Jane Recommends “You Will Be Tokenized…” via BROOKLYN MAGAZINE

Excerpts from “‘You Will Be Tokenized’: Speaking Out About the State of Diversity in Publishing” by Molly McArdle:

  • “We keep bringing others through till we fill up this room.” —William Johnson
  • “We ought to be able to create classroom[s] and school libraries where a student can pick up a book and see the food that she eats, hear the sound of her family, follow her stories. That isn’t achieved by just slapping the name ‘Maria’ on a character.” Meg Medina
  • “How many stories have I not heard because this editor was in charge?” —Mira Jacob
  • “Part of what kept me in the publishing industry was—god damn it—I have my foot in the door. When my job goes they are not going to give it to another black girl. There goes a black woman’s shot at changing something.” —Megan Reid
  • “It takes a lot for a writer of color to be recognized, and then when they are recognized, every single person expects them to be the solution to their diversity problems.” —Angela Flournoy
  • “Growing up in the largest housing projects in the United States, Queensbridge, it affects everything I do, how I read.” —Linda Duggins
  • “I asked, ‘If I had worked at a magazine like Newsweek would you propose I do an internship?’ He said that’s a good question, and I said that’s a bad answer, and I walked out of his office.” —Okey Ndibe
  • “People always say, ‘good work rises’—that’s bullshit.” —Elissa Schappell
  • “Literature is a powerful thing, especially in the hands of a child. If you ask the majority of readers when they fell in love with reading, most of them will say, when they were children. And they will remember the book or the author that changed their lives.” —Shelley Diaz

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Jane says: This article hijacked my morning, and I have never been so excited to have something stolen from me because what I was given back—immeasurable. So much of my private pain was spoken, and eased, reading these fifty experiences. I rolled out of bed and wrote. And wrote. And wrote. You’re damn right, Syreeta McFadden; as you said, we are out here, doing everything we can:

I’d like affirmative action the fuck out of that space. I’d readjust salaries for these folks. Solicit interns outside of the usual places. Train them in the culture of what a literary citizen should look like. Make them listen to Kanye. Get the United Colors of Benetton in that bitch. Empower people of color open their own bookstores. Create a literary agency. Buy a pop culture media outlet. I know a couple of people who are doing that but they need capital. I’d give it to them—a fund for affirmation. Seed money for people who are already doing that work. That’s the thing, right? We’ve been out here working.

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Considering 2015, Jane Resolves

“White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” —Roald Dahl

I wouldn’t call 2015 a draw between me and my resolutions. I won, narrowly, thanks to high scores in the Always-write and Start-a-writing-group categories. I made a lot of progress, but the lofty list of goals frazzled me by October.

On NYE, I resolved to focus my energies. It has taken me sixish weeks to decide on the key day-to-day elements I must improve to inspire notable positive change, momentum, results.

Find a Way to Sustain a Creative Life

If you follow my blog, you know that balancing work and writing is a constant struggle in my life. A perfectionist and hard worker, it’s difficult for me to do anything half-heartedly. Either I need to find a job that gifts me room to be creative, or I need to find a job that nurtures my creativity. Because I have done the full-time thing and didn’t write, and I have done the part-time thing, which became a full-time thing, and wrote, and when I finished both, I was standing in an eerily similar place; even though I made progress, the matter of a couple drafts, I was another year older and still working on the same things.

Actually Finish Things

When you’re creating, it’s hard to gauge success. Even though the novel manuscript is fully drafted, I’m revising a lot: adding scenes and the much-needed lick or two here and there, deleting darlings here and there, while cringing at—and editing—the remnants of the first draft I wrote in the last 15 months of grad school, which almost murdered me. I have moved so many damn commas that many pages look like they are hemorrhaging or someone’s triplets took Crayolas to them, but I am getting closer.

I am closer than I have ever been, but I curse my honey-slow pace. And time constraints. Money. The general state of things. During one of those life-sucking Twitter holes, I found an essay on the incubation stage of creativity, and it reminded me that books take time. Junot Díaz’s third novel, This is How You Lose Her, took 16 years. Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night took 14 years. Right now I am at 8 years, and that’s okay. It has to be. Because I’m not ready to let go of it yet. But I am ready to let go of parts of it. Of the 290 pages, I feel confident in 38 of them. Then I think, Moving that chapter-six paragraph to the opening might solve all of my problems….

