So, you want to go to WisCon?

I’ve been tagging people on Twitter telling them they should come to WisCon next year. I’m also planning a big event for Tales of MU readers at WisCon 41, and while I  know a lot of readers who already attend the con, this may well tempt some new folks to come out for the first time.

Left to my own devices, I would have been too nervous and anxious and insecure to navigate actually coming to the con and participating on my own. It took people all but dragging me there and promising to hold my hand to get me there. I know how daunting it can be!

Here’s what you need to know.

WisCon is an annual convention every Memorial Day weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. It is more of a literary and academic convention than a media/entertainment convention. That is, we don’t bring in big screen celebrities or have big industry events. There are usually a few launch parties for books, particularly indie/small press ones and the like, though.

If you read fantasy and science fiction, you will see names you recognize from books on name tags, but the people wearing them are there as members of the convention, exactly the same as you. Respect their boundaries as you would have others respect yours, but by all means, say hi! There are no handlers, no velvet ropes, no appearance fees or signing fees.

WisCon is run by a committee of members, staffed by member volunteers, and runs program items (panel discussions, readings) with members. And to be clear: if you register and show up, you are a member. There are not secret special categories of members who are “allowed” to do things.

Over 90% of the con events are held within the official con hotel, the beautiful Madison Concourse Hotel in beautiful downtown Madison. Some readings are at a coffee shop just down the street; traditionally there is a reception for the guests of honor at a nearby bookstore the night before the con officially opens. If you’re able to stay at the Concourse, this makes travel logistics and navigation is very easy. You don’t have to worry about getting lost or stranded somewhere in a strange city.

If you fly in, even getting from the airport to the hotel is easy-peasy. There is a board by the baggage claim in the Madison airport with a courtesy phone and pictures of all the hotels. Each hotel has a two digit extension. Just pick up the phone and dial and you will be connected to the hotel’s courtesy shuttle and/or front desk. Simply say the words, “I have a party of [number of people] at the airport for pickup.” and you will be told what the wait is. Then follow the signs to the bus shelter looking thing outdoors and wait. That’s it!

The convention bills itself as a feminist science fiction convention. It is increasingly a place that works to make everyone feel welcome, and I believe this shows in the number of people of color, trans and non-binary and otherwise visibly queer people, and people with disabilities (visible and not) who are comfortable hanging out and who express feeling not merely ~*tolerated*~ but welcomed.

Most conversations I’ve had in recent years about people feeling like they don’t belong have revolved more around impostor syndrome or the feeling that everybody else in the room is there because they did something amazing and noteworthy while the speaker is “merely” a reader or fan or someone who is struggling to create something… and honestly, such conversations tend to reveal that most of the people there feel or have felt the same way.

WisCon makes ongoing and evolving efforts to improve accessibility to con spaces, resources, and discussions to those with disabilities. This includes measures to avoid hallway congestion, reserving seats up front for those with sensory issues, having spaces for wheelchairs in panel rooms with reserved chairs nearby to keep their parties together, captioning services, etc. I can’t say there’s no room for improvement, but in this area as in many others, WisCon’s hallmark is its responsiveness.

WisCon has both a Statement of Principles and a Code of Conduct for members. The formulation and application of these texts have had a huge effect on making the con a safer, warmer, and more welcoming place. WisCon’s safety team walks the con regularly in highly visible yellow vests. My experiences with them have always shown them to be sensitive, discreet, and responsive.

The term “safety” over “security” is, as far as I know, a very deliberate choice, and one that they reflect in their conduct. When I got egged by a passing car at the con one year (this happened outside the hotel, obviously, and I am quite certain no one connected to the con was inside the vehicle), there was not a single thing a security guard could have done about that, but a member of the safety team sat with me until I felt… safe.

