apparently all those pre-show jitters paid off? ;)

Wow. Dance to the Radio! was a wonderful way to kick off my month of performances. I’m proud of the (new! never before read out!) work I debuted from How To Have A Body tonight, and everybody else who performed *seriously* blew me away. Really. Seriously. I was moved to tears more than once.

I think now I am officially the Most Exhaust-O-Gina in all the land, though. I am so glad I can take tomorrow to recharge.

thank you, awesome audience!

That was such a sweet reading. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came out. Especially big thanks to everyone who offered me such generous and enthusiastic commentary on my new work. It means a lot to know that my writing spoke to so many people tonight.

How to Be a Contemporary Writer

roxanegay:

1. Read diversely.

2. Write.

3. See items 1 and 2.

4. Accept that there is no one way to make it as a writer and that the definition of making it is fluid and tiered.

5. Accept that sometimes literary success is political and/or about who you know and that’s not likely to change. Yes, celebrities are going to keep publishing terrible books. Yes, Lisa Rinna’s Starlit is an actual thing. I read the book and… I’m scarred. But. You’re not getting better as a writer, worrying about the system. 

5a. If you’re a woman, writer of color or queer writer, there are probably more barriers. Know that. Be relentless anyway. Strive for excellence. Learn how to kick the shit out of those barriers. Don’t assume every failure is about your identity because such is not the case. 

6. Accept that sometimes cream actually does rise to the top and hard, consistent work will eventually get noticed, maybe not in the way you envisioned, but some way, some how. 

7. Understand the actual odds and learn to love the slush pile. The slush pile is not your enemy. It’s actually one of your best friends.The truth is that a significant percentage of the slush pile, which I prefer to call the submission queue, is absolutely terrible because people are lazy and will submit any old thing. If you can write a good sentence you are already heads and shoulders above most of what is found in submission queues. You’re not competing against 10,000 submissions a year a magazine receives. You’re competing against more like 200.  Those are still intimidating odds but they’re also far more reasonable.

8. Be nice. The community is small and everyone talks. Being nice does not mean eating shit. Being nice does not mean kissing ass. Being nice just means treating others the way you would prefer to be treated. If you’re comfortable being treated like an asshole, then by all means. 

9. Know that more often than not, editors have your best interests at heart. Stand up for your writing but be open to editorial suggestions. A good editor is giving you feedback in service of your writing.

10. Ignore most of the atrocious writing advice that proliferates at such an alarming rate. 

11. Stop listening to conspiracy theories about publishing. 

12. Stop listening to doomsday predictions about publishing. 

13. Don’t talk yourself out of the game by listening to conspiracy theories, doomsday predictions, and bad advice.

14. Make note of the distinction between writing and publishing. They are two very different things.

15. Know that you can get an agent through the mystically fearsome slushpile. It may be hard. It may take more time than you want but it can and does happen. I found my first agent through the slush pile. She’s great. My second agent found me because of essays I wrote. Sometimes people find agents at conferences, or through friends of a friend, or other such connections but you absolutely can go the old fashioned route.

15a. Do your research. Know what agents are interested in. Spell their names correctly. Have a book you give a damn about and make sure it shows. Know how to talk about your book.

15b. If you want to see a sample query letter, just ask a writer who successfully signed with an agent through the slush pile. They will probably share.

15c. This is an interesting take on navigating the business of agents. 

15d. But don’t be so discouraged! 

16. You do not need to live in New York to be a writer, though New York is great (dirty bathrooms aside) and it might be better if you live elsewhere and visit New York for a few days at at time. 

17. Perspective is everything. Someone getting a book deal is not taking yours away. Success is not as finite as it seems—it’s a matter of luck, timing, and hard work. (Or sometimes, yes, who you know).

17a. You are neither as great or terrible a writer as you assume. 

18. Know that sometimes you simply need to work harder and sometimes you’ve done the best you can do and there’s no shame in either.

19. Participate in the literary community in the ways you are comfortable participating. What matters is that you contribute. That could be subscribing to a magazine, attending a reading, volunteering at a literary magazine, and so on. (See #8)

20. Have an online presence or don’t. It’s shocking how much time writers spend stressing over this that could be spent writing. Yes, an online presence helps but only if you actually use it with some regularity. Plenty of writers don’t have a significant online presence and manage to still be writers. If you feel like having an online presence (Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Tumblr, whatever), is a pain in the ass, it’s going to show and it’s not worth having.

21. If you’re going to have a website, don’t have an ugly website. There’s no excuse anymore. If you cannot afford a designer, no problem. Use a content management system like Wordpress or Tumblr and a nice template.

