Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Wow! Six posts in 2014? To put it mildly, I was busy. I made this blog to discuss being a small press writer, and that's what I'm going to use it for in the coming year. I haven't published too much this year, and all the travel and life changes have kept me from writing too much. I have, however, been reading a lot, which is the best nutrition. Anyways, year in review.

January--I toasted the New Year at the Free Ride bike shop in Pittsburgh. Spent some time in Philly and NYC. Most memorably, I taught my first college creative writing course. I'd been wanting to teach writing since I got to Louisiana. There were pitfalls here and there, as with any first time teaching a course, but I got to introduce students to some of my favorite writers. Learned some of my own strengths and limitations along the way.

February--I turned thirty. Celebrated by going to Krewe de Vieux in New Orleans. It passed in a blur of parties and brass bands and dancing. My actual 30th birthday was pretty low key, as I didn't have tons of folks to celebrate with at my school. Went out to a bar with two friends and had some drinks. Went to bed.

March--Second year attending the Associated Writers and Writing Programs Conference. As before, it was fun, exhilarating, infuriating, and overwhelming. I learned the usefulness of book fairs. At  points there was nobody manning the UL Lafayette table, so I just sat my black ass down and peddled my books. Sold some too. Just from sitting there! Foolishly, I did not table at either NASFIC or WFC. My friend Patty Templeton tabled at both (congrats on your book, Patty!) and informed me she sold briskly. I'm still slowly learning the business aspects of this.

After the conference, I deplaned in Houston, which was in the middle of a freezing ice storm. I was tired and wanted to go home. My options were a) stay at the cold and crowded Greyhound station until 9 in the morning to get a bus to Lafayette, or b) take an 11 pm Megabus to New Orleans. Did I mention the Megabus had heat?

Me: "Guess I'm going to Mardi Gras."

Got into New Orleans at six am. Had an early morning Bloody Mary at a gay bar. Caught up with some friends. Saw the Zulu Parade. Went to a bar on Frenchman where I, no exaggeration, saw ten different people who I had met in ten different places over the course of a half hour.

April--I've been waiting my whole life to tell a class of college freshmen: "Class is canceled due to Wrestlemania." Not the whole truth; class was canceled for the Monday Night Raw AFTER Wrestlemania. The one with a bunch of drunk Europeans/older fans who don't like the WWE that much and troll the performers. Probably the best night of wrestling every year. Spending a weekend in New Orleans with a couple thousand pro wrestling fans is as close to Heaven as I'm going to get. Saw Kaiju Big Battle and SHIMMER (awesome women's wrestling). Got to boo the Ultimate Warrior, who they had the nerve to trot out in a city he said deserved to get hit with a hurricane. And no, him being dead does not make him a saint. Fuck that. Got to see the American Dragon Bryan Danielson, best wrestler on Earth, win the championship on the biggest stage. So glad this year was actually a good Wrestlemania, 'cause the past few years they've been garbage. While I will probably be a wrestling fan forever, I decided this would be my "series finale" for World Wrestling Entertainment. They ain't gonna top the image of the whole arena chanting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" It was glorious.

May--I quit my job. Set off the financial insecurity of the rest of the year. It's been hard. Really hard. Though not as hard as it would have been if I didn't have a support network. I had finished my coursework for my PhD program, but I was not writing. I wasn't inspired where I was at. If I stayed for the next year, I would be studying for tests, not working on my projects. So it was time to go home. Caught a plane to Philly in the middle of finals week, my luggage stuffed with my creative writing class' final portfolios. It's amazing to think how natural travel is for me. Greyhound to New Orleans, flight to Philly, Bolt to NYC. Cross-country travel feels like passing between rooms sometimes.

Oh, and I saw "Last Lovers Alive," or whatever it's called. Gotta agree with the fangirls. Tom Hiddleston is hot. I still don't care about Marvel movies.

June--Moved into a new place in Oakland. Noted with shock how fast gentrification is going in Oakland (the "new Brooklyn," according to some dumbass New York Times article). Did a small press book fair in Seattle. Rode up with some queer kids from New Orleans. Rode back down with the most Burning Man-iest of Burning Man hippie chicks and a van full of Rainbow Gathering people. Broke my laptop :(

In the meantime, writing. Not to the extent or quality I wanted to. In Louisiana, I got seriously unproductive, writing-wise. After putting out my last book, I didn't really have a direction, either for my art or marketing my art. But there was a variety of tough things going on. I'd essentially reset my life, creatively, professionally, personally. This was the unavoidable floundering period.

July--Took a three-day Greyhound trip to a city without water for the North American Science Fiction Convention. The con was fun. All the diversity programming made me feel welcome. Lots of cool paneling about Octavia Butler and the panel I moderated on Afro-futurism went great. Seeing the moves that big business is making to privatize water, in California and Michigan, not so fun. Forget Hunger Games. People of color are living in dystopia and always have been. This would get more evident as the year went by.

