I’m in a serious financial crisis. Here’s what you can do to help

Something I’ve come to love about this network is how it rallies round. Every so often when a FTBlogger has a personal crisis, they ask for colleagues and site readers’ help and get it in spades. I’m hoping the rule holds, because it’s my turn.

I’m in a serious financial crisis. Twice before, I’ve asked for assistance when things were dicey; at present, things are worse than dicey.

As someone working solely as a freelancer I have zero job security: my income depends on a steady flow of work which doesn’t always materialise. Business comes and goes, and due to a cocktail of a long-term brokeness, late payments and a light-on-the-ground period, I recently slipped past my overdraft limit. Although I was only slightly over it, my bank charged me over a hundred pounds ($162) straight away.

Those fines stack up over time. In the couple of days since I notified the rest of the network privately and asked for help, I’ve managed to get back under the limit – but only just. If I slip back past it, I’ll be punished financially again; the first time around it left me unable to buy food for two days, and as it is, I only have enough to live on for a short period more.

The fridge is empty; my shoes have holes in them; I can’t afford public transport across town. While I expect business as usual to resume in a few weeks’ time, once cheques have cleared, work is coming in again and editors return my calls, I’m currently at rock bottom in a financial emergency.

There are three ways you can help.

1) DONATE TO THIS BLOG

Last month I got more traffic than I’ve ever had before. Before that hits had peaked in September 2013 and gradually slumped – the point they started to pick up dramatically was this April when I first asked readers to support me. Since then the trend has reversed, showing steady growth.

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Note, this September’s figures represent only the first half of the month.

Your donations aren’t just helping this blog survive – they’re helping it to thrive. Having supporters who invest in me has provided a loyal readership I didn’t have a year or even six months ago. My living depends on how much I get noticed, and the more this blog grows, the more sustainable my work is. (Repeat the cliché about writing being work: we’re still working on ways to make the blogosphere pay the way print media once did, and for now reader support is what writers like me partially rely on.)

The link to my donation page is in the subtitle above, the ‘Support this blog’ button below and here. I’m not going to name an amount I need or suggest how much to give, should you choose to: the stark reality at present is that I can’t turn anything away, and the more help I get now the less I’m likely to need in future. I’ve accepted sums in the past ranging from single digits to the low hundreds, and I’ll continue to.

In the long term, especially in terms of helping the blog prosper, small monthly donations can make more difference than larger one-offs: most of my groceries are paid for readers who ‘subscribe’, contributing a once-a-month amount of their choice to help fund my work. Using the ‘Subscribe’ button in the pane on the left (scroll down), you can give €5, €10 or €15 a month; failing that, use these links to give €5, €10 or €20 regularly or make a regular donation of your chosen amount, checking PayPal’s ‘Make this recurring’ box.

(By the way: if this is your first time reading me, you can see some of the greatest hits here. If you can’t help me out right now but feel like you might in future, keep up with my work here.)

2) HIRE ME

I don’t accept that asking readers to make my work pay is ‘begging. (Classism among atheists, in fact, is something I’ve written about.) If you value my writing enough to fund its continuation, clearly you’re getting something back. It’s true, though, that – unless you’re a commissioning editor at a publication seeking writers (in which case, email me) – it’s not a service or product particular to you. Thankfully, I have other talents.

If you want to help me out while getting something in return – hire me.

Design

I’ve recently been taking on graphic design work for other secularists and bloggers. Below are a few of the things I’ve made: logos for Hiba Krisht’s blog A Veil and a Dark Place and Wesley Fenza’s, Living Within Reason, as well as a banner for Heina Dadabhoy’s blog Heinous Dealings.

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Currently, I’m working on numerous exciting projects with other FtB folk – you’ll find out all that in due course.

Here’s what the clients above said about me:

Alex was in regular communication throughout the process. He would routinely check in to discuss ideas and design concepts. He made sure that the concept, colors, and overall feel were to my satisfaction before engaging in too much design work. I was incredibly pleased with his design, and am proud to display it on my website and elsewhere. (Wesley Fenza)

Alex’s banner design for my blog is tailored to reflect the ethos and aesthetic of my writing. Throughout the design process, he was attentive to feedback and conscientious about creating a design that would complement my tastes and take my public image concerns into consideration, producing a logo that fit into the linguistic and cultural aesthetic I was looking for while subverting stereotypes and reductive racial tropes. (Hiba Krisht)

Alex was both willing to listen and active in providing ideas from his expertise. I couldn’t be happier about my banner, which not only represents me well, but also shows how thoughtful, skilled, and insightful he is. (Heina Dadabhoy)

If you’re looking for graphics work – especially (though not only) if you’re part of the skeptical or secular scene – get in touch here, via email or on Twitter.

