Here are some of the brilliant things I have read this past week, my recommendations to you.
First I need to start with the amazing online poetry anthology Hard Femme Poetics: A Poetic Anthology of Femme Literary Brilliance, ed. by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. I am taking this in slowly, a few poems at a time. So very glad this is out in the world.
“Considering Hunting Monsters is only a few thousand words long, you get a lot of fairytale for your money. Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White and Rose Red all make an appearance here. However, each of these stories is presented slightly differently to how you’ve seen them before, and I really enjoyed the way that in doing so, the reader is forced to confront some of the more troubling aspects of fairytales. In the author’s own words: “How would Little Red Riding Hood react after what happened to her as a child — what kind of woman would she grow up to be?” And what if Beauty and the Beast wasn’t a love story (as in the Disney version) but rather about psychological manipulation and Stockholm syndrome — how would Beauty deal with this afterwards?”
Janet Mock’s piece about Beyoncé’s Lemonade
“It is in the telling where the fairy tale begins. Living and loving, hurting and surviving is not enough. Being able to give testimony to the burden, to “spin gold out of this hard life” and “conjure beauty from the things left behind,” is the fairy tale for the black woman. We improvise a way with our own lives. We refuse the sentencing of silence by giving testimony. This testimony provides blueprints that free us and the sisters and daughters who come after us.
Lemonade is the recipe we pass down to our black girls bearing witness to testimony. It is a cold, stinging truth; sweet and tart.”
Anne Leckie on writing omniscient point of view
“Specific advice for handling POV is nearly always advice for handling 3rd person limited, though it’s often articulated only as advice for handling POV, period. Writers who use that advice as their default template for handling POV will find themselves faced with difficulties if they attempt omni–hence, perhaps, the common wisdom that omni is hard to do, though once you realize that your POV technique isn’t POV technique but 3rd person limited technique, it becomes much easier. And then, of course, writers trained up on the features of 3rd person limited as ‘good POV’ will read through that framework as well, which makes pieces written in omni look like they’re just full of incompetent POV slips and if it works anyway, well that’s because the writer ‘knew how to break the rules.’
Excuse me, I had to take a few calming breaths after typing the ‘know how to break the rules’ thing. Look, if you can break it and the story still works–if lots and lots of writers break it and those stories still work–it is not a rule. There are not actually any rules. Okay? Okay.”
Andre Shakti gives some advice about responding to transmisogynist microaggressions between metamours in When Your Boyfriend Tries To ‘Bro Out’ with Your Girlfriend.
“even if Dan has the best intentions and is reaching out to Layla to connect ‘the only way he knows how’, his methods are still illustrating that he relates to her in a masculine way, instead of acknowledging, respecting and validating her feminine (and uniquely individual) identity. He may not realize that his ‘bro code’ hurts, but fortunately that’s where you can step in.”
Megan Erickson on writing and anxiety
“I have been thinking a lot about my anxiety lately now that I took a short breather. I released a lot of books last year and wrote a lot too. I was constantly on deadline. I told myself I’d take a break in April of this year. And you know what? IT SUCKED. It was like my brain didn’t know what to do now that it didn’t have that dedicated focus time every day. It neeeeeds it. It fuels it. It allows me to sort out everything else when I have that time to spew out everything that’s circulating in my brain. Writing is like my brain’s every day spring cleaning.”
Mallory Ortberg on fat oppression in publishing
“‘We would have paid her the same money if she weighed 500 pounds and was really hard to look at.’
This is such a telling quote in so many ways, and says a great deal about what types of writers so many of the gatekeepers in publishing are looking for – often, although not in this case, unconsciously. The ‘if she weighed 500 pounds’ part is so clearly a hyperbolic flourish, as if Herr was thinking, what’s something really outrageous, something that no great writer would ever be, to make it clear how much we don’t let someone’s looks influence the size of their advance, as if to say, Can you imagine a brilliant writer who also weighed 500 pounds. It’s the ‘or purple’ of ‘I don’t care if you’re black, or white, or purple’: This would never happen, but even if it did, I wouldn’t care.
