bITS 'N CHUNKS
Hello, it's me again, the owner of this site.
Well shipmates, it's been quite a wild ride these past few months. I lost my day job, regained a day job, lost that day job, took a vacation for a while. I was not really in a position to do all that, but for the sake of my mental health I had to do that.
In that time, I did work. I wrote. I did a little something something. I went to wrestling again. I disappointed myself. I read. I maintained the illusion of productivity and when I screamed and tore that all down, I did absolutely nothing. And I can't say I didn't enjoy it.
But let's talk about a... weird experience that I didn't really get into at the beginning of the year.
So a while ago, I did a The Biz post on paid in exposure versus paid in cash. In that post, hopefully I expounded that I'm a little more lax in my ideas of writers getting "paid" in exposure. Does it always work? Not really. You get your name out there in front of someone, but being paid for your efforts and labor is a lot better than not. But I do believe the question then and always is, how the hell do you stop getting paid in dust?
It's... hard. And in 2018 the year of our lord, I feel like I'm back to square one with that position.
I've taken a gamble on volunteer contributions. Generally these are projects I strongly believe in and are fun to do for me. These blogs are free, obviously. Recently, if you don't follow me on social media, you may not know that I've been doing recaps of Lucha Underground for Blerds Online. If you've tumbled by my space recently, you'll know that I love wrestling. Scratch that, you'll know that I fucking love wrestling. I've enjoyed the challenge of recapping a television show, something I've seldom done... and a balls to walls wrestling show at that. I feel like I would like to do that in the future, but for now I'm just trying to finish the end of the season.
I do other blog projects for free, too. I have no real expectation of getting paid in that arena. I'm glad to offer my expertise and get a few new eyes on me in the process, and try something different.
But what happens... marginalized folks, feel me on this. What happens when you're the token? What happens when conditions and terms aren't clear?
There was an article I contributed to a site a while ago. I very much believed in this project and it was an analysis that I wanted to contribute, but per the site guidelines and owner themselves I was kind of expecting some money. In the course of hashing it out with the editor, I noted that not a single time did we ever discuss online payment. The obvious answer is because: it wasn't happening. There was a bit of fine print that wasn't explained to me. And because my contribution was a website blog, I would get a gift package as a compensation (which I never received, mind you). I'm not afraid of naming and shaming but in this case I'd rather not, I have a strong suspicion that no one's really submitting to that place. Plus, I kind of did on social media already. Whoops!
Another one I'm not about to name is... well, you ever get paid for something then quickly realize it was penance? Kind of like how people will eat a shitty diet consistently then turn around and drink a gallon of water and assume it'll purify them? I submitted a piece to a popular satirical news site because they were looking for black writers. I fit that bill. News writing isn't really my thing, but I decided to swing at it. Plus, they paid. Oh, they paid alright. In the end, they paid for my blackness, never published the piece (to be fair, it was pretty niche), then hired two black staff writers right behind me so they didn't need me anymore.
Why would I tell that story? Because it's whiteness at work. It's confusion. It's so long & thanks for all the fish, but I didn't really need it. You know? That was my first time feeling tokenized in a very long time and I was happy to forget how gross it felt up until that point.
I'm fine. I keep trying, of course. I try not to burn bridges, but the Leo/Aquarius combo in me sometimes just can't keep it chill. And I want you to know, too. All I can say is... be careful.
Greetings shipmates, let's chop it up for a minute:
Well, this season has been productive so far but that means I haven't had a ton of time for my personal projects as I take on more work and do my day job... to be honest I'm fine with that. The time for writing for the sake of writing will come again. For now, I'm just pleased that y'all are enjoying my work in any capacity. That being said, I do have some stuff in the works to show y'all and some things I might want to promote real quick. I'm getting around to revamping this site one of these days, it probably just isn't going to happen when I planned. This year, though! There's nothing actually wrong with the format to be honest with y'all, I just like change.
First of all, I'm working on a second personal site focused on my tarot readings. If you follow me on Instagram you will see that at least weekly or every other week I'll talk about a particularly intriguing reading and people seemed to enjoy that. This new blog will be focused on tarot readings without a lot of the heady spiritual stuff i.e astrology or... whatever. I respect that if you do it but I have found there is a niche market of us who don't. I'll explain more when the site is (finally) up, because Wordpress is taking me right on through there.