Editing

When I’m not writing or designing, I’m a copy editor working with clients on every kind of text from online journalism to print publishing, short stories to self-help and advice. By all accounts I’m very, very good.

While I work regularly with authors who’ve spent years in publishing, I specialise in editing for new writers, whether still starting out or writing for the first time. Here’s what three such clients said about me:

Alex’s friendly hand and precise comments helped me transform my writing into something unique. Tailored guidance and rapid feedback – a truly outstanding service.

His style is very good, helpful and non-patronising – with a jokey edge, but the message gets across.

Alex was both insightful and professional, helping me do my best creative writing – with his effortless guidance, I was able to pin down exactly what it was I wanted to express. The key, though, is that he is accessible and easy to work with: a real gem.

A recent client, student Maria Marcello, hired me waning to write under a pseudonym about sexual assault; previously, she had no writing experience. After I’d worked on it with her, her first piece went viral online, was republished at the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Huffington Post and openDemocracy and has had over 65,000 hits on her own blog (her whole blog’s views from the last two weeks are approaching 100,000).

Maria has this to say about working with me:

Since I’d never written anything before, Alex’s editing has been invaluable to me. Not only is he an absolutely amazing editor, but he’s publicised my work and encouraged me to write more. If you’re looking for a copy editor, I couldn’t recommend Alex more highly.

Kaveh Mousavi, a current client and author of the blog On the Margin of Error, adds:

I have come into contact with hundreds of editors in my life, so when I say Alex is a fantastic editor I do not speak with a lack of experience. He is fast and he is thorough, he thinks about every word and its implication, he understands and respects your world and your voice, and his insight is frank.

Finally, Greta Christina (of Greta Christina’s Blog) has this advice to offer after working with me a year ago:

If Alex is offering you his services, TAKE HIM UP ON IT. Alex did two extensive rounds of copy editing on Coming Out Atheist, and he is one of the best copy editors I’ve ever worked with. I can’t recommend him highly enough. Seriously. Hire him.

Rates are usually hourly, but – as with everything else I do – are reasonable and extremely flexible. Again: email me or say hello on Twitter.

3) GET PEOPLE YOU KNOW TO DO (1) AND (2)

If you’re not going to hire me or donate to this blog, chances are you know someone who will. If you want to help me out, please spread the word: share this post with friends, contacts or people you know are looking for writers/editors/graphic designers. Retweet it if you use Twitter; post it to Facebook, if you use Facebook.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide – this is an hour of need for me, and I appreciate it hugely.

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Recommended reading: Captain America, autistic adults, white privilege in Islam, good cops, bad cops and the prisons system

Shut up, sometimes a normal-length title won’t do.

Five things to read if you missed them the first time round:

  • ‘Captain Dark Thirty?’, by Jonathan Lindsell (Haywire Thought)
    Steve Rogers is never asked to get his hands or morals dirty. He can just swan around judging Fury and Widow while he remains an emblem for an ideal of American moral integrity that, if it ever existed, is now very much mythological.
  • ‘Fourteen Things Not to Say to an Autistic Adult’, by the Purple Aspie
    Last night somebody shared an article on Facebook. The article was called ‘Things never to say to parents of a child with autism.’ A comment on the article asked why there wasn’t one about things not to say to an autistic adult. I decided to write that article.
  • ‘Anger, Tone Policing, and Some Thoughts on Good Cop, Bad Cop’, by Greta Christina (Greta Christina’s Blog)
    In that hot, flushed moment when we’re doing the Cognitive Dissonance Tango, we respond more positively to the good cop. But that doesn’t mean the bad cop isn’t having an effect.
  • ‘I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail’, by Charlie Gilmour (The Independent)
    A man had been screaming for help all night, pushing the alarm bell and, when that elicited no response, banging a chair against the door. When, after a significant period of time, the officer on duty came to see what the problem was, the inmate told him he was suffering from severe chest pains and thought he might have had a heart attack. He needed a doctor. The officer’s response was to slide a couple of painkillers under the door and ignore his pleas for the rest of his shift. ‘The most terrifying thing,’ said a friend in the cell opposite his, ‘was when his cries finally stopped. We knew he wasn’t sleeping.’ In the morning, he was dead.
  • ‘Muslim Converts, Atheist Accommodationism, & White Privilege’, by Heina Dadabhoy (Heinous Dealings)
    White privilege is being able to visit Muslim communities as an openly gay person with a same-sex partner and being welcomed into them while queer Muslims and ex-Muslims continue to deal with fear, rejection, and marginalization.

