Cover image “Written & Directed” by Flickr user Marco Nürnberger. CC-BY-2.0
Pop quiz: how many female movie directors can you name?
I can name less than a half-dozen, and the only reason that number is so high is because I’ve been watching female-directed features recently for review on my other blog, Dorkadia. My list includes:
Sam Taylor-Johnson (50 Shades of Grey)
Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle)
Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight)
Drew Barrymore (Whip It)
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
See the pattern? With the exception of The Hurt Locker, famous female directors seem confined to romantic thrillers and rom-coms. These isolated incidents either. Animated features, rom-coms, and romantic thrillers dominate this list of the top movies directed by women. The lone exception? Disaster movie Deep Impact, which was the highest-grossing live-action movie directed by a woman until Twilight. Accolades don’t seem to help in women’s’ favor either when it comes to finding work. Since winning the Best Director Oscar for 2008’s The Hurt Locker, Bigelow has only directed two other features.
While diversity in entertainment may not match tech’s horrible numbers, the data shows that Hollywood is still very much a man’s world. In 2013 the New York Film Academy released a sobering infographic on the statistics of gender inequality in film. In front of the camera, only 10.7% of all movies featured a balanced, representative cast. Women are also shoehorned into specific film genres. Women are more than twice as likely to direct documentaries than narrative films, for example. Or take the previously mentioned list of the highest-grossing female directors, whose output consisted of mainly romantic movies.
More recent data agrees with the New York Film Academy’s claims. According to the 2016 Celluloid Ceiling Report, women make up only 17% of behind-the-camera job titles. When examining the top 250 domestic grossing movies of last year, only 17% are cinematographers, directors, editors, executive producers, producers, or writers. This is 2% down from last year and essentially flat with statistics from 1998. And 1998 was considered a high point.
In the face of such disparity, what can be done to increase representation both in front of and behind the camera? Here’s several suggestions.
Recognize how diversity contributes to the bottom line. Adding more women to the mix isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s profitable for studios. Women currently purchase half of all movie tickets sold in the United States. The more representation on screen, the more tickets can be sold as people see themselves represented in pop culture. This goes for women, people of color, or anyone else different from the norm.
Take advantage of the pipeline. Women are both out there making movies and preparing for careers in film. Gender parity exists at several prestigious film schools, according to the Huffington Post. Meanwhile, sites like The Director List maintain a database of women in film with proven track records. Women are out there; they just need their voices to be heard. Which can be done by:
Fund female-centric films. The past few years has seen renewed interest in funding movies written or directed by women. Both Vimeo and the National Film Board of Canada have made pledges to increase funding for female-centric movies. The more women have access to funding, the more movies women will be able to release. More female-driven movies won’t add up to much; however, without:
Support for female-centric films as a moviegoer. This whole blog post coalesced in part thanks to my recent rewatch and review of 2008’s Twilight over at Dorkadia. While Twilight may never make anyone’s list of Earth-shattering films, it’s very female-driven, with a woman writing the source material, adapting the material for the screen, and directing. While Twilight’s domestic gross only puts it in the top 200 of highest-grossing movies of all time, it struck a chord with many people around the world. Certainly the increased tourism it brought changed Forks, Washington for the better. Women did that. Women changed the cultural zeitgeist. And more women can do the same, if given the chance.
The monthly short story topic for “Burnout” closes on May 30th.
Please see the submission guidelines here.
The revised BQP model is live and tracking feedback. It’s time to start putting the investment pool together and get it going.
If you’re interested in investing, there’s an interest form on the announcement page.
If you’re an artist and just interested in the project as a whole, please feel free to make contact.
Please support the efforts by spreading the link, posting the info and adding to the conversations. We can’t do this without the artists, the readers, and supporters.
Vive la Story.
BlissQuest Publishing LLC Announcement
The April short story submission window is now closed. A story has been selected and sent to the editor. It should be appearing in the Wisegoddess.com story section the first week of June! YAY! I’m so excited to be posting stories along with articles.
Please remember the short story category is still open for this month’s category ‘Burnout’. See submission guidelines.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to read your stories!
If you’re in the Cannon Beach Oregon area on the 10th of April, please stop by Jupiter’s Books!
There will be a dozen amazing Northwest authors signing and chatting. The Get Lit at The Beach event and conference will be wrapping up and the storytellers will be out and about. I’ll be signing copies of ‘Murder of Crows’, so feel free to swing by my table and say hello!
Since taking a research and development job on the Oregon coast, it’s been a struggle to find new spots. Such a writer problem, I know, but after a decade in Portland I knew exactly where and when to camp out at certain restaurants, cafes, and parks to get my work done with the atmosphere needed for specific purposes. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to replot my nooks, and find new hiding spots.
