Helping More By Saying "Yes" Less in 2016

Please come along with me as I take a trip down Media Memory Lane. This is the story of how I felt locked out of media circles so that when I finally sneaked in, I left the door open behind me and let in more people than I could be accountable for. This created a problem for myself and this is a plan for getting myself out of it. I take full responsibility for letting myself get in over my head and am now taking full responsibility for getting out of it with the new direction of this blog.  Now at some point you might think: tumblr_nxwus0CMjp1si194ao1_500

But bear with me, I beg you. This may seem like self-congratulatory martyr shit but really it is just an embarrassing display of how thinking I could single-handedly change entrenched media practices was not that smart.

So at the beginning of 2014, I had bylines at two websites: xoJane and Religion Dispatches. I was eager to write for more publications and trawled the internet in search of editors' email addresses, I devoured their sites to see what kind of material they liked, I dove deep into their Twitter timelines. I spent time figuring out what they paid, who liked women, who responded fast, who never responded. Several hours a week were spent on this research.

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I sent meticulous email pitches that were overwhelmingly ignored. I was doing sex work and copywriting to support myself and hated the former and found the latter a bit tedious compared to what I really found thrilling. It was devastating at times but when the few editors  read my pitches and took a chance on me, it felt glorious . The work snowballed into writing for great online publications like The Baffler, The New Inquiry, The Hairpin, and The Toast. I started feeling like a writer.

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These pieces impressed BuzzFeed enough to earn me a staff writing role there where my essays and some humor content gained me credibility both inside and outside BuzzFeed. When I left BuzzFeed, editors began reaching out to my directly and my cold pitches were accepted more regularly at new publications. Within a few months, I had sold a book and was a columnist at Pacific Standard and writing for outlets like The Washington Post, The New Republic, Matter, and The Guardian.  I was finally making a living full time as a writer.

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About midway through this year, I began getting emails from aspiring writers asking about pitching, which I told them about happily. I suggested edits, I suggested editors, I made introductions, and I championed people without a ton of bylines. I am glad to have done it. After giving details instructions to a dozen or so writers, I wrote this post on the pitches that worked for me in an effort to help people craft pitches that would work well so I wouldn't have to repeat myself. But still, I received more direct inquiries that said nothing about my work and only asked for editors' email and introductions to them. I don't believe in media gatekeeping so I gave email addresses out willingly, even when they were available on Twitter and the publication's website if the person had done their research.

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When their pitches were rejected, some of these writers asked if I could appeal to the editor in question, a request that essentially asks me to second-guess my editor's judgment in a way that I wouldn't even do for my own work. Some asked for full line-edits of their drafts before turning in pieces to editors. With about 8-11 writers feeling OK about asking for really labor-intensive assistance, it became a lot of unpaid labor that wasn't helping them or myself. I fully realize that I brought it on myself but I am taking it off myself now.

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The point of this is not that these writers are ungrateful or clueless. They just haven't learned how to navigate the media world yet via trial and error and some Googling. In simply giving out emails and direct instructions to anyone who asked, I was stopping them from doing really amazing work. The work of cold pitching editors turns you into a better reporter and the work of digging up their emails makes you a better investigator and introducing yourself to someone new proves your courage and tenacity. All of these things make better writers and I believe the world could use some of those. I have ultra-confidence that strong writers can figure this shit out and become fucking exquisite without me making it rain with my Rolodex.

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I want the media to be filled with brilliant women's voices but I don't want to help them get their by using the same nepotistic tools that have entrenched so many in media to their roles. So this year, I am saying "No" to a lot more and instead using this blog to teach a wider audience what has and hasn't worked for me in various areas of writing. People can use these suggestions as they see fit and I hope this blog helps a lot of people find their pitches in the right hands so that one day, it's me asking them for a favor. I am going to scale back the number of writers that I mentor but continue to do so because they give me such joy and the world is better for having their work in it. But I'm also going to give them way more space to figure out where they want to write and what they want to write because frankly, my suggestions have probably been holding them back.

