I was fortunate enough to attend the Women’s March on Seattle, a sister to the Women’s March on Washington DC. Before I lose you, I have no intention of talking politics in this post. What I am going to talk about is something I can’t believe is still controversial: the importance of strong female characters […]
So the political landscape right now I suspect has a lot of us fiction writers both distracted and energized, focused and scattered, angry and hopeful. All of these swirling and conflicting emotional states are tough to cope with. We are distracted from the work of writing fiction because the horror show of what is going on in American governance seems like dystopian fiction. It is hard to look away to focus on our work, it is hard to believe that our work is significant enough to merit stepping away from the news cycle and missing something crucial. But our lives and our work are crucial, too. Stories are important. Whenever you lose sight of that remember politics is also made of story. Want to change the stories that play out in real life? Write stories that nurture empathy in your audience. Reminder: All stories, whether escapist fiction or literary, nurture empathy in an audience.
So that’s the distracted part, here is the energized part. We are all seeing people come together to work against injustice and tyranny. Anger, when channeled into action can be a wonderful motivator. This is true of fiction writing also. There are some writers who do beautiful work that is fueled by anger. Anything that we experience as artists can be used as food or fuel for art. Use it for your work as you are using it for action. This, also merges with where we are focused. We know what is causing the anger and that cause points us in certain directions regarding our work and our civic duties.
But we are also scattered. It can be overwhelming to decide which call to action to heed. Which organization to volunteer for, whether to go out in the world and march or stay home and use your time to call your representatives. The American people are being attacked on so many different fronts right now it can be difficult to prioritize. And we have our personal limits. We have families and day jobs and obligations. We have things in our lives we must attend to because if we don’t no one else will, but the call to action right now is the same. If we don’t no one else will.
So pick something. Easier said than done, I know, but if we all choose at least one action, large or small, we can and will make a difference. Use your art, or not, but know that art itself can be an act of political defiance. When I wrote about the LGBT characters in Getting On With It, it did not feel like a political act. The manuscript was completed before November 8, 2016. It absolutely feels that way now. Like I said, any story asks for empathy for those who might be unlike you, whether that’s the author’s intention or not.
When I was in college, I remember having discussions about different political stances and movements and types of discourse and ways of approaching causes. There was a lot of judgment and blame bandied about in those discussions. (There still is.) This person isn’t doing enough, this group is too aggressive, this one is too quiet, this other one is too loud. At the end of those discussions it can feel as if there is nothing that you can do right even among your allies in a particular cause. This is difficult to confront, but we have to decide as individuals how we will approach things. We have to choose our own paths and stick to them. No one can do it for you, which seems lonely, but I guarantee you will find other people walking alongside you on the same path.
Whatever else you decide to do, though, keep writing.
Okay, so yesterday there was an article circulating around writer internet (that has since been removed from the site it was on at the request of the author) that advocated political silence on social media from fiction writers.
Now is not the time to advocate political silence, particularly from those whose work has hopefully lent itself to the development of an articulate voice.
Before I continue my rant I do want to say that the person who wrote it was probably well-meaning. The main concern of the article was about potential loss of readership, marketing, your “author brand” and while it is valid for a fiction writer to consider all of these things when expressing things in public spaces, it is not appropriate to URGE silence. I mean, we are writers. If we cannot express ourselves particularly in times like these then what the hell are we doing? Who would advocate suppressing the practice of the very art that we provide? Come on now. Art is political whether that is our intention or not. And you want us to not talk politics? GTFO. I mean that literally. If it bugs you there are tools you have. Block, mute, unfriend, unfollow, etc…
Here’s the thing, we are going to talk about the things we care about whether political or not. Because we are thinking human beings. And no, I am not always thinking about my “brand” or whatever. I tend not think of myself as a brand. If I thought that way, I’d work in advertising.
One thing I’d also like to point out is that I have read plenty of authors whose politics I either had no clue about or didn’t care for. The reasons we read or don’t read a thing (as readers) are as varied as the shape of leaves turning in the wind. If we assume that we can’t speak about things that matter to us because we might lose audience for the stories we tell, doesn’t that leave the work dead in the water?
On the personal side of this I think of all the things that work against artists from the start. No one wants us to do this work when we begin, you know. Our families worry for our finances. Sometimes our ideas or the places we have to go in order to tell a story well make people uncomfortable. I resent receiving a message, yet again, that I should reconsider speaking about something that matters to me. I have been silenced throughout my whole life in ways that have had severe consequences for me. Don’t tell me to shut up when speaking out is already difficult. I had to fight hard to get to a place where I can, where I want to.
I was not a person who discussed politics a lot on social media before this past year. But I will hang on to my freedom to do so. I certainly won’t let the opinion of someone else who is worried for book sales in the abstract keep me from saying stuff. Neither should you.
