Riptide’s Open Call

Hello writers! 

This is a short post, and I apologize, but it’s something right?

If you are currently writing queer fiction, I’d check out Riptide Publishing. They usually do not accept unsolicited submissions but they are currently having open calls in different areas – including seeking out more of the B in the GLBT alphabet soup. Get writing! :) 

Exposure, not Exploitation

A few years ago I was flipping through an issue of Writer’s Digest (or one of the similar industry mags) and they had a piece about the problems with the internet and how it would impact freelance writing and the ability for writers to make money. The article laid out what to expect in the current market, what different skills were worth, what many publications paid, etc. The article warned that it wouldn’t be long before writers would be making pennies compared to the pennies they were already making. They predicted more services would have to be provided for free and that paid services would drop to as low as $.01 per word. They begged writers not to take these jobs because it would mean that the expectations would be there. Well, writers took the jobs. Recently, a job posting for a freelance piece promised $.03 a word with a maximum payout of $30. That’s $30 for 1,000 words but if the piece were to be 1,200 words, the writer would still only make $30.

Just this week, Entertainment Weekly fired its writing staff but hey, guess what entertainment bloggers, you get the chance to write for them. FOR FREE. The exposure will be fantastic!

Excuse my lack of professionalism as I say to the following to the editors of the magazine: Fuck You and the Horses You Rode In On.

Despite what Hollywood would like to tell you, writing is not a lucrative option for employment. There is no reason that any writer should expect to walk in to a project and start making bank. All forms of employment have a natural expectation of rising through the ranks. Bloggers don’t expect to make a ton of money and the ad clicks they use to supplement their income really just help to buy dog food usually. Writers who submit poetry and short stories to literary magazines are usually paid in two or three copies of the publication and the right to submit their story to somewhere else. Coupons are common. “Independent” weekly papers pay freelancers but often columnists do it out of the goodness of their hearts. Novelists who self-publish through Amazon platforms usually are able to again, supplement their income. For every self-publishing success story there are thousands of writers standing around in a circle wondering how the hell that was possible and if the agent who just turned them down will take the submission again if edits are made. And don’t get me started on the impossibility of breaking into Hollywood as a writer. For those on the outside looking in, especially when they have acquaintances in the business, it is a crushing cycle of rejection while other people live the life you dream of. And by “life you dream of” I mean hoping to sell three TV scripts a year in order to feed your family.

Writers are expected to have blogs, youtube channels, active tumblr, twitter, instagram, and facebook pages. Websites are supposed to be clean, polished, and professional. We’re supposed to write 5,000-10,000 words a day while doing this. Have a portfolio of scripts, short stories, poems, novels, and more and do it all while somehow paying the bills and caring for our families.

When I am introduced to people, I say that I’m a writer. When I’m asked where I work, I tell them how I pay the bills. I am lucky enough to have a job that I love going to every day. I’m not waiting tables or stocking produce. My job pays my bills, provides me with vacation and sick time, and my health care coverage is fantastic. My management team supports my writing endeavors and so much of the work I do can be added to my writing resume and publishing credits. But the fact is that I know my writing success is slowed by the 8-5 world I live in. I often am not able to start writing in the evening until 7:00 or later. This can mean that I get to bed as late at 2:00 in the morning. Operating on a regular diet of 4-6 hours of sleep a night is actually not healthy for the human body. And I know that the story I have just related is not uncommon.

Writers are expected to work for free.

It is demanded that we accept our payment in terms of exposure.

Entertainment Weekly’s choice to fire writers in a business already cutthroat and deadly is a terrifying shot over the bow. Because writers need to work. We need that exposure. We need to walk through fire in the hopes that we can someday, in our 40s and 50s, be making money doing what we love to do. If this project succeeds, it will set the rights of writers back to a place where I can’t even comprehend. If this plan succeeds, what is to stop networks from demanding new rules at the next WGA negotiation? What is to stop online outlets from declining pay all together?

