My Trip to the LGBT Bloggers’ Conference

My Trip to the Bloggers’ Conference
by Greta
Mrs. Marx’s Homeroom
Grade 4

Last weekend I went to a bloggers’ conference in Washington D.C. It was a lot of fun. There were a lot of kids there from other schools. We talked about government and computers and how we can make the world better for every body. Washington D.C. is the capital of our country. There is a big Christmas tree there, and a museum with lots of butterfiles butterflies. I hope we can go back soon.

Pink_triangle_repeater.svg
I’ve never done one of these conference reports before. I’m not quite sure how you do it. I was at the National LGBT Blogger and Citizen Journalist Initiative in D.C. last weekend, and some people have said that they want to hear about it; but I’m not sure how to do that in a way that’s not mind-bogglingly tedious. So instead of talking about the high points of what I did, I think I’ll talk about the high points of what I learned.

*

In political discussions, don’t use the generic word “we.” If you’re talking about a group, be specific.

DiversityIt’s important to take on difficult, thorny issues of race, class, gender identity, nationality, etc. — even if you’re not totally comfortable with it. In other words: White people have to talk about race, middle- and upper- class people have to talk about class, non-trans people have to talk about trans issues, etc.

When you’re taking on difficult, thorny issues of race, class, gender identity, nationality, etc., and you fear that you’re going to put your foot in it because it’s not your particular issue and you don’t know enough about it… acknowledge that from the outset. Frame your piece in the form of questions you’re asking rather than opinions you’re asserting, and ask for feedback. People will cut you more slack for mistakes you may make if you make it clear that you’re aware of your limitations.

When other people are taking on difficult, thorny issues of race, class, gender identity, nationality, etc., and they make mistakes, don’t be an asshole about it. If you think they’re perpetuating misinformation or bigotry, call them on it — but the flame-war dogpile of a jillion people screaming “You’re an asshole” does not foster mutual understanding. Cut each other some slack for good intentions already.

How the homosexuls saved civilization
The LGBT community needs to stop defining ourselves as victims, and start defining ourselves as victors. Framing ourselves as victims feeds into our opponents’ narrative (we’re whiny, we’re weak, we want special rights, etc.) Instead of demanding equal rights, we should demand equal responsibilities: demand to be equal participants and contributors in making our country/ world stronger and better. We need to frame our demands not in terms of what we want, but in terms of what we have to offer.

On that topic: The LGBT community should frame our history as part of the narrative of American history: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And when we do that, we should frame it in a positive way — not as part of the American history of bigotry and brutality and oppression, but as part of our historical arc towards equality and justice.

There are different forms of political communication: education, persuasion, and motivation. With persuasion, you have to meet people where they are.

The LGBT community should encourage our straight allies to stand up for us. (See “taking on difficult, thorny issues” above.)

Beehive
Conservatives tend to have a hive mentality, and are by nature better at all staying on one message than progressives. But progressives don’t need to see this as a weakness on our part. We have a strength that conservatives tend not to: the ability to see a wide variety of viewpoints on a topic. When co-ordinating our efforts, we don’t have to all take the same talking points — but we can co-ordinate our diverse efforts (such as co-ordinating the timing of posts on big stories to maximize attention).

Television.svg
If you’re going to do TV appearances, practice in front of a camera — find your sweet spot, the angle from which you photograph best, and stick with it. Stay present on camera — “adjourn the court” of self judgment, you can’t be a participant and an observer at the same time. On a microphone, talk softer than you normally would in public speaking, as if you were talking into someone’s ear — it will pick up the nuance of your voice better. You live with video forever, so be careful of what you say on camera. Don’t let your appearance distract from your message. Have good posture. And on camera, no matter how mad you are, your default should always be a smile. (Examples: Bill Clinton and Rachel Maddow.)

