18 April 2021

"If Your Dreams Do Not Scare You, They Are Not Big Enough"

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
The title of this blog is a quote from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, which popped up in my inbox recently. It got me thinking about my big dream, which is to publish my novels.  

The good news, which sounds braggy, is I already hit some other writing dreams during the course of my life. I always wanted to write and produce a musical, and in my twenties I did that with Melancholia (2006). I always wanted my writing to be published, and I've done that through my poetry with various online journals. (It's been quite a long time since I've put something out, though, given all my free writing time is currently devoted to Son of the Siren). 

The next big whopper is seeing my books out there in print, on the bookshelves, in major bookstores across the nation, and maybe across the world, too. 

But I have some fears with this goal.

This post might take you on a different journey than what the inspirational quote intended. I'm going to vent about the biggest thing that scares me about publishing my work. 

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I'm writing YA and I feel an incredible responsibility towards my readers to be inclusive, to not tell the stories that do not belong to me or to appropriate cultures that are not mine, and to proceed with heavier content with the utmost care and consideration. There is the fear that my work will harm others, because I legitimately think the stuff I wrote in the past did harm people to some degree. 

I remember a friend of mine apologizing for leaving one of my plays before intermission, In the Hands of Mr. Hyde (2007), because his girlfriend was exceedingly uncomfortable with the attempted assault depicted on the stage. She had to leave because my work harmed her. There's no other way to describe what happened. 

We had no notice printed on our advertisements nor in the program that we were going to depict some adult themes, violence, and sexual situations, and we totally should have. It's one of my great regrets that the shows that I wrote -- which shared similar content -- did not contain these notices, and I did not consider my audience or my actors as I wrote these scenes.  

I see nothing wrong with content warnings. I don't think they encourage people not to read. I think they are a way of alerting readers to activate whatever coping mechanisms they have developed for themselves to handle topics that may be a challenge to them. A content warning is the mysterious old man in the cave who tells the hero, "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!" and the "this" is what you need to get through a text, the thing every reader determines for themselves to equip when they encounter heavier, darker subject matter. We should have had them with my work, and I should use them going forward when the situation calls for it. 

The book that I'm writing, Son of the Siren, contains similar sexual situations as in my earlier works, because it's based on the fairy tale Donkeyskin. In that story, the king tries to marry his own daughter and the implications of that are horrifying. In my story, the Queen goes after her own stepson, Lirien. I do not depict rape, but the Queen technically assaults Lirien by forcing her kisses on him, or touching him against his will. I am proceeding cautiously but there's still the fear that what I'm doing may be a lot to handle, especially for YA audiences. Sometimes it's even too much for me, as it's brought up a lot of trauma from my past as I write. But I'm working through it and I'm using it as a barometer for what readers may potentially feel. I hope I'm doing my readers right by the way I've approached this content, and it's part of the reason why I've been taking so long drafting the book. 

I have so many other fears about putting my work out there with the goal of mass consumption. What if I never get an agent or become published? What if my books won't sell? What if people hate what I have to say? How the heck do I write and publicize at the same time? How well known do I want to be? Should I have used a pen name instead of my real name? I was a shitty person in my past during the early era of my bipolar disorder  -- will my mistakes come back to haunt me even though I've worked through them, paid for them, and changed myself completely? What is the price of becoming a public figure, even if nobody knows who you are? And you can add 37 different et ceteras to my laundry list of fears. 

A lot of these are irrational. A lot of this is putting the cart before the horse. I get that. But sometimes when I'm doubting myself or going through imposter syndrome, these fears hit me hard. 

It's something I expect to be working on over the course of my life as a writer. 

Much thanks to all of my friends, family, and writing colleagues who have, over the years, listened to me ramble about this stuff. You've helped me cope immensely; now the rest of the work lies with me. 

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17 April 2021

Switching to Mailchimp

Photo by Vlad Kutepov on Unsplash.

I've used Blogger as my website for ten years now and am not exactly the most technologically literate person. I've learned to design this blog and add widgets and formatting as I go, to some success. 

I have (now had) a widget on my site that allowed people to subscribe to my blog posts via email through Feedburner. Feedburner and Blogger have announced that this will be discontinued July 2021. 

Considering I want to get a head start on replacing my program for email subscriptions, I decided to give Mailchimp a try today. 

Reader, I have no idea what I am doing. 

This website post is essentially an update but also an experiment to see if I set up my RSS Feed to Mailchimp correctly. I'm trying to make it so subscribers can access my blog posts easily if they don't feel like clicking on the site itself. I was surprised to find that I have to format my emails separately from my original posts, and again, I have no idea if I did this correctly. I hope everything works out ok. 

Thanks for letting me experiment!