Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Pathetically candid desires for modest fame

If this blog’s main theme is my rather-self-absorbed-but-maybe-interesting-to-others quest to become a Published Author, I might as well be explicit about what I’m hoping for. See, I’m not trying to be Sarah Vowell- or Dave Eggers- or whoever-level-famous (i.e., unmanageable numbers, i.e. “legions” of fans). But I don’t want to name the people who do have the amount of success that sounds just right; that’d be too embarrassing.

I should say, I got a respectable minor amount of attention/pseudo-fame for the personal/music zine (Spiffy) I did 11-12 years ago, and for the activist stuff I did from 2000-2003. But I didn’t read my work in public, nor did I really try to get published, or consider myself a “real” writer or artist. Now that’s changed, and here’s the cold hard truth about my wishes and goals. I’m guessing that if I look at this list in one year, no matter where I’m at, I’ll die of shame.

Let’s see. Topics I’ve covered in my writing (but with a “light touch” when possible, mind you) include: crippling shyness/insecurity/loneliness, sexual activity or lack thereof, eating problems, drug use, suicide, self-injury, and failure. Yet I’m thinking the following is TEN TIMES MORE HUMILIATING than all that put together.



Short-term: Read by and commented on by my friends. People I don’t know seeing my promo stickers and checking it out. Linked to by local bloggers, zine web sites, etc.

Long-term: An actual “following.” Mentioned in local/alternative media. And I don’t want to say “blogger with a book deal,” but…

Currently: Uh, see for yourself. I haven’t even told all that many people I know about it yet, even some who are bloggers!


Short-term: Getting my work in locally produced publications (examples could include Lumpen, The 2nd Hand [although they’re fiction and I’m not], Venus, Ladyfriend, Banana King, Chicago Reader, Time Out Chicago). Zines and blogs asking me to contribute work or reprint my stuff. Inclusion in the Zine Yearbook. Tower selling my zine. (Risk of my family finding out what I’m up to.)

Long-term: More of the above, plus getting work in non-Chicago-based national media like Bitch, Clamor, Bust, etc. Publications approaching ME for articles/essays/artwork. Inclusion in collections of personal stories/essays (like something from Seal Press).

Currently: In my present incarnation as a writer of personal nonfiction (as opposed to my previous work of political articles/flyers, or going way back, music reviews), none. That would require effort. I need to start sending my stuff out, not passively wait to be “invited” (that hardly ever happens, right?).

*****Readings/speaking opportunities*****

Short-term: More appearances at open mikes and reading series like the events put on by Diatribe Media. Inclusion in group readings, perhaps something at Quimby’s, the Hideout, Beat Kitchen, etc.

Long-term: Being a feature at an open mike. Getting invited to perform at local events like Dollar Store and Funny Ha-Ha (although I don’t write fiction, or pieces strictly intended as comedy; more like pieces that are incidentally funny, and even the piece I’ve done that got the biggest laughs [“An open letter to Mary-Kate Olsen”] has a fairly [ugh] “poignant” ending). Getting to be a panelist at writers’ conferences. Reading/speaking at my former school as a “successful” alumna. My own reading/signing appearance at a bookstore (or at least one with one or two other writers).

Currently: I sometimes present work at the Finger open mike; other ones I did are kind of on hiatus. Recently became, to my great delight, one of the readers at Diatribe Media’s events (at Mojoe’s coffeeshop, the WLUW Record Fair, hopefully at the Allied Media Conference in Ohio). I’m still very much at the point where getting asked to read somewhere feels like a big favor to ME (I mean, I sure don’t think anyone’s like, “Wow, we got [my name] to perform!”).


Short-term: Self-publish City of Destiny, even if by self-publish I mean photocopy and assemble a 300-page book myself. (There’s a zine/book I’ve seen at Quimby’s called So Midwest that did just that.) Get blurbs from published authors. Book gets coverage in alternative media, at least locally.

Long-term: Someone wants to reprint and distribute City of Destiny, and/or my (not started yet) indie-rock-teen memoir My Mom Made Dinner for Pavement, and/or compile my zines into book form. Book gets reviewed in national alternative or maybe even mainstream media. National distribution. Local bookstore appearances.

Currently: I’ve got an absolute mess of computer files and scribbled pieces of paper I’m determined to turn into City of Destiny, The Book, before I’m 30. (That’s 16 months.) And people have expressed polite interest in it.


Short-term: Getting something broadcast on WBEZ (Chicago’s NPR affiliate).

Long-term: Getting pieces on “This American Life”. Interviewed on “848” (local news/arts/culture show).

Currently: Well, my former neighbor used to be a producer on NPR's “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” and now works for WBEZ, but that’s neither here nor there.

*****Media coverage*****

Short-term: Getting the occasional review of my work in the periodicals listed under “Publication.” Mentions in local media.

Long-term: Most/all of my publications/projects automatically getting reviewed in those periodicals. Featured/interviewed in local or even national media. Also see “Blog,” “Radio,” and “Books.”

Currently: Again, would require effort. But so far, my 2004 zine’s been reviewed in Zine World (it got two reviews in the same issue! That’s rare!), Best Zine Ever, and Slug & Lettuce--none of whom I sent it to. And it got an erroneous mention in New City, and nice listings in the Quimby’s and Loop Distro catalogs.


Short-term: Getting a grant.

Long-term: Getting a grant.

Currently: Tried, didn’t get a grant. (Depriving me of my plan to suddenly get all independent/anarchist-y and decline it; it was a city arts grant and I realized I don’t want government-funded grants.)

*****Fans (in person and online)*****

Short-term: A manageable number (for me to correspond with). People buying my stuff, or trading. My former college instructors mentioning me to students and faculty.

Long-term: A slightly unmanageable number. People buying my stuff, or trading. And also bringing me silly gifts. People that I’m fans of mentioning ME as a favorite, or someone to watch, or whatever.

Currently: I’ve got a decent number of people who knew me first, then knew and liked my work (including my former college instructors), and a much smaller number (but every case of this is REALLY cool) of people who approached me after hearing me read, or got a copy of my zine and wrote me. Some people buy my stuff or make good trades, but often I give my work away to people I’m fans of. No gifts yet.


Short-term: Uh, preferably none.

Long-term: Maybe a bit of jealousy. (“How’d SHE get a grant/book deal/TV interview?”)

Currently: This is a bit off-topic, but in past years I wrote and distributed activist essays/articles, including at Ladyfest Bay Area (2002), and someone picked them up there and she and her friends had a few vicious entries on their Livejournal page misrepresenting and attacking me. (I didn’t find it until 2004.)

Truly embarrassing and true: I want to see how long it takes to get my name in the Reader’s “Chicago Antisocial” column, and in Time Out Chicago. (Plenty of events I’ve been to, and lots of people I know, have been written about there.)

Both my parents have had books published. (One book each, but a total of six editions.) And my brother (and parents) were the main interviewees in an AP feature article that ran a few years ago.
Make of this what you will.

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