Speaking of sites, in addition to my work on Global Comment I'm also now with B-Movie BFFs hosted by my good friend Kelly Hogaboom. As you can probably tell, this site is dedicated to exactly the kind of schlocky cult B-Z grade fiction that I love and I hope you'll check it out not just for me but Kelly's insights too!
I've been running a Spreadshirt shop for my menhera activities for a while called Angel System, but I haven't promoted it a lot lately because I've just been trying to find the energy for new designs. I'm working on doing some bulk orders whenever I cough up the capital for it but for now if you see anything you like you can get it right from the site.
What else, what else... oh, just be ready to see some more gender-related posts, more wrestling, more convention chat, and more music as my social calendar slowly fills up. You know us writer types, can't do shit without submitting it somewhere.
Okay, so when you decide to venture out into writing and you get into business for yourself and you read any kind of self-help guides, one of the big glaring neon type things any decent person will tell you is
DON'T WORK FOR FREE
*followed by a list of people rationalizing why you should work for free so you can get exposhah.
Now, exposure is good. For me, since writing is not my primary job at the moment, there are definitely times when I don't mind getting published for free. Makes my resume look good and chances are I'll come away with some new friends and/or connections. I'm not mad at small 'zines and publishers for not paying a token amount most of the time because. Not getting paid does not mean I half-ass it either, but the thing is
No one told me when or how to not work for free. I think it's supposed to be innate but it's…not.
It hasn't happened to me yet, fortunately, but it really sucks when the beast exposhah takes advantage of young authors who don’t know when to price themselves (all the time) versus when it's okay to drop a little somethin' somethin'. I can't do "making friends and influencing people" all the time, but there are people out there who will treat you like you're brand new every time.
I kind of got it together eventually, but at first I never really did due diligence on figuring out when I should be paid and what an industry standard was, for example. I thought I would get my novel published for a sum and get royalties. Then when I scoffed at novel writing, I thought I'd get a few short stories going and lead people into my real work whenever I was ready for The Novel or a short story collection. That's kind of how it works in Fanficland! Then I thought I'll just publish myself. I was…naïve.
I finally figured it out in the artist alley of a convention one October. When you go to the big conventions with the big artists, you see them charging a hefty penny for sketches. That sounds wild, but we really do pay that much for a Hawkgirl portrait. Meanwhile, you go to the small conventions with the small (sometimes schmedium) artists and see prints for $15, $20. Something ludicrously low. The same work, same skill level, same art, but at a 200% markdown. I was chopping it up with an artist, commiserating about fanboys who will come and try to haggle a $10 necklace to ash. And here I am with an intricate print created by hand at a low, low price just to keep them at bay.
"Yeah," the artist mutters. "They hate that."
They being the big names. The ones charging accurately, maybe overcharging, but a fair sight better. It clicked. Oh, to need to charge MORE but you can't for fear of driving away business. How do you get to the point to what you deserve?
Strictly business. Inwardly, I was resisting bringing business into something I love. I couldn't separate the practicality of earning a living doing what I enjoy versus demanding people pay me for something I'm shaky about. Then, why am I here? Why am I dragging the market down by hiding against the shadows and hissing, "hey, whatever you want, I can do that for free."
I knew I should probably get like $10 at some point, but how? It wasn't really until I looked into serious publishing and saw the rates that I was just like wow! Those publishers that were paying were big deals and had high standards and even higher rejection rates. I got a little intimidated. I got a lot intimidated. Then there was the period I just wasn't writing anything in particular…
So by the time my Rolling Stone piece came about, it was the perfect mix of an Internet meme hitting peak fever, someone I deeply respect passing an opportunity to me, and I hope to goodness actual skill. You might call that luck plus preparation or whatever they say in those self-help manuals. But the truth is, I had very minimal control over that. Was that years of "exposure" finally turning into something or just a fluke? Once I was done being excited, I realized I had to…focus.
I was doing silly isht for exposure that only works for some people, not necessarily me. I admit I'm a little confrontational on social media (I still am) so I'm either losing friends or gaining them, but will they continue to support my work or are they just here for some quick tea? Hmm.
What I decided was, free work was okay but I gotta limit it to a few people that I enjoy working with and have worked with in the past and really promote myself. But that whole exposure thing has to come from me, me myself. I post stuff for free on this very blog all the time and you guys see it. Thank you! But before this site I had to wonder who was really seeing it. Friends, family, sure, but a lot of internet strangers? People who would actually seek me out even though my stuff was scattered all over? I needed something way more cohesive than what I was doing. You know, like an actual resume. Ahh, so that's why everyone has a personal site with a theme and shit.