This year, a member of the safety team gently reminded me that not everyone was in on the joke with my satirical live tweets, and we agreed I should put up a little note. It was a very friendly conversation, not the least bit confrontational. The safety team is not a security force. They do act to enforce the code of conduct as needed, but they’re not the cops. There are members of the safety team who are visibly disabled, visibly queer, people of color. Young. Old. In between. Like everyone else, they’re your fellow con members.

Fitting In At The Con

First, we have name tags, which are compulsory within con spaces. You need not put your legal name on the tag; indeed, if there are people there who will know you by a screen name or nickname or pseudonym, it’s better to put that there. WisCon folks are generally understanding and forgiving of things like poor memories and face blindness and varying levels of ability to process normal social cues; a lot of us know what that’s like.

In case you’re not sure that it’s okay to talk to someone: as of 2015, we’ve started using a series of optional social flags that can attach to the name tags: green, yellow, and red, to show the level of social interaction you’re looking for.

So if someone’s flying a green flag, that’s your sign that it’s okay to come up and say howdy. Not only are they willing to accept your attention, they’re probably looking for it. The flags also have the name of the color and a geometric shape printed on them, for those who cannot distinguish them by colors. Similarly, pronoun stickers are available to take the guesswork out of the proper way to refer to someone.

There are events geared at allowing first timers to make friends and integrate themselves within the con community. First major programming item on Friday is the Gathering, which is basically WisCon’s “school carnival”… you go into the ballroom and there’s such things as face painting, refreshments, ice breaker games, a clothing swap… and there are organized “first WisCon” dinner excursions that night. It can seem daunting to be new in a place where so many people know each other, but there will be people who will be willing to greet you and make introductions.

WisCon has a well-established safer space for people of color to gather away from the white gaze and microaggressions (as well as just regular type aggressions, which do happen). Recent years have seen a similar lounge for trans/non-binary people, and a disability lounge was added this year. I’ve heard many stories from people who weren’t sure they’d have an easy time meeting people they felt safe around until they dropped into their safer space and were basically welcomed home.

And one of the best, quickest ways to meet people and acquire that warm feeling of belonging is to pitch in and help as a volunteer or panelist, or both. It’s hard not to realize that you’re an essential part of the con when you are, in fact, an essential part of the con.

The high cost of conning…

…is not that high, comparatively. I mean, going is one of the biggest expenses my family has in a year, in part because we also treat it as our big blow-out vacation (downtown Madison is a great spot for that,), but you can do things on a budget better than at many cons.

First, full membership in the con costs $50 for adults, $20 for the teens and the youths. This gives you full admission to the con for all four days it runs (Friday-Monday of Memorial Day Weekend). You can buy a day pass for a mere $25 on Saturday or Sunday; programming on Friday and Monday (of which there is less) is absotively free, though you will still be expected to sign in and take a name tag at the registration desk if you show up for those days. If you’re local, you can “try before you buy”, so to speak, by showing up Friday afternoon.

Rooms at the Concourse itself and the nearby overflow hotels are discounted for congoers. Use the links on the hotel information page to make your reservation. If you, like many people who attend the con, have to save for months to afford the hotel bill, don’t sweat it when it’s time to reserve. Your card is not run or even authorized when you make the reservation, only when you check in next May. Rooms are available starting at $110 a night for one person, plus $10 a night for each additional person… of course, if you’re splitting the costs, this means the cost is $110 for one, $60 each for two, $43 each for three, and $35 each for four. If you can match up with three people you’re comfortable sharing a room for, you could stay in the hotel from Friday until Monday for just a bit over $100 total.

In the past, I have known folks who saved money by staying at budget motels or hostels, but this can increase the travel logistics involved and may not be a good solution for those who can’t bring a car or walk long distances.

There is both a member assistance fund run by and for WisCon, and for people of color and other non-white folks, assistance may be available from Con or Bust.