Guten Appetit.

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The making of two ex-Muslim mastheads: how would Roy Lichtenstein paint an Asian woman?

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HeinousDealingsBannerSmallAll three new additions to our site will by now have settled in somewhat; I’m lucky enough to have known two of them, Hiba Krisht and Heina Dadabhoy, quite well before they joined FtB. In the best-part-of-a-year between our hivemind’s decision to invite them and the actual debut of their blogs – it took so long because our site redesign went on forever – Hiba and Heina’s names became inseparable, which was something of a problem when they both commissioned me to create their mastheads (right). Since readers seem to like the banners, I thought perhaps I should write about the time I spent on them.

The common ground is inescapable. Both Heina and Hiba are ex-Muslim – more precisely, atheist – women of colour; both are feminists; both live in the US. They’re both queer, both polyamorous and both twentysomething; both are former hijab-wearers; they even have somewhat similar first names. (Would dubbing them the H-bombs be in bad taste?) When it comes to branding a personal blog, uniqueness is the order of the day – so the challenge of bannering-up both Heinous Dealings and A Veil and a Dark Place was always going to be distinguishing two writers I’d grown used to mentioning side by side.

Thankfully the likenesses are superficial: study their work and it’s clear each is their own quite different blogger.

Heina was a Sunni Muslim, Hiba a Shiite. Hiba is a Lebanese Arab; Heina, ethnically south-east Asian, is a Desi. Heina was born and raised in the US; Hiba is a several-times migrant.

Hiba’s writing tends toward the long-form, often centred on personal narrative. Heina’s is more typically about current events or blogosphere controversies. Heina’s voice is more conversational, often referencing comments or directly addressing readers. Hiba’s is more literary (her posts have been printed as-is in journals). Hiba, an academic and professional translator, relies mainly on turn of phrase for colour. Heina, a cosplayer in her spare time, draws on memes, gifs and pop culture.

Heina’s persona is distinctly ironic, dripping with snark. Hiba’s is known for being gutwrenchingly sincere. Hiba’s apostasy plays against the backdrop of her middle eastern taste in art, food, clothing, even grammar; Heina’s aesthetic – lipstick, heels, polka dots – is hard-femme Americana.

How do you represent these sorts of differences in two 728x120px images?

000Heina’s image could be read as a rejection of her roots – her A-line dresses and nail polish as aspirational, 1950s symbols that they are of idealised suburban whiteness. But an ex-Muslim who blogs on racism isn’t someone running from their background, and what feminist – actually, what woman today – dresses as a fifties housewife except on purpose? It’s a wardrobe filled with the intent to ironise, hijacking iconography meant to exclude women like Heina. She might as well, it struck me when she asked for a blog header, insert herself into Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings of pale, thin blondes – so I decided I should do just that.

Like most pop art and like her, Lichtenstein’s work is tongue-in-cheek. Filled with soap opera heterosexuals and exclamation marks, it’s as much a camp performance of his era’s gender politics as her look is – but that being so, he never to my knowledge painted anyone who looked like her. That raised a problem: with no precedent, how do you paint an Asian woman in Roy Lichtenstein’s style?

Some liberties were taken. The famous Ben-Day dots in his work were originally developed as a means of saving coloured ink while shading, so always appear on a white background there. This works for the pinkish hue of Caucasian faces, but trying to represent Heina’s skin tone that way in early versions left her looking zombie-like, so two different tan shades were required. Nor did Lichtenstein ever, to my knowledge, paint people with curly hair like hers or mine, and the resultant line work uses a technique more mine than his. Still, it seemed to work. (If you’re wondering why Heina’s hair is purple, it’s because its actual colour would have rendered as an amorphous black blob… as well as just because.)

Of course Heina, who broadcasts her opinions, had to have a thought bubble in live transmission – and of course her blurb had to be drawn like Lichtenstein’s narrative boxes. My hope is that the finished banner is as witty, camp, colourful and recognisable as she is, and her readers’ responses suggest it succeeded.