Cool story: I almost got left by Greyhound in Denver. The driver said the bus was full even though I had a reboard ticket. The prospect of missing more of the con upset me, let alone having to spend another minute in that overlit refugee camp of a Greyhound station. As the bus was ready to leave and I was calling my friend to try and get a plane to Detroit, this college girl I met on the bus ran off and told me to get on. She told the driver I was in her crew and that was enough. By the way, there were totally five open seats on that bus. Greyhound is, and always will be, the worst company ever. But people can be awesome.

August--Started a job teaching first grade after school literacy. Bore witness once more to the racist dynamics in public education. Started considering, and still am, getting my certification in elementary ed. This coincided with the uprisings in Ferguson, one of the more uplifting things I've seen this year. Read at a Ferguson benefit. Started a relationship.

September--Ended a relationship. Dealt with severe depression. And I still am. Had a hard time leaving the house for anything other than work.

October--Got fired from my job. Specifically, because the FBI clearance was taking too long. It got back to them with my clean record--two weeks after they'd fired me. Ugh. Still reeling from having no income. On the plus side, I had a fun Halloween in the Mission. The kids were wearing all kinds of cute costumes.

November--This country does not give a fuck about black people. Every news story was about cops exonerating themselves for the murder of black children. The escalation of violence against black and brown bodies was on my mind, everybody's mind. One thing I think it's important to emphasize: rioting, looting, fighting back is the legacy of black people. It is what we have always done. We have never been docile, never laid down for the extreme cruelty done by this white supremacist state. Every black child gets fed lies that the most important event for black liberation was the passage of civil rights laws, which were achieved entirely through peaceful protest (lie). The most significant thing to happen for Afro-Americans in the last 400 years was the abolition of slavery. Hard as life is, we are not slaves. That means something. Abolition was achieved through uprising, rioting in northern cities, escape, ultimately fighting in a war against the slave states. We gained our biggest achievement through violence. And the kids fighting cops in the streets know this. So that was uplifting to see: their miseducation did not work.

Saw Dear White People. Good movie, glad it was made. Felt weird to me that one of two black movies to come out this year (the other, as far as I know, being Annie) was about blacks in the Ivy League. Something most black people can't relate to. It felt foreign to me in some ways, and I have enough college degrees to make wallpaper. I'd just spent two months watching black first graders get antagonized, ignored, and generally feared by their white teachers. Those kids have been given up on. They will be lucky to get anywhere near college, though they'll have ample opportunity to go to prison or get Darren Wilson-ed. So racism in the Ivy league is a very small part of the black struggle. They should make a sequel called Dear White People: Stop Fucking Shooting Us and I think they'll reach a bigger audience.

I read at Mellow Pages Library in NYC, did a house reading in Philly, and read at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington DC. It was a good time where I got to reconnect with old friends in all three cities. World Fantasy was weird to me this year, because it was so white. No effort at diversity paneling, And, yes, it's nice to party and drink and hang out with fantasy nerds. I did all that. But this is the place where people meet agents, where deals go down, and it's a prestige club for the few who can afford to go. Coincidentally, or not, because we live in a world with more than one type of person, there was a big gossipy kerfluffle at the con regarding a blogger of color who had pissed people off. So there were conversations going on about racism in the "SFF community," which is not, and has never been, a community. These conversations were not in any type of public forum, where it would've been most useful.

However, a woman of color won Best Novel at the awards. Well deserved. And to nobody's credit but hers, because she wrote the best book. So even while writers of color are being excluded, they are still pushing the genre forward.

Really makes me wish WFC had some kind of student discount like AWP. Or . . . something. When I'm in a monochromatic space, I feel like an ethnographer. No matter how nice people are, I don't feel entirely comfortable or a part of the space. That whole week was hard for me personally, despite being surrounded by friends. Minus the literary heroes of mine who were at Toronto, I didn't have as much fun at WFC as I did in 2012.

Best advice was from a lady at the art show. Not a writer, just a fan. She correctly pointed out that George R.R. Martin was writing for forty years before he got all this money thanks to a TV show. Before that, he was scrabbling just like any writer who shows up to cons like this. Perseverance is a huge part of it.

December--I saw the BIRTHDAY MASSACRE!!!!! So good! Such a good show! This is the band that drew me back to goth music and OH MY GOD THEY WERE GOOD!!!1111 SQUEEEEE!

I worked on a novella called "Queens of the Emerald Palace." It is almost done, and feels like some of my best work. Protested. Did yoga.

Needless to say, I wished I'd done in-depth blogs about some of these events. But there's something to be said for living in the moment and leaving the reflection for later. I'm excited for more adventures. Happy New Year!