22. You will probably need a job unless you’re fine with financial stress. Yes you can have a job and be a writer. It happens all the time. I used to be fine with financial stress because I was young and my fantasies were exciting. I am not anymore because I am old and I love my apartment and health insurance and buying stupid shit. A job facilitates these things so keep it in mind. There are worse things than a job.

23. Learn to deal with rejection. You don’t have to like it. You can sulk and whine and cry. You can blog about it. Just know that publishing involves rejection far more than acceptance. It’s easier if you can process that early on. 

23 a. Maybe don’t write editors who reject you to call them names. That doesn’t ever end well.

24. Have other hobbies. Don’t be one of those people who only writes and can only talk about writing. My hobbies are embarrassing but I do have them and am grateful to have them.

25. Ignore all of this as you see fit.

getting lost on purpose / speaking of how to have a body…

The fibro flare I was dealing with before I left town (which only got worse after pulling a grueling 16 hour day doing two gigs, plus all that fucking travel) FINALLY broke today. Hallelujah!

So. I took myself on a long, rambling, luxurious wander around San Francisco. I visited some places I love, and I explored some new places, too. I truly adore getting lost on purpose. Especially in San Francisco.

And yeah, “How To Have A Body” is due to my advisor in, uh, two weeks. And yeah, tomorrow it’s hella back to the grindstone. But today was worth every fucking second of Not Writing. I feel so recharged.

Also, I’m gonna make sure I keep doing Daily Wanders over these next two weeks that I’m finishing the book draft. Probably not day-long Daily Wanders like I did today, but at least an hour-ish if my body can handle it. The movement & the fresh air & the perspective shift all do me a world of good.

Self-portrait at the Bradley Airport as I await my chariot to my & Rose & Jos’ Girl Talk slumber party hotel room.You know, for someone who has been travelling since 4am, I actually don’t look half-bad. Fact: FEMMES CAN DO ANYTHING!

Self-portrait at the Bradley Airport as I await my chariot to my & Rose & Jos’ Girl Talk slumber party hotel room.
You know, for someone who has been travelling since 4am, I actually don’t look half-bad. Fact: FEMMES CAN DO ANYTHING!

"Okay, FUCK 50 Shades of Grey, THIS is literature! And REAL life!"

— One of my awesome Writing Group comrades, very lovingly & enthusiastically critiquing the latest chapters of How To Have A Body.

Basically, I love my Writing Group, and I love this book I’m writing. I am a very lucky Gina right now. :)

breaking news: lemons made into entire lemonade stand!

I got handed some Mercury Retrograde lemons this morning and I successfully made them into an entire fucking lemonade stand. My flight getting cancelled & having to take a red-eye is usually not my favorite thing, but my day ended up being great. Now I just feel extra-prepared & super-psyched for my Girl Talk gig.

So. Come see me & Rose at UW tomorrow at 6pm, Madison folks! :) I might be a little exhaust-o-Gina from my red-eye, but I promise to make up for it with the usual earnest de Vries enthusiasm.

If you wanna read some excerpts from the 8,000 words I’ve written in the past week, this is where to do it. I’m feeling proud & energized.

I am also feeling, frankly, exhausted. I slept till 5pm today. Tonight is a NIGHT OFF. Not fucking around about that!

this is how we do it!

Just had a fantastic meeting with my advisor about my Thesis and How To Have A Body. I wanna say more but I’m also fussy & superstitious & private about things till they are set in stone.

But suffice it to say: My pupils are like exclamation points right now. I feel like today’s beautiful & unexpectedly balmy February sun is shining Just For Me.

Excuse me while I blast terrible 90s hip-hop and settle in to write some more. (Srsly, I am having to restrain myself from posting video clips from MTV Jams.)

Madison WI & Pioneer Valley MA & Boston/Somerville MA folks, take note! :)

MADISON, WI PEOPLES: I will be in your town from roughly March 4th-March 6th (I can extend this time if I get more gigs!) for a gig at UW-Madison on March 5th. I would LOVE info about picking up other gigs (teaching writing workshops, doing readings, etc) that week in March if at all possible. Also, I’d love to meet any Madison folks who wanna show me around.

PIONEER VALLEY, MA PEOPLES: I will be in Amherst, MA from roughly April 5th-April 7th (I can extend this time if I get more gigs!) for a gig at Hampshire (my alma mater!) on April 6th. I would LOVE info about picking up other gigs (teaching writing workshops, doing readings, etc) that week in April if at all possible. Also, I’d love to see any Valley folks who wanna say hi. :)

BOSTON, MA PEOPLES: If I came to visit for a bit in April either before/after my Hampshire gig, could we hang out? Also, could I pick up a gig or two (teaching, performing, etc)?