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Lusty Lady

BLOG OF RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL
Watch me talk about my debut as an author, Sex & Cupcakes: A Juicy Collection of Essays, in this Q&A with my publisher Thought Catalog Books

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Should I be editing my final anthology? and other existential questions I'm asking myself

Like I said, I am trying to curb my impulses to blog my oversharing and instead, turn that into something more coherent and thoughtful (I usually dash off blog posts like this in minutes and don't look back) that actually makes money in the form of essays and such, but since last night was hard (I blame hormones), I wanted to share a little bit about some other things I'm thinking about lately regarding my work and what often feels like a mockery I've made of the idea of being a writer. I have moments I'm very proud of but they are easy to lose sight of. Part of my crisis of late is figuring out if I want to keep doing anthologies, or rather, if they are worth it. I love the process; it suits the social part of me that likes collecting people together, it suits the part of me that likes to write but also wants variety beyond what I can conceive of, it suits the narcissistic part of me that likes to see my name on books. I'm proud of having edited 38 anthologies and have learned a lot about the process.

But the reason I ended In The Flesh is that it was a failure financially. Restaurants close within a year if they're not making money; I did it for five. Now, I wasn't running a restaurant or trying to live off In The Flesh, nor am I, currently, off my anthologies, that would be a highly unrealistic goal, but when you pour so much of your time and energy and creativity into the process, which goes way beyond just selecting and arranging the stories into proofreading, catalog copy, promotion cost and time, website cost and time, at a certain point, I have to ask myself if I'm being smart, if I'm priming myself for success for the same old status quo.

My friends, who are admittedly much more talented and business-savvy than I am, get flown around by fancy TV networks and fancy governments. They live off their art. They are, to me, Successful with that capital S. Me? I'm flying myself to London and at this rate might only have one event, which was not something I'd ever have agreed to if I'd known it would happen. I very well might not get any press. No word yet on Seattle. For Seattle I had already bought my ticket for the Rock n' Roll Marathon, and because I tend to do this, I set up a reading, which I'm okay with, but it's costly. I'm spending $81 on cupcakes, and I'd have to sell, approximately, 81 books to cover that cost.

I'm not blaming anyone else for this state of affairs; I chose a creative act that simply will never be as lucrative as what some of my friends do, or at least, hasn't been for me, thus far, and combine that with my unofficial master's degree in self-sabotage, and you can see where the process might get a little overwhelming. It's hard when it feels like I spend more time doing busy work than anything creatively fulfilling regarding my freelance work, and to see my royalty statements stay the same, or go down. That is not the direction they should be going in when I'm putting more and more books out there.

When I started, I was happy just to have my name on a book. $1,000 flat fee no royalties for Up All Night co-editor credit even though I did 95% of the work? Sure. You want to put the ugliest cover imaginable on a femme/femme book called Glamour Girls? I have no choice, do I, so sure (note: Haworth folded and I never saw another cent from that book, but I learned to speak the fuck up about ugly covers from that fiasco).

And I've sabotaged myself at every turn, which I can't go into detail about here lest I ruin any future chances I have in the world of print publishing, which I get that everyone says is dying but you know what? I still care about it, I still love books, paper books made from trees I can hold in my hand. I still love going into bookstores and fondling covers, picking them up, getting lost in words. I still love carrying around Adair Lara's Naked, Drunk and Writing or Nikki Giovanni's Bicycles or Noelle Hancock's My Year with Eleanor or Bob Smith's Remembrance of Things I Forgot. So maybe I will indeed keep editing anthologies til I die not because I ever will be Successful, but because I like it, I like the covers, I like the hopefulness each time a new box of books lands at my feet. I like the newness, the way I have to think hard—what kind of hotel erotica story will I write that's different from what's come before?

There's a hell of a lot of things I like about the process, but it's not easy. Maybe it was and it's gotten harder, maybe I'm in a rut, maybe it never was and I'm just realizing it now. I'm facing a lot of ways I've backed myself into all sorts of corners and honestly I don't know how to get out of them. Some days I am bursting with plans and ideas and ambition and some days I'm sure I'll never be anything more than "that girl who used to write a column," which is something I heard at BEA, or the girl who used to run a reading series. That is not who I want to be. I want to be someone better than that, someone who can learn from her mistakes, personal and professional, and use those errors to move forward.

Mistake making is in the zeitgeist, from Alina Tugend to Justine Musk. I am eager to get past this month, and get past my own brain. I might need pharmaceutical help to do so. I definitely need the people in my life who care about me even if I never write or edit another word. But I also need to figure out a way to make all this fit together. I don't know what that path is and I don't feel like I have anyone to ask. I have to forge it and figure it out by trial and error. And sometimes, in my weaker moments, it's easier to look at other people's lives and assume they are "perfect." Maybe she is thinner (okay, she is definitely thinner), or he makes more money, or whatever it is, and I know that's just a path to hating myself. Or at least, a detour. Instead I am trying to make the healthiest choices I can, to be as successful as I can be doing something I actually like and am qualified to do. I know I will be given other chances if I keep putting myself out there, keep trying. So I will. It just might take a different form, a radically different one.

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