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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
Becca at the End of the World and Me & Writing Last Year 
12th-Feb-2014 10:12 am
Typewriter - tell me about it
My short story "Becca at the End of the World" is up at The Drabblecast! My first podcast sale. First podcast reprint solicitation (my first reprint solicitation altogether was "Valentines" from Interfictions 2 for Apex, by Cat Valente), although there's a funny story about that... apparently the editor had fallen in love with the story when he read it online, made a note to contact me to solicit audio "reprint" rights, and misfiled the story in "stuff to go into production", missing the whole contacting-me step. So I woke up to a Google Alert about it and fired off an e-mail along the lines of "Oh hai! I feel like there were some missing steps here?" and he was like "OH CRAP" and long story short, I got profuse apologies, a contract, a higher payment than they usually give, and an eager solicitation for anything else under 3,000 words that I'd like to send them. A bunch of my stuff is under 3K, so: cool. I always forget that I can resell stories to audio markets, since I never actually listen to podcasts. Here, "Becca" is read by Kate Baker, who reportedly had to keep pausing because she kept getting choked up. Given the topic, I'll take that as a compliment.

The thing about "Becca" in particular is that, if I had been solicited, I'd probably have said no thank you - I said yes in this case because all the work had already gone into it, and really it's no skin off my nose. But I have very complicated feels about this story that are not closely related to the story itself, but to the circumstances surrounding its publication. And this is the other missing piece of why I didn't write anything last year.

Ouchy stuff to write about.

I originally wrote "Becca" to submit to the Deep Cuts anthology of women writing horror. It got rejected, and Michael, who I'd just started talking to in depth (our first real convo about life, as opposed to writing/editing/copyediting, was 9/26/12), exhorted me to send it to Lynne for Apex. I demurred - I was already having a bit of trouble re: writing due the issues with Judah. He nagged until I said FINE, and I sent it to her on 10/18/12 with the subject line "Submission that your husband totally told me to send: "Becca at the End of the World"". It didn't come up again til 1/3/13, when Michael poked me to poke her about it, and I did. She hadn't read it yet. She read it and accepted it that day. Scheduled it for October, as I had a poem coming out there in May and they didn't like to schedule authors closer than six months apart.

The reason I'm including dates is that this timeline is important.

Because Michael and I started talking around the fact that we had feelings for each other in late January. I have a scrap of paper pinned to my bulletin board from February 1: "negative spaces of the questions we will not ask."

February 7 was the first time I specifically said "this can never be because you're my editors."

That was a long conversation. It was a long conversation that day, and it continued through April. With variations on the topic, but essentially, every time the conversation came close to our Feels, I said no. I adored him. I wanted him. But they were my editors, editors who'd published my work and were publishing upcoming work. There was a huge disparity in our professional levels there. Just like a boss dating their employee, y'know? He wheedled, he cajoled, he told me at every turn that there was no disparity, no power imbalance between us, that no one would think anything of it, that no one would look at my publications at Apex sideways, that no one would assume that I got there because I was dating them. Which I strongly disagreed with every time. "It doesn't matter," he'd say, "No one will care."

And I'd say every time, "I care. It matters to me."

With the benefit of hindsight, I'm able to see this as me stating a boundary and that boundary being disregarded. I'm able to see this as my emotional well-being being disregarded. At the time? I was besotted, and things were intermittently rough with Judah's bigger and more blatant boundary violations.

So on April 12, after going for drinks with someone else and being unable to stop thinking about Michael, after months of wheedling, I gave in. I laid my heart bare. I chose him.

I chose him over submitting to Apex ever again - my condition, not his.

And later, I chose him over writing at all.

Because I couldn't reconcile it. I couldn't be okay with that power imbalance existing. I couldn't pretend it didn't hurt. I couldn't feel right about writing. I felt that everything that got published from then on would be tainted.

Yes, this post hurts a lot to type. I will persevere.

