It’s been a while but I’m baaaack. I’ll have more news — some of it very good — in the next couple of weeks. Right now, after some exhausting months moving and chasing various publications for cheques, Kitty Frida and I are settled in, in housing kindly donated to us, hopefully for at least the next couple of months. I am putting my nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel...insert any other clichés that apply. We are still in Hyde Park, in a location that’s closer to the lake and a park surrounded by gorgeous vintage condominium complexes which, to my surprise, gets ploughed and tended no matter what the weather conditions, which is lovely. There’s also a deli with decent pastrami, three coffee shops, including my very favourite one, and grocery stores nearby, including Open Produce, all within walking distance.
Hyde Park is an odd place, with a rich history which illustrates the best and the worst of race relations in Chicago, but I love being on the south side — even as I’m painfully aware that HP often operates in isolation from the rest of the south side. There isn’t a lot to do, but it can get idyllic and there are always interesting talks and events at the University of Chicago. The cinema theatre is now five minutes away, as is the fabled Valois. The relative peace and quiet is ideal for staying home and working or taking a break at Bridgeport Coffee House. The 6 bus is a short trot away, and I love being so close to Chicago’s downtown which is, I have to admit, spectacular, especially in fine weather.
I plan on just hunkering down and simply writing away as much as I can, using the precious time and space and relative stability we’ve got right now. Projects include a book proposal (more on that later) and several larger works. I’ve enjoyed all my writing for publications and always enjoyed the interactions with editors, but the simple process of getting paid in a system that is made for churning out text but not actually paying people on time has been hellish for me as a working writer. From here onwards, I’m focusing on my subscription plans for support (there will be some tweaks to be announced in the next few weeks). I’m no longer pitching anyone and only writing for a few trusted publications with whom I’ve had good experiences in terms of getting edited and paid in a timely fashion.
There was actually a brief period in winter when I fell into a deep funk, found myself crying on the phone with a friend, and seriously considered giving up writing for good, because just getting people to even respond to pleas for payment had become so dispiriting. I’ve received (or am supposed to receive) relatively decent pay for some of my pieces of late but even the biggest sums promised are absolutely useless to me if the work doesn’t progress fast enough (some projects needlessly took months and months) and if the cheques don’t come in time and I have to keep harassing everyone from the publishers on down to send them to me.
To put it bluntly: paying me late or taking months and months to edit a piece because you don’t have the structural support to get to it on time means that even the biggest cheques are as good as nothing to me, someone who depends almost entirely on writing for a living. So, really, it makes no sense to any longer chase after people for any amounts, a task which at times consumed as much as eighty per cent of my time in the last few months. From here on, unless you’re a publication with which I’ve had a good overall experience, I will be asking for a hefty amount in advance along with a deadline for edits.
I’ve been working steadily on the Suey Park project and hope to have the first of the three big pieces, now titled “Suey Park and the Afterlife of Twitter,” out very soon. The Syfy channel is premiering a new series, “The Internet Ruined My Life,” and Episode One features … none other than Park herself (here’s a preview). I’d, ideally, like my piece to come out on March 9 (tomorrow), when the episode airs, but would rather ensure I do a good job than a quick one. Plus, I think it makes sense to wait to see what this latest iteration of her story is before I publish my piece. I will have a summary response to the first episode on or around the 10th, so do look for that.
The move delayed the writing but, also, I had excellent readers who made suggestions on how to write a piece that’s not just for those who know everything about Park and who have followed her all along. In the process, I’m developing what I call Twitter Theory, a better way to think about Twitter outside of the usual arguments that it’s simply toxic or liberatory. My final work is not just about Suey Park, but about her place in a neoliberal framework that deploys trauma and identity in very particular ways.
I’ve also been writing and posting a fair amount about writing and my Vox article appears to be making the rounds quite well. I’ve got a number of pieces on the topic of writing and publishing in the works, including one on “The Gender of Free Writing,” which takes a close and historical look at how the entrance of women into publishing has also meant a downward spiral in pay, as well as the different treatments accorded to women editors and writers in the publishing world. Spoiler: female editors often end up doing more work than their male counterparts, and are paid less, while the menfolk get to swan around as dashing and daring figures, rescuing the Writing World from near-death. And so on.
Now that I’m a teeny bit more settled, I hope to have a better sense of my schedule, and I’ll be focusing mostly on one or two large pieces every few weeks, interspersed with lots of little ones, depending on the topics of the day.
Also in the next few months, I’ll be attending even fewer events and socialising even less (as if my Cat Lady routine wasn’t quiet enough), except with friends, old or new, and I may be unresponsive to email queries if I either don’t have a ready answer or it doesn’t involve a discussion about publishing and/or me being paid for some gig, to be honest. Frida and I are also planning a Very Big Move, linked to us getting out of The Direness and possibly completely out of the U.S for good (yes, I know I’ve said that a lot over the last few years, but this time it looks like the best option). We’ve loved being in the different spaces so generously lent to us, but I would like nothing better than to eventually have my own apartment and to know that I might be there for more than months at a time.
