Incidents and Inspirations

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I've had a bit of downtime from working on events -- the last major one was the huge success of the Feminist Zine Fest (you should definitely check out the photos and interviews with our rock star zinesters that I put up). It's taken me a few weeks to recover from having worked on an event where we estimate that, conservatively, 350+ people showed up and there were 40+ tablers, two readings, and a workshop to wrangle. I'm going to miss the team this year while I'm out traveling! They're really the ones that made this whole thing possible.

Apart from being wiped out though, I have been going through old notebooks to look for the gems of my writing that I might want to craft into stories. I write a lot. A lot. Looking through my old files on my computer and the number of notebooks I go through in a year, hardly any of it actually gets processed into useable work, for the obvious excuses: I don't have time/energy/interest or this is hard/I'm not a good writer/someone's said this before/[insert predictable self-doubt]. But the exercise of going over things has brought to my attention that I actually, sometimes, like my writer voice. And that I actually have one, something that my teenage self couldn't really imagine.

It's brought up a lot of interesting memories as well. Like the time when I printed out nearly 170 pages of written material and presented it to my middle school English teacher for his review. The man asked me "what themes do you have?" When I couldn't answer him, he smiled, gently took the binder, and I never saw it again. But I was undeterred. That same year I had the audacity to send out big tan envelopes with the manuscript (unedited) to agents and editors, all of whom I'm sure thought I was quite cute to at 14 be sending a novel in for review.

I'm interested in getting some of that confidence back. The unintended consequences of having grown up and gone through a creative writing program at college means that I study my words carefully. I worry about things that don't really matter. Essentially, I stop myself before I start.

Lately I've been trying to force myself into genres that I don't particularly like because they seem 'more important' somehow. Sure, I'm an activist and do a lot of other great work for the world, but I realized that even if I got paid to write about those experiences, it would still come out closer to fiction. But sometimes it feels like there's a huge pressure to have my work be useful for society, as LuLing Osofsky says so well in this episode of The Rumpus' Make/Work podcast.

Other people do critique well. And it's fine to not be them. There is space for all of us out here.

Aside from FZF, it seems like this past month was the Month of the Interview for me -- check out the Barnard Center for Research on Women's podcast where I talk zines alongside my lovely zine co-conspirator Jenna Freedman. And also take a look at this video from the a fundraiser I participated in called Colors of Healing, a self-care bazaar where we sold our handmade things to send young queer/trans people of color to the INCITE conference this year.