I’m 33% of the way toward being fully funded—an artist who earns her living wage from individuals who value her work, and not from corporations and institutions that serve the status quo. I ask you, if you’ve ever benefitted from anything you’ve read on this blog in the last eight years—
(the anti-résumé, posts on self-care in social media, gender in theatre, data in theatre, diversity in literature, my travels in Iran, how to travel to Iran, non-monogamy, finding an agent, parental death, mansplaining, romantic love, living in Belize, creative control, childlessness, work ethic, day jobs for artists, body image, branding while female, self-cutting, harassment, sexual harassment, how to get published, learning a new language, depression, what it’s like to be at TED, discrimination in pop culture criticism, grief, writing practice, trans students at all-women colleges, living wage, self-doubt, new economic models, process porn, or hey, if you just came for the dresses!)
—then PLEASE WATCH THIS VIDEO.
In just under three minutes, it says everything I ever want to say about how economic models for artists are broken, how to fix them, my place in that equation, and YOUR place in that equation. Please watch. Please share. Please Patreon. I love this blog so much, but I can’t continue to write it unless I start making a living wage for my work. And then—I promise!—I will get back to blogging about things that aren’t Patreon😉 Thank you.
Hey yall. I’d like to share with you the new model of short fiction publishing I’m developing.
As most of you know, I’m on Patreon. And recently I came up against a problem with my original model, where I only published via established markets: even though I was placing my work regularly at great places—TED, Tor.com, Kaaterskill Basin, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Outlook Springs—the publishing world didn’t and couldn’t move at the pace I wanted to write, or at a pace that resulted in a steady income, as was my aim. That was no individual’s fault—it’s just how the system works at present.
So I asked my patrons what they thought about self-publishing. They basically said, Go for it, as long as your stories are still vetted by an experienced editor. (Here are all the survey data, password: “melovedata.”)
With my patrons’ good will, then, I wrote to a handful of writers and editors to ask whether they were interested in the following model:
- Every 1-3 months, I send them a new story, and they receive a flat assessment fee just for looking at it (currently $25 apiece, paid out of my Patreon income).
- Those who are willing to edit it, with public credit and attribution, get back to me with some initial thoughts for how they’d shape the story.
- I choose an editor, send them a contract, and pay them a fee for their work (currently $125, also paid out of my Patreon income). The contract also includes 15% of all future income from that story, including film options.
- The finished story is exclusive to my patrons for a minimum of one month, after which it may be published elsewhere, like a traditional market or Kindle Singles.
And that’s it. What’s new about this model is that it puts the writer in control of the publishing model, instead of at its mercy. So far, it’s gone beautifully. The editors I reached out to were gracious and game. My first self-published story will be out by the end of the month, available exclusively on my Patreon, edited by the award-winning novelist, short story writer, scholar, and editor Dr. Kat Howard. (I will say that it felt very strange to choose among such excellent suggestions from multiple editors; I hated saying no to anyone. Then again, this is exactly what editors have to do all the time, when faced with a pile of good stories and limited space.) Ideally, what I want is for multiple writers to go this route, which would then sustain a population of freelance editors, and these one-off pairings would then become eligible for awards, anthologies, etc., just like stories published in the traditional way.
So! If you find this model useful, copy it. Spread it far and wide. Let’s see what happens.
Here is the work for which my patrons have paid me a salary during the month of June. All of it would have gone almost or entirely unpaid, otherwise, and therefore, would not have been possible without their support.
- Ten thousand words of writing practice, otherwise known as morning pages.
- Writing morning pages in Spanish every Sunday, and so keeping up my skills until I can afford an immersion course.
- Two comprehensive revisions of The Nameless Days, the first of my novel trilogy set in Belize. The first volume takes place in the world of the ancient Maya, shortly after the collapse of the urban centers, and required enormous amounts of research.
- Preparing The Nameless Days for submission, including penning a summary of the whole trilogy, and making a schematic overview.
- Writing the script, making the posters for, and co-producing the Patreon video for my theatre company, Little Green Pig.
- Drawing up the Patreon budget, strategy, and projections for Little Green Pig.
- Three strategy meetings with Dana Marks, Managing Director of Little Green Pig, for our Patreon launch.
- Giving three interviews about Little Green Pig’s Patreon launch.
- Giving an interview for my friend Julia Collins (aka Jeopardy Julia!)’s forthcoming podcast for teenaged women.
