I’ve been avoiding the blog. Even though there are 4,000 of you reading. And last night, driving home from my Lyft shift, I finally realized why: because of a comment I got here recently. To paraphrase, it said: “I’ve really valued your posts in the past, but now, you’re talking too much about your Patreon. It’s getting tiresome. If you keep doing this, I’m just going to look elsewhere for content. Just thought I’d be honest.”
It hurt a lot, so I deleted it quickly before it could hurt more, but hey, it did its damage. So thanks, commenter, you knew exactly how to get to me—by basically saying that you felt entitled to free work from me at a time when I was staying home eating nothing but grits to get by. Cool. Thanks.
Those of you who follow me on Facebook know the whole story of my last few months, but for those of you who don’t, it’s here. The good news is, I’m in a better situation now specifically because I made changes in the way I valued my work, and because my community responded. And I’m not going to apologize for that. Or for posting about my Patreon. It is literally my job.
For years, I could afford to write essays for free on this blog, because my money was coming from somewhere else. In the future, when my basic needs are met through Patreon, commissions, and other sources, and I can afford to occasionally write for free, I definitely want to! On this blog! About all kinds of things! But right now, I can’t. Right now, I’m working primarily for the people who are paying me—my patrons on Patreon—and they’re getting my thoughts and essays and stories and letters and pictures and travelogues and videos and audiobooks and they’re all REALLY REALLY GOOD. As good as anything you’ve ever read here.
So if you can afford to pledge just $1 a month for all that content? Go here! If you can’t, I understand!, and I’ll write here whenever I can afford to. But if you want to write a comment shaming me for trying to make a living from my work, don’t. I’ll delete it. And this time, I won’t feel bad about it.
Photo source: The Independent.
When I read about badass businesswoman-artist-musician Kiran Gandhi running the London Marathon without a tampon, I was like, “Oh! You can do that?”
And ever since, during my period, I just sit on dark towels, and it is the loveliest thing.
I find that it “works” even though I’m a really heavy bleeder. That most of the blood just comes out when I go to the bathroom anyway. That I really dig not having to stick anything up inside myself, especially when they’re expensive (tampons) or give me yeast infections (Divacup). I just get to let my body work the way it’s designed to work.
Granted, I’m at home most of the time, so it’s not like I’m risking a lot of social stigma here. And I do still wear a tampon when I go to the gym. But when the entirety of the “feminine supplies” industry is built on the assumption that there’s something inherently wrong with our bodies, I notice that freebleeding is just another, tiny, deeply satisfying way to say, “No there’s not.”
Photo credit: Citona Marie Rygg.
My first story exclusively published for patrons is HERE! It’s called “Birthday Girls,” it was edited by the amazing Kat Howard, and it’s about a shy Norwegian secretary with a candy fetish. OH and it’s semi–autobiographical.
Haven’t signed up yet? Go here! $1 is all it takes to get access to this and ALL of my stories, no matter where they’ve been published (Tor, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, TED, The Baffler, Outlook Springs…), plus background dirt on process, craft, and the writer’s life. See you there🙂
I was visiting my Dad the other day, and we started talking about travel. He said that, when he first visited Ireland—the ancestral home he expected to fall in love with—he actually felt homesick for Annville. For him, home turned out to be a set of loving and familiar relationships. But he always marveled that there are people who live in the places he visits—who were born there, grow up there, have entire lives there. It’s the most obvious thing, but I’m tortured by those questions when I travel, too: “Who lives in that house? Why? Why nowhere else? What do they do all day? What are their lives like?”
Of course, if you were passing through tiny Annville, Pennsylvania, United States, and happened to see an old red brick Victorian house, you might wonder, “Who on earth lives THERE?”
The answer: We did!
But we moved out in 2006. Mom had died, Dad had retired, and all five of us children had settled elsewhere. I don’t think of home as a place anymore; I don’t want to attach that deeply again. Nor do I think of home as a set of loving relationships; the course of my life has taught me to keep people in my heart, to carry them with me always, and for that to be enough.
Instead, I think of home as a ritual. Specifically: breakfast and morning pages. No matter where I go in the world, if I have my coffee, my notebook, and a good pen, then I am home. And I only realized this when I said it aloud to Dad while we were talking.
So I was inspired to go through my travel archives. Here are a few pictures of my homes from all over the world🙂
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.