"The Busker, Broke and Busted" came out in early May, when things with Judah were getting worse; Judah cheated on me in mid-May, we had that horrible week, I went to Wiscon and had sex with Michael and Lynne for the first time, I returned from Wiscon and Judah raped me and beat me up, and it's obvious why I wasn't writing during that period of time. And then it was being on chat all day.

The "I can't be with you and have a writing career" realization evolved over months. Slowly, with much discomfort. This is a big part of why I had that massive crash in September. One of the causes of that depression, behind the scenes, was that the publication of "Becca" was coming up. And who was to know that its sale came before things started with Michael and Lynne? No one. And to point it out would be to make a big deal over something Michael claimed no one would notice or care about. I was already feeling fragile over my writing due to the way Michael and Lynne signal-boosted my BPAL sale to raise money for my lawyer's retainer - it would not have hit the SF community like it did if not for them pushing it, which I had not wanted them to do, which I told Michael at the time that I was vastly uncomfortable with. (The words "humiliation" and "shame" were frequently used. Readercon was a nightmare because of it.) I felt, after that, that I could never be known in this community for my own writing, on my own merits. I would just be "the girl who got raped." And, by September, "the girl who's fucking the editors of Apex."

I did not want that story published. I spiralled about this really hard. Michael was only barely able to talk me down from trying to wipe my entire writing career from the face of the earth: I was thisclose to e-mailing every magazine that had work of mine online and asking to have it removed. That spiral is why the Shayara website is no longer up. Things have rarely been as bad for me as they were in September, and it was an almost-daily back and forth of me desperately not wanting that story published and them reminding me that that would leave a hole in the issue, that that was the story they were giving the Mary Sue that month, that I'd be screwing them over if I pulled it.

And I acquiesced, as I did every time. I accepted that my emotional well-being was unimportant to them. I didn't label it as that then; I was in a miserable, low place, and my pattern recognition skills were offline due to an overabundance of crises. But that's what it was. Over and over, it was me saying "if this happens, it will hurt me" and them saying "well, it shouldn't hurt you because we say so" instead of saying "then we won't do it." From having a relationship with a disparity that I was massively uncomfortable with through publishing a story that I didn't want published. (And more, to be detailed later.)

You may have noticed that I barely promoted the story; one tweet, one brief post here, one link on Facebook. Bare minimum. Did not want it to exist.

It took me til now to really realize why. To realize that it was a blinding neon sign that my emotional well-being was irrelevant.

So yeah. I kinda wanted the story to vanish. Its existence shames me - not because of the circumstances of its sale, which happened before anything that crossed the boundaries of professionalism and friendship. But because I gave up so much. Because I hurt so much about this damn story being published after I shut and locked the doors to my writing career. Because my feelings didn't matter.

So if it had been solicited in the usual way, I would have said no. Just because I want nothing to do with all of the shit associated with it.

But the recording was already done and up there.

I have a teddy bear that Judah bought me. (This is relevant. Stay with me here.) He is from IKEA and his name is Edgär. His arms are on backwards and his fur strokes the wrong way, and Judah and I each used to sleep cuddling him when the other was gone. For months after the assault, he lived in my closet; Michael bought me a stuffed bunny to replace him. But after a few months, Edgär came back out to live on my bed again. This raised Michael's eyebrows... but I explained, "He is a Good Bear. I can't blame him for the circumstances of his birth."

I don't really have the perspective yet to determine if "Becca at the End of the World" is a Good Bear. It hasn't been long enough yet. But this forced me to take a look at it. Obviously people liked it - the editor of The Drabblecast, the reader of the podcast, the artist who did a piece for the "cover". So I can allow for the possibility that "Becca" is a Good Bear. And so I said yes, you can have it.