So far, I’ve found one or two places that work well for editing (hard liquor, little chatter, finger foods and a spot I can work without being a bother to a server), but nothing yet for scene development, or sections of dialog (best done in cafes with other people chattering in the background, milk frothing on a steam arm, coffee tamping, fresh brew and a corner booth).
World development, and heavy emotional sections are best left for parks, woods or areas I won’t be interrupted with refills or strangers making friendly conversation. (Not that I don’t want those things, just not when I suspect I might burst into tears in front of someone I don’t know after having killed off a favorite character. Seriously awkward, and it’s happened more than once.)
Point is, I think I’ve found one good nook in Netarts at the Schooner where the drinks are good, as in this Beet ghosts pepper margarita, where I can plunk down with a manuscript that’s bleeding red ink and get some work done.
One barstool/ booth down, half a dozen more to find.
Anywhoo, long story short, too late, the Sinnet of Dragons manuscript is a bloody marked-up mess – so, I’m right on schedule. Second drafts are nearly as messy as the first. I chopped a chapter and subbed a new scene, trimmed excess dialog, and hacked out a significant amount of description to speed up the page-turn. Now I’m smoothing and tweaking the pacing.
When this draft is complete it’ll be ready for beta, and the hunt for an editor will be on. It makes me nervous and thrilled at the same time. This book needs to be pushed out so Scold of Jays can get the attention it needs.
In the meantime, I’ll be camped out with a red pen at the Schooner with a ghost pepper margarita that both offends and seduces my tastes. (It’s like dating…complete with backhanded compliments)
Stay tuned. Manuscript to be delivered soonish.
(Cross-post from my Patreon site)
Are you contemplating quitting your day job to freelance full time?
On January 1, 2016, my coworkers ordered a giant cheesecake. We celebrated my insanity. I said goodbye and started writing full time.
Two months later, I have some things to report. Don’t worry; I won’t describe my rash.
My biggest challenges were the things I didn’t plan for, things that freelancers sometimes mentioned on blogs, sort of, but I was so zeroed in on replacing my income as soon as possible, I missed the underlying message.
About a week in, I started to get the first symptoms.
In a way I’m lucky that I manifest stress as psychosomatic disease and that I recognized that’s what was going on. But just because I knew I was getting sick from stress, that doesn’t mean that poof, the illness went away. Turning on the light doesn’t make the monster disappear. But maybe if you know how many arms and legs and teeth (and stingers and tentacles) it has, maybe you can do something about it before it sends you to the hospital.
So what stressed me out if it wasn’t mainly financial?
Despite the fact that many freelancers mentioned organization issues in their blogs and articles, it took me the whole first month and the better part of the second to figure out that I needed a larger work area and some grown-up office supplies. Who knew? I had a spiral notebook for notes, daily tasks and to track hours, I had a couple of Excel files to track financials, and I had my giant calendar of awesome on the wall to remind me of upcoming events and projects.
It wasn’t enough. Not even close. My marketing activities increased and became more sophisticated overnight. I generated more complicated task lists, and I didn’t have the experience to prioritize them properly. Steep learning curve, that. Now, my book notes are separated by book, and my to-do list has its own notepad. My income and expenses are logged in separate notebooks and compiled into Excel files once a week. (Ahem. Most weeks.)
I also tried to do too much at once. Suddenly, because I theoretically had more time, I wanted to update my websites, which meant coordinating with my very busy webmaster in Germany. I became more active on Facebook and Pinterest, and I decided to get a smart phone so that I could participate on Instagram. I had a convention to attend mid-February. At the very, very last minute, I managed to get my books in on consignment with an awesome book dealer there. I contacted libraries to see if they’d be willing to carry my books. And of course I wanted to be involved when a local writer had a book release. I want to be supportive and active and out there, not just because I want to sell my books but because I love my community of writers. We share in each others’ successes, and our hearts ache when any one of us is struggling. But that participation level is time consuming and can be emotionally draining.
Now I’m in the middle of a book show. Ouch.
On a good day I can write over ten thousand words. I have yet to have a ten thousand word day since I started writing full time, which is fine. Those big word days wipe me out, and I almost always write half that the following day. Try to tell my stress monster that, though. Because not every day is a ten thousand word day, I must be slacking.
So I overscheduled, under-organized, and expected too much of myself. Taking baby steps and slowly increasing my workload would have been a much better, possibly less itchy idea. But even if you’re more rational and organized than I am, you’re still going to be experiencing a lot of changes at once.
This site has a free Stress Level test. It’s a useful tool that’s been around for a long time. My stress level as of this writing is 227. What’s yours, and what might it be if you decide to write full time?
Sometimes stress causes body changes that will require medical assistance. Here’s a good article that touches on that and gives some fantastic advice on managing mood:
I’m one of the lucky ones. My stress illness took the form of a rash, which is uncomfortable but manageable. It’s a thing, in case you didn’t know:
Here’s what I did:
I committed to going outside every day regardless of weather, even if my husband had already taken care of the livestock. It’s good for me to be an outdoor kitty from a few minutes up to a couple of hours every day. Gardening days are especially great for relieving my stress.