Exposure matters. But so does money. Until the electric company will take my most recent short story as payment, money matters. I am happy to shift with paradigms, I am happy to accept a world that will be better for artists and writers and musicians. I am happy to break away from the indentured servitude of the big publishing houses. But what writers have been faced with over the past few years, and are facing now in this Entertainment Weekly shitstorm is in fact not a paradigm shift but an expectation that our services are not to be exposed, but exploited.

A trip down memory lane to Art Access

I got nothing tonight, but I figured I should try to update more regularly.

It was my first day back at work following a week off to play “real writer.” I managed to get a lot of things taken care of over the week, most notably realizing that I had more done for this CBS application than previously thought. But I did get to spend some time down at the Art Access gallery today.

Art Access has a special place in my heart. My mother had a big hand in the gallery when I was a child. I feel like so many of my formative memories are back in that old location on Pierpont Avenue, the one where the guy killed like most of his family … right where my mother’s desk eventually sat. That location with the community garden, the art galleries up and down the building, the slightly uneven floors. My first exposure to nude art was in that gallery, a series of beautiful black and white photographs taken by a man with a disability. That was when I came to understand that the gallery was for artists with disabilities, a place for them to share and celebrate their work. I took my friend down there and remember how offended she was by the images of the bodies and she told me it was porn. (Granted, we’re all of … ten?) I told her what my mother had told me, that porn was about objectifying and this was about beauty. She didn’t get it.

Art Access, for those of you who do not know, is part of the Very Special Arts project. But, people in Utah thought “Very Special Arts” could be expanded in different ways, so they changed the name to Art Access. In doing so, the gallery became an intersection of celebration. A place where visual and written art was shared by people with disabilities, by women, by people of color, refugees, and the queer community. A place where these groups of people would not be turned away. Where they would be treated as equals.

Today, I took a group of consumers down to see the gallery. We’re doing a photography class where I work and when I mentioned the gallery, all of their eyes lit up. So we set it up, went down and they got to see art created by, well, people like them. For the first time in their lives, art, high art, was accessible. I walked around with one of the women, explaining oil paintings, and we looked closely at the artwork and the color and talked about mediums and textures and it was the first time I’d ever really connected to her on a human level. Art. Creativity. That which brings us all together.

Suddenly I was ten years old again, walking the walls of the gallery, staring at photographs and paintings. Watching the acting troupe who used the space put together stories of what it was like to be disabled. Actors in chairs, actors with CP, actors who were deaf, all interacting among paintings and photographs created by people like them.

I grew up in a family with disability, but I think my understanding of equality came not from the ADA fight being my formative years. It came from that gallery, those moments. I went back there today, as I will many times over the next couple of months. See, I’m lucky enough to be participating in a writing workshop sponsored by Art Access. They are reaching out to Utah’s Queer Community, asking for our voices, and bringing them together with visual art.

Stay tuned, my friends. Stay tuned.

Guess I had more going tonight than I thought.

On “Diversity.” And other rambling thoughts.

First off, let me start with a thank you to everyone who took the time to read, follow, and comment after the last post. The response was a little more than overwhelming and I am so grateful to each and every one of you as readers. No comes the hard part – keeping you around. ;)

I took the week off from my day job. Not just because I needed a bit of a break and time to myself, but also because I wanted to play “real writer.” I have some deadlines coming up at the end of April and May and figured that if I took a week off now to write and edit, I wouldn’t be scrambling as much toward the end of next month. So far it’s working. I’ve managed to tackle a few things, write a few thousand words, and make some decisions about what to submit for the “diverse writers” workshop that I’m applying for this year.

I have this fantasy, you see. I do dream of writing for television. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t really watch TV as a kid so I’m not obsessed with the idea of visual storytelling that’s done in a chapter format, or if it’s because I’m just obsessed with the idea of my stories getting out to as wide a range of people as possible. Could be both. Could be more than that, could be something totally different. I’m sure if I was pumped up on caffeine I’d have a different answer but I’m out of coffee, broke, and all I have his this really tasty cinnamon-apple tea. Hmmmm. Okay, where was I? Oh yes, TV.

