I am posting this as part of the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign started by Gail Martin. For more info on the initiative, please see below this post. And please check out all the other amazing, talented folks who’ve written about their own struggles. I am terrified of …
Author: Jaym Gates
“This anthology developed out of our love for the complexity and diversity of the state–features reflected in both the landscape and the people that inhabit them,” said Jaym Gates and J. Daniel Batt, the editors of Strange California. “California sprawls across a multitude of landscapes …
I wrote a thing on FB about a city I’ve come to grudgingly consider part of my life, and about the recent violence there.
I’m having trouble figuring out what to say about the murder in Charlotte right now, and honestly, I’m a little scared of posting this, but I think it needs to be said.
Having lived in Charlotte for years, and having put down some pretty deep roots, this hits home. It hits harder because my mom and I have both been volunteers for the CMPD (primarily in Animal Control) for a long time.
But…I’m not surprised. Angry, heartbroken, exhausted, yes. But not surprised.
Charlotte is a city with serious growing pains. It wants to be modern. It’s a banking center, with all the wealth associated with that, and all the upheaval. The city is gentrifying fast, and the fault lines are easy to see.
It’s a city with a huge LGBTQ population that still has regular city council meetings to try and strip basic protections from that LGBTQ community. Passionate Charlotteans show up to speak in favor of the protections, but a young trans girl is aggressively harassed in the lobby.
It’s a city with a hugely mixed population, and a vicious undercurrent of racism toward African-Americans and Mexicans. Just this week, friends of mine were posting a story about a popular new club in the area that was openly denying entry to non-whites. Spending time with a black male friend of mine in public drew looks, and left me wondering when someone would be stupid. A gay black friend of mine was jumped a few years ago by white bros out on a bender. There have been other fatal shootings, and violence on a regular basis.
Charlotte is a city that wants to be better, to grow and take its place with the big kids, but it has an identity crisis. It is an old southern city with an increasingly diverse population, but an undeniable racism, and it isn’t the Southerners who are most actively perpetrating that racism, but the new conservatives moving in who think it is a city of ‘wholesome family values’ where gay people and colored people aren’t allowed to share the wealth, while the good ol’ Southern boys stand up to City Council and march in protests. It has a thriving culture, but it tears down the things that make it unique to put up more condos, and worships the white frat-boy lifestyle. It has a mayor and police chief who have done a great amount of work, but who clearly have so very far to go.
And maybe it’s just the city that can make a difference here. It *is* small. It *is* hungry. It is full of good people who are getting pretty pissed off about the things that are happening.
Charlotte, you want to grow, to be big and powerful and to have a voice on the country’s stage? Here you go. Be one of the cities that stands up and says “No. Not here. Black lives do matter here, and we are going to protect Black lives as rigorously and honestly as any other life because we are better than our past.”
You can do it. I have faith in you.
About six years ago, I quit my dayjob and went full-time freelance, working for SFWA, Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales, Prime Books, and others. Since then, I’ve handled an amazing variety of clients, from simple advice for self-published authors, to the memorable time the Ambassador from Finland and his cultural attache plied me with drinks while we talked about how to use geekdom to reboot Finland’s cultural development (no I am not kidding this happened and will always be one of the most amazing moments of my life).
I’ve gotten to do some pretty great things, things that will make the industry better for everyone, safer, smarter, more evolved. Stepping back and looking at this all from the outside now, I can honestly say that I contributed a great deal and helped develop a lot of things that are just part of the scenery now. That feels pretty awesome.
It’s had its share of horrors, too. I’ve lost a lot of hope and faith in the community, and in people in general. I haven’t lost faith in the power of what we do, just in our desire to actually be beneficial, benevolent forces in the world. I’ve seen dozens of people I care for hurt by the vindictiveness and squabbling in this field. I’ve been preyed on by people who are respected in the field, and dismissed by people I used to idolize because of my gender. As I told a friend the other day, it’s been years since I felt safe or welcomed in geekdom, with the exception of actual friends.
To be honest, I’ve been burning out for a while now. It’s been a struggle to stay the course, much less stay positive. I’ve almost walked away three or four times now, just flipped the table and walked out. Sheer stubbornness kept me in. But I am tired, and angry, and feeling more than a little lost. I never thought I’d stop loving SFF, but I have. I barely even read it anymore, except for slush and some trusted authors.
I need a break, and a little distance, and a lot of perspective.