Stay tuned for my post on how to ask for favors from fellow writers and happy almost new year, don't get TOO wild.

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I Look Like So Much Stuff: A Journey

When I learned that my favorite girl group alive, Little Mix, is releasing an album today called "Get Weird," I was at once stoked because I can't get enough of the adorable troop of crooning murderesses and disappointed in myself because I don't get weird nearly often enough. The early days of this blog  were all about posting bizarre shit that I dreamed up and since like, six people saw it, I didn't care how strange it was. Now I feel like all my writing here is about writing, the blog equivalent of eating chewed Skittles from the bottom of a popcorn bucket at the Kent on Coney Island. So below instead, is a visual adventure with my face and the various shit it looks like. My resemblance to other shit that wasn't me began early. By my third year on Earth it was plain as day that Little Critter and I were cut from the same cloth. We were short, we had  gigantic faces, and we were tormented by ennui and our own idiocy.

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But as I grew older, I discovered that the only quality I possessed more of than dissatisfaction was G-L-A-M-O-U-R. The resemblance to famed dead pageant super baby JonBenét Ramsey was plain as day, even though she is three years old in her picture and I am nine years old in mine. Yes, I was a pipsqueak of a person. Yes, I killed a baby polar bear to make the luxurious pelt in that photo. No, I'm not sorry.

Alana Massey as Jon Bonet

The years wore on. My golden locks gave way to chestnut waves. Alas, I became a stone cold fox as was my birthright seeing as that glorious sorceress from Arkansas gave me half of my genetic material. Gail, you minx.

Mom and Alana

But as grateful as I was for my mother's witchery, I longed for doubles in the world who were not just magical or dead. But what should they be instead? Oddly arousing maternal figures with a fuh-reak streak like Sally Field, that's what they should be!

Alana and Sally Field

But this too was not enough. I craved more. I wondered if I would ever amount to more than the critter of my youth. My prospects were bleak.

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Change was needed. Drastic change. As the years etched onto my face and wore away the tissue of my heart, I longed to be a slutty baby once again. And a slutty baby needs blonde hair. And a white dress. And a style icon like the hellspawn Kewpie Doll you see here. A change was here.

Alana As Kewpie

Soon, I began to look like all manner of shit. I dare anyone to guess who is the emoji cookie and who is me in this photo. You won't, you can't.

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I also looked like the tough but fair older sister to that darling Sky Ferraira in an indie breakout for both of us. We'd have French names like Servanne and Garance and smoke cigs in bed together. Often.

Alana Massey and Skye FerrairaBut why have an indie breakout when you could have a string of indie darlings? Here I was conjuring Michelle Williams thinking about an abortion and Ryan Gosling while on public transport, though I assure you my thoughts were far more lurid.

Fall Look

Sometimes, I would take drugs and fall somewhere between Scarface-era Michelle Pfeiffer glam bitch and Requiem-era Ellen Burstyn, ranting always about being on the goddamn television.

Me and Ellyn and Michelle

I grew bored of my own predilections, smoking indoors like a rotten-cored swamp teen.britney smoking.

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In a fit of desperation to regain my former moxie, I strategically placed a designer handbag across myself in an attempt to regain the je ne sais quoi of The Lady Miss Williams. It was in vain. Emphasis on vain.

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I briefly turned to the Dark Arts. I excelled in them, as I do in all things. I cannot speak of what I learned or from whom I learned it.

Alana as Lucius Malfoy

As I was prepared to give up hope, I was greeted with a vision so thick with light and life that I was nearly blinded. This, surely, was my Road to Damascus.

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And I realized all along, that my vanity had shielded me from the love which was my destiny to embody as a double. To emulate profound love was my calling. And so I answered that call. And though to love is ultimately to lose, I was glad to bear the weight of it.