Anyone who has ever turned on a TV and paid attention for more than five minutes knows that the format has a diversity problem. Especially the networks. The primary cast of characters across the board are white, male, twenty and thirty something, heteronormative, and ablebodied. When women are brought into the mix they are primarily blonde and thin. If you’re looking for a perfect example of the problem with broadcast media, look no further than CBS’s new comedy which is replacing the long running How I Met Your Mother. CBS’ Friends with Better Lives has a nearly identical cast doing typical, stupid things. At least, that’s what the trailers give me. And the problem is not limited to sitcoms. NBC’s Hannibal recently killed off one of it’s female (and Asian) characters, the long running procedural CSI was once populated with female techs and people of color and now features an all white main cast with only Alimi Ballard to show the diversity of Nevada. Props do go to ABC’s Once Upon a Time for having a female heavy cast and for casting Alexandra Metz as Rapunzel and Sinqua Walls as Lancelot. But these are not long term storylines. Law and Order SVU is yes, headed by the talented Mariska Hargitay, but for a precinct in New York, it’s an awfully white one. Other shows such as Sleepy Hollow and Brooklyn 99 are definitely upping the ante for the rest of the networks, but there’s a long way to go before even cable catches up. And all of that before we even get to queer characters or characters with disabilities. For more information, check out GLAAD’s annual report on minorities in media. They look at queer characters, people of color, people with disabilities, and then put it all into an easy to read report that all network VP’s should have stapled to their foreheads.

Which brings me to my point. For the second year in a row, I am applying for one of the network’s “diverse writers” positions. For the record, all of the major networks have some kind of diversity application process and as a queer woman, I definitely fall into their guidelines. There’s a part of me that really appreciates that the networks know they have a long way to go, that they have woken up to realize that they aren’t hiring enough diverse voices for their writing rooms and director pools. They even seem to be noticing that they aren’t hiring enough people of color or actors with disabilities to populate the stories that they are telling. So wrapped in the privilege they are afforded, it’s hard for them to take a step back and realize just how much they do not represent the country in which their stories are taking place. And even now, seeing these programs, knowing they exist, I am stunned by the lack of representation for all populations and it looks like things aren’t going to be any better this year. I get that the goal of the networks is to make money and so they fall back on tried and true formulas that have worked in the past. But I wonder, have the networks realized that maybe if they’d change their processes, maybe if they’d consider everyone when writing a role or casting for a character, maybe if they’d actually bring everyone to the table rather than have to create “diversity programs” that we’d all be making a hell of a lot more money? But then again, without these initiatives, without bringing those “different voices” to the table, they won’t know what else is out there. It’s a nasty Catch 22, but guess what, it’s a completely fixable one.

This is of course not limited to the TV world. Three years ago, I was honored to be awarded an Honorable Mention from the Utah Arts Council for my first book, Shadows in the Spotlight. Since then, I have had only one agent interested in my crew of gay, straight, and bisexual rock stars who are battling AIDS and drug addiction, and even that ended in a rejection. And while yes, I’m sure that I could do something to make the story punch even harder and there are always things that we writers can do better, I’m finding myself swimming in a world of confusion this year as John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars comes to the big screen. Note that I haven’t read the book and what I’ve seen of Mr. Green’s youtube channel is informative and funny all at the same time. I even appreciate his posts on tumblr. But this is a white man writing first person from the perspective of a (straight, I believe) dying teenage girl. To me, that is a glass ceiling if I ever came up against one.

The frustrations that I as a bi writer who writes bi characters come across continue into my own publishing niche. Publishing companies are doing calls for more diversity, seeking out that which is different in our community – stories, for example, of bi characters. While I’m doing cartwheels at the chance to tighten up my first novel and send it in and hopefully finish the second one in their time frame, I can only sit back and wonder why it’s taken them to now to realize how much of society they’ve been blocking out.

