You’ll have to excuse my year-long absence. I was busy getting my shit together in a process that went something like this:
give up alcohol on the Autumn Equinox, 2018; journal out the thoughts that bubbled up and snapped and lapped tar across my brain; cry a lot; let go of a lot; step away from formal academia; work through the The Artist’s Way, (an intensely straight, white, and privileged book that has transformative value if you have the patience/further privilege to look under that thick patina into the exercises); realize you did not waste a decade preparing for a career you stopped wanting half way through, because those skills are forever yours; lean hard into self-acceptance; admit you want to be a writer; feel new; feel loved; feel raw; feel terrified; experience the weightlessness of joy and build up your grounding to meet you where you are now; shed identities that no longer serve you; find your voice even in this political climate; especially in this political climate; write; write; WRITE; apply to the Clarion West Writing Workshop; process acceptance; write; write; WRITE; WRITE; come home from Clarion West equipped with stories, texts, advice, networks, new kin, ideas, goals, acumen, hope, desire, confidence, jitters, and start putting it all into action, becoming a career writer and author.
That last one is going to take me a while, but so did the rest of it. None of which would I have ever thought possible before I tried to do it, so, I guess I’m going to keep on learning how to balance writing and authoring, which breaks down, respectively, into the work of creating, and the work of being seen with your creations.
I’m pretty damn good at creating these days. I am still new to/hissing at the idea of authoring, which is basically all about branding.
To be clear, I am not opposed to the idea of branding as an author. All my favorite authors definitely have brands that they use to keep themselves both personable and safe on social media, and I admire that and want that and honestly think it seems kind of fun.
I’m hissing at the idea of stepping out into the light a la Beast and having people gasp like Belle, and I’m nervous about picking the right components for my brand. Here’s what the podcast Writing Excuses had to say about the latter:
Pick three key pieces of your personality that show up in all your work and that you’re also willing to discuss with others, so that you
a) create a persona, for sure, but one that feels real and sustainable;
b) make yourself available for author-reader relationships, but also remain in control of what you share; and
c) build an honest brand that will carry you through your career, no matter what you’re writing, in what genre, with what set of characters, because the components of your brand are inherently you.
They also suggested, beyond this, that you consider your fashion/physical brand so that people will be able to tell when you’re in work mode vs. play mode. Some authors go full fashion persona, others have a travel outfit, others just have a hat that they can take off.
So, with that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking for my author brand at present.
Component #1: Chosen Kinship
I have become a firm believer over the years in chosen kinship. To be sure, I have chosen to include in my familial network any number of my blood relations, but I have also had to walk away from others. And in their place I have welcomed so many friends from so many parts of my life who have been extraordinary. Friends from undergrad, who I’ve known for fifteen years now, who have grown wonderful families of their own. Friends connected to me through choirs and musicianship. The seventeen members of my Clarion West class who honestly changed my life.
Including this in my brand doesn’t mean that I want to publicly talk shit about blood relations that didn’t work out, or that I want to expose my friends to scrutiny. What it means is…goddamn I love my friends. I honestly don’t know where I would be without my kinship network, especially as someone unaligned to partnership and romance, and I want to make sure, as an author, that I support all my fellows, demonstrate good faith kinship in action, and write fierce, complex, unbreakable friendships.
Component #2: Liminality
Liminality is a fancy way of saying “a quality of in-betweenness,” which I have been and always will be drawn to. I live for my time out in the forest, watching the seasons shift and change, walking down to the water front and watching earth meet water meet sky. I adore the liminal times of day at dawn and dusk. I write Otherworlds and thickly networked Magic. I am non-binary and write lots of queer characters, as well as cisgender characters who complicate the boundaries of learned gender behaviors. I also walk between professions as a historian and a fiction-writer, and I think there’s something liminal, too, in what I grow in my garden and in the process of my cooking.
So, I’m thinking my brand will include a lot of pictures and reflections of me enjoying the liminality in my life. Hopefully, including this will also make room for me to take a step back and go to my safe, in-between spaces when I need to rejuvenate.
Component #3: Teaching
I’m a teacher. Always have been, always will be. My brand 100% has to include this.
I want to write essays on the actual history my alt-histories are based upon. I want to teach writing classes for historians and history classes for writers. I want to write for young and new adults and share the things I wish I’d known, let folks know they’re not alone. I want to teach empathy through my work and my characters. I want to give public talks and workshops on history and on writing, and on the connections between them. I can even see myself going back to a traditional classroom someday, if it was the right classroom.
Obviously my light steampunk. Boots, wide belts, button downs, vests, jackets. I wore this all summer at the various Clarion West parties and felt great.
So, those are my thoughts for the moment. We’ll see how this goes as I actually start building.