already just today I’ve had to fend off queries from folks who admire me and my work and my social justice warrior shit and who love me so much and value me so much, they want me to work for them for free. They want me to give what amounts to consults and talks and special writing and help placing their own work about this clusterfuck of a moment and offer zero compensation.

I woke up to several emails from different white people who are these type of fans. Not one of them offered me anything in return.

Not boosts for my various funding links.

Not a fucking Uber.

People in my direct community are terrified. Trans kids have been harming themselves. Friends who are in similar or worse financial straits as I am, have been questioning the purpose of them continuing to live and these mother fuckers want me to lean the fuck in?

White people.

White women, especially I’m talking to you right now.

How. Dare. You.

How DARE you try so hard to co-opt the struggles of MY foremothers the DAY after all you could talk about were your White Suffragette faves.

How DARE you disrespect us and expect us to come running to work for you for free.

We are not your goddamn mules.

We did not make this happen.

This post was partially spurred by my friend Wagatwe Sara Wanjuki. This happened to her today as well.

Now, any time people ask me to do shit for free, there is a process I go through to figure it out.

I will generally consider it more heavily from POC and Queer folks. For instance, when Yellow Chair offered space for WOC I jumped. I needed that. Offering space is something a lot of us need.

That is entirely different than one email I got in particular urging me to come lead some folks and make space for them and basically hold their hands and lead them to the promised land. They wanted my time, my work (work done just for them), step into a position of some type of instructor/mentor/Sweet Negress- I mean overall the outlined “position” was a fuck ton of fucking work.

If I did that, it would amount to probably a good 18-25 hours a week of unpaid work on top of my 12 hour dayjob.

I didn’t even count meatspace time.

Now, I dunno about y’all but I work on a limited number of spoons this is unreasonable.

Beyond that, this person and I are acquainted. Well we were, she blocked me on social media after I let her know how inappropriate her ask is. She KNOWS my situation in life. She KNOWS how hard I need to hustle to both survive AND create.

She used that whole well solidarity and racism is bad…yo.

You want to fight the good fight? Fucking fund it.

Look at my friend Wagatwe’s project here. You want to do some good? Stop giving your money to big ass faceless shit. Put up or shut the fuck up.

We (I will speak for Wagatwe here as well) have been doing the work. We are struggling so fucking hard, her in many similar and different ways than me.

And you have the gall to demand we show you solidarity?

Nah son.

Bitches can’t eat love or adoration or admiration.

We gotta eat.

So you know what? Don’t ask us to be your mule for solidarity.

Pay us what we’re worth.Go to Wagatwe’s facebook page and say, I value your work where do I send my money?

Don’t have money? Boost the FUCK out of our stuff. Help get us paid.

I will refer you to my recent post about helping me get funding.

Y’all I’m so tired.

I’m terrified. As much as I usually am. I’m disappointed mostly.

And I feel disrespected and like somebody (more than one right now) is trying to take advantage of my nature and you know what? No. Fuck out of here with that bullshit.