So the never ending cycle of questions continues. After all, yes, I’m going to jump at the chance to apply for these programs or submit to these open calls. Of course I am! But why do I have to wait for their programs or open calls to happen? Shouldn’t they be wanting to change things, to bring everyone to the table? After all, the more people who are interested in your product, the more money we can all make.

And let’s not even talk about how impossible it feels to get a foot in the door with the TV world when you don’t live in LA. (Beyond the whole “that’s where it’s based” thing. That’s a given.)

No Longer at the Kids Table: Bisexuality A Useful Fiction, a Response

It’s been a while since I posted and, as I’ve mentioned before it’s hard for me to blog and write a novel at the same time. That however is changing this month, starting with this post.

I was searching for something to write about. Should I tackle life as an author with a day job? Nope. Covered that. Should I ramble about the dog? No, that’s what instagram is for. And then, a friend pointed me to an open letter written by the Bisexual Books blog on Tumblr. This blog, which covers the importance of bisexual themed literature, something which is near and dear to my heart, responded to a piece in Slate Magazine regarding Bisexual Culture. I read the letter. Then I read the piece. Then I came over here to voice my … shall we say … concerns … for this Dan Savage-esque boot to the throat about bisexual culture.

This post isn’t a rant about the existence of bisexuality. I know I exist. I know how I feel about both of the women I am currently dating and how I feel about that guy I saw last week who was so hot he made my head spin in unnatural directions. I know what I like with women, what I like in men, and how I react to different genders as a partner. I know which of my health professionals it is safe to be out to and I thank the universe every day that I work at a place where it is safe for me to be out, despite the laws in my city that would allow for me to be fired or evicted if an employer or landlord saw fit. (Although, South Salt Lake is making inroads.)

This post is about the lack of honest representation for bisexuality and then, when we look to bring our honest representation to the table, being turned away. Or worse, being told to go sit at the kids table.

In the recent Slate article which made me, and a bunch of other bisexual activists sit up and spill our coffee all over our keyboards, it was yet again explained to the bi community that because we have to keep defending our existence, we do not have a culture. We do not and cannot have books, have literature, have fiction, have stories. We are too busy trying to prove we exist so we cannot possibly have time to create our own worldview. It was explained to us. It was hypothesized for us. No, no Mr. Stern, we are not in fact seeking a culture. We have one and it is vibrant and beautiful. Our consistent need to prove ourselves comes from a lack of understanding from Gay and Straight Inc over our very existence. (I keep using this word.) It comes from TV shows and movies treating us like kinky sluts (though there is nothing wrong with being one), it comes from the media not allowing for positive bi/pan characters in their storytelling. It comes from the erasure of our heroes, from Virginia Woolf to Tom Daley. It comes from a recent post in Utah’s 1 to 5 Club Facebook Group. The post was for a social site for queer women. The poster warned community members that if you are married to a man, it wasn’t for you, you wouldn’t be welcomed. It comes from Google still considering the search term “bisexual” to be porn. Gay and Lesbian have automatic fill options. Bisexual does not.

The problem I have found is that people outside the bi community struggle with the idea that our identity can be as fluid as the individuals within it. We are butch and femme all at once. We are dykes, we are queer, we enjoy being as serially monogamous as stereotypical teenage girls and we are comfortable and happy within poly identities. We are whole in who we are. We have families and lives and we are more than “passing” into one culture or another. We have our own shorthand, our own conversations, and our own controversies. As language changes so must we and so we seek to always define and redefine life and love within a world that is moving ever faster toward acceptance of normalcy.

