The last time I remember reading my work was four years ago at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. This weekend at the Wiscon feminist speculative fiction conference, I read two stories and spoke on a panel. It felt wonderful to be embodying my writing self again.
I came to Wiscon Feminist Speculative Fiction Conference because it was time. I have dragged my feet on convening with writers and readers for many many years. Even as Wiscon had been described to me, I didn’t really understand what a feminist speculative fiction conference would be. I now understand that it’s a place that works to hear all voices and make space for all listeners. Which means that attendees direct programming by coming up with ideas and descriptions of panels, readings and workshops. Attendees people the panels, selecting panels they want to sit on and providing the content of the workshops. There is an access coordinator making sure there is access for everyone whether it’s space for a wheelchair or reserved seating for someone who needs to sit closer to hear.
Just as my life isn’t just about making art, the conference wasn’t just about writing. I spent one day discussing the silences around reproductive health, learning about sex education for children, and reading my stories. It was a little bit like having a menu of college seminars you could mix and match to make your own experience. It made me think about the Occupy movements and their attempts to create a new society, a new way of being. It seems that’s exactly what Wiscon is focused on every year. The conversations I participated in about a more expansive, more inclusive, healthier world will stick with me for quite some time. And may even influence my next project.
At the same time, it was great fun watching the swarm of awareness about my book build over the weekend. As I sat on a panel, volunteered at a party, participated in a book launch, passed out flyers for my book, and did a reading, I met/connected with more and more people. The flyers were actually something I had created for the National Black Book Festival. I never used them there, so I brought them with me. It became something I could hand out as I told people about the book. Little by little people began to say that they had bought my book. By the final day, people were showing up to the signing table saying they hadn’t heard of the book, but it had been recommended to them by a friend and they bought it at the last minute.
There is something unique about seeing how your presence touches the world. It’s hard to see the effects of your efforts in everyday life. You act and hope that your actions ripple out to reach others. It’s difficult to be certain that your kindnesses, your hard work, or your creative output actually contribute to growth and change in the world. So it was particularly thrilling to actually watch awareness of my work spread through my interactions with others. And it occurred to me that the silences in our lives do not mean that a particular part of ourselves is dead; it may be burrowing deeper, it may be healing in slumber, it may be shoring itself up. I am deeply grateful that my inability to continuously engage with my writing has not severed my connection to my art. I am also grateful to meet and interact with so many people on their paths continuing to work to create the lives that they want to live. Inspiration is contagious!
When the friend who repeatedly suggested that I attend a con asked me if I was enjoying myself, I said I was having fun and it felt wrong somehow. Not bad wrong but giggly wrong. I spend money eating out, securing shelter, paying for expansive experiences for my child, but to join others in expanding my mind, my sense of self, and the value of my work? Rarely do I spend money doing that. (Or should I say, infrequently. I do and have done it, but it’s not a regular part of my life.)
There are two more conferences that I hope to attend, but I’m still a little off balance by it all. It’s a conversation that I’ve had with myself while traveling too. I’ve said: Wow, I’m on this airplane to this foreign country simply because I said I wanted to go. I’m fascinated with the gap between what we’re capable of having and doing and what we actually allow ourselves to have and do. The regularity of normalcy, the experiences that we normalize can become dominant dictators of our future paths… and there must be a constant breaking through to make space for the growth and expansion of a newer you.
Be well. Be love[d].
Kiini Ibura Salaam
PS: Here’s a throwback from two years ago. Podcastle recorded audio of my story “Debris.” If you didn’t listen when I posted it two years ago, take a listen!
*** BOOK REPORT: Tracking the Progress of Ancient, Ancient ***
Amazon has finally ordered my book from the publisher. So far I have sold three books online: thank you, San Diego (my brother), Seattle (my Oaxaca besties?), and Springfield, MA, (a fan?). Selling these three books lifted me from a ranking of #200,000 to #34,275. The rankings are super fluid, but it’s nice to see the numbers moving. Amazon ordered 9 books, so my assumption is that some other lovely people have bought as well.
Amazon has also changed the note on the book’s page from the foreboding “Out of stock” to the more welcoming: “This book ships in two to three weeks.” Both those statements basically mean the same wait for the consumer, but they leave the buyer with very different impressions, so thank you Amazon! I hope to translate these sales into positive reviews on Amazon because after a certain number of positive reviews, Amazon starts to believe there is money to be made and starts including the book on search results and use other subtle marketing techniques to push the book.
I am still working to secure new reviews. None have come in yet, but I have communicated with more reviewers.
My publisher deemed the book’s launch at Wiscon a success with 39 books sold. [cheering!]
Be well. Be love[d].
Kiini Ibura Salaam