Call me Booboo The fool.
For years I have existed in this fringe area of the literary world. In 1998 or ’99 I saved up for months to take a writing course taught by a “professor” of writing. I followed his mailed instructions precisely, I purchased a certain type of notebook and pen, I bought his book, I went to class prepared to work. What I got for my $450, was basic information on how to write a sentence. The promised critique of work produced in class garnered me a note in red pen on my story that said, “learn to write like a woman!”.
I was heartbroken.
A few years later, after I had a poem published in a small magazine I was contacted by a “press” who wanted to help me become a better poet. I saved up again and found myself in a dumpy motel conference room with lukewarm coffee and a man cosplaying some amalgam of Shakespeare and Captain Picard waxed on for seven hours about the tragedy of modern language. I remember he particular hated a lot of Black poets and anything that sounded vaguely Black.
I left with a migraine and heartburn.
I fell for a few more cash for publication and literary fame scams. I had a deep shame about my writing ambitions and lack of a traditional education. I was embarrassed not to be an MFA student, I was embarrassed to be dyslexic and not understand how to write around it. I was embarrassed that I had to skip meals to buy coveted copies of literary magazines to do research and to buy the right paper and to slowly type things on computers at Kinko’s at 1 in the morning.
Much of my early career was spent trying desperately trying to cover my various shames. I worked hard to adhere to Whiteness, I was just starting to do more social justice work and spent a lot of time gentling myself and my tone. In my early days as a writer on the Internet, occasionally I was pinged by the interest of my betters. Sometimes, literati men found my work and wanted me for a minute. As I’ve written about previously my Blackness, my body, my Otherness protected me from their sexual predation and exploitation.
I have been on the verge of a breakthrough in the literary world so many times. Until people have lost interest, or seen my face, or read some of my work they weren’t familiar with. I know what it is to have the carrot of success and darlingship dangled in my face. From the days when there was a book deal for every splashy blogger except those of us who were too much to recently an exchange with an agent who, like many others just loves me but can only sell me at 40% of who I am.
For years those were things that by turns amused and annoyed me but, have rarely broken my heart. I get it. I understand why the White man editor wants me to sext him but won’t publish me. I understand when White women writers loathe me enough to doxx me or tell me I won’t be published in certain magazines. I understand that.
As news comes out today about yet another literary world grifts, I am sitting here almost in tears. I wasn’t conned out of money or stranded in France. What hurts is that like others before her, their interest and expressed belief in me now feels like lies. In the past let’s say five years, writers I have loved on a human level, people in positions to actually boost me the way they said they wanted to, haven’t because I see now that I am/have been of no value to them.
I am not famous enough to grant proximity cachet. Not in the entirety of my career have I had enough social capital in the lit world to be more to these people than a virtue signal. Their moment to say, HEY LOOK AT THIS MEAN ASS NEGRO I support.
Today, I found out someone I trusted, someone I trusted with my heart and work has conned a lot of people out of a lot of money. I feel like a naïve child. I feel like, any interest people who I see as having these amazing literary careers, or writers I admire are lying to me and I’m hurt and scared. Every time I find out these things, I feel this way but this one hit hard and will leave a mark.
This experience isn’t new to me. It has happened to me before and given my position in the lit world will probably happen again. I’m left feeling like, any interest in my work is a lie. That, if I ask for help from someone, it will come out that they’ve done something(s) terrible. This touches and triggers an anxiety in me that I have had forever. It hurts me because, let me be real here.
The feeling of being dirtied by proximity makes me panic. Especially post doxxing and threats of being blackballed by women writers is still fresh and real to me. That doxxing (not my first, probably not my last) in particular has left me with this constant tension, a constant worry that my pitches sometimes get ignored not because of content but because of those women. I worry that because I have been published by Anna, or that I have had some relation to people doing terrible things, that my integrity and reputation is tainted.
It isn’t necessarily reasonable but trauma response rarely is.
So here I am.
The fear of this type of situation is why sometimes, when folks reach out I don’t reach back. I’m afraid and I’m too anxious to live.
This is why sometimes, I refuse to even deal with the literary world in a meaningful way because, I don’t want my heart stomped on again.
I might be a bad ass SJW Necromancer throwing down knowledge and slaying bullshit but I am also a terrified lonely child.
I am upset because, down deep it hurts me so much to see fuckers prosper even though I now, that in reality fuckers always prosper.
So here I am.
I’m hurt and upset. I’m holding back tears of frustration, fear, hurt and everything else. My anxiety is triggered. My heart is sore and I don’t know what to do.
So I did this. For those who have expressed interest in me and I’ve been lukewarm or ghosted, this is why. This is why sometimes when I get invited to literary things I am so suspicious. I have to try and protect myself and my heart because I can’t go around feeling the way I do right now.
I feel a little better with this out of my chest and gut. And yet, I’m still going to go cry. I’m still going to feel betrayed. For all of us who’ve been scammed and hurt and most of all, those of us whose careers have been tainted or even feel tainted.
I hope this never happens again.
As for what I will do going forward, I don’t know. When I care for people, especially fierce writers, I go all in. I’ve tried to change that about myself and won’t. It just isn’t in my nature.
So, I guess call me Booboo the fool.
If you enjoyed this my tip jars are open. I also request that this not be a place to out other folks for any fuckery, I can’t handle it so please don’t.