There are restaurants to suit most budgets within relatively easy walking distance for a relatively able-bodied person; for those who cannot walk, the hotel has a courtesy shuttle (subject to availability) and the con itself can provide taxi vouchers for those stuck traveling late at night. I’ve been to places where we spent less than $10 a person to eat and places that were upwards of $50. The con provides a dining guide that has a rough pricing level ($, $$, or $$$, I think), and of course in this day and age you can usually find menus and prices online.

If you have the money to fund your own transport, Union Cab of Madison is courteous and efficient and you can order a cab from their website on your phone without having to talk to anyone. I am told that they have an app in the works, which might well debut before next May. The cab rates as of right now are a $3.50 base, plus $0.35 cents per eighth of a mile. There are dozens and dozens of restaurants within one mile of the hotel, so if it comes to paying for a cab, figure that $10 will get you anywhere you want to go, tip included.

The in-hotel dining options are fairly pricey, but the con itself provides a ConSuite with free meals and snacks to suit a range of dietary requirements. The continuing operation of the ConSuite depends on availability and willingness of people to do the work, so it should not be taken for granted, but while it exists, its mission is to make sure no one spends their time at the con hungry, regardless of mobility or budget. On Saturday and Sunday, there are numerous parties on the second and sixth floor which generally have some catered snacks and treats (provided by the party-throwers, who are also fellow con members), so you’ll have some options.

So if you can figure the cost of getting yourself there, plus $50 for registration, plus your hotel room times the number of nights divided by the number of people splitting it, you’ll have a good idea the minimum cost of attending. Remember to include a few bucks each day for tipping the housekeeping staff of your hotel (I believe the recommendation is something like $2, plus $1 for each additional person in the room; you’re certainly welcome to pay more), a couple of bucks to tip the shuttle driver both directions if you’re flying in and out, and it never hurts to have a few extra small bills on hand for miscellaneous tips in this age where a lot of us are used to paying for everything electronically.

(On that note, the front desk of the hotel will be happy to make change for you, again, subject to availability.)

But basically, it’s not completely unreasonable that, when you’re bunking in a room with four people, you could spend less than $200 for the whole WisCon experience, and that’s with a bit of padding. $250 might be more reasonable to add for unexpected expenses, of which there always seems to be some. I don’t think I’ve spent that little since my first time, but it can be done.

If you can splurge, I’m going to recommend that you splurge. Buy and eat some amazing food. Buy some books while you’re standing under the same roof as the author who can sign it. The WisCon dealer room isn’t full of commercial merchandise, but small press books and comics and amazing hand-crafted jewelry and accessories.

And if you do come, and you for even one moment feel lost or alone…

…hop on Twitter and say so in the con’s tag for that year, and I’ll bet you’ll find the support you need. If you feel awkward doing that, then forget the tag and tweet at me. I’m @alexandraerin on Twitter. If I’m not scheduled to be somewhere, I’ll come hang with you, or help you find your way around, or extract you from an awkward situation. If I can’t, I’ll try to help you find someone who can.

Exactly Where I Needed To Be

Back in May, when I started making the big plans that I’m putting into motion now, I said on Twitter that this year is going to be my year, the year that people learn my name and take notice of me. I was talking specifically about the time period between June 10th, 2016—when I turn 36, an age that is a perfect square—and June 10th, 2017, when my age will be a prime number.

I didn’t mean to wait until my birthday to start doing things, but I figured it would take me several weeks to get any momentum or traction. And I’m definitely still finding my footing. But I think the Year of Achieving Notice is off to a decent start, as WisCon 40 really was a bit of a breakout year for me.

I’d classify my overall WisCon experience as positive, tracked across the years. I’d say—I have said—that I’ve had a good time most of the time. But the truth is that while I’ve justified it as a career-building experience, for years I’ve been coming away feeling like I just took a very expensive vacation whose major benefits included an exciting new collection of upper respiratory infections and a touch-up job for my impostor syndrome. I’d hang out with friends and make new ones, of course, and there were certainly fun experiences, but networking? Career advancement? Self-promotion? There was all this tantalizing potential I could sort of sense was there, but I had no idea how to do it.

