Blog Archive

January 6, 2020
When’s the Last Time You Had a Healthy Dialogue About Your Book?

After I wrote and published my first book and it flopped because I did no marketing for it and just expected to make one million dollars, I came to understand that I was doomed to write memoir. Doomed I said.

I felt like a salmon, swimming upstream, but even then it was good because I was starting to engage in a healthy dialogue about my writing and where it or I stood. (This is memoir, remember)

Even after I’d written my last memoir, yet another memoir, because I just couldn’t help myself, I pondered,

that a. I was writing in the less popular genre of Nonfiction (as compared to Fiction)

b. Not only was I writing in the less popular genre of Nonfiction, but I was also writing in the even less popular sub-genre of Memoir. And I wasn’t even famous like most people should be when they sell a lot of memoirs. I also wasn’t lamenting about the more popular memoir topics of alcoholic, druggie, dysfunctional, abusive parents and a dysfunctional childhood riddled with sexual abuse. (That was my first memoir)

And c. I was black and giving the business to passive-aggressive white society, and also overtly angry yet still somehow covertly kowtowing blacks, some of who love to lament about racism while doing absolutely nothing about it in everyday life. Monie in the middle. Too left, too right, too black, too white. Story of my life: Hard Sell. (Probs a good idea for another memoir)

I knew my odds. Let’s recap:

  1. I don’t even read Nonfiction.
  2. Famous people even have to buy many copies of their memoirs.
  3. I’m black, possibly.

But I also knew that these odds could be considered … Evens? I also pondered,

that a. Even though I was writing in the less popular genre of Nonfiction, I was writing in the less popular genre of Nonfiction. It wasn’t oversaturated like Fiction.

b. Exactly. Be. I wasn’t famous or writing about more popular, awful memoir topics, so I had a lot of room for creativity, especially in introducing more parts of myself instead of just the one aspect (that’s defined and frozen for all ye rest of your life in the memoir).

And c. See b.

I knew that there was a racial component to my book but insofar as what? The stats were that whites comprised approximately 70% of the population so my (cultural) perspective wasn’t the standard. And a lot of nonfiction books by blacks pushed and most published by both small and big presses alike appeal and cleave to cultural stereotypes of some kind, creating a nasty sort of confirmation bias for both black authors and non-black readers. Monie in the middle. Can’t win for losing.

Of course all of this shit could be irrelevant.

And this is why I love book promotion. Now. You don’t know, you never know. There’s so much to know. You’re older, you’re wiser, you know enough to know better than what you once knew, wise enough to know that you don’t know shit.

It’s all variables.

What are yours? That go into why your book might not be selling?

Pivot.

Sincerely,

The Unwitting Memoirist


December 24, 2019
The Importance of Being in Earnest

I am in earnest. Whenever I think about who I am, I always say the sentence, well, I am very earnest.

I do not know how to explain what being in earnest means. It’s not the play by Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest. It’s, it’s …

It’s when I am really meaning, when I’m in a deep state of meaning shit. I do something “bad”, I do something “good”, I don’t give a s**t because I rarely care about your interpretation unless you’re in earnest too. Like one of my favorite rude anti self-help gurus U.G. Krishnamurti said something like, morals is when you do something and no matter what you’ve done, you don’t question it after. (And if you do, well I reckon you should’ve done some other better shit.)

When I think about being in earnest, I think about Ernests. Like the writer Ernest Hemingway or Ernest J. Gaines who wrote one of my favorite short stories “The Sky is Gray”. It is a story about a young boy who is being raised by a single mother, who seems harsh, but she is raising him the best she can not in the spirit of herself as a woman but as a man. Like that.

Being in earnest is like. Striving, a yearning, oh how I yearn, it’s like when you’re stretching resistance bands. In earnest is the stretching the stretching, oh it’s stretching. But it will never break. It will just snap back to the way it was, but you will be much stronger now.