I practiced deep breathing. A lot. Our bodies are affected by our breathing patterns in ways that aren’t completely understood by science, but science has measured many of the effects of breathing on the body. Every time I noticed that my shoulders had bunched up and/or my jaw was clenching or my legs had started to bounce up and down, I stopped what I was doing and focused on my breathing. Give it at least 30 seconds. If you’re unfamiliar with focused breathing, there are lots of schools of thought. It helps that in college I practiced zazen and went to a Zen meditation retreat/clinic. If you don’t have any experience, here’s a good place to start:
I cut way back on anything that had sugar, dextrose, corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. I also cut back on empty carbs, eating out, and (wah!) alcohol. I allow myself one or two of those things a day, in small portions. Not my favorite restriction, and I have to read labels on all the packaged food I buy, but it helped so much with my rash that I’ll keep on doing this until the rash is 100% gone.
Lastly, I’m getting in the habit of taking on a neglected household chore every couple of days. One day I put all my DVDs away and dusted the DVD racks. Another, I bought a small bookshelf and some office bins, and set up my seldom needed work-related stuff on it. Yet another day I cleaned off my dining table/desk, changed the tablecloth, and put everything back together in a more organized arrangement.
I took a day off. The whole day. I’ll do that again soon.
You get the idea. You know yourself. If stress starts to impact your life, do what helps you to relax, and try out some new strategies if the old ones don’t help. Be conscious of your choices and seek help when you need it. The things that help me might not help you. And don’t be afraid to seek therapy. You’re changing jobs. It’s not going to be easy. Let the love of writing guide you through the rough spots. Keep learning and keep growing, and you’ll get to where you need to be.
EM Prazeman writes secondary world historical fantasy with romantic elements. In other words, you get the beautiful clothes, the intrigues, and deadly duels with wit, rapier and pistol without the baggage that comes with the history of our real world 18th century. She’s a world traveler who prefers direct research like firing a flintlock firearm, paragliding, and sailing on a square-rigged ship, because it’s fun and because her readers deserve the best she can give.
“The world of MASKS is a fantasy world unlike any other I’ve encountered, rich with mystery, intrigue, and danger…. We all have our masks, and MASKS lifts the façades of its characters and its world to expose the ambiguous truths behind them.” – David Levine, Hugo Award Winning Author
It’s difficult to ask for donations for artistic ventures. While celebs like Amanda Palmer have gotten the “asking” down to an art, there are others, like myself, who bumble through it. Sometimes the exhaustion from asking is directly proportionate to the responses from folks with “giving fatigue”.
Giving fatigue. The unfortunate truth is, as a society, we’re burned out. As an overwhelming majority, we’re running dry on empathy. We as humans have been bombarded with depressing or terrifying media stories, heart-wrenching losses in public view, stories that beg, guilt and threaten us into offering support, or emotions, outreach and energy to participate in the human story which is often ratings driven and less than honest. We’re encouraged, goaded and pushed into angry retorts, arguments with friends, social media wars, us vs. them, defense vs. offence, and then nothing left to give.
This constant bombardment generates a mind-numbing burnout for anyone who’s even remotely empathetic, and worse, generates potential rage in people who are less than stable, creating a chain of violent events which perpetuate the cycle.
Then there’s the financial requests; not a day goes by that my social media feeds don’t get two or even three Kickstarter requests, Gofundme, Patreon, Indigogo, or other crowd sourcing campaign for medical bills, travel emergencies, artistic projects, weddings, funerals, emergency repairs, etc. All worthy causes, every single one.
We are financially strapped, still recovering from a long winter, burdened by student loan debt, long term medical bills and other such losses. I feel it also. We’re all in this boat together.
Mix financial strain, emotional exhaustion, the feeling you’re being hit up from every angle by somebody wanting something from you, rampant social injustice, media-fueled illnesses and then just your average day-to-day living dramas, relationships and work issues; the next person who hits you up for a Kickstarter to make some art is going to get the stink eye, or at the very least, blocked from your feed.
I’m an artist who relies on generosity and community to pull projects together.
I’m also a human being struggling with the same blend of giving and asking fatigue. I know the burnout from both sides, and frankly, I struggle to donate, and to receive.
There are times when you just can’t. I know those days too. I don’t ask lightly or with any expectations. Whatever you can or want to do, is always appreciated.
So I’m making a list of ways folks can participate. Some financial, some otherwise.
Above all, please remember there is never any obligation. Participation does not guarantee rewards, nor does non-participation breed any kind of negativity. This is strictly voluntary and in good faith and spirit.
- For financial donations please see my Patreon site.