This year… something clicked. I think part of it was that I stopped giving a dang about that stuff, which allowed me to relax, which allowed me to spot opportunities and go with the flow. I think part of it was just a lot of right time, right place.

I made connections with people, not at the expense of making new friends and hanging out with my old ones, but as a natural extension of it. I didn’t do much explicit self-promotion, but people still learned my name. I gained a lot of perspective in terms of what my strengths are, how people relate to each other in fannish circles and across the reader/author divide, and stuff like that.

There were a lot of great moments during and around the con. I met Mark “Does Stuff” Oshiro in a hot tub. I moderated a panel in the big room with returning guest of honor Nalo Hopksinson and past guest of honor Andrea Hairston. John Scalzi stopped while power walking to the bathroom to shake my head. I had a drunken, rambling conversation in the hallway with Na’amen Gobert Tilahun about how I felt like being a young Neil Gaiman fan had prepared me to be a mature fan of writing like his and N.K. Jemisin. At a moment before all of that when I was at my lowest, feeling like my life was made up of missed opportunities and squandered potential, two people who were passing me on the sidewalk stopped to tell me that I was amazing and had great presence. All weekend long, people I think of as fashion icons in their circles stopped to tell me that I looked fabulous. There’s a part of me that usually suspects any comment on my appearance, no matter how complimentary, is a cruel joke, but that part of me was asleep at the time.

I had a business lunch. I made introductions for people. All weekend long, it was just right place, right time. I was actually in a cafe at one point where Amy Steinberg’s “Exactly” was playing, and I was exactly where I needed to be. It was so crowded and noisy that if I hadn’t known the song by heart I might not have recognized it over the general hubbub, but I do and I did and it became my theme for the weekend.

There’s a lot of stuff that happened in the last week of a “Because I ______, this happened.” nature, and more of it is still unfolding.

The con was not perfect this year, as it hasn’t been perfect yet, and there are definitely problems that need to be addressed. Unrelated to any of the issues in that post or to anyone’s issues but my own, I did not personally have a fun time 100% from start to finish, and the point where it got bad, I think I exacerbated by freaking out about the fact that something had not gone perfectly. But even that part can be put under the heading of “all’s well that end’s well”.

How To Reach Me

So, it’s no secret among those who’ve tried that I’ve been hard to get in touch with lately by anyone who didn’t already have a very direct line.

The whole story goes back to early 2015, when my twitter commentary and blogging about certain ~*controversies*~ put me on the radar of some nasty people who (among other things they tried) signed my public-facing email account up for a ton of subscriptions and spam.

Clearing this out took a lot of brain cycles I would otherwise have used to keep up with actual correspondence, and there’s still a lot of junk. The fact that this makes it possible to overlook real emails in the mix is only a small part of the problem. The bigger part is how the ever-increasing inbox numbers make even looking more imposing, when I go through a period where I’m already anxious and/or depressed or feeling phobic about communication, things that happen anyway and have only been exacerbated in a very vicious cycle.

Fast forward to today, where things have gotten so bad that there are over 2,500 unread emails going back I think to the summer of 2015. I am going to start going through them in batches after I get back from WisCon, but in order to make sure that you can reach me and in order to prevent this from happening again, I’m doing two things.

First, I’ve created a new email address: blueauthor (where’s it at?) alexandraerin (I’ve got two turntables and a dotrophone) com. It’s clean, it’s functional, you can send me messages there. I’m going to start shifting stuff over to that address, and eventually my now former public email address will just forward to it.

