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Lusty Lady

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Embracing the unknown and finding my purpose

This won't be the grand, wonderful, amazing post I wish it could be, similar how no piece of writing I do is ever as perfect as I hope it will be, because it's 7:30 a.m., I have a 10 a.m. writing deadline, a LitReactor class awaiting feedback, a mover coming to assess how much I have to pack and lots more to do today. Which reminds me that I didn't share my links here yesterday, but I wrote about Cate Blanchett not being a sexual role model and surveyed Mad Men fan fiction for Salon. That's sort of my lesson at this ultra hectic time of my life: do the best you can, and focus on your life's purpose, because life itself may be short.

That, along with the only prayer I embrace, The Serenity Prayer, is why I don't have time or energy to worry about the umpteen what ifs happening in the wake of most or possibly all of the staff at my main publisher, Cleis Press, changing. Was it a surprise to me? Yes, but so is, well, every day, not just in my professional life, but in every aspect of my day, there are always surprises. My job is to roll with them rather than being undone by them. We never know what's coming next. What I do know is that I'm still signing books at Book Expo America next Wednesday and still on track to turn in Best Women's Erotica 2016 next month, hopefully before my move, but probably while I'm in the midst of unpacking (get your stories in by June 1 as there will not be any extensions!).

The bottom line for me is that it's publishing. Of course there are unknowns, all the time, and all I can do is try to make the best decisions possible for myself. I had a contract end for a site I loved writing for, and in the wake of that, I've been pitching new places, and you know what? I'm working on new stories I'm just as excited about. Does that make it "easy?" Of course not, but that's part of the ups and downs of freelance life, as is this upheaval.

Having this news for one day, I have literally no clue what the future will bring, but I know it can't be as bad as last year when I had to move because my book were selling so badly I was sure I would never edit another one. Sometimes I actually welcome those rock bottom moments because there is literally nowhere to go but up. Lo and behold, this year, I am going to the bank to get bank checks to move into our house with royalties from those little books I'd almost given up hope on. Aside from making me feel self-sufficient, that tells me that I have to keep going forward, to keep believing in the power of those books I've poured so much of my energy into. So I'm going to keep touting the amazing work of my authors because they keep wowing me, because I have a new book about sex toys out and it's National Masturbation Month and I published sci fi erotica and love doll erotica and a vibrator narrator and I'm fucking proud of that. It's my name on the book's spine too. What I'm most afraid of is that readers will see this news and decide to abandon us editors too, and that would be a shame.

If I didn't believe in what I do, I wouldn't be shelling out cash to go to New York for Book Expo or buying postcards to stuff in bags for TES Fest or mailing dozens of books to contest winners. I love doing that stuff, and it's my way of saying thank you for supporting my books, buying them or checking them out of the library or reading them in whatever format, of spreading the word, of making it so that I can afford both to move and to have the time to continue to write and edit more books. I'm going to publish many new authors I've never worked with before in Best Women's Erotica 2016, and that gives me a sense that I'm giving back, that I'm giving someone else the chance I got way back when I was a wayward law student looking for a new, better path. I'm grateful for that opportunity, and if it's the last anthology I edit, all the more reason to do a kickass job on it, right?

There will also be outside events attempting to pull us away from our true purpose. It took me what feels like twenty years of flailing, from dropping out of a law school I'm still paying for to assorted jobs with their high and low points, to this already chaotic year, where I get to truly live out some of my writing dreams, but still face a blank page at the start of each morning. That is my focus right now: making sense of that blank page, digging in to the tasks at hand, rather than fretting endlessly about all the ways everything could unravel. I'm the kind of person who could live entirely within that potential unraveling to the point that I so often don't even appreciate the bounty of my life, all the love and joy and high points, because I've convinced myself disaster has already struck. In my middle age, I'm trying to kick Disaster Girl to the curb and become a new, wiser, kinder person, one who's filled with dreams rather than doom. That goes against my nature, so it's taken a transformation, the deeply internal, personal, very tough kind, with plenty of detours, like last Friday where I got home and pretty much collapsed in bed, unable to stop crying. But today I want to start over, to trust myself, to trust my partner, to trust whatever comes next.

I'm almost 40, and I feel that big birthday looming over me, especially in the uncertain times, the waiting for checks time, the unanswered pitches times, the half-finished project times, the what-am-I-doing times, the her-job-sounds-so-amazing-I-wish-I-had-it ties. This year I decided to push back at all that fear, to push back at my worst doubts and worst habits, to stop writing for free with extremely rare exceptions, and to chase every lead I can, while also giving myself space to pause when I'm sick or simply cannot tackle everything on my plate. Then I assess and regroup and dig back in. I am doing everything I can to make a sustainable life, because all I want in the world is to be a stay at home mom writer. I am hesitant to even keep saying it lest the universe laugh in my face and "all" I get to be is a writer, no mom and no staying at home, but that's okay. It's all an unknown, and there are no guarantees of anything. I can just face that blank page, and all those blank spaces, with my best intentions and fully focused dedication.

If this freelance life doesn't work out, I am prepared to let it go, every last bit of it, but I've finally stopped thinking that giving up writing/teaching/editing is around the corner. I've started to believe in and invest in myself, to pull out all the stops to promote my books while also knowing that books can't be my primary source of income because their sales are so wildly unpredictable. I've started to ask myself the hard questions and the rest of this year I will continue to assess how I want to conduct my business, where it makes sense to focus my energies and where it doesn't.

So that's where my focus is right now: right in front of me. Today, the present, this morning, these tasks. Teaching my class, editing my book, packing, change of address, goodbyes and hellos, trying to stay as mentally and physically healthy as I can possibly be so that maybe, just maybe, I can make my biggest dream come true. Anything that gets in the way of that, I just don't have time for.

I've been a drama queen for way too long, someone ready to fall into a heap at the slightest disappointment, and now it's time to be a businesswoman, a partner, an actual adult, with all the attendant responsibilities and trouble shooting. I don't have an exact mission statement yet, but it's all becoming much clearer, that what I seek to do is work with words, to encourage other people to embrace their words, to push myself to take risks, to fail, to get back up again, rather than live in an endless literary hamster wheel.

All I know is, I've had to make peace with my own failings, my own foibles, my own abilities, especially in the last year and a half, and see how I can best put my strengths to work for me. It's a constant refining process, one that's full of doubts, but also full of learning from my mistakes. That's what I intend to keep doing, and it has nothing to do with relying on any one person or company or source of income to save me. It has to do with saving myself. So whatever happens next, I'll be as ready as I can be.

Because like Clem Snide, "I Love The Unknown." Or at the very least, I know it's unavoidable.

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