All funds from Patreon go toward writing and publishing my stories, and supporting this blog. As little as $1 a month will register you for exclusive access to behind the scenes updates on the books and content. You can stop at any time!
2. Purchase a book! Print or digital.
For non-financial contributions:
- Spread the word: Like, Share, Pin, Tweet, or Tag any of the posts! Pass the links, and include your friends.
- Engage in conversations on the blog.
- Submit an article or short story per the guidelines. You’ll even earn some cash and acclaim! But more importantly, it builds up our community when you add you voice to the work.
- Go to the events posted, and participate with the readers, writers, and publishers!
- Leave book reviews. They help books climb in ratings, even the reviews that aren’t 4-5 stars. It helps the books be found by other readers.
- Support local bookstores. Like the amazing, Another Read Through.
- Join any of our social media links: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest
I appreciate your support. I appreciate all you do for myself, and other artists. Thank you!
The March Patronage rewards just went out, so I can reveal the photo and message from February.
If you’d like to receive an inspirational photo from my photography collection, with excerpts from my journals or books, please sign up to donate at “The Glade” reward tier, and I’ll deliver a note of what I was able to do with your donation for the month, and a picture to your email once a month.
February 2016 message and photo:
“This month’s photo was taken during one of my trips to Multnomah Falls in Oregon, one of my favorite little walks. When I got sick a few years back, I wasn’t able to hike to the top anymore, and got really depressed about it. But then I reminded myself to breathe, there’s still time. I eventually regained my health, and worked toward the hike again. I keep this photo as a reminder that there’s still time, keep breathing, keep working at it. It will happen.”
Know Your Diverse Audience
Written by: Athena
Edited by: Frannie Sprouls
Know your audience
It’s one of the cardinal pieces of advice taught to all aspiring writers and storytellers. There’s truth in the statement.
With this year’s Oscars yet again being a whitewashed lineup of artists and performers, the question of representation in the entertainment industry comes back into the spotlight. Even one of the largest entertainment industries in the world, cinema, fosters a disconnect from its actual audience. Hollywood has forgotten its audience is more diverse than it actively produces, represents, and rewards. A diversity that is not reflected in story choice, gender, sexuality, race, religion, or even economic standing.
I argue that we, as storytellers and writers, artists and creators, are often missing the element of knowing our own changing and evolving audience. Is it that we can’t see them, or they can’t find us? Are we blocked by gatekeepers? Is our work filtered or conditioned, edited or whitewashed, re-gendered, hyper- or even hyposexualized, retrofitted to an “audience that exists only in the producer’s mind,” a completely different representation from the original creator?
Or is it that creators are as blinded by the market-conditioned representations of acceptable materials as the producers, and create only what they believe will sell or be chosen for mass re-production? Are we selling out in an attempt to simply sell?
Here are some percentages to help you decide.
“This overview is an example of why traditional publishing no longer serves the author and explains why a nontraditional model that straddles the old house rules and the rising independent waves can and will replace legacy publishing in the next five years. It begins with the author, but ends with the audience.
The current figures for traditionally published literary works state that in collected American catalogs for newly launched books, less than 30 percent of the authors were female, 10 percent of authors were nonwhite (Hispanic, black, Indian, and mixed races included), let me reiterate that — 10 percent. More than 65 percent of the writers identified as Christian, with the next largest religious denomination being atheist.” (BlissQuest Publishing Model’s Overview)
Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that more than 10 percent of the nonwhite population is publishable?
Of course they’re publishable. So why aren’t they being leveraged into the market?
Underrepresented creators are not the only part of the diversity failure in publishing and entertainment. There’s significant under-representation in characters and stories as well:
“Trends note that traditionally published, market-driven books average these statistics: Characters that have lead roles are predominantly male with roughly 42 percent being female, and less than 13 percent of those female roles being nonwhite and 2 percent being nonstraight. Then 70 percent of the religious orientations of characters were characterized as Christian or Judaic and 5 percent being Islamic, Muslim, and other, while the remaining 25 percent were nondenominational, agnostic or atheist.
The average age of female characters in traditionally published adult books is 27 to 34, with a very slim margin, 2 percent, of main female characters over the age of 58.
Interestingly, the female-to-male reader ratio is 2 to 1.
Only 10 percent of traditionally published works from large houses have a character that is openly LGBT; less than 2 percent of those characters have a leading role. Many authors have come forward after publications of certain works to state their characters were gay after the fact, such as J.K. Rowling and Professor Dumbledore—but the fact remains that there were no other gay characters openly or otherwise in her best-seller works for the audience to identify with. Socially normative expectations for sexual orientation or gender identification are vastly different from the actual reading population.