- Collaborating on a new model of short fiction publishing with a pool of freelance editors.
- Reading and giving feedback on a new novel manuscript for a fellow author.
- Advice to fellow artists on Patreon, crowdfunding, publishing, and economic models.
- Publicizing my story published on Tor.com, “Traumphysik,” as well as the TED Ideas essay and the Forum Theatre season announcement.
- Writing 42 postcards to patrons, both at the $5 level (art postcard) and $2 (local postcard) level.
- Installing 100% more shelf space in my study to accommodate my research and reference library.
- Social media posts, read by ~14,000 readers across seven platforms, on artistic practice, living wages for artists, direct giving, gun violence, nationalism, feminism, gentrification, and self-care on social media.
- Twenty hours of exercise.
- Finishing Girls and Game of Thrones, both of which are not only entertaining but extremely useful to my writing.
- Two days off, during which I went out to lunch, walked in Eno River State Park, and read Sofia Samatar’s The Winged Histories.
And here is the work I’m planning for the month of July (though with the novel on submission, all of this is subject to rearrangement). Again, for this work, I would otherwise receive no or almost no pay. Without my patrons, I would not be able to do this work.
- Ten thousand words of morning pages, with paginas en español every Sunday.
- Discussing sale and publication of my novel trilogy with acquiring editors at publishing houses (it’s finally submission time!).
- Meeting with potential Patreon sponsors (small businesses, philanthropists) in Durham.
- Editing, making, and distribution of a new exclusive story to patrons entitled “A Very Canadian Birthday.”
- A fair fee to a freelance editor for their work on “A Very Canadian Birthday.”
- Revising my short story “Alexandria” for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and my short story “Night Train to Madurai” for another editor who has requested it.
- Finishing a new short story about first contact with aliens, working title “Axis Naught.”
- Collaborating on a photo series with a local photographer.
- Writing a series of essays on the future of theatre as an art form, tentatively titled Theatre as Hyperlocal, Theatre as Multivariate, and Theatre as Unhaveable.
- Coalition-building in Durham for support of Little Green Pig’s Patreon campaign.
- Crunching statistics for Little Green Pig to prepare a handout for potential donors in Durham.
- Holding a private info session about Patreon for Little Green Pig company members.
- Holding a public info session about Patreon for the greater public on Durham’s Third Friday Art Walk.
- Meeting with local artists to discuss the possibility of a Durham-wide Patreon network.
- Social media posts, read by ~14,000 readers across seven platforms.
- Taking my birthday off (July 13) to go kayak in Saxapahaw, eat Ethiopian food, and bring a huge sheet cake to my favorite bar.
To summarize: I am doing creative work and organizational work that current capitalist economic models do not monetize. I’m finding a way to monetize them, through Patreon. My patrons pay me a salary for this work, and in exchange, get exclusive stories, postcards, audiobooks, and insider accounts of my process. If you value the work I do, please consider joining! Thank you so much.
Gorgeous cover art by Keith Negley.
Friends: today I have a brand new story up on Tor.com, edited by the Hugo Award-winning Ann VanderMeer. It’s about a brilliant young physicist stranded on a Pacific atoll during World War II…and what happens when she starts to chronicle the laws of motion in her dreams.
And if you like it and want to read more of my stories, join my Patreon—I have a new story dropping in just a couple weeks!
I posted this on Facebook a few months ago, and wanted to repost it here, because I think it’s extremely important, especially for women, people of color, and other persons often put in the position of having to explain or defend their life experiences: You can set your boundaries on social media. If people don’t observe them, you have no obligation to engage them further. And if you want to borrow my words to make this clear to your own social media circles, feel free to quote me. Love.
“Since I’ve now lost two (male) friends who posted argumentative comments on my thread about Hillary, after I stated explicitly that I was not looking to engage in debate on it, then reiterated that point to them privately and respectfully after I deleted their comments, to which they responded badly, let’s make something perfectly clear:
My page is not a public forum. It is my forum that happens to be in public. It is not a newspaper that needs to be “balanced.” It does not owe anyone else space. Facebook currently does not allow posts with comments disabled; if it did, I’d have used that option for the latest post, as bloggers do all the time when they don’t have the mental or emotional energy for debate. In the meantime, I have every right to curate threads—for whatever reason I want, because it’s my space; but my overriding concern is protecting myself, my time, and my energy in a patriarchy that is hostile to women. This isn’t some flippant thing I decided overnight. It’s a conscious choice after years of dealing with men on demand, on their terms, for their edification.