‘We’d have bought this book EVEN IF – I don’t know – the writer were 500 pounds, as if that could ever happen.’ But that could, and does, happen! People of that size both exist and write. They sometimes write tremendous and valuable things.”
Karrie Higgins writes about growing up disabled and connecting with Prince as a fellow disabled person. (TW: detailed descriptions of sexual abuse)
“As a kid growing up with epilepsy, I made myself colorful as a survival strategy.
Age 14, a sharp, distinct, intentional before and after: Before seizures, I was the shy, quiet girl drowning in baggy kitten sweatshirts and Wrangler jeans; after seizures, I showed up to school in fishnets, combat boots, heavy black eyeliner, and dyed red-platinum-orange-pink-black (whatever fit the mood that week) hair. While the other kids whispered Karrie is on drugs, Karrie is nuts, Karrie pisses her pants, Karrie is faking, Karrie is a freak, I said fuck it. I will show them a freak. My clothes got weirder. My writing got weirder. My musical tastes got weirder. My art got weirder. I got weirder.
I didn’t know until years later that Prince did the same damn thing. Prince had epilepsy, too. Prince got freaky as survival strategy.
In 2009, he talked about his epilepsy publicly for the first time on PBS with Tavis Smiley. “From that point on,” he said, “I’ve been having to deal with a lot of things, getting teased a lot in school. And early in my career I tried to compensate by being as flashy as I could and as noisy as I could.”
Prince was a walking disability poetics.”
An interview with Tobi Hill-Meyer about trans erotica
“You can’t understand how incredibly valuable a moment of being accepted for all that you are in the midst of a positive healthy sexual experience can be for so many trans people unless you have a sense of the despair that can come with the fears that such a moment will never come.
When every story is about how incredibly hot people have incredible sex together with incredible orgasms, it becomes flat. Compare that to a submission I received in which you’ve seen the traumatic past that causes a woman difficulty having any sex at all, and now she’s masturbating in her lover’s arms, who gently pets her forehead to ward away flashbacks, finally shuddering in gentle release to an orgasm she hasn’t had in who knows how long—that story legitimately moved me in a way that would not be possible without room for a fuller emotional pallet. That’s what sets this work apart from typical cis-centric erotica.”
“In the music world, singers are often told to “eat the mic,” which basically means sing right into the microphone, almost like you are making out with it. This is because singers are often competing with a multitude of different sounds. Book events tend to be less sonically competitive, but because writers are often shy and introverted, we tend to fear the microphone, and therefore stand far from it, as though it might eat us if we step too close to it.
I am here to tell you that the mic is your friend. Walk right up to it, and speak into it. You don’t have to yell. Like a good friend, you can rely on it to help amplify your voice. But first, make sure the head of the mic is pointing directly at your mouth—not your chin, not your neck. You shouldn’t have to hunch over to speak into the mic, and your mouth shouldn’t be further than two inches away from it. Don’t hesitate to adjust the mic or the mic stand, or to ask for help from the organizer with this. People want to hear the beauty of your words. It’s worth spending thirty seconds to get the mic properly positioned for you, so the audience can hear you without having to strain.”
Larissa Pham wrote this nuanced and respectful exploration of BDSM (I am so honored to have been interviewed for it!)
“‘I think one of the reasons why I like BDSM and kink is because it opens up a whole world of conversations that don’t really happen with ‘vanilla’ sex,’ wrote Sofia, a queer Asian woman. ‘Consent is important, but so is understanding limits and listening to your partner and their needs.’
Vanilla sex and dating—what we might consider normative, non-kinky sexual behavior—often struggle with the language around consent and desire, because those conversations aren’t an explicit part of the courtship process. Matters like when to have sex, what kind of sex to have, and how the relationship dynamics might be established (dating? friends with benefits? something else?) aren’t discussed as much as felt out by instinct. Because vanilla dating doesn’t demand it, people often aren’t vocal about what they need or want from a partner—remember the last time you had to sit down and have a ‘define-the-relationship’ talk? However, BDSM requires an explicit discussion of each individual’s needs, boundaries, and fantasies, which in turn allows for a heightened sense of simultaneous freedom and security.”