To do effective public relations and get your blog noticed by the mainstream media: Remember that journalists are either busy or lazy, and make their job easier for them. Develop relationships with journalists, know what they’re looking for and be willing and able to feed it to them. Offer something different — news, new information, or just a strong point of view. Most journalists are looking for topical pieces — if your work isn’t necessarily topical, hook it to a topic, or find a publication that’s doing a theme issue.

To make more money blogging, I pretty much need to keep doing what I’m doing. I just need to do it more, consider some additional income streams, and work harder on building my traffic.

And finally: I really need to get a flip camera.

*

Oh. And I learned this:

The queer community sure talks about religion a lot.

But that’s a topic for another post.

“Not a very nice story”: Susie Bright Interviews Me for “X: The Erotic Treasury”

Please note: This piece discusses my sex life — specifically, my sexual fantasies and my tastes in porn — in a certain amount of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read about that, please don’t read this piece. Thanks.

Sex, religious cults, atheism, spanking, pen-names, astrology, being made an example of, and the process of writing porn… what do all these have to do with each other?

X the erotic treasury
Susie Bright (of Best American Erotica fame, and of Susie Bright’s Journal fame) has put together a new erotica anthology, X: The Erotic Treasury. It’s a beautifully- edited book, as Susie’s books always are… and for once, the production values are worthy of the content: a cloth-bound hardcover book, gorgeously printed on non- crappy paper, all in a sensuous- to- the- touch die-cut slipcover.

I have a story in the collection… a rather disturbing erotic story that I thought I’d have a hard time ever getting published, so I’m thrilled that it’s not only seeing the light of day, but is being showcased in this beautiful format. The story, “Deprogramming,” centers on physical and sexual abuse in a religious cult… and a couple who escaped from the cult and are now consensually re-enacting it.

Susie interviewed me recently about my story, and we talked about — you guessed it — sex, religious cults, atheism, spanking, pen-names, astrology, being made an example of, and the process of writing porn. Here’s that interview. Enjoy!

SB: You were raised as an atheist, but when do you remember being fascinated with the “cult” experience?

GC: I wouldn’t describe myself as fascinated by cults, although I do find religion in general to be a compelling subject.

But it sounds like what you want to know is what inspired me to write this piece. It’s not a very nice story, but it is a true one, so I’ll tell it.

Jonestown
I was watching a documentary about Jim Jones (of Jonestown fame) and his People’s Temple. At the point in the story where things were starting to go wrong in the church, it said that members of the church who disobeyed the rules were punished by being spanked.

It’s a terrible story. They described the incidents, and what they called “spanked,” I would call “badly beaten.” But there’s a deeply ingrained part of my mind and my libido that almost inevitably gets turned on when I hear the word “spank,” and that starts to conjure erotic images and stories. So I found myself having sexual fantasies about this scenario… while at the same time being horrified by it, and feeling ashamed for being turned on by it.

That’s where “Deprogramming” came from. I was trying to capture that feeling of being simultaneously horrified and turned on. I decided to have the survivors of the abuse in my story re-enact it in an erotic way: for the characters, this was a way for them to reclaim the experience and move past it… and for me, it was a way to give myself, and my readers, permission to be turned on by it.

My story isn’t specifically about the People’s Temple. It’s about a fictional religious cult that I made up. But it’s definitely influenced by real cults that I’ve read about…

Does your family know about your erotic writing? Have they read it?

Window
I’ve asked my family not to, actually. My porn is like a window into my libido, and
it crosses a boundary for me to have my family looking through that window. I don’t want my family to know what I think about when I jerk off. Call me old-fashioned.

Have you written any manifestos?

Definitely. Many times. In my blog. Probably the best known and widest read is Atheists and Anger — an attempt to answer, in detail, the question, “Why are you atheists so angry?”

PenHave you ever used a pen name for your erotic work?

No.

This was a conscious decision I made very early on. It’s very important to me to keep my identity integrated; to resist the tendency to present one face to some people and a completely different face to others. Writing under my own name is an important part of that.

