Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why I'm ashamed of my amazon account

The day is approaching when I will be a published author. The liminal people is still on track for publication in December, by small beer press. Having done so much already in the writing world, you'd think I'd be a little calmer about this fact, but no, I am a teenage girl on prom night when it comes to this book coming out. At 13 I'd promised myself that if I wasn't on the New York times best seller list by the wizened old age of 25, I would kill myself. I mean what would be the point of being an old writer, right? But now I'm older and am so thankful that my youthful ignorance didn't take me down any dark roads. Besides, who the hell wants to read a novel written by a 25 year old? Jokes!!!

But as I look back on this process, on what it's taken to get this book published, there's one person and one place I have to give thanks for. I want to be clear, I'm giving thanks for the help with the publishing and not the writing. I hate the writing. The writing is the affliction that some of us either do or end up in an insane asylum. I love the writing when it's good, it holds me and caresses me and tells me that in the end the comfort this world has is nothing compared to the comfort my own mind can give. I despise the writing for withholding that comfort from me until I get the phrase, the paragraph and the tempo just right, for me.
That's not this entry. This entry is about the polishing of the craft. Of turning the masturbation into intercourse if you will. One can be an excellent writer and have no one else ever see their work, even now in the age of the Internet. One can spend that time crafting the perfect sentence only to find it strikes like a club footed lindy hopper on foreign ears. A good writer needs a community. Renee swindle has been that community for me.

Ms. Swindle is a writer. She does nothing else but write and teach about writing. Real writers have day jobs, a prominent writer once told me, paraphrasing the worst bumper sticker ever. Renee's day job is talking about writing. She was kind enough to let me into one of her writing workshops a few years ago. She didn't like me at first, she would later tell me. But she let me in and workshopped the shit out of my paper babble along with about 12 other people.
Wine and snacks were provided, laughs were plentiful, but let's be clear, this was no bullshit session. In the vernacular of the black drag queens of my youth "ms. Renee gave much workshop". You couldn't coast with inattention to another's work. And when the critique came for your work, feel free to defend yourself, but you'd probably be better to just take it in. Because of Renee's commentary I tossed fifty pages and a title. "Your audience should be able to pronounce your title." she told me. Fair point. In return I had a tighter twenty pages. Still don't have a new title for that novel though.

At the end of that writing course, we had an open reading at Diesel, a small bookstore in Oakland. For all of Amazon's great selection and value you can't have a local reading there, especially if you're not even published yet. Diesel let a group of folks trying to get there shit together have a reading. If that's all they did, there's no way they'd stay in business. When my homie Chris lane needed to hype his new zombie book (a must for those down with the genre or those who appreciate awesome art), his big launch? Yup, Diesel. So when I self published the first edition of the liminal people and I needed brick and mortar spots to carry it, I hit up two spots: the now defunct comic relief, and Diesel.

More than carry the book people told me they hyped it. Anytime I came in they told me how it was moving, they were interested in me as a published author, even though I had only done the book on my own. Every time I walked into diesel, I felt like a writer. Still do.

When I was a kid I worked/volunteered , ever so briefly, at a legendary bookstore in Harlem called liberation bookstore. It's my standard of a community owned bookstore; knowledgeable staff, awesome selection, bargains, the holy trifecta. Diesel has all three plus readings. My heart soared when I saw a former student of mine working there for a summer job once. It's a damn good spot.

But I haven't been lately. The last book I got there was a discounted copy of winter's bone over six months ago. $4.00! Meanwhile my amazon shopping cart has 7 items in it, though to be fair two of them are dj gear shit. Still though, I'm an ass for not backing up the spot that's backed me up. I'm out of taken right now but here's a promise Diesel: when I come back, I'm blowing some paycheck $ with you.

As you Renee, nothing but love my friend. Thank you for your commitment to the craft. You're an inspiration.


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