So if I see a argumentative comment on a post where I’ve explicitly asked for no engagement, I don’t read it, and it takes me half a second to delete it, regardless of content. Unfair? Censor-y? Whatever. I’ve seen women in public space burn out over and over because they feel obligated to give everyone their time, and are attacked when they don’t. We can’t afford more women burning out. Guess what: I choose to get back to my wonderful life instead of indulging you. I choose to be happy. A woman serving herself and her own needs is a radical act in our society, and it overrules your compulsion to express your pet digs. If you want to call it “censorship,” be my guest, except that there are literally thousands of social media opportunities any person in the U.S. has to express their opinion, especially if they’re white men. What you call censorship, I call curating a microcommunity that reflects a world I want to live in. One wherein—at the very least—when a woman states her boundaries, she is respected.”
The short answer is: they don’t. I don’t, and would like to. I write about the modern artist’s dilemma, warts and all, in my new essay for TED, and what I’m doing to solve it. My new economic model is my Patreon. Come look! We’re building the future o’er there.
…and I’m not posting it to fault Juilliard somehow, but just because I believe in radical transparency about what an artist’s life looks like. (See my anti-résumé for more on that.)
One of the reasons I wanted to go was to explore and enact the ideas I have about theatre. I think they’re rare and bold and would transform the field. Juilliard has a Big Name that would have been really useful to me. They strongly encouraged me to reapply, which I appreciate. I’ll see how I feel in a few months. Can I change the system from inside it or outside it? Inside or outside? This is a constant question for me. What doesn’t change is the fact that the field is broken. (If you think it’s all peachy as-is, go away. My work is not for you.)
So instead of relying on institutional permissions and platforms, I’m going to write my ideas down here, on my blog, in a three-part series over the next month or so. If you find merit in the ideas, please share them. If you want to work with me, get in touch.
But for starters, here’s my Juilliard application essay, verbatim. It’s a primer on everything I believe about theatre. Thank you for reading.
“Creation is my epistemology. I learn things by making them up.
Right now, I’m trying to learn what theatre does that no other art form does. Whatever it is, I think the vast majority of contemporary theatre doesn’t do it.
What feels crucial to me is that the evolutionary root of theatre is ritual: the gestures, sounds, and practices that the earliest humans used to create sublime space in the midst of mundane space, to access the infinite through the finite.
In other words, the unique currency of ritual—and therefore theatre—is the live human body.
Because of that, the effect of good theatre is also most felt in the body. I call it the feeling of “radical presence,” also called duende by Lorca. Sometimes I walk out of a show so full of energy that I have to burn it off by beating my fists on the wall or running around the block. I can name only a handful of times I’ve ever felt it—a performance at the Shi’a zurkhaneh in Yazd, Iran; a reading of Fixing King John in a theater lobby on a Sunday afternoon; a Catholic Mass on the island of Aitutaki; a retelling of Anne Frank in a condemned Durham garage. I came away wanting to scream. And I came away wanting to make theatre that makes people want to scream.
In contrast, the vast majority of theatre I’ve seen just produces glossy simulacra of radical presence. The priorities are safety and replicability. So I’m not interested. I’ll just go watch a good film or television show, like most people do. I won’t say U.S. theatre is dying as a whole, but I can and will say with confidence that because so much theater fails to do what only theatre can do, it’s an art form now almost completely peripheral to the cultural mainstream.
But I think strong leadership can reverse that. And I want to be one of those leaders. That is part of my long-term plan as an artist.
To do that, I want to identify what makes theatre theatre, and no other art form, and championing that in everything I write for the medium. I want to do that at Juilliard. What I need now is structured mentorship from industry professionals, fellowship with other progressive-minded playwrights, access to like-minded leaders in the field, and opportunities to see as many shows as possible in New York.
I’m only applying to Juilliard. I want to attend for the reasons just mentioned, but also because, with Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, I’ve been lucky to have written all my plays for a specific ensemble of actors. I firmly believe a playwright works best that way. I want to continue that at Juilliard and, more broadly, to build an intimate community of collaborators I trust in New York. That, too, is essential to my long-term plan as an artist and leader.
Thank you for your consideration.”