I totally understand why other writers use pen names, I’m certainly not critical or judgmental about it. But it would be wrong for me. I want to stand behind what I write 100%.

Has your work ever been “made an example of”?

Oh, yes.

Skeptical inquirer
The best example: I wrote a piece a few years back for the Skeptical Inquirer, called Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do With God.

The piece talks about how, although it might seem that an atheist philosophy has no comfort to offer in the face of death, in fact this is not the case. And it offers, as examples, some of my own atheist thoughts about death that I find comforting and hopeful.

I started ego-Googling my name and the title of the piece… and found that several Christian ministers were quoting from the piece out of context, as an example of how even atheists admit that life without the promise of life after death is bleak and hopeless.

No, really. Here’s how they did it.

They would quote the part at the beginning, where I talk about how atheism seems to offer no comfort in the face of death. And they would completely ignore the entire point of the piece… which is that, while that might seem on the surface to be the case, it most emphatically is not.

FYI, when I find that happening, I write to these ministers; point out that they’re quoting me as saying the exact opposite of what I’m actually saying; and remind them about the commandment against bearing false witness against your neighbor.

What is your astrological sign? Any other signs and symbols regarding the occasion of your birth?

What’s the astrological sign that thinks astrology is bunk? That’s the one I am.

Seriously. Of all the religious/ spiritual/ metaphysical beliefs out there, astrology is one of the few that actually makes testable claims (namely, that people’s personality and behavior are affected by the time of their birth). These claims have been tested. Extensively. And they’ve been conclusively found to have absolutely no basis whatsoever.

Happy new year
The only thing special about the occasion of my birth — apart from my being born, of course — is that it was on New Year’s Eve. Which meant (a) my parents got to take me as a tax deduction for the entire year, and (b) I got a great excuse for throwing a big birthday party every year.

When you think of your recent writing, for “X,” and then consider your recent sex life in reality, what comes to mind?

I think, “I really hope people understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Otherwise, they’re going to think I’m a total nutjob.”

“X: The Erotic Treasury” is available at Powell’s, Amazon, Last Gasp, and fine bookstores everywhere. If you’ve enjoyed this interview, a PDF of other interviews with “X: The Erotic Treasury” writers (most shorter than this one — I took the liberty of posting the longer version of mine here) is available online.

Brief Blog Semi-Break

Hi, all. Sorry for the unscheduled interruption in service. Ingrid and I had an insanely busy weekend with no time for blogging, and I am now battling a nasty cold that’s left me physically unable to do anything but sleep and watch “Law and Order.” I’ll be back on the blog when I’m feeling better. See you soon!

A Patchwork of Income: Making a Living as an Artist

Writing
I had this revelation recently about making a living as a writer. It came to me kind of absurdly late in my career, given how obvious it’s now seeming. And it’s occurred to me that, if it took me almost twenty years to figure this revelation out, there might be some other struggling writers and artists who haven’t figured it out yet, either.

So I’m going to share the wealth. If you’re a writer — or any kind of artist — trying to make a living at it, here’s the advice I wish I’d gotten ten or fifteen years ago.

OceansEleven
For years, I’ve been thinking about making a living as a writer in terms of the One Big Score. The major- publisher book deal. The regular gig for the big-name magazine. That sort of thing.

And as a consequence, I’ve had a tendency to think of littler scores — moderate bits of income from smaller publishers — as a low priority. I’ve always been happy to get them, of course; but I’ve tended to look at the littler scores as stepping stones, ways to get my name more widely recognized, so I could make bigger and bigger scores… which would also be stepping stones, on my way to the One Big Score.

(I should know better. I’ve seen enough crime/ adventure movies to know how dumb it is to stake your life and career on One Big Score…)

But I realized recently — somewhat to my surprise — that I’m actually making a fair living as a writer. I’m not yet working full- time at it, or making my full living off of it. But I am making something that vaguely resembles real money — a substantial portion of my income, money that I use to pay actual bills and stuff — from my writing.