Earnestly,

The Unwitting Memoirist


December 14, 2019
Kinds of Camps

The start of my collegiate escapades began at a community college back in 2001 as a psych major. I was taking an Abnormal Psychology class taught by the cutest little white man who wore a bow tie and resembled Orville Redenbacher. He dressed to the nines and shuffled his little patent leather shoes under the desk. He told us about how he’d started out as a psychiatrist, listening to the beginning of a client’s issues, only to then excuse himself to the bathroom where he’d begin nervously tearing through a DSM for a diagnosis so that he could get paid by the insurance company. It was probably the DSM 0 edition, anyway, because he was as old as dirt.

He gave us a homework assignment one day that asked us to identify our camp: you’re either fucked up and the world is okay, he explained, or the world is fucked up and you’re ok, or neutral.

I’m not gonna tell you what I wrote even as a bad burgeoning writer back then, but I can tell you that I’ve always leaned toward the stupidity of the audience. I feel this way because of something I call, Feeling Statistics. It’s like, I don’t have a number for this based on any hard facts, but I feel like I’ve lived eons with a collective feeling that millions and billions of ultra talented people have died in poverty and unrealized because there’s only so much spotlight because this is Satan’s playground.

Anyway, I might be totally off base here, but I’m thinking about camps today and here’s what I come up with:

Camp 1

You are ultra talented but cannot effectively communicate this talent to an audience, so either they don’t know you, or watch your talent like how we might watch mimes. In a way that we somehow know is talented but we just can’t connect because we don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, your cry-face and trapped-in-a-box gestures a perfect mirror for our feelings about your art. Or, they just deny your talent because they don’t like you personally.

Camp 2

You are not very talented but can communicate effectively with an audience, either independently or with Satan’s PR Army. Or your self-deprecating mediocrity relates well to a whole army population of similar self-deprecating mediocres.

Camp 3

You are ultra talented and can effectively communicate that talent to an audience, in a way that makes you financially comfortable but artistically tortured because you are disgusted by your audience because they have ghoulishly interpreted and mangled your art in a way that it wasn’t originally intended. You discover that they are hillbillies or love Bruno Mars. They ask if you are a murderer because you write murder mysteries. You hate them.

As you can see in all of these instances how stupid the audience is.

Sincerely,

The Unwitting Memoirist

P.S. RIP Mr. Redenbacher (he’s gotta be dead by now, or at least clinically)


December 12, 2019
You Can Quit Your Day Job.

I’m mostly talking to my younger self, sitting on the sofa. Expectant. I’m saying it from in the TV.

You Can Quit Your Day Job.

I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t already doing it, haven’t already been doing it, doing it for most of my life, but it’s what I always needed to hear. So badly. I’d watch my favorite somebody or another, square inch of an ass cheek hangin off the sofa, expectant,

yes? yes? as they prepared their lips to say how they’d done it, how they’d broken through, how I could too. Then they’d talk about help from parents, or they’re sitting there white, or black and from money and/or a whole household, and other stuff I couldn’t relate to and my shoulders would deflate. I’d be halfway crumpled to the floor if and when they added,

But Don’t quit your day job.

Because that’s what I wanted. Not a literal save from whatever inescapable mess I’d created for myself, but a symbolic one, one of principle. I just wanted to hear that I had a choice in all this, that there was someone else out there … I didn’t want to hear logical or reasonable, but fuck it, do it, fuck it, just do it. I had some sort of ideal I was living for. Clearly. Because I’d built up a whole lot of lists of what I didn’t want to do and I wanted freedom from that to do … To do … Hell if I knew, I now realize.

You can quit your day job. I say. You can do whatever it is that your pretty heart desires, just be realistic about whatever life you have to live as a result of doing whatever it is that you want, of your will. Because not only did I quit and want to quit and be told to quit, but I also expected one million dollars as soon as I did.

Just be realistic. Put on your big boy or big girl drawers and be ready to assume the responsibility of such freedom. Not freedom juxtaposed against already having a job or a safety net. But juxtaposed against nothing but the wide expanse of the life you’re saying you want to live.