Mr. Stern asks us if there is indeed a bisexual identity. I ask him then what is the gay identity? The straight one? Is there a uniform, goose-stepping, white-bred, picket fence identity that Gay Inc can claim? Is it Jack? Or is it Will? Is it the outrageous floats at Pride? Or the constant tormenting of youth by youth. “Bi now! Gay later!” Is it doctors being willing to treat gay patients but not bi ones? Is it marriage? Adoption? HIV/AIDS? Is it ignoring the skyrocketing rates of poverty, health concerns, and suicide within the bi community? Is it the hands I’ve held in support groups when men come in and say that they were shunned from family and friends not because they were gay – oh no, that was the easy part – but when they came out for a second time as bisexual?

You see, Mr. Stern, I saw the backhanded compliments in your piece. I saw the important questions you were asking. But your key point, the idea that there is more to the gay identity than sex but that bisexuals could not get past the topic of sex when interviewed, means that you have forgotten Gay Inc’s history. You have forgotten the decades of struggle when all that defined gay men was the sex they were having, and that sex, sadly, was used by a paranoid culture to erase generations of young men. The bisexual community is facing the same series of questions. We are being portrayed as something mysterious, something that lurks in the shadows. So we are starting, as the gay community did, with the basics: sex. But in that, we are also talking about some very important things. Bi-romanticism, asexuality, gender identity, and more. See, for us, the conversation is about more than sex. We just wish others would come around to our viewpoint.

I end with this: Recently, I had the chance to sit down with board members and staff of the Utah Pride Center. Over the course of our conversation, we talked about the lack of support the bisexual community had from the Pride Center and what it would take to bring us back to them, for us to consider Gay, Inc. an ally again. I thought long and hard and then said, “The mainstream Gay Movement has succeeded because of allies. Because of the lesbian community, because of the straight community coming over and saying that they stand with you. The bisexual community can organize, we can have our culture all we want. But our issues, our concerns, our voices will not be heard without the support of allies in our own so-called community.”

So, Slate. Dan Savage. The New York Times. All of you who are sitting back, telling the bi community that we need to organize, that we need to get over ourselves and our anger and stop trying to convince people we exist, let me tell you something. We have a culture. We have literature and media and a world where we know we are supported. What we do not yet have is the support of our allies. We have moved past the identity of sex, the identity of normalcy. We have embraced who we are. I urge you to do the same, I urge you to not run from the words “bisexual” and “pansexual” and instead sit down at the table with us and listen to our stories. We are here, and we are real, and we understand that we need to do to succeed. We know our history, we know Gay Inc’s history. We know that we have mountains to climb with health professionals, with politicians, and of course with mainstream media. We get it and we’re inviting you to the table.

A day in the life of an aspiring professional writer:

Home from work at 5:15. Finish critiquing submission for group tonight.

Pass out from 5:30-6:30. (That was just supposed to be a 15 minute nap …) 

Dash to writer’s group. Be late.

Writer’s group from 7-10:30.

Get home. Freak out about things that need to be done for the car. Do dishes and attempt to cuddle kitties (read: keep them from eating my head.)

*sighs* 

 It’s 1:21 AM and I have to drop the car off at the mechanic by 8 in the morning, I have to be at work at 8 in the morning, but hey, I’ve just sent off some queries. Now, before I completely crash, I’ve got to take a look at that blog concept I meant to jump start at the beginning of January. I have not yet worked on the novel today. I did get some character development done. 

There aren’t enough hours in the day or enough writing grants to go around. 

And this has been your whiny post for the week. I promise that my next one will be better. After all, I’ve got a poem coming out in print this month! :D 

A quick, rambling thought process on self-imposed (and very real) deadlines …

Ask any writer how to be a successful writer (and for the record, I am not yet one) and they all say the same thing: put your damned butt in the chair and get shit done. And yes, a lot of the time that means turning off the distractions and unchaining yourself from the internet and just writing. No matter how much it hurts to do so. And sometimes, it actually hurts. Sometimes, writing also means admitting that you can’t get it finished by your self-imposed deadline.