To state the difference, the young adult (YA) population of readers for independent and traditionally published works identifies as 57 percent straight and only 12 percent unidentified. That means 31 percent of the youth YA reader population identifies as LGBT. The current statistics of sexually active young adults between the ages of 14 and 18 is nearly 60 percent, yet less than 21 percent of YA-targeted books include sexual language, or any real explanation on how to navigate around sex, or young adult expectations of sexuality or emotional needs. Talk about underserving a market.
From the audience angle, speculative fiction market has vastly more character diversity in gender, race, and sexual orientation; an important observation since the speculative fiction audience grows by nearly 12 percent annually.” (BlissQuest Publishing Model’s Overview)
Let’s do a little basic audience comparison to the U.S. census data. To give an accurate understanding of American population representation – keep in mind that 1 percentage point represents 2,814,219 humans.
So, a 5 percent disparity in representation doesn’t seem like much until your realize that’s a difference of almost 14 million people being underserved by a demographic lockout.
First, let’s assume we are all audience; we all appreciate entertainment in some format or another.
Secondly, we assume the creator population and audience population are one and the same. (They are, but not all audience will become creators, and not all creators are full-time audience)
According to the U.S. census data, 97.6 percent of Americans largely defined themselves as one race, leaving about 2.4 percent to be accounted for as mixed race.
The male-to-female ratio is 49.1 percent to 50.9 percent—with women outnumbering men just marginally. Still, with nearly a 50-50 split in population, women are published only 30 percent of the time and represented in character about in 42 percent, but statistically only if they are under 40 years of age. (Furthermore, the average rule of thumb for male-to-female speaking parts is 60-40 or 70-30 in order for producers to consider the characters balanced or “fair”—the woman cannot speak or be in scenes more than 40 percent of the time.)
As of 2000, 75.1 percent of the American population identified as white. The census data showed 12.3 percent of the population as being black, 12.5 percent Hispanic, 3.6 percent Asian, and 1 percent Native.
Roughly 25 percent of the population of the United States is “non-white”—yet they account for less than 10 percent of the entertainment industry’s creator profile. (That’s a percentage difference accounting for the underrepresentation of over 42 million Americans.)
Is it any wonder then that we are currently in a politically radicalized environment of ignorance, fear and religious domination, which is finally shedding light on the thin veneer of our understanding of audience?
Audience is not us versus them. Audience is we. We are audience. All of us. We are all storytellers and story lovers. We.
If we don’t represent ourselves in all our diversity, in all media, and in all the rich multitude of ways our humanity shines, we can only expect to be confronted with hate crimes, ignorance, and injustices. If we, as creators, don’t tell the stories that highlight our many glorious human differences, we can only expect to be separated out, judged, attacked, and ostracized by the whitewashing of the audience.
Don’t forget the angry, fearful, masses spouting anti-Muslim propaganda and racial slurs—they are part of the audience, too. They are the audience that has been conditioned by the gatekeepers to treasure their status and privilege. We made them with our lack of diversity, as much as we made the oppressed subversives and the rightfully indignant. We made them the heroes and heroines of the bulk of our white, Christian-based entertainment machinery. We’re as guilty of their attachment to privilege as they are because we’ve shown them nothing else to choose from in the scope of humanity’s story.
We, as creators, are just as guilty of the glass ceiling for women, as those who enforce it, because we have participated in the marginalization of the female gender in entertainment, and encouraged the pay gap by not recognizing female artists in the same capacity as we recognize male artists, and we’ve failed to insist women have the same speaking relevance in books and cinema.
We, as creators, UNDERSERVED them all. Worse, our overindulgence of one demographic of the audience, is actually doing calculable harm to the rest of the underrepresented audience members.
To put it differently:
If you are a gatekeeper, producer, creator, storyteller—you have the power to re-write this reality. You have the power to establish a better balance for the creators, for the audience—the whole audience.
Tell your stories. Tell all the stories. Tell OUR story. The whole, bloody, messy, gritty, beautifully diverse adventure of spinning on this great unlikely rock in the middle of this extraordinary universe.
It’s a story about humanity.
See you there.
Viva la Story.
“I’ve never thought of you as being “too much” or “there she goes again”. I just always thought your dreams are so much bigger than everyone else’s… of course you have to try so much harder.”
How is it that she always knows what to say to get me to crawl out from under the bed? One of my oldest and dearest listened to me strain and struggle with the crowdfunding pitch again. Whatever would I say to people? How could I admit I tried to raise a kickstarter and we didn’t reach our goal so I’m trying something else? How could I tell them all that I spent the summer talking to various venture capitalists, and failed at that also? How would I tell everyone that I was trying a different crowdfunding platform – and still, it might not work? How could I possibly bear letting people down if this one doesn’t work?