More on all that soon. On to the update.
What I Wrote Or Was Mentioned In
February 24, 2016: I wrote “The Irony of Writing about Writing about Poverty on Medium.”
February 24, 2016: I wrote “How to Be Poor.”
February 26, 2016: I wrote a piece for Vox, “I’m a freelance writer. I refuse to work for free.”
February 28, 2016: I wrote about the Oscars race controversy, “Oscars: Why Diversity Is Not the Problem.”
March 8, 2016: My review of the anthology, The Feminist Utopia Project is out in In These Times. It’s titled The Feminist Utopia Project Isn’t Utopian Just Yet.
In November 2015, I was part of a panel on “Women: The Longest Revolution,” organised by Platypus. The group has now transcribed the session in The Platypus Review, and you can also listen to an audio recording, linked to in this piece.
What I’m Reading/ Watching
Bill Moyers wrote this, “What Happens to Journalists When No One Wants to Publish Their Worlds Anymore?”
For my Suey Park piece, I’ve relied on Andrew Dilts’ “From ‘Entrepreneur of the Self’ to ‘Care of the Self’: Neo-liberal Governmentality and Foucault’s Ethics.”
Also of interest to those interested in the topic: Philip Mirowski’s Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown.
I was reminded of one my favourite poems, “Then Time,” by Robert Hass. Contrary to what that website says, it’s not actually about how “heartbreaking” it is, etc. and the formatting has been squished in a bit, but at least you get the poem. It’s worth tracking down in his collection of poetry. This is National Poetry Month, and I plan on reading more of his work.
I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead and it turns out that Ross Marquand, who plays Aaron Paul, does excellent celebrity impressions.
Steven Salaita wrote this on the Mythology of Voting: “Vote for Hillary, be a sucker: It’s OK to reject the choice of a tyrannical liberal or a right-wing tyrant.” He also wrote this, about Bernie Sanders and Israel.
Nancy Reagan is dead. The AIDS-denialist and her husband have been receiving more than their fair share of ass-kissing, and I’m still waiting for the New York Times and others to do more than swoon over her sense of style and her doe-eyed gaze at her husband. In the meantime, here’s Salon on when Joan Didion nailed Reagan.
A. Hope Jahren wrote about the problem of sexual harassment in the sciences.
Caitlyn Jenner wants to be Ted Cruz’s “Trans Ambassador.” This is the part where I get to say, “I Told You So.”
Aziz Ansari goes to India and eats “ramba tasty food.”
New York City may pass an act benefiting freelancers.
George Kennedy, character actor who appeared in hundreds of films, is dead.
Students have been leading massive protests in India.
Spotlight got the Oscar for Best Picture, but Joann Wypijewsky points out why it’s a terrible film.
Artists have covertly scanned the famed bust of Nefertiti and placed it online and more.
Peter Tatchell is at it again. The Islamaphobic, censorious, white, gay male saviour has an open letter about him.
My friend and comrade Maya Schenwar wrote this, “To Make Healthcare for All a Reality, Stop Killing People.”
Maya works for TruthOut, and they do a really good job of sustaining paid, investigative journalism and you should support them if you can.
From the Archives
Talking to a friend about sleeplessness, I was reminded of this piece I wrote for Bilerico in 2007, “Wind Chimes.”
A friend reposted this other piece of mine, my first for In These Times, “Are We Fabulous Yet?”, on the tyranny of queer beauty.
I got my copy of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman last year, and finally got around to reading it for my review. While doing so, I pondered how to make Lee’s new book relevant to readers after so many months and reviews. That very week, as I was halfway through, she died. I need to use my powers only for good.
Anyway, here is something I wrote last year during the controversy: Harper Lee Announces a Second Book, And Conspiracy Theories Break Loose.
I’ve been writing about the problems with free writing for a long time. Here’s one of my first pieces, “Make Art! Change the World! Starve!: The Fallacy of Art as Social Justice – Part I.”
There’s been a lot of discussion about sex panics of late, and it reminds me of how good Debbie Nathan has been on the topic. Here’s her and Michael Snedeker’s book, Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt.
As we gear up for an election where a lot of people are rightly hoping to unseat Anita Alvarez, Cook County state’s attorney, I’m reminded of the fact that it’s not as if the alternatives are that great. A lot of amazing activists have rallied around the “#ByeAnita” campaign. My friend and comrade Matt Simonette has a revealing interview with one of her opponents, Kim Foxx. And I keep wondering what we’re supposed to vote for. I wrote about a similar situation in Chicago last year: “Rahm, Chuy, and the Real Problem with Chicago Politics.”
Marilyn Monroe posed as Marlene Dietrich, and the result is incredible.