Second, I’m giving my partner Jack Ralls access to this, so he can act as my social secretary, deal with spam, and flag things for my attention. He’s offered this before, and I’ve always turned him down because I felt guilty, but lately I’ve been taking note of how other authors handle these things and I’ve noticed that having a significant other or trusted friend act as a buffer with the world is not at all uncommon for those who can’t afford a professional service or personal assistant. As Jack points out, even if I can’t pay him anything, I make more money when I’m a functional human being and when I have more time and energy for writing, so it’s a net gain for the household in exchange for him doing the kind of labor he’s good at and enjoys, and at which I am absolutely terrible.

Now, for much of the next week, we’re both going to be 1) busy and 2) at a place with a temporarily overburdened wifi infrastructure, so I’m setting up an auto-responder at that address for now to let folks know what the deal is, and we’ll be doing similarly in other situations where we’re both kind of AFK. Better communication all around, basically.

As a final note: if you’re reading this and you already have my not-public email address – please feel entirely free to keep using it. If we’re that level of close, that’s still the best way to reach it. The “contactme” address is the one being replaced by blueauthor.


Hello! Thank you for visiting my website. If you’re here, you’ve probably got some idea who I am. If not: My name is Alexandra Erin and I’m an author, poet, blogger, and humorist. I am also, in no particular order: white, trans, female, and disabled.

I’m also a veteran crowdfunder, have been using micropatronage to pay my bills since before there were easy tools for it. After a few years in a personal and financial slump, I am trying to rebuild my career and my finances by taking better advantage of these tools. As I approach my 36th birthday next month, I’d really like to increase my audience and start making enough money to live on again.

Well, I’d say “like to”, but I mean “need to”, which means I need some help.

Here are a few things you can do to help me:

  1. This GoFundMe campaign will help me get to WorldCon this year. Many members of the WorldCon (and greater SF/F writing) community first heard my name in 2015, as I responded to the third iteration of the Sad Puppies temper tantrum with my characteristic humor and insight. Being at WorldCon would not only be a hoot and a source of potential material for more satire, it would be a great opportunity for me to network.
  2. Join me on Patreon to both financially support and gain free access to my writing. Any level of support will get you exclusive members-only access at least one new short story every month, plus an electric compilation of my writing (fiction and otherwise) produced each month. Supporting at the $10 or $25 will gain you access to my online seminars on such topics as writing by the seat of your pants, writing a story when you only know part of it, and writing when you feel like you can’t.
  3. Share this link, which is a category in which I’m posting one of my previously written short stories a day, every day, for the remainder of the month, to let readers know what I have to offer when I say I’ll give one new short story every month on my Patreon. This is my version of a PBS telethon.

Feel free to share that last link (and the other two!) in any place you wish, but if you really want to help get the word out, the best way to do that is to support my thunderclap by May 31st. Thunderclap is an app/site that allows us to coordinate a message across social media. You participate by clicking that link and then clicking the support buttons. The site will ask permission to post using your Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr account (as you choose). Do not be alarmed! This is how it works. It will only post the one message which I wrote (and which you can see and edit) when the thunderclap “goes off” on May 31st (after the last sample story is posted), as well as a message immediately to say you participated, in order to draw in more participants.

Some people wonder understandably why we would need an app to post the link, but the idea is basically to create a coordinated social media blitz, the kind of thing that normally takes a PR department and a huge marketing budget. By getting numerous people to share the link to my sample stories at the same time, the message is boosted to a larger audience. And larger audiences is what this is all about.

Also, if you’re more interested in buying stuff than crowdfunding… you can totally buy stuff from me.

  1. E-books on Amazon. (DRM free!)
  2. E-books for Nook. (DRM free!)
  3. E-books direct from the author. (DRM free!)
  4. My supplements for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. (DRM free!)
  5. Order a Make America Better t-shirt or sweatshirt. (Also, technically, DRM free!)
  6. Angels of the Meanwhile, an electronic anthology I edited that was put together to benefit the medical bills and related expenses of Elizabeth R. McClellan. Every penny earned by sales of this goes directly to her, but hey, that’s a good cause and it doesn’t hurt me any to have my work being in more hands, right? If PayPal doesn’t work for you, you can get it here instead. Oh, and… DRM free!

