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Tiny Violences at A Year
Reflections & A Rundown
It’s crazy how time works. Hours seem to drag by but weeks and months, are harder to grasp because of the pace in which they seem to speed by in a blur. It’s been a year of this Tiny Violence’s experiment. When I applied for the Joel Gay Creative Fellowship over a year ago, I was prompted by three friends who believed Substack could be a place for some of my open ended, episodic writing. But I didn’t think so. At the time, I was in my final semester of a rigorous graduate MFA program (for such I have been awarded a degree and a very fancy credential) and coming face-to-face with being Black, Queer, Thirtysomething and stylish in a program, desiring a writing “community,” that was/is very much not that. It was a void, accompanied by a grief – like perhaps mourning a parent who has died before you are born, or life that could have been lived if not for a fateful choice made in the final hour. A lot of possibility lost to the ether. It felt as if this new adventure, this journey closer to myself, was siloed. Ideas in an echo chamber.
I had denied the importance of how it felt having writers in proximity whose work I loved and whose point of view I valued and. My professional foray into writing began just as the world was shuttering itself and shifting towards a present that frankly I’m shocked to be living in, all due to the massive outbreak of COVID-19. It was easier, the writerly isolation, at first because the first three semesters were online – but also I didn’t want to confront that fact that a) the white gaze is as pervasive as it is perverted and pesky and b) an institution would not be where I would find family who could see and appreciate what I decided to share in my nonfiction essays. Still, I was determined to make my mark: and I did. And I made a few lovely friends who are wonderful writers that are deeply encouraging and inspiring.
The ideas I had, that I thought through, that I chose not to engage with in the forum of the workshop—fragmentedly became the basis for my proposal to the contest, and I felt good about what I submitted. This feeling is rare. I applied, and having met Dr. Gay a few months before, hoped she would remember and like my voice enough to welcome me into the program. And to my shock, alongside the two other fellows, who are impressive writers, I/we made it. All of us people of color navigating the discouraging scripts in our minds and the worlds around us that question our authority.
When I got the news of my acceptance, I was in midst of a tornado of rejections. Rejection, I am learning, is evidence of my making works and of my life of writing, a reality that was never fully displayed to me, but one I understand better now. The idea of a newsletter, though it felt vague, and the platform completely new to me, was a glimpse towards a possibility. One where I could engage with a community of readers and writers who might care about what I have to say. Folks who were equally concerned about the politics of craft and the urgency of story.
Being able to explore episodic newsletter writing has been a real study in vulnerability. I’ve come to writing straddling the lines of self-disclosure and purposeful writing, and I’ve been able to lean more on the former in this space, almost like an inquiry into my limits. How much am I willing to share, how can I be artful in these disclosures, where can I disambiguate and get right to the point without feeling as though I am betraying myself, my own witness? It’s been a little tiring; I have to admit. I’m a quick thinker, a fast talker, but the writing process for this Virgo is slow, methodically, and intuitive. Often sentences exist in my mind, churning over in my mental resort waiting for the right time vacate on to the page. And the struggle—to find the cohesion between what I want to say and what has been written—IS REAL. Being able to explore urgency, to rely less on form has been good practice for me.
Some of the writing I’ve been able to share on Tiny Violences is acting like a place holder for ideas, since most of what is sent out is a first draft of sorts. It’s been great working with Megan Pillow, who has graciously and capaciously edited a lot of what has populated y’alls inboxes these past 12 months. I have a deep respect for writers and artist who meet weekly editorial demands, god bless you.
For me, storytelling is natural, and being able to express myself is something that I feel comfortable doing but I prefer exploring forms to get at storytelling. Naturally, I’ve gravitated towards style, and this is evident in my desire to write stylishly. But a very important person in my life told me a while back that I am not my forms. This advice has helped me get out of my way. My wish is to honor the griot, to thank the ancestors with my words, and to open a portal to future worlds by examining my histories, to sketch out the lives I once lived to better recognize the potential for more, to telescope into the lives of others, to learn more the topography of places that I think are well known to me, and to find what is familiar in what is foreign. More life.
Getting paid to write is the dream, that’s been affirmed every time that bill.com invoice was sent, received, and fulfilled. I felt appreciated for my efforts. So, if anyone from Substack is reading this, I welcome more financing for this project. And I mean this. For now, the rhythm of these newsletters is going to change to accommodate some of my other professional demands; like writing my manuscript, and other paid writing opportunities that come my way and hopefully continue to. The weekly-ish posts will now be monthly-ish and expect more audio—I’m hesitant to call it a pod but whatever, I’m excited for this new space and its possibilities. So please keep a close eye for what’s to come. In the spirit of Sankofa, and since I have a hard time recognizing the work that I do, it feels right to include a list highlighting some of the work I’ve completed in the year since Tiny Violences was launched.
Most Popular Tiny Violences Posts
My Favorite Posts
What a Time To Come Of Age [Excerpt] (long read)
Work Published Externally Since Tiny Violences Began
On Substack Featured Tiny Violences
for which the comments have such been disabled, and some have been removed, if you catch my drift.
I hope you clicked all the links, bookmarked them, sent them to friends. If you’ve made it this far let me know in the comments!
Thanks to Dr. Roxane Gay, Meg Pillow, and the two other Joel Gay Creative fellows. Special thanks to my friends and family; Stephanie, Lorenzo, Karla, Nina, Shanice, Siaira, Ebony, Hoss, Charisse, Ica, AK, Ola, Brit, Lori, Kiyanna, Jay, Irene, Mira, Robin, Inez (Mommie) and all the wonderful people who read every post and tell me and share.
Thanks for signing up, a special thanks to my subscribers – thanks for reading, for sharing, for commenting and for supporting the work of a Black woman.
Let’s celebrate with some 🍾🥂 emojis.