I wrote a poem this morning about broken/lost languages. I finished a short story recently about needless sacrifices. I wrote and submitted a thing a bit over a week ago about, among other things, loss and mapping new territory. And I'm working on the new novel. Despite some ongoing things that they're doing to me that are unrelated to this topic. I am coming back to writing.

I've had tears in my eyes through much of the writing of this post. And I think maybe "I am a Good Bear" may be one of my new mantras, alongside "I am not a gun".

And I don't think I have anything else to say on this right now. But if you like having stories read to you, go listen to that one. If you don't, that's okay too. I am going to go take a shower.
12th-Feb-2014 03:31 pm (UTC)
For those of us who prefer reading to listening, is this story also online somewhere as text?
12th-Feb-2014 03:32 pm (UTC)
Yes - it's still up at Apex.
12th-Feb-2014 03:41 pm (UTC)
I have a hug for you the next time I see you. If you want it.
12th-Feb-2014 04:00 pm (UTC)
Yes please.

I am having a 40th birthday thing March 8 that I need to get started planning. I don't know what I'm doing yet, but *something*.
(Deleted comment)
12th-Feb-2014 04:04 pm (UTC)
As much as it hurts me to read that, I can't imagine what it felt like to think, then write it.

*nods* You understand.

And so this is the comment that got me sobbing. Not a bad thing. Just a powerful emotional release thing. Everything about this has been them handwaving away my feelings and telling me they're not valid and shouldn't matter. So knowing that you hear and understand...

I assure you: you were known and admired for your writing long before these events, and you still are, and you will continue to be.

I will believe you. Trauma blurs everything around it, is the problem, so I haven't been able to *see* it...

*big hugs* The thing I sold recently, that I'm waiting for the contract to officially announce? Was the thing you helped me with. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Edited at 2014-02-12 04:04 pm (UTC)
12th-Feb-2014 04:10 pm (UTC) - Thank you for sharing
I'm sorry the entry was so hard to write. I hope writing it has helped.

I have a related, but different, story about the kind of relationship you want but that is fraught and what happened. If you're interested, I'll share it someplace other than LJ comments.
12th-Feb-2014 04:11 pm (UTC) - Re: Thank you for sharing
I have a related, but different, story about the kind of relationship you want but that is fraught and what happened.

That sentence is confusing! But you can e-mail me...

Writing it did help. Being silent about stuff like this is very toxic to me.
12th-Feb-2014 04:10 pm (UTC)
You are a Good Bear. And I sincerely hope that you come back to writing, because I love reading your work -- and (I don't know if one voice makes any difference to say it) I will always associate you with being a writer, blogger, and an overall amazing person. Not a victim of anything.

And on a semi-unrelated note, I am glad that Edgär is a Bear on His Own Merit. :)

Edited at 2014-02-12 04:11 pm (UTC)
12th-Feb-2014 05:36 pm (UTC)
12th-Feb-2014 08:15 pm (UTC)
~leaves a stone and lights a candle~

I don't have words. I am sadness-full that this was your experience of the story, that this has described your life of late. I am hope-full that the future will hole better and happier.

As others said, as others will say - Your writing, and skills at it, and glories of it, exist outside these experiences. You were a good writer well before you were involved with them, and you will continue to be a good writer well after.

I don't know you closely. I don't expect to hear about all of the details of things from you. But I have noticed now that with both Judah and Michael and Lynne, you painted pictures of things going well for those of us on the fringes, at least, and it sounds like also maybe for those closer in? And that - that alerts me in a worry-way. I worry that part of not pattern-seeing, is also pattern-hiding. That not sharing things was a way of helping you not-see. I could also be totally wrong, as see again, don't know you closely. But it might be a thing to look at?
12th-Feb-2014 09:54 pm (UTC)
This is actually a super-common pattern for survivors of childhood stuff; the first thing we learn is that it has to look from the outside like EVERYTHING IS FINE.

There were parts of it that I saw and parts that are only clear in retrospect, and a lot of that has to do with the Judah stuff.