Announcing new patron perks!

My plans were to announce this stuff in June since that’s when I’m doing it, but it just hit me that this wouldn’t give people much time to sign up. And also, with a monthly Patreon plan, people are basically paying for the next month’s perks; i.e., if you sign up in June, you’re basically not paying anything until July.

Anyway, here’s the deal:

People who pay $10 or $25 per month to me on Patreon will have access to a new online writing seminar I’ll be hosting in Google Hangouts. For $10, you’ll be able to read the transcripts. For $25, you’ll be able to participate. In these two hour sessions, I’m going to tell you the tips and tricks that really help me out, the things that I never see other writers talk about.

For example? June’s topic is “How do I write a whole story when I only know one single thing about it?” You know, you’ve got one character. Or one scene that’s really clear in your head. Or even one line. It’s a great line. Clearly it means something. But what?

I tell you, every writer’s been there. A lot of writers never get past there. Me? I live there. It’s my home. And I’m offering a guided tour.

You can see the official announcement on my Patreon here:

WisCon Panels

It seems like every year, I meet someone at WisCon who has gone to other SF/F cons before but is a WisCon newbie. You can spot such a person because at the moment when we all pull out our handy-dandy pocket programs and/or schedule apps and start talking about what panels we want to go to, the seasoned newcomer says in a perfect Elle-Woods-on-first-day-of-law-school voice, “Who goes to panels at a con?”

I don’t point this out to shame the people who have done this, or the people who will do so this year. If you’re fortunate enough to witness this moment, feel blessed, because you are about to watch something beautiful happen, something as miraculous and wondrous and yet predictable as a beautiful butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. You’re seeing the WisCon equivalent of one of xkcd’s “lucky 10,000” moments:


In other words… yeah, they don’t know, but they’re about to learn, and it’s going to change their lives when they do.

Not only do people go to panels at WisCon, people go to WisCon for the panels. I haven’t been to a WisCon yet where I didn’t find myself wishing for a time-turner so I could go to more panels, including ones scheduled against each other.

I am participating in five panels this year.

My first one… in what I think is the first regular programming slot of the con… is called “We All Start Somewhere: Welcoming Social Justice Newbies”, at 4 PM on Friday.

Panel description:

Many people aren’t born into families that talk a lot about or value social justice. We come from all different backgrounds with all different kinds of experiences. When someone wants to gain a better understanding of and start practicing social justice, how do we, as a community, welcome them and offer opportunities for education? How do we deal with the same basic questions over and over again? What do we do well? What could we do better?

If this is your first WisCon, or you still feel like an outsider, I’d suggest coming to this one, as I have a feeling it’ll be a good icebreaker for the kind of discussions we have at WisCon. I for one intend to do my best to make everyone who shows up at this one feel welcome.

The second one is called “Women and Trans/Non-Binary People: The Pitfalls of Haphazard Inclusion”. It’s at 9 PM on Friday.

Panel Description:

Attempts to create calls for submissions/lists of authors with marginalized genders have come under criticism for asking for “women and non-binary” or “women and transgender people”. Adding trans and non-binary identities to “woman” often adds additional confusion for trans masculine people (are trans men included as “sort of women”, or excluded as “not a marginalized gender identity”?). Does inclusion of non-binary identities with women imply that those identities are necessarily “feminine”? Does the addition of “trans” as a separate category imply that trans women are not members of the group that is ALL women? How can we more effectively promote the inclusion of transgender, genderqueer, or non-binary authors?

Honestly, I feel like the description is soft-pedaling some aspects of the problem. I mean, I’ve seen calls for submissions and event invitations that say “women and trans women”.

My third panel is “Trans and Genderqueer People Talk RPGs”, which is the first one I’m really excited about rather than just feeling like I have things to contribute. It’s Saturday