Sincerely,

The Unwitting Memoirist


December 6, 2019
I 💗 Book Promotion!

This is where it counts.

(Self) publishing a book is like yoga, whereas promoting a book is like Bikram yoga: that heat kicks in and people start dropping like flies. No more composed downward dog … just down dog, dog down. You’ll finally get up an hour later when someone opens the door.

I love book promotion, and I love book promotion as a disclaimer of ~ 1,000 downloads during a free promotion and ~ 50 of my books actually sold since June.

And this is the way it should be. I don’t need to wait around for a rich and famous author interview about how they made it because they’ve always been rich and famous, or how they made it because they were living in poverty in a bread line that isn’t glamorous until it literally becomes glamorous.

No one writes like me but me

No one has my story but me

No one is me but me.

Articles and how-to’s and yes I subscribe that’s great, but selling (a book) is an art because it isn’t a science.

I love book promotion because I used to hate book promotion, and anything related to “sales”. I just wanted to stereotypical write, wah, wah, I’m a writer just let me write. I remember publishing my first book on Lulu back in 2013 and how I literally thought I’d be a millionaire after I clicked ‘publish’. I punched my computer keys and argued critics all over discussion boards and never lifted a finger again when it became clear I wasn’t a millionaire. Back to the bread line because everybody is f**king stupid!

I love book promotion because writing is a release and book promotion is a never-ending dialogue with

My book: you good?

Me: I’m good.

My book: you still love me?

Me: I still love you. Let’s do it again, like Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier.

Do it again, check feedback again, and no feedback is feedback, pivot, do it again, different

At a different time, day, place … It’s really infinite, everything is a nuance, relative to not him or her but only you, a slight tweak you never know. Traditional publishers are a machine for a reason, a raison d’être.

This a lot!

Writing doesn’t test my passion and creativity like book promotion does, because writing for me is automatic. I wake up to my book lying next to me in bed everyday, and put on a pot of coffee. I ask my book if it wants some too and it yells back that it’s not just gonna sell itself. I cut my eyes evilly at my book when just yesterday we made wild passionate love. I love book promotion because it’s a wild love affair. How much do I love my book … Today?

Sincerely,

The Unwitting Memoirist


December 4, 2019
The Authenticity of Helping Others by Knowing Thyself

I have worked in Human/Social Services for most of my life. With all kinds of people. I started out with kids, very bad bad badly behaved kids. I’ve worked with “regular”, special needs, low-income and disabled populations. There have been many moments, to be sure, but I’ll never forget being cussed out by a lady on my caseload at my last job.

She was being displaced from her home of 10+ years and facing imminent homelessness because the landlord wanted the unit for family, and she’d nowhere to go. She was diagnosed with mental health issues but I don’t know why I say that because it doesn’t really matter to me.

Anyway, she was asking me to help her do x,y,z and I was offering to help her do z,y,x, when, suddenly, she said very sternly,

why don’t you listen? this is the problem with you people; you don’t listen.

And I stopped talking, fighting, because she was right. It was rare that I encountered less-well-to-do people battling for nothing but their self-respect and the right to self-determine, until I became one, newly yet once again, myself. In hindsight, my career flashed before my eyes: as a 17 year-old kid with trauma myself working with kids with trauma, as a Case Manager at the age of 23. A boss early on in my career joked, but she offered that maybe I suffered from countertransference. I wanted to be a bodhisattva and save the world in my early 20s because I subconsciously believed that I’d reached a place where no one else had. I was ashamed because what I was really communicating to the lady was that she had no right to ask for help unless it was in the manner I prescribed, and I wondered if out of a whole career of helping, I’d ever helped someone from a genuine place. Could I have had.

I have of course but it’s tricky. There are scammers and exploiters, sure, but it’s also the whole helper-helpeé model turned upside down. The guy in the train station says he’s hungry so I offer him an extra donut: he shakes his head and I get angry because he says he wants money. My 90+ year-old grandmother is standing there, in the way again, but maybe she cries a little in those moments when she does, because she knows what’s best for herself in her head, much to the inconvenience of others.