I said a lot this summer that I was struggling with how intense my relationship with them was, specifically because the only other relationship I'd had that was that intense was with Judah. So I was cautious about some of the boundary-shifty things, but he kept telling me I was being paranoid and being hurt that I thought anything he was doing could be like that, and I chose to believe him. Because I wanted to believe him. The only thing we argued about other than the magazine was me going to parties where there'd be kissing; I insisted that I was going because those were a major issue with Judah (him needing to be the prettiest in the room and getting cranky and making us leave when people paid attention to me), and the attempted limitation of my behavior re: parties was a big Judah button. Every single time, he made it into an argument. Every time I stuck to my guns. I absolutely obeyed every stricture in the relationship - nothing below the waist, etc. - but if I stayed home altogether, I knew that I'd resent it because of the Judah correlation.

I should have paid a lot more attention to that. I shouldn't have ignored red flags due to his discomfort with me addressing them. There was a lot of chaos, and I didn't know how much of the stuff that was bad was *really* bad, or if I could be overreacting...

Note that Michael was not abusive. And that I believe that his feelings for me were, and still are, genuine. I believe that he fell in love with me. I believe that Lynne realized she could use me.
12th-Feb-2014 09:13 pm (UTC)
The SF community is such a hothouse; sorry you experienced an extremely hot corner of it.
12th-Feb-2014 09:56 pm (UTC)
My instincts were right at the start of this thing. I should have listened. *wry smile*
(Deleted comment)
13th-Feb-2014 04:13 pm (UTC)
The behind-the-scenes plan is to do my standalone novels first, then circle back to Shayara... that deserves its own post, which I will try to get to today!
13th-Feb-2014 04:11 am (UTC)
Wow. I'm so sorry this happened. Such a clustersock of emotions and vulnerabilities and everything, and I can see how it fell together.

Gah. Hugs, if you want them, and so much sympathy.
13th-Feb-2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
Exactly yes. :(
13th-Feb-2014 04:55 am (UTC)
I read this. *hug* I might read the story, later.

I'm glad you're reclaiming your writing. This year I'm reclaiming dancing, myself.
13th-Feb-2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
Dancing in clubs? Partner dancing? Ballet? I'm interested in reclaiming dancing myself...

EDIT: Content warning: Story is about a mother whose child has been bitten by a zombie and has to Make Terrible Decisions, so if that is difficult for you as a mom, it is totally okay to skip this one.

Edited at 2014-02-13 04:15 pm (UTC)
13th-Feb-2014 06:49 am (UTC)
*lots of hugs* I was just thinking the other day about Shayara, and wondering how much of the stories are written and if it's accessible... When I think of you and writing, Places You Haunt comes quickly to mind, but Shayara is that home space, the world you made, the place of writing I knew so well when when you were still in Atlanta. Which puts me out of date, I know, and you have done many good things since! But I still wonder, some days, about Capri and Lyric and Napalm and Donna and that place beyond the gates and all the stories there.

I know, bit of a rabbit trail there.. but it happens while trying to wrap my brain around all of the big things you said there. Yeah, I still work that way. :)

*lots of hugs*
13th-Feb-2014 04:15 pm (UTC)
The behind-the-scenes plan is to do my standalone novels first, then circle back to Shayara... that deserves its own post, which I will try to get to today!
13th-Feb-2014 04:54 pm (UTC)
[silently offers The Good Hugs,whatever her conception of such are, should she wish to accept same.]
13th-Feb-2014 05:58 pm (UTC)
I am grateful that I will be able to offer hugs in person soon.

Always happy to listen. <3
14th-Feb-2014 02:38 am (UTC)
*hugs* if you want them. I am sorry weather means I will not be there Friday afternoon to deliver them in person.

And someday, if a history with points of similarity would make you feel not alone rather than co-opted or upstaged, I will tell it over a drink.
14th-Feb-2014 03:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, please.
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