This is my last big writing and revising weekend before sending the book off to the printer next Friday. I’m also coordinating a book trailer video and finalizing the cover artwork with a graphic artist. Every day brings confirmation that it’s time to walk away from the nine-to-five and embark on this exciting new journey of self-publishing. At least that’s how I’m going to spin it.
Quitting my day job is the confluence of several factors. One of the main reasons that inspired me to self-publish Escape from Beckyville is a passage I read in bell hooks’ Reel to Real: Race, Sex and Class at the Movies. While revisiting that book two months ago, I was struck by this quote: “Until there are lots of black filmmakers who are willing to work as struggling artists to produce a variety of representations that emerge from unfettered imaginations, we’ll never witness a cultural transformation of representations of blackness.” bell also said: “A culture that is not ready for black writers to experiment with the written word will be all the more closed to the idea of engaging experimental images.”
I began experimenting with spec fiction in grad school. I saw the genre as a way to give voice to the oppressed without being preachy. Much of what I love about the work of Octavia Butler, Kit Reed and especially George C. Wolfe’s Colored Museum, is the idea of creating future worlds where marginalized groups are empowered. For me, that’s black women all day long. Not that we’re victims, and not to demonize one group and valorize another, but I want to take a critical but comedic look at the issues impacting the non-Beckies of the world. Even as I type these words, I realize I have been conditioned to believe that black women aren’t consumers of certain types of fiction and that our stories aren’t worthy of publication. There have been several paradigm shifts along this journey, and that conditioning is one I’m working hard to dismantle.
Black women do create movements. We galvanize when we believe our collective character is being crushed. We push back against the media narratives of the angry black woman, unintelligent black woman, lonely, unmarried black woman, unattractive black woman, loud, sass-spitting black woman. I believe that our weariness of these representations will lead to a cultural renaissance in film and literature featuring complex characters who are nuanced, flawed, beautiful, dysfunctional, empowered black women, and I want to be a part of this zeitgeist. I believe in this movement so much that I’m leaving my job to do this full-time. I want to be that writer bell speaks of with an “unfettered imagination,” who speaks the truth as I see it.