So I am about to go off-brand and be a little bit sentimental and full of gratitude for a second instead of my usual bitter/faux narcissistic/incredulous self on this blog. Forgive me, it is late and cold and I'm listening to Paula Abdul who always gets me a little emotional. Also, this cat and baby have me feeling a certain way.
I was incredibly fortunate in that ever since I was a child, my teachers and parents have wanted me to be a writer. While other kids were pressed to more practical endeavors, the people in my life told me I was creative and thoughtful and had a strong command of the language that should be put to the page. I was an avid contributor to my own journals for years, both on and offline, but always felt that writing was something that you could fail at too spectacularly to ever consider it professionally.
And so I toiled away at non-profit jobs doing PR which I wasn't especially good at. I worked at non-profits because I felt I had to be contributing to society in a very tangible way for it to matter. I was in and out of a few parts of the adult entertainment industry and never savvy or nice enough to earn the big bucks. I went to graduate school thinking I could be an academic or a chaplain. I sucked at all of these things.
Then in March of 2013, I developed a strong desire for people to think I was funny on the internet andwanted to give it another shot. And in order to be funny on the internet, you have to start being funny on the internet. So I started a blog where I talked about wanting these cool leggings and attempted to justify naming my cat Keith. Two weeks later, I pitched a story to Emily McCombs and Olivia Hall at xoJane about how I'd never had an orgasm but didn't care and was soon a regular contributor to the site. It is a popular pastime among media people and erudite readers to talk shit about xoJane because they run a lot of amateur content and some questionable viewpoints but if they hadn't taken a chance on a random girl with a blog, I would never have had the confidence to write for a public audience.
The editor-in-chief of Religion Dispatches, Evan Derkacz, happened to read my work on xoJane and asked if I could write regular religion content in the same distinct voice that I wrote about boys and body issues. I said I could try and the resulting blogs would serve as a lead-in to more gigs. The same editor started sending me job alerts that lead to me writing for The Baffler because they liked my job application but I wasn't quite a fit for the role. They've been kind and supportive editors and internet friends.
When Autumn Whitefield-Madrano of The Beheld took a chance on a serious piece about body issues from a writer with a small and unserious portfolio, I sent the piece to author Roxane Gay because something she wrote inspired it. I had never met her but she read my story. When she responded kindly about it and then tweeted it and said kind words about the piece, it become widely read and landed on TV and was discussed around the web.
I nervously asked author Melissa Gira Grant to go out for dinner to ask about what it's like to write about sex work. She was encouraging about my prospects and gave me the courage to write my first reported piece on sex work and law enforcement for Truth Out. She would later recommend my work on the topic and suggest me to editors when she was unable to write for outlets. Her supportive words about this story on trafficking and emotional labor are a huge reason the piece did well.
Throughout the last year, I crossed paths online with writers Katie Klabusich and Rachel Vorona Cote whose endless patience and encouragement and willingness to read shitty drafts and pitches has made it possible to get through really rough times. They're both really good at GChat and being human. I have a bunch of Twitter friends and strangers that have emailed really touching remarks on stories that make me want to keep doing what I'm doing that I credit with keeping me going.
I am leaving out a small and benevolent army of writers and editors that have been nothing short of saintly with me as I've pushed deadlines or had strange ideas or put two spaces after a period because old habits die hard. Their gentleness is a more viscerally felt part of my experience writing than any of the ignored emails or harsh rejections I've received. There are assholes a-plenty in this competitive world where people have neither incentive nor inclination to be kind, but they choose to be not only helpful but encouraging and genuinely friendly. It has instilled in me the habit of always responding to aspiring writers thoughtfully when they occasionally reach out to me, paying it forward and all that shit, and because this duck quoting Emerson is so on point.
Last month, I started as a staff writer at BuzzFeed where I'm doing what I love: trying to be funny on the internet.I'm surrounded by a similar kindness that I know many workplaces are painfully missing and by really smart and talented people that want to see me succeed. Last week, I published a story about death and mortality and the internet that is the most personal thing I've ever written and a literary agent reached out about me potentially writing a book. About what, I have both no fucking idea and a thousand fucking ideas but the point is, there might be yet another chapter (heh heh) in this word business.
I'm literally exactly where I want to be and it is because of you all. So thanks to all you nice babies and wise ducks that made it possible.