Asking for support and money is hard. Especially when it seems like it never ends. I feel like I’ve been asking for money, help, and support for years. It seems like most or all of my life, I’ve never quite had my finger on the button of monetary stability or abundance. In people and tribe – I’m rich beyond any kind of measure. In experiences, I’m burdened with an excess of wonderful stories. In blissful contentment for the pleasures of good company, beautiful views, satisfying meals, and shelter… I am one of the wealthiest people I know. Not to brag, too late, but I’ve got fabulous tribe, and I’m lucky enough to know it. Knowing it is a treasure in and of itself.
In worldly needs, I lack for nothing. My mind is challenged and full of creative fertile ground, my heart has many someones to adore. I have health, happiness, and freedom.
When the kickstarter failed to raise the funds for the publishing launch, I started the rounds with venture capitalists in hopes of seed funds that would prevent me from having to lean on my people.
In a silly, selfish way, I finally wanted to be in a position to just GIVE to my people, the fruits of production and share my gratitude for their continued patience and encouragement through years of near-miss, almost, so-close… not quite success. “Thanks for sticking with me all these years, here’s this Book/Concept/Movie/Sculpture – for you! Enjoy!”
Venture capital failed. Crowd sourcing failed. Loans failed.
Most people, most smart, satisfied people would quit right there. Pour a drink and move onto something else. I meet those people all the time, actually. I’ve met them on the bus, airplane, sitting at the train station, once on a bridge overlooking a dark road in the middle of the night.
Those people, when they hear what I do, what I build or write or strive toward, even in the continued failure of it – they open and spill out, blurting frustrated heartbreak to a total stranger.
“I wanted to be a writer/actor/musician/painter… once. A long time ago.” They pause, stare back thirty years and finish with, “But then…. Life.”
It’s such a common story that I often fear telling strangers on the airplane what I do, else I’ll be stuck in their reminiscing ache of giving up thirty years too soon for an uncomfortable six hour red-eye.
Thwarted dreamers, frustrated creators, failed superstars and unfulfilled artists surround us. Because it’s not just the specter of the lost artist that resonates, it’s lost dream. I also often find myself in conversation with strangers at a bar, or café, or standing in the bookstore. A promising minor league career ended too soon by a sports injury, stopped playing all forms of sports. A promising law student returns home to take care of her dying father and misses final exams, dropped out of school. Guy designs an amazing new innovation in biomedical field, doesn’t get credited in the professor’s paper, stopped innovating.
It creeps in on all of us, justly or unjustly, with blessings and limitations – sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish the two. It simply cannot be avoided, because life is also what creates our story.
The point of all this is not to lament their losses, or life diversions, it’s to reflect on the truth that unlike many of these folk’s challenges that stopped them in their tracks, I have no such excuses.
I am wealthy in love and support, bejeweled in tribe, granted all the encouragement I ever need to pull up my big girl panties and get back out there. By all accounts and laws of the universe, the only thing preventing me from being that forlorn heartbroken artist weeping my heart out to a stranger in the middle of a red-eye, is the will to keep trying.
The only thing between their story and my story is that I’m not ready to stop. I’m not ready to tell my people, who’ve come with me this far that I can’t do it anymore. I can’t do that to myself, and I can’t do that to you.
Instead, I’m going to ask you to come with me a little farther. Try with me a little longer. There will be stories, misadventures, I promise. Have I ever let you down in that department?
With no promise of success, again. No promise of riches, or vast landscapes or unseen vistas – I ask you to hang in with me a little longer. Just over the next knoll. Just until the next fork. At least until the newest hook, left spin, unforeseen dramatic curveball. Stay with me and the story until something resonates, until it gives you closure, or inspiration, or at the very least, a good chuckle at some schadenfreude, because have I ever let you down in the schadenfreude department? My regular public embarrassment is worthy of bronzing, seriously.
Asking for financial support is still hard, and more importantly, I know it’s hard for people to provide, even when they want to in difficult times. There is never any obligation, only gratitude. Sincerest gratitude.
For monthly Patreon (patronage) donations and rewards:
Here are some ways to support the adventure in lieu of financial donations or patronage.
- Support artists and fair trade practices
- Plug the patreon or my website
- Plug my books www.theblissquest.com
- Follow this blog and make lots of comments!
- Poke at the entertainment system (this is my personal favorite… rock the boat!)
- Shop local bookstores
- Tell people, not just artists, their dreams are valid (you know, just because)
I never promise this round will be successful, but I can guarantee it will be interesting. Have my schemes ever disappointed in level of melodrama or grandiosity? It’s certainly cheaper than cable, and a hella validating watching me bumble through the development, right?
Bring your own popcorn and booze.
I’ll supply the entertainment.
See you there!
Once again, with deep sincerity, thank you for being on this mad, wild journey with me. I couldn’t do it without you. (and let’s be honest, it just wouldn’t be as fun if you weren’t here.)
Viva la Story!
Patreon donations for Wisegoddess
Hello, I’m Athena.
