Living by Grace, or, Will You Support Me on Patreon?

Edit: TL;DR I’ve signed up for Patreon.

As you know, I write stories. Sometimes they’re science fiction or fantasy, depending on how you squint and turn your head. Sometimes they’re just little bits of life, mine or someone else’s. Sometimes they’re weird and misshapen. Here are a couple:

I submit these stories to magazines (a loose term in the age of e-publishing). Mostly they send them back with polite little form notes.  They regret that they are unable to respond to each submission personally, but they are unable to publish my story.

And that’s fine. They don’t owe me an audience.

Every once in a while I get a personal note back saying that the story was strong but not the kind of thing they publish, or that it made them think but didn’t quite work for them, and I cherish those notes.  (They’re even from magazines you’ve heard of, statistically speaking.  So I can’t be that nuts, right?)

Once I’ve sent a story to all the eligible markets—or at least the markets I would respect in the morning—I usually post it here on the blog. For short stuff (flash-length pieces) or weird stuff (black humor), that’s easy to justify to myself, but I find it hard to post longer pieces.

There’s always another token-paying magazine which might publish them. Although… if a magazine is paying me $5 for a story, how many readers does it really have? Is it worth the heartache to get my work in front of those few strangers?

There has got to be a better way for people to meet my work, and for me to meet them, than this endless low-stakes spaghetti-throwing competition.

While she was doing it, I subscribed to Catherynne Valente’s Omikuji stories.  The deal was, you paid once a year, and then every month or thereabouts she would mail an original never-before-published story to you. Real paper, wax seal, with a little note about life and work and the weather in Maine, signed by her.

Everything but the signature was laser-printed, of course—by the time I subscribed, there were enough of us that hand-writing would have about killed her—but even so there was a personal touch about it, and I came to look forward to when the cream-colored envelope with the red border would arrive in the mail.

The stories were usually short, suitable for reading over breakfast. Theoretically each mailing she would choose someone to receive something extra-special, though I never did, and for me neither that nor the exclusivity of the stories was the point. Just that steady contact did more to make me a part of her community than a dozen series could have.

I am not as prodigious a writer as Catherynne Valente, nor am I trying to support myself on my fiction as she does, so I can’t promise stories as often or as regularly, and I don’t want to ask you to pay up-front.  Still, I’d like Patreon to be something similar—a little community of us.

I’m still learning how to do this fiction-writing thing. I’ve only been working at it seriously for a couple years, far fewer than I’ve worked at any of the other things that I think I do well. I don’t fit neatly into boxes—my own or anyone else’s. I don’t know how to be approachable yet, how to win the reluctant reader’s trust. I know my reach exceeds my grasp.

Still I can’t shake the conviction that my stories have value. Sometimes they’re the stories I want or need to read.  Sometimes they’re the stories I’m too scared to read.  I say in them the things I know no other way to say.

Amanda Palmer has a TED Talk on “The Art of Asking”, and I think the idea she espouses is profound, if not always simple to act on. She doesn’t use these words, but I will: as an artist, I exist by the grace of the people who support me—by your free gifts. You don’t owe me an audience. You don’t owe me that support. But if you’re willing, I’ll accept it.

Will you support me?

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