And so I used some discernment: I told the lady over the telephone that she was right, and gave her the information she was asking for, instead of the information I wanted her to have.

Sincerely,

The Unwitting Memoirist


December 3, 2019
I Am a Feral Cat Named Leia

Ahem.

I am a feral cat. Well 1/2 way, like Leia, the outside cat who became everybody’s responsibility once one of my neighbor’s boyfriends started feeding her. He was in prison for almost 20 years for murdering a lady. Nice guy.

She was so cute and little. At night I could hear the scary caterwauls, hers. I think she was fucking some other cats up real bad. I was afraid.

Because she was so cute and little. When you’d come up or down the walkway, she’d meow and trot alongside you, or jump up on the porch railing. Your heart would melt and she’d drop down on her back while you retracted your key from the lock, scary petting hand ready. And how she’d suddenly jump up and run away like you were the problem, the smile sliding down your face like a melted candle, claw key hand suddenly stabbing into the lock, fucking asshole cat. That’s the murderer’s cat, I’d mumble. I should call the fucking police on him for how his cat is making me feel. His baby mother did though. SWAT had our house surrounded one day. It wasn’t about no cat. Facts rap.

You go to pat or hug my shoulder because I’ve told you I’m a writer and my body begins a slow descent at a slant, like lava, your smile, so that you look stupid now patting air. An invisible basketball. Buy my book I say, bouncing away. It’s called, Action in the Paint, Interaction on the Perimeter. But you look angry, I know you won’t. Asshole. I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

I’d probably serve tea and crumpets to all the editors etc who rejected me, my work—my hopes and dreams—in a sealed bank vault while those commie pig cops were harassing us outside.

Just leave us alone! they treatin us good! I’d shout all crazy Janis Joplin-like into the bullhorn, sniff a line, arrange on the ransom note.

But stay outside too!

Sincerely,

The Unwitting Memoirist


November 26, 2019
Returned for Refund: Books & Sociopaths

This is the second time I’ve innocently went to check something about my book and ran into rudity. But honestly, you could spend years preparing for it, taking classes on it, but you’re never really fully prepared for people talking s**t.

This time it was a person accusing my audiobook of bigotry and trying to deafen them. Hm. There’s just so much here. “Freaking deafen” was the phrase. But let’s go with the title of their 1/3-star review—1 star for overall & story, and 3 stars for performance—”Returned for Refund”.

This was “triggering” for me. Not because someone returned an item of my creation, but because of an idiosyncrasy that I’ve always had to people who return things. Every time I see my 70+ year-old aunt, she is returning something. Well, I didn’t really like the hem on those pajama pants. The one shoe fit tighter than the other, no, I don’t do dressing rooms. Something tightens in me, because apropos of the previous sentence, it’s a behavior I’ve always associated with old people. Fussy people. Fussy old people.

Me, myself, I buy clothes online but not jeans, specifically because if, say, I miscalculate and they’re too short, I’d just wear longer socks or taller shoes instead of returning them.

I don’t even think I’d return a book. Even if I bought it in Barnes & Noble then sat for a couple of minutes reading it and hated it, I’d probably just finish my decadent chocolate cupcake and take it to the library. Or leave it in the bookstore.

I’ve thrown books. Torn pages out of books. Like those huge Norton anthologies I had as an English major that I refused to carry around so I just ripped out whatever page I needed for class that day. Donated books. Bought and read books, and even tried to make money on old books that incidentally included books that people had loaned me. Hey, that’s the book you borrowed from me! My ex boyfriend said. But I’ve never returned a book. Maybe it’s different for an audiobook. Throw my voice away and overall but not my story. “I’m sure the author has some worthwhile things to say …” Gee, thanks for the 3 stars.

Anyway, I’ve concluded that this person is either old and fussy or a sociopath. Really, same thing.

Sincerely,

The Unwitting Memoirist

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