I’ve owned this domain name for ages, so I decided to dust it off and use it as my re-launch platform. Here I plan to blog, post videos, showcase artists and authors and thinkers. I’ll be pulling all my other websites and endeavors under one umbrella.
My publishing house, BlissQuestPublishing, my arts and crafts, and photography as well as essays, recipes and creativity coaching. The subjects will include the business and finance of being a working artists, as well as how to maintain brand and visibility in a media-based world.
This site will hub for community conversations, and funnel links to working artists, successful entrepreneurs, and how-to junkies. (more…)
A year and a half ago, I attempted to launch a fair trade publishing house, BlissQuest Publishing, and was met with a strange combination of vitriolic push, and an underdog’s cheering squad. The funding attempts failed repeatedly, and I spent the bulk of summer 2015 meeting and chatting with venture capital investors who all said the same thing, “You have a great idea. The math holds up. It’s a business model that will work. It’s an idea that’s overdue. BUT you’re a nobody.”
I only had a skeleton crew board; a great business plan; a handful of artists who were ready to be published in a fair trade model, but they weren’t big names, simply artists in support of an equality concept; a gaggle of supportive friends and family; and a metric ton of enthusiasm, passion, and years of research and hard-won experience. Earned.
But I am a nobody, and I couldn’t argue, they had a point there. Touché.
I had a model that wasn’t profitable to the house. In fact, the house was built to be un-profitable, as the model provides half of all net to the authors, and half rolls back into sustaining, maintenance, expansion, growth, community outreach, education and cultural development. The idea would have provided marketing and promotion for all artists, 50/50 splits on royalties, offered in-house hours for living stipends and the eventual plans for healthcare and retirement planning, and continued education reimbursement for the artists. It would mean the first business model to support diversity, artists of all media, all gender types, all religions, all races, sexual orientations and genres – It would have been the first business model for the ethical treatment and support of artists as though they are contributing, valid, valued members of society, worthy of the same benefits as a “real jobber”.
But I am a nobody.
Sensing a little bitterness about the “nobody” thing?
Yeah, me too.
In fact, I was so bitter about the consistent reminder that I hadn’t hit a chart with my books, or scored even a decent living wage in order to continue writing from the years of struggle in the field – I closed up the model, tucked it in a drawer and took a “real job” in a small town on the edge of the Pacific ocean, where I really was a nobody and wouldn’t feel bad about it.
I stopped writing. Stopped helping other writers. Stopped being a socialite of the artist venues and events.
Basically, I tucked my tail and quit. Only leaving my house to work, or attend the last of the events I’d already promised to participate in. Then I put my head down and hid from the echoing reminders of failure.
Failure. Failure and me, we go way back. We’ve been like peas in a pod since I can remember. In fact, my first eight years of blogging were just captures of my bumbling, painful attempts to human, failing most of the time. Efforting toward dreams, struggling through the day-to-day, losing relationships, and jobs, and even my hair. Failing at this and that, until, almost by happenstance, I would stumble into a brief success, almost effortlessly.
But I am a nobody.
Anyone who has ever met with any true level of success knows, there was nothing effortless about it. It was only achievable through those grueling workouts, consistent falls, determined rises, disciplined scheduling, monitored resources, and all of the precious, blood-stained, sweat-logged learnings from each heartbreaking fail.
The only true fail, is the one time we don’t get back up, right?
I’ve loved living on the coast, tucked in a small town where no one knows my origin story, my draft chapters aren’t common knowledge, and the mere mention of my name isn’t a cringe-worthy topic in the gatekeeper circles.
So being a nobody – has been really nice, like a mini-vacation, where the pressure to achieve those weighty dreams against the odds was lifted. I haven’t had to defend the idea of equality or representation, or fair trade as though I’m promoting snake oil to the blinded masses… and in the time I didn’t have to fight to stand upright in the sea of negative voices, all the while hearing the refrain, “you’re a nobody” – – -I caught my breath.
I breathed in sea air, hiked the forests, watched the clouds, took the back roads into the mountains, and sat by the rivers. I journaled. I cried. I wished over and over I’d been stronger and spoke better, and illuminated the idea and needs with more grace. I had to accept that I failed to reach the eyes and ears of the artists and audiences I wanted to help. My intention was good, but I was a nobody, and I can’t help anyone when I’m a nobody. I accepted the failure, and then took a nap in the woods by the Pacific as the fireweed died off, and the tide rolled out.
Autumn slipped into the valley. The trees ambered, and the rivers gorged with rain. The pastures swam with salmon as the deltas flooded, and in time I heard my own voice again. It seems like it’s been years since I heard her over all the yelling in the city of naysayers, the torrents of people all needing to be correct – correct over the top of my voice.
I realized, once I heard myself again….
