talking about writing

Postpartum has been a different kind of beast than I’ve ever had to deal with and more or less the main reason behind the radio silence around these quarters. It’s not that I don’t feel like writing – quite the opposite, really; I’m pregnant with ideas (haha NOT funny) and I find myself aching to write, actually, in hopes of thus working out the mess in my brain, maybe, but I get so few moments of stillness. Stillness, not peace. Peace is long gone. This is the fundamental lie to keep the world moving, the part nobody tells you: once you’re a parent, you never have a moment of peace again. There was a time in my life when I did not give two shits about whether I lived or died, because once you’re dead, everybody’s dead back to you, and people generally get on with it, but now I have a child to take care of, so I can no longer treat myself like a garbage can that’s stumbling its way through life (restricting but doable) and I must also never die (slightly more challenging and therefore much more annoying). So, no peace. 

I feel like if the disclaimer re: offspring-related bliss is omitted (motherhood is a joy! I’ve never felt more whole! omg what was I doing with my life before!), people think you’re a monster that was just lucky enough to procreate, and your mom card should be revoked forever. The thing is, I absolutely adore kiddo, in ways I didn’t know were possible, and at the same time, I’ve never felt more directionless in thirty-five years. It’s a perfect storm of PPD, coming to terms with not working for a while, metabolizing nine months of pregnancy stress and the trauma of an emergency c-section, being the primary caretaker of a tiny human and above all, not having a moment to my own fucking thoughts anymore. I realize I’m mad as I’m typing this. I am mad; it’s because of another blatant collective lie by omission: few people find the inconvenient words to talk about how motherhood means that months will go by and you still won’t be able to look yourself in the mirror and describe yourself in words irrelevant to your child. Your vocabulary shrinks down to momspeak; you struggle to remember who you were and what you did all day before this. It’s something I want to write more honestly and thoroughly about, mostly to get it out of my system, but there’s not enough room for it now, not in my head, not in my core, not in this space. Not now, but someday.

Here’s what I’ve been up to in terms of actual writing: two of my fiction pieces got to appear in issues #5 and #7 of my favorite mischief makers over at Excuse Me Mag. I Found A Reason is a longer body horror story that first materialized as a book draft in an old notebook of mine, circa 2019. It then expanded into several chapters written out of order and lived in my docs folder for a couple of years, until I gave up on it. The premise was much different, involving a holdup at a supermarket, a middle aged slacker protagonist with a death wish and his girlfriend, a very unsubtle stand-in for myself. It became more jumbled and unsettling the more I wrote, partly because I wrote big chunks of it high out of my mind and also because halfway through I realized it was nothing more than an allegorical game of Sims fleshed out on paper, as it was my way to stomach real situations with actual people in my life and rectify them. This need to control things entirely out of my hands, paired with the isolation of the first years of the pandemic really clouded my perception of the book, and upon rereads and edits I came to the conclusion that self-indulgence was the least of my worries: it was straight up bad. Trite, even. Eventually I scrapped it. I revisited it one day as I was cleaning out my office; I’d filled the notebook and it needed to be thrown out. I took a chance on the details because, in my view, they were the only redeeming quality – the places it was set in were all part of my own private Athens, or at least the idea of it, and I wanted to immortalize them, as ugly and thankless as they were. So that’s what I did: I built the story around the spaces. I ended up realizing that ultimately this was my fucked up love letter to a distant downtown I miss the most, a less sanitized version of my city that I found myself pining for all too often during Covid times, pun unintended. And in that way, its curse was lifted. 

Vessels, a shorter slice-of-life piece is my favorite story so far, mainly because I was pregnant whilst writing it and didn’t know yet. There was a feverish urgency to write it, unlike anything else my head has produced, as if there was something impossibly important about it – guess there was. Although it’s not autobiographical, it’s my most personal yet; I tend not to reread my work once I’m done with it, as it’s just another perverse way for me to pick it apart till there’s nothing left to like, but reading it a year after I wrote it still felt like that undercurrent flowing right through me. 

I also have a fun non-fiction piece for a reality TV anthology by the Daily Drunk that’s coming soon. I low-key love me some reality TV, and I saw the submission call as a nice little opportunity to crank out something quick and dirty – I was heavily pregnant at the time they announced it on Twitter and had plenty time to kill. And so, How To Make Love Like A Pawn Star was born; a personal account about the lasting power of hoarding crapola like shitty family heirlooms and other such attic treasures that may or may not be worth a fortune for the right kind of buyer. I’ll post a link when it’s out.

There’s another story of mine that appeared in an anthology that was supposed to be a charity relief thing, but I never talked about it here. You can probably find it if you Google more than a couple of minutes; I just don’t want to promote a book whose proceeds, however minimal, if any at all, I highly doubt actually went towards the charity. I wasn’t given a signed contract back. There was never a working link to purchase the antho on the publisher’s website, despite them putting in an email with the entire TOC cc’d what I can only imagine was a placeholder link to stave off questions. There was never any proof that the small contributor’s compensation I waived in favor of the charity was ever donated. You can only find the book on Amazon, and honestly, it looks like nobody bothered to edit it; I managed to at least receive my contributor’s copy in the mail a year after I edited my story myself. I decided not to name and shame them or share other embarrassing details about the ordeal out of sheer grace, but it really ate away at me that this is a well-known indie publisher who puts out a slew of original titles and some translated works every year. They operate one of the most relentlessly active Twitter accounts in terms of posting and promoting their shit, and are generally well-liked in the community. I wouldn’t be so pissed if I hadn’t been approached directly by them to contribute a story for a good cause, vetted them through friends in the indie publishing world who actually vouched for them, and spent my time and energy towards something that I ultimately regret putting my name on. Just goes to show you how a super out-there social media presence and networking skills is not a great indicator of a publisher’s professionalism and actually means jack shit in terms of credibility. The story I wrote is not one I look kindly at; maybe any affection I felt for it got steamrolled under the unfortunate circumstances described above. It’s still something that bears my name, and it’s out there in however few copies, and I kinda sorta hate that for me because I feel cheated out of a positive print experience which is already rare. If you are one of the very very few people who follow my work and you come across the book in question, you now know about the shit sandwich it is. I’m not legally or contractually bound by anything (LOL) so you can always contact me via email and I’ll gladly send you a word/PDF file of the story directly. Even if there’s one person in the world who would like to support the cause and digs my writing and thus might consider picking the book up, at the very least, I’d like to give them the opportunity to make an informed choice rather than having them go ahead and throw their money towards something that may or may not have been a scam that didn’t quite pan out.

I’ve read nothing for pleasure, but I’m reading plenty to kiddo. He seems to have a fondness for certain books over others, and I’ll be compiling all of them in one post in the shape of a nifty little gift guide sometime down the road.

Closing with the song that’s been stuck in my head for a while. My first postpartum outing was a John Cale concert back in June and though he didn’t perform this one, he was pretty great. Fucking fearless at eighty-one. Just gorgeous.

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