Talk about what you want to talk about, whether that’s cats, cartoons, or politics. Just remember it isn’t up to anyone else.
So this one is a bit thorny and I suspect a lot of us are dealing with it. It is no secret by now that politically, I am firmly against the Predator-Elect and all for resistance. One of the ways in which we can enact that resistance is with where we put our hard-earned and sometimes difficult to come by cash. Shannon Coulter brilliantly began something called the #GrabYourWallet campaign, a call to boycott all business carrying the Trump brand. An up-to-date list can be found here.
If you opened a link you will note that one of the first companies listed is Amazon.
Amazon is where you can find my recently released book, “Getting On With It.” It is currently the only distribution platform for that book.
The plan to publish there was made before the election, and I chose to follow through for the sake of consistency, the ease with which the Amazon as a platform makes it available to potential audience. I’m not going to pull my book, though the conflict of interest is quite painful to me. As an indie author the difficulty is obvious. Amazon is still the distribution platform with the largest reach.
I am also aware that during the #GrabYourWallet campaign, it is very likely that my numbers through that platform are likely to be lower than anticipated. Folks who might be drawn to read my work are very likely the same people engaging in #GrabYourWallet. Career-wise, I should be concerned about this, and I am, except not really. Some of this has to do with my perspective on writing and getting the work out. Slowly building an audience has been the expectation since I started self-publishing. The kind of success authors dream of is not something that happens overnight, it is even slower when you have very little budget. But there will be other projects, other work, other paths, other things to try. So I’m worried but not. Maybe it is more accurate to say that I am concerned more for this particular work than I am for my career overall.
That said, I hope that audience who were anticipating the work will not forget about it, and of course make the purchase eventually. (Link, for ease of discovery.) Digitally there will eventually be a release through Smashwords. Keep an eye on my various digital spaces for that.
I mentioned already that I can’t be the only indie-author using Amazon for distribution and struggling with this particular conundrum. But I also think that the situation we are facing offers something useful, at least for the #GrabYourWallet campaign. That useful thing is an argument. It might be a weak one, since corporations are not well-known for their conscience, and since individual indie authors have little impact on Amazon’s practices as a whole. However, as a collective our value to Amazon is more significant. The longer they carry the Trump brand, the longer our livelihoods might be impacted negatively. That is something that Amazon should consider. If we don’t make money, they don’t get their cut. I just mention this as something you can use when you speak up and tell Amazon why you aren’t shopping with them this year. Do I think it will contribute to a desirable outcome for the #GrabYourWallet campaign? I have no idea. But it is something to think about. It is something that can be leveraged.
So my question is, who has data? Because that would be useful going forward.
Hey Theater and SFF peeps… December 6th, Paul Shapera has a new musical project which will be UNLEASHED UNTO THE WORLD!
Miss Helen’s Weird West Cabaret!
Go unto the interwebs and check it out!
Hey everybody! This will be short and sweet!
I just wanted to let you know my new book is available for pre-order on Kindle.
The official release date is November 25th. Because why not?
Here be the link.
I have been avoiding writing a blog post about the election. Maybe avoidance isn’t the right word here.
I am gutted by this.
I am in mourning.
I can’t seem to collect my thoughts into something coherent or meaningful around this outcome.
I keep wanting to appeal to people’s sense of empathy, because as a fiction writer that’s a large of part of what storytelling does. I think maybe through art that can be done, but I am not sure that currently it is a thing that can work. At least, not from the dialogue that I am seeing. And certainly not when so many choose to be blind to human suffering. I keep hearing people say, “Grow up,” to each other, and this is infuriating. I might argue that this is a case of “projectile projecting.” Using the silencing tactic of, “Grow up,” tells me that you are not adult enough to open your ears and listen, that you are not adult enough to reach for understanding. If you are someone getting told this, my advice is don’t engage with the person saying it to you. At this stage in the game, you don’t have to put yourself through it. A healthier course of action (and by this, I mean protect your emotional self. We are still so, so very raw) is to talk to someone you know can be supportive, and when you feel up to it, channel all of that energy into action.
There doesn’t seem much point in stating a case for an argument against what has already happened, even though I want to scream and yell and rail against.
I do see value in taking a stand, for yourself and for others. I see value in engaging with your personal support systems.
And I see value in making a decision about what to do going forward. It becomes increasingly clear that it is not only a good idea, but a necessity, to act.
Some acts will be quiet, or feel small. Ex: donating to Planned Parenthood, LGBTQ organization, the ACLU, Etc… (anyone with ideas PLEASE feel free to put them in the comments.) You can donate time to organizations that support causes that are bound to come under attack in the next four years. You can volunteer at soup kitchens.
And right now, you can write to your electors.