It’s easy to dismiss an idealist as a nobody, to see them as inexperienced, unaware, or an ignorant dilettante, a fairy dreamer … then you bear no personal responsibility in the correcting of the circumstance which you yourself secretly abhor. Even the label “idealist” doesn’t actually mean, unknowledgeable, or impractical – it means I strive for a better status quo than what you have already settled for. Correcting over someone who has an idea for change, real lasting and supporting change to the community – is the same thing as walking past the trash that just missed the canister. Ignoring it, is the same as participating in its degeneration.
Because once you hear my voice, once I am a nobody no longer, and the truth has substance – you can no longer delete my validity with your much louder denials. Once you hear me, the weight of your own privilege will pull you off your horse, and you’ll have to earn your way just like all the other disenfranchised who struggle beside you, or under you, but they do it honestly – and with hopes for a better outcome. By acknowledging the truth of the need for fair trade and equal representation in diversified entertainment, you may risk losing the privileges you feel entitled to, even if that privilege is the first world marginalized “struggling artist archetype” you pride yourself on. The starving artist identity by which you define your value, by the effort of the struggle, will no longer be enough. By acknowledging and working toward change, you will be required to acknowledge your part in the unhealthiness of the entertainment and market-driven white-washing and sexual oppression of the industry – even if your only contribution is that you sold your work for less than it was worth, less than you needed to survive, in order to have your name in print, or your face on a billboard for a blink of an eye. Yes, that too contributes to the state we’re all currently in as artists.
When I realized that’s why people, even artists fought against me so hard, I understood I was attempting to create a positive change by trying to hack through the entertainment world undergrowth, years of privilege-enhanced market conditioning, racism, sexism, discrimination, and royalty theft, with a martini pick. As I pushed against the status quo, it pushed back. I got hate mail and threats of violence. Grown men screamed at me in public, red-faced and veins bulging. “Who the fuck do you think you are?”
And the rage, and fury caught me so off guard I replied with the only honest answer that popped to mind. “I’m Athena. I’m just a nobody, but I have this idea…”
Then I went to my car, trembling, to hide.
I took the approach a nobody would have taken. Honestly, at the time, I didn’t know of any other way than to stand there, handing out pamphlets, doing fundraisers and speeches and networking… and it wasn’t working.
So then, how to become a somebody and try again?
This winter one of my first mentors passed away. She was an amazing teacher, and a great source of inspiration to many students and people of my community in small town Alaska. She was the first person to really encourage my writing with gusto, the first teacher to nudge me to the front of the stage in drama club, and offered the only scholarship I took with me to college.
When I got the notice she’d passed away I was floored. I don’t believe I ever told her she was one of the three women, the three writing teachers I had – who inspired the much loved character in my books, Auntie Celeste is an amalgamate of my three writing coaches.
I’d never told her. I should have, and I should have thanked her more, and called more often. Even twenty years later, I knew her number and I should have made better use of it.
I’m a writer today, because she made me believe that storytellers were worthy, and I had a right to a voice.
I left a message on her facebook wall for her family and for all of her students who were online.
When her husband called to say thank you, and catch up. He asked if my next books were done. So I told him they were on my desk, waiting for publication funds. He lamented that I hadn’t been able to make the funding for the publishing house, that they had both been looking forward to it.
And I slipped out how the catch was, I could have had the funding from one large capital investor in California, but that the common refusal was that I was a nobody. So I was playing around with the idea of relaunching my brand, to hang out a sign and try to be a somebody so I could aim for funding again, or use my books to generate dialog.
H paused and said, “There’s just one thing I want to tell you. You’ve never been a nobody. You may not be well known, yet, but you’ve never been a nobody here. You are always a somebody to us.”
Just like that, the viewpoint tilted.
Just like that, I wept, and knew how silly I’d been.
Just like that, the idea I’d been working on for re-launching the brand took deep root. I diversified the shape of how to reach new audiences, plotted new ways to spread the word, and began mapping a trajectory to get back out there, launch those manuscripts and push the idea of fair trade and story-diversity again.
This time better networked, better supported, and with a safe, structured haven to retreat from the worst of the fire. This time with a brick and mortar location and a team of willing advocates. This time with proof in the volume of financing coming in from supporters who believe in fair trade.
I release to you, Athena.20
Wisegoddess.com is a site domain I’ve owned for ages, so I’m using it as the hub to pull all my other works, labels and ventures under. It’s where I’ll connect artists of all kinds, thinkers, creators, and offer platform and visibility to ideas, conversations, and efforts to change the unhealthy dynamics of our entertainment and storytelling industry that bleed into the environment and culture as a whole. Market conditioning can be re-formed, with work and creativity, and the willingness to recognize the value of stories outside our everyday experience, perspective and beliefs. We are all on this journey together, let’s enjoy it together, right?
I don’t need to hack through the unhealthy underbrush of a conditioned biased market – I need only stand. So, I stand here, and invite you to join, because together we can make change.
Come be creative with me.
The world needs our stories. All of them.