Those samples have led me to some pretty good work but I realized I had to stop doing the If You Build It… game to myself and not only build it, but pass out fliers and shove people into The Construct. I had to be less scared. I had to gain that thing called confidence and self-actualization. I had to treat it like a business. I treat myself like a business. I resisted it for so long but I finally came home to it, and to be honest I'm a lot happier for it.
Recently, I received a copy of Welcome Home, an anthology of short stories centered around adoption. I'm not adopted myself but I have plenty of people in my life who are, are adoptive parents themselves, or at least interested in the process. Also, I'm not someone that reads young adult fiction on a regular basis…but here I am. Although it's not my forte, representation and visibility are important to me and it's especially important that young people are able to see themselves reflected in the literature they read.
That being said, cracking this open I still wasn't sure what to expect. What does an adoption story look like, really? I combed my recent memory and realized I don't really know. The last positive depiction of adoption I saw was on Doc McStuffins, which was great because it involved a black family to boot. But an anthology of stories? I recognized a lot of the names and I was very happy to see a great variety of authors writing from a multitude of experiences. These stories have a wide spectrum of representation across an impressive variety of genres from gen lit to dystopian cyberpunk.
To say I was surprised might come a little condescending, but I was. And pleasantly so! What we have here is a solid collection of stories that really expanded my thoughts and made me realize I was all wrong. Anthologies can be hit or miss and highly subject to taste of course, but I'm very happy to say this collection is all killer and almost filler. I really do think there's a little something for everyone in here. The stories are sensitive and obviously written from personal experiences. I laughed, I cried, I got caught in my feelings, just the gamut of emotions. I also appreciated that the stories tackled the emotional aspects of adoption as well, but also cultural issues that span countries, language barriers, sometimes planets. The stories reaches across multiple aisles including race and sexuality to make what I would consider a very inclusive collection. And as I've harped on, inclusiveness is nothing if it's not inclusive of bleeping everyone.
Reading this anthology made me realize the dearth of positive & accurate depictions of adoption there are out there. Movies are especially bad. Adoption is often seen as a last, desperate resort or a step above the changeling fantasy. Don't even get me started on horror and sci-fi movies. Those stories are obviously far from the truth of what adoption is, but they just don't help the perception. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding the topic. It's getting better sometimes, but reading these stories and the book announcement from editor Eric Smith made me realize there is still so much work to be done. These stories, to me, truly do that work to create understanding, to normalize and center the experience. A couple of my personal recommendations out of here are "A Kingdom Bright and Burning" by Dave Connis, a cathartic story about a young boy trying to work through trauma and learning to communicate with his adoptive family; "Webbed" by Julie Eshbaugh was another great highlight and kind of flipped my expectation of the changeling family, and included discussion of physical deformities to boot; and William Ritter's "Deeply" is...something that has to be seen to be believed.
(Sidenote: as a native Tennessean, how hyped was I to see a lot of my home state people repped here! Yeehaw.)
Anyway, if I've recommended Welcome Home to you already I will recommend it again and again because I can't say enough good things about it; please put it in the hands of an adult or a child that needs it, request it at a library, and if you need it yourself please check it out from wherever good books are sold.
Do you think a lot about finding your aesthetic? Or what that even means?
I was finally able to see Bladerunner 2049 (which is excellent) and one of the things that struck me, visually, is how it captured the Philip K. Dick aesthetic maybe even better than the original. Of course, there have been technological advantages since then to help out with that. The liberal usage of CGI enhances the artificiality of this dystopian cyberpunk world. Bladerunner did its best and is still very good, but it's a very urban story and kind of hampered by the mysteries in the plot (also known as inconsistencies, also known as "is Harrison Ford a damn replicant or not").
The sequel leaned in a lot more to the cyberpunk aesthetics than the noir, although that was well enforced as well. Forgive me the reference, but it was very Chinatown. That being said, tonally both Bladerunner and the sequel and subsequent shorts in the 'verse are and have always been way off. They tell a much more romantic story than "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" That's cool because I don't expect my movie adaptations of books to get every last nook and cranny right and I'm glad even when they shoot for 70%. If Bladerunner the movie is Chinatown, then "Do Androids..." is No Country for Old Men. Anyway. As usual, I'm struggling to get to the point.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...