000When it came to Hiba’s blog, the task was the same with one added constraint. First, create something to symbolise A Veil and a Dark Place; second, make it instantly different from I’d done at Heinous Dealings.

Hiba is middle eastern rather than Asian, more literary than Heina and less western in terms of reference points: it made sense immediately that her banner would feature Arabic. The language’s script is exquisitely ornate, resembling embroidered latticework or chain mail when densely spaced, and while initially I wondered if using it for an ex-Muslim blog was ethnocentric, it struck me that doing so might actually combat the conflation of Islam and Arabia: unlike most current or former Muslims Hiba actually is an Arab, and associating an atheist’s blog with that spidery lettering seems like a way of reclaiming it from fundamentalists.

The phrase in the texture of the letters was meant to be the blog name, but annoyingly my laptop managed to unravel it somehow, and I’d likely have to study Arabic myself to rectify this. I’m convinced no colour suits its writing better than inky black, so wanted originally to keep the banner monochrome; for the lower portion of text , I was also tempted for a time to use Trajan Pro, that most Roman of fonts. What stopped me? Well, although both those concepts would differentiate Hiba’s blog from Heina’s, another ex-Muslim got there first.

Maryam Namazie’s banner is a thing of beauty – to imitate it even by accident would do all parties involved a disservice. Moreover, her blogging style and Hiba’s are very different, and it occurred to me her monochrome text suggests the matt black clothing of Islamist theocracies she rails against. Hiba’s subject matter is more personal, and her fondness for middle eastern art made me think the burnt yellow of Lebanese spices would fit. (When in doubt, my mind defaults to food.) For the typeface in the blog name’s second half, I went with Lato.

The pseudo-Arabic letters of ‘a veil’ are my own work, thus unique to Hiba’s blog, and took many hours of tweaking once I’d found actual Arabic characters to base them on. (Making the ‘v’ work was especially taxing.) For a while I messed about with colour fields and added details, but in fact I think the motif is so strong that other details would overpower it, and ‘floating’ on a white background means the banner looks centred above Hiba’s posts. (Like mine, it’s not really.)

Since the new blogs went up, I’ve been commissioned to do similar work for other people. I can only thank both H-bombs for coming to me, and I’m thrilled that on top of being their colleague, I got to support what they do.

Update: Hiba responds here.

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Welcome three new bloggers: Hiba Krisht, Heina Dadabhoy and Aoife O’Riordan

Forgive me – this post is much too late, but if anyone missed it the first time round we’ve an exciting announcement.

Three new writers just joined Freethought Blogs, and they’re three of the very best.

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Hiba Krisht, formerly known as Marwa Berro, can’t have escaped the notice of anyone in atheism this last year. Her post ‘What it is like to be a Muslim woman‘ (here’s an updated version) swept the blogosphere last summer, she’s guest-written for this blog and her ‘Ex-Hijabi Photo Journal‘ tumblr has been all over the press. If you’re interested in antiracist, anti-imperialist critique of Islam, A Veil and a Dark Place is the blog to read.

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Heina Dadabhoy, poached from her role as one of Skepchick‘s best known rabble-rousers, has her own writing space now at Heinous Dealings. (I may have named her blog.) As well as being, like Hiba, an ex-Muslim – currently she’s working on A Skeptic’s Guide to Islam – she writes on feminism, body image, racism and other things. See her ‘Don’t Be Boring‘ comments policy first, and then her gallery of violations.

Aoife O’Riordan, finally, writes a charming blog named Consider the Tea Cosy on ‘feminism, queerness, wheelyshoes, Ireland, what she cooked last week or any combination of the above.’ I’m thrilled as could be to have another colleague this side of the Atlantic (though not of the Manx Sea), let alone one who writes so well – read her her moving, vivid account of her Catholic grandmother’s death.

Curious? Send all three of them some traffic.

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On Honeygate

Religion’s not the sole unrighteousness
In your philosophy, we’ve learned of late:
Caught in the act (high-minded, humourless)
Hightailing hot goods to an airport gate –
A jar, specifically, of sandwich spread –
Reports relay your patented contempt,
Determining the art of protest’s dead.
Did you expect to be declared exempt
At once, on turning up, from rules in place?
We laugh because your notion customs might,
Kafir, favour you simply for your face
Isn’t far wrong. That onlookers make light
Now of your trouble’s just, if jibe-filled. Honey,
Say what you like – the world’ll say it’s funny.