Pieta Alana Massey Collage

A Post Called "Sorry" That Looked Like "I Love You"

Because I am nothing if not a philanthropist, I read this vile story attempting to silence the story of trans suicides so that you don't have to. The link I provided is also through DoNotLink so if you click it, you're not giving that trash any traffic. Again with the philanthropy, I know. Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 7.06.25 AM Sarah Ditum, a notoriously transphobic and whorephobic writer, attempts to make a case against sharing the suicide note that Leelah Alcorn posted on her Tumblr account because of ethics in journalism that might give trans kids ideas about killing themselves.  There is an exquisite take down of her piece at The Daily Beast here. If you don't have time to read that, the gist is: TRANS PEOPLE ALREADY HAVE THAT IDEA IN HUGE FUCKING NUMBERS AND POINTING IT OUT IN NATIONAL MEDIA IS FUCKING CRITICAL TO PREVENT OUR STATUS QUO OF VIOLENT TRANSPHOBIA FROM CONTINUING UNCHALLENGED, YOU WICKED TROLL. UGH. More eloquent at the link, but you get the idea.

So, let's take a look at the stats about suicide rates by age overall and the rate of attempts by trans kids:

Trans vs Grown Ups

Even though young people have the lowest rates of suicide by a large margin, half of trans kids have attempted by age 20. Now, I am not a medical professional (I'm a philanthropist, remember?) but that is what I'd call "epidemic proportions." Sharing Leelah's suicide note is about drawing attention to the suffering experienced by trans kids who face relentless physical and rhetorical violence and cannot even escape it from their own parents.

Though lots of media outlets botched the shit out of this story, it  spawned the hashtag #reallivetransadult used by trans men and women to share messages of hope with isolated and suicidal trans youth that there is hope for finding peace, love, and acceptance even in a world mired in hatred and distrust for trans people.

But because nothing will bring out the worst in a social media platform quite like the death of a trans child, it appears that Tumblr has removed Leelah's entire account. Fortunately, the internet can be a sneaky goddess for good from time to time and several mirror sites now exist so she doesn't get erased as so many like Sarah Ditum would like her to.

But chances are, you've seen her suicid note already so I'm not sharing it here. But I am sharing Leelah's last note which has received substantially less attention. There was a post right after that note, a message to what appears to be siblings and friends:

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Even in pain excruciating enough to move her to suicide, Leelah took the time to make her last message one of love for people that had shown her love. She predicted good futures for them and expressed her gratitude for their support of her.   And no matter how many times people like Sarah Ditum tries to shut down stories of what trans people face, there will still be kids like Amanda, Tiffany, Justin, Rylan, and Abby who are alive and who, despite the odds stacked against them being decent toward her, showed Leelad love and care in a world that had taught them to hate her. And kids that have seen someone they love destroyed by hatred and grief are a lot harder to shut down than Tumblr accounts.

I Have Become My Most Feared Childhood Enemy (Lord Kuruku, Duh)

For parents who preferred that all of their children's entertainment material was created by people tripping balls, Unico and the Island of Magic was a godsend. It was a cartoon about this vaguely messianic baby unicorn named Unico who was just as cute as a button. unico-63957

At some point, Unico encounters a stoner named Melvin the Magnificat who calls the little unicorn, "Peewee" and mocks him relentless for his small stature. Melvin listens to headphones that have little tiny bird singing in them, because he is deranged. Here he is, punching a baby unicorn in the face, like a psychopath:

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Now a bunch of weird shit happens with an enchanted boy flute-playing boy named Toby and his sister and several people that get turned into blocks. All of this weird shit happens because of one gnarly motherfucker named Lord Kuruku. He is an insane sorcerer who reigns terror from a floating bubble:

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Are you following so far?

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Okay, let's move on. When Lord Kuruku gets mad, things get really scary:

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And then things get weird when you find out that Lord Kuruku never had friends:

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I felt bad for Lord K. but didn't really relate to him because I was busy resembling other misfit cartoons that were inexplicably given to children:

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So imagine my surprise when I put on this seemingly innocuous hat this morning...

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And I was suddenly transformed into a spitting image of that wicked Lord Kuruku!!!!

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I cursed the gods, gnashed my teeth, and begged for answers from on high. How could I, the one who had so feared the Lord Kuruku, so easily become him?  And just then, an apparition appeared to me....

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Fucking useless as ever.