And it’s coming from lots of small and moderate -sized payments, from lots of small and moderate -sized publishers and sources.

In no particular order, it’s coming from:

Advertising income from my blog
Donations and subscriptions to my blog (thanks, everybody!)
Regular columns for online periodicals
One-time projects for anthologies or other publications
Royalties from book sales

(And I’m not counting the fact that about 75% of what I do in my day job is copywriting and book editing.)

Calculator
No one piece of this is hugely substantial. But it all adds up: not quite to an income, not yet anyway, but to a genuine part-time job. (And a nice side benefit of a patchwork income is that, if one piece of it falls through, it’s not a disaster. It’s a temporary annoyance.)

Oh. One more essential thing. (She said sneakily, saving the zinger for last.)

Many of these little pieces?

I wouldn’t have them if it weren’t for the blog.

Money
And not just the obvious pieces, either: the ads, the donations. Both of my current regular gigs for online publications — the Blowfish Blog gig and the FriendFinder/ Alt.com gig — I got, at least in part, because publishers or friends of publishers knew about my blog. Some of my anthology pieces and other one-time paid gigs are reprints of blog posts… and that’s becoming increasingly true as I build a larger body of work here. And the blog — and the fact that I can do ad trades with other blogs — is becoming one of the primary ways that I promote my books.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: If you’re writing, you have to blog. You just do. I — don’t look at me that way. Point that gun somewhere else. Get off the window ledge. I know that blogging is a time suck. I know that it feels like you’re giving away for free what you’re trying to make a living at. I know that a blog takes a lot of work to do right… and an insane amount of patience to stick with for long enough to get any kind of traffic and traction out of it.

But here’s what I’ve said before, and will say again: If you’re a writer in the early 21st century, and you don’t blog? It’s like being a pop musician in the mid 20th century, and refusing to let your songs be played on the radio. You’re denying yourself what is probably the single most powerful outlet currently available for publicizing your work.

That’s all something of a side point, though. It’s an important side point, and one I’ll continue to evangelize about; but it is a side point. So let me get back to the main point.

Which is this:

Patchwork quilt
Building a writing career, or any sort of artistic career, is very rarely about getting the One Big Break, scoring the One Big Score. It’s more like sewing a patchwork quilt. No one piece of a patchwork quilt is going to keep you warm… but all of them sewn together can do a pretty decent job of it.

By all means, keep trying for the Big Score. But don’t neglect the little scores while you’re at it. If you can get enough of them, the little scores can add up to a genuine career.

Brief Blog Semi-Break/Open Thread

I’m going out of town for a long weekend, leaving Thursday and coming back Sunday. Our neighbors are looking after our home and our cats while we’re gone, but I may or may not have reliable Internet access. If I do, I’ll do a blog post or two; but if you don’t see me until Sunday or Monday, don’t be surprised.

In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. Let’s pretend it’s a job interview. Where do you see yourself in five years? What do you think is your greatest weakness? And if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

And Now, A Brief Pledge Break

Pledge_thermometer
We’ll return to our program, “The One Inescapably Convincing Argument That There Is No God,” in just a moment. But first:

Won’t you consider supporting this blog?

We have some wonderful gifts for those who do!

After over three years of blogging, I’ve come to the conclusion that blogging isn’t like any other publishing medium. And it doesn’t earn income like any other publishing medium. As much fun as I’m having with it — and as much fun as y’all seem to be having with it — the “time spent/ income earned” ratio for it is kind of insane. This blog isn’t like a magazine or a newspaper or a book publishing company. This blog is more like public radio.

Which is brought to you by generous donations from readers like you.

If you’ve enjoyed great new posts like Blind Men and Elephants, John McCain and the “Maverick” Snow Job, and The Top Ten Reasons I Don’t Believe In God — or classics such as Broccoli or Tofu? Sexual Differences in Relationships and The Unexplained, the Unproven, and the Unlikely — then won’t you consider supporting this blog with a small contribution?