Read Better

Last year, I finished 32 books, a personal high, which naturally makes me want more, more, more. Usually I read organically, one book leading to another, so I thought the Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 reading challenge would force me out of my lazy river, give me some structure, force me to consider the uncracked or favs already on my shelves. At the same time, the list (below) only consists of 12 books, so if I read 33 books this year, I will have 21 opportunities to float.

  • A book published this yearGreen Island by Shawna Yang Ryan
  • A book you can finish in a dayThe Lover by Marguerite Duras
  • A book you’ve been meaning to readThe Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • A book recommended by your local librarian or booksellerHow to Get Into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak
  • A book you should have read in schoolI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • A book chosen for you by a spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFFBad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  • A book published before the year you were bornSula by Toni Morrison
  • A book that was banned at some pointThe House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  • A book you previously abandonedTales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich
  • A book you own but have never readMake Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet
  • A book that intimidates you Bluets by Maggie Nelson
  • A book that you’ve already read at least onceLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

To the readers and writers who are vowing and working towards bettering themselves, please share your resolutions and reading lists with me.

Jane Recommends “Too Busy Being Poor (To Be Creative)” via THE ESTABLISHMENT

An excerpt from “Too Busy Being Poor (To Be Creative)” by Ayla-Monic McKay:

[P]oor kids don’t usually get to be tortured artists—there is no realistic opportunity to do so. I found my first job at 14 so I could help my single mother pay the power bill. I babysat my little brothers because child care was unaffordable. I worked two jobs while taking out as many student loans as I could so that I could maybe, just maybe, get a degree that would move me up the food chain just enough so that life might not be a permanent struggle.

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Jane says: Yas! As a thirty-something woman with a BA and an MFA, this essay gets me. As McKay stated, “That first degree I got while working and digging myself into debt didn’t exactly move me up the food chain as much as I had hoped.” Some days I flirt with the idea of a third degree, then I quake the thought away and return to hustling. But going back to school is a very real back-up plan tucked in my dress pocket so that maybe, one day, I can pay for piano or ukulele or hula lessons.

In undergrad, I remember choosing between attending my Art History night class at CC or picking up a waitressing shift to pay the rent for my subsidized apartment. Now, I pay my bills then write, minus random chunks of minutes. (Note: Writing is not something I dabble in; I write to breathe and hope, some day, to make art all day, every day.) Just the fact that I get to pay my bills and write, even if I am only typing what color the sky is and something I overheard in the bathroom for a half-hour a day and singing No to all of the things that I want on Sephora.com, makes me feel rich. You can take the kid out of the last tax bracket, but the memories.

Btw, what human says “various etceteras”with a stone face?

Jane Recommends “What Took You So Long?” via SLATE

An excerpt from What Took You So Long? The quiet hell of 10 years of novel writing. by Susanna Daniel:

The thing is—one-day-at-a-time is the most painful way for active non-accomplishment to happen. It’s the psychological equivalent of death by a thousand cuts. A painter I knew told me once that she’d reached a point when she said goodbye to painting, much the same way Junot Díaz considered doing—she said it was the kindest, most generous thing she’d ever done for herself.

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Jane says: I found this article when I truly needed it: wallowing in the ugly depths of a writerly “pit of despair.” My former colleagues and forever friends are publishing, publishing, publishing, while I rust at a day job and toil away at my novel, wondering if I will ever finish.

Actively working on the slow story since 2008, I have taken a sanity break here, a sanity break there, and worked on another project for eighteen months. Nevertheless, this novel has always squatted in the forefront of my mind. Yes, Susanna Daniel, I “wake in the night, [my heart] racing, unable to feel anything but the fear and frustration and disappointment of the fact that [I] haven’t finished anything in a month.”

Knowing that others are laboring in the same painful way helps. And you’re right, writing is “not nearly as hard … as not writing.” Dear writers, what keeps you returning to the desk?