Earlier this year I wrote a one-act play. Oh, the 45 pages of women sitting in a used bookstore didn’t need any kind of queer subtext. It was right there and the 45 pages just flowed from my fingers and the people who read it, loved it. I submitted it as proof that I can write scripts and then tucked it away. Now, I am expanding it into a full length play and it’s amazing how much harder it is to make all of these little bits and pieces fit together over the course of 90-100 pages. Initially, I was going to have some actor friends get together today and read through the new and improved lines. What I didn’t take into account when I set it up earlier this week was that this wasn’t just going to be expanded but completely rewritten. So, today has come and I am no where near ready to have anyone read this thing. But, the improvement is immeasurable. I call that progress. 

So, sometimes what it means to be a successful writer is just to allow the self-imposed deadlines to pass. There are much more important deadlines coming up – like January 31st, when this gets sent over to Plan-B theater company for their emerging writers competition. Which means I have 20 days.

No pressure.

Meep.

I can’t tonight, I’m writing

I got thinking last night about writing and sacrifice and what writers sacrifice to get the job done. The easy thing to point to is a social life. I’m lucky enough to date two women who know that my first commitment is to writing and not to them, and I’m lucky enough that communication is very important for us, but I haven’t seen either of them since Sunday. Last night, my date was my computer and the cats who wanted attention while I spent four hours with five characters who live in a small town inside my head. A couple of hours into my work, a good friend messaged me with some very interesting potential developments in her sex life. I had a moment where I wondered how much I was missing of the lives of my friends as they rolled on while I spent time writing out stories.

Writers sacrifice. Everyone does, yes. But there is a specific sacrifice that comes within the creative community. From artists to singers to writers, we give up a lot and we risk hurting people in the process. “I can’t tonight, I’m writing” always runs the risk of sounding like “I really just don’t want to go to your party or hang out with you or anything at all.”

I think it’s good to have this reflection every so often because it’s so easy to get defensive about the reality of life as a writer. I know I’ve often rolled my eyes and stomped off to do something that I know I’ll enjoy doing but honestly, I’d rather be writing. It’s easy to say “no really, this is my life!” But for myself, I’ve really never put it in terms of personal sacrifice. I’ve never really sat and thought about what I could be missing … until a friend messaged me about her sex life that is.

Go figure.

To all the writers out there who are struggling with this very thing, it’s okay. I think we’re supposed to be conflicted as hell. I mean, I’d rather not be. I’d much rather be making a living writing my books and plays and then hey, I could totally have a social life, right?

Not really. I mean, think about it.

I’d still rather be writing.

What about you?

2013 comes to an end …

And 2013 has come to an end – at least for the Salt Lake City Writers’ Group. We came, we saw, we critiqued some crazy ass … er … stuff. Over 2013 we averaged 15 people per critiquing session at Mestizo’s Coffee and Nostalgia had to start reserving two tables for us at our weekly write-in. I get a lot of questions from emerging writers (you know people like myself) on tumblr and the #1 thing I can tell them is to find a writing group. These people are some of my best friends and they can give me some of the harshest criticisms and that’s a good thing. I respect them, and myself, to leave the personal at the door and because of that, my writing is better. So thank you to all of these guys. I can’t wait for 2014. :D

Sometimes, it isn’t all rejection letters

I just now received this email:

Dear Shauna:
 
Thank you for your interest in the Art Access Desert Wanderings literary magazine and for submitting your writing to us for consideration. 
 
Congratulations! Art Access has selected your piece, “Counting”, for inclusion in our upcoming issue of Desert Wanderings. The magazine will be completed and released by mid-February of 2014. At that time, Art Access will mail two (2) copies to the mailing address you provided on your Writing Submission Form. If your address changes before that time, please provide us with an update.

 

Thank you, again, for sharing your talents with Art Access and the communities we serve!

 
Best wishes!
Amanda
 
I’ve been away partly because I’ve been busy revamping this site (and my other one) so things can be more streamlined. But, it’s important to share the victories along with the rejections.
 
Thank you, Art Access!
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