And if you do donate or subscribe, here’s what you get in return!

Anyone who subscribes to my blog (an automatic $5 donation a month for 12 months) — or who makes a one-time donation of $60 or more — will get a signed copy of their choice of any of my three books:

Bec_2008_smallBest Erotic Comics 2008

ThrkinThree Kinds of Asking For It

Payfor
or Paying For It: A Guide by Sex Workers for their Clients.

Just email me (greta at gretachristina dot com) with a name and mailing address when you make a donation. I’ll even take requests for how to sign it, if they’re not unreasonable.

You can go the subscription route, which spreads your donation out in small increments over a longer period. (A subscription to my blog is $5 a month for 12 months.) Or you can make a one-time donation, and that can be for any amount. Even small donations would be very much appreciated. You can use a credit card if you don’t have a PayPal account, or your PayPal account if you do. And if you don’t want to use the PayPal system at all, you can send a check or money order to:

Greta Christina
PO Box 40844
San Francisco, CA 94140-0844

(And if you’ve donated in the past, but never gave me your address so I could send you your book — please do that today! I’d love to show you my gratitude.)

Like public radio, donations and subscriptions to this blog are a big part of what enables me to keep blogging. They let me work my day job at less than full time, and free my time up to write. And they free my time up, not only to write, but to write better. (The last time I did a pledge drive, I promised to spend more doing research for my blogging; John McCain and the “Maverick” Snow Job is Exhibit A.)

The world of writing is changing. The old model of print publication is getting less and less viable as a way for mid-level, not- insanely- famous writers to pay their rent… and the new model of internet publication is still finding its feet. But I passionately love blogging — not just my blogging, but all blogging, the basic fact of blogging, the very idea of it — and I want this to be a world where blogging is a viable career option for writers.

Please help make that work.

If you can, please donate or subscribe. Thanks!

And now we return you to our program.

Come See Me Read! Perverts Put Out, Saturday Sept. 27

If you’re going to be in the San Francisco area this Saturday, come see me read! I’ll be reading at the pre- Folsom Street Fair edition of the fabulous and increasingly renowned Perverts Put Out sex reading series, on Saturday, September 27. In addition to ME ME ME ME ME, performers will include Meliza Bañales, Jen Cross, Thomas Roche, horehound stillpoint, Steven Schwartz, and Cherry Terror, emceed by Carol Queen and Simon Sheppard.

The event will be at CounterPulse, 1310 Mission Street in San Francisco, not far from the Civic Center BART station. It starts at 7:30 pm, and you’re advised to come on the early side, since the last edition was standing room only. Cost is $10-15, sliding scale. Hope to see you there!

Blog may be down tonight

Typepad will be doing some maintenance tonight, between 10 and 11 pm Pacific time. This blog may be temporarily down then. Please try to find a way to console yourselves and one another during this difficult time, and find a way somehow to carry on. Thanks.

Brief Blog Break/ Open Thread/ Shameless Self-Promotion Opportunity

Ingrid and I are going to be of town for a few days for the holiday weekend. Our neighbors will be looking after our apartment and our cats, but I may be too busy to look after the blog much. I’ll check in to make sure there’s no horrible trolling, and I’ll post a piece or two and reply to comments if I have time; but if you don’t see me back here until Tuesday or Wednesday, don’t be surprised.

In the meantime, consider this both an open thread and a shameless self-promotion spot. If you have a blog and want to link to a post you’ve done — or if you’re doing something neat and want to tell us about it — go ahead and do it here. Obvious plugs for commercial products will be deleted, but if you have a book or a show or an art project or something, let us know about it.

So talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic. “Firefly” is neither a fire nor a fly. Discuss. Have a happy Labor Day, think kind thoughts about the labor movement, and I’ll see y’all when I get back!