So, two weeks ago, I moved to Seattle and started a new day job. I won’t be telling you what it is. It isn’t in PR, or communications, technically, but it actually kind of is. All you need to know is that I’m getting a very up close and personal crash course in very problematic and troubled humanity. Strangely, I’m making friends and discovering quite a lot of interest in this damaged subset of humans. I’m working about 60 hours a week right now. I barely have enough time to keep myself running, let alone do much else.
But I *am* writing again.
Which brings me to the heart of all this. I will no longer be offering freelance services to anyone except existing clients and a few close friends. I will not be able to offer much advice, either, nor will I be appearing at many conventions. I will no longer be giving workshops at all, or appearing on panels more than two or three times a year, max.
I will be writing. Lots. Want me to write something for you? Email me, or hit me up on Twitter (but paid only, please). I will be sitting down to outline two novels in the next few weeks, and I will be reaching out to the agents I have spoken with in the past to see about establishing some communication there, as well as the editors who’ve expressed interest in my novels.
I’m finishing up a short story collection right now. I will still be editing, although cutting back a little there for sanity’s sake. My existing clients and friends will continue to have access to my services. I’m stepping up my Systema work, digging into some heavy-duty books, planning a trip to Iceland with my significant other, looking for a way to get back to horseback riding, and I’m running again.
And after 2 weeks of the day job and living on the west coast, 2 stressful weeks that involved my first-ever accident and some other serious issues, I am happy for the first time in…a long time. And not just a stolen moment here and there. It’s a constant, mild relief, like when pain goes away for the first time in a long time (I have had enough serious and chronic injuries to know this feeling). It’s kind of amazing, and it’s something I intend to enjoy for a while.
I knew things were broken, that I was making a lot of excuses for something I love, but guys, we’ve got to talk. Just two weeks back into the normal world has reminded me of how broken the creative world is. How much time we spend fighting, tearing each other down, destroying the thing we think we’re trying to create. How nasty and ugly and angry so much of our communication is, and how much of that gets out to the world in place of all the wonderful words we write.
So here’s my thing: this industry, this beautiful, weird, gorgeous, angry, brilliant industry broke me. I came into it as a bright-eyed young woman who knew full well how powerful words and stories could be, and am stepping back not even a decade later, bitter and exhausted. I’m not the only one. I wish I could say it had been longer, or that I’d done more. I wish I could fight harder and care longer. But I’m done. At this point, to protect the weird, gorgeous, angry, beautiful things that I love and want to create, I can’t get involved anymore. I have to step back and get my perspective back.
And that makes me so very sad I can’t even express it.
Do better, SFF. Be kinder. Remember that your words have the power to literally save lives. You saved mine, once upon a time. Be bigger, brighter, wiser than you think you can be. Know that you’re being heard, for good or ill. It matters. Your words matter. Act the part.
Strange California Take a journey up Highway 99. Stop off just north of Bakersfield where a young woman stands on the edge of Woollomes Avenue, looking apprehensive, debating if she should cross. She’s been dead for decades but the residents see her often enough that …
After a last-minute cancellation last year, I’m returning to ConVolution in San Francisco for the 2015 convention. I’m really excited about this, I like Bay Area conventions, I’ve just always had scheduling conflicts since I moved.
Better yet, I’ll be on some really exciting panels!
Did You Really Think We’d Stop Talking About This?
Saturday 13:00 – 14:15, Harbor A (Hyatt Regency SFO)
Writers Workshop: Business 101
Saturday 14:30 – 15:45, SandPebble B (Hyatt Regency SFO)
• Creating a portfolio
1. Writing samples.
2. Not just fiction!
3. Reviews, interviews, awards.
• The art of saying no
1. When to listen to your gut.
2. How to bow out of obligations.
3. Communicating delays/cancellations.
• Breathing time and self-care
1. Imposter Syndrome.
2. You’re worth it. No, really.
3. Finding what works for YOU.
4. Hobbies and ‘dead time’.
5. Asking for help.
Writers Workshop: Business 201
Saturday 16:00 – 17:15, SandPebble B (Hyatt Regency SFO)
1. Kickstarter, Patreon, IndieGoGo, GoFundMe, etc.
2. When to crowdfund, when not to.
3. Planning for the best and the worst.
1. Introversion doesn’t mean you can’t make connections.
2. Event networking.
3. Online networking.
4. How to ask for things and stuff.
• Bad Public Relations
1. When you’re the victim.
2. When you’re the problem.
3. When you get dragged into someone ELSE’S problem.
Sunday 11:30 – 12:45, Harbor A (Hyatt Regency SFO)
Sunday 13:00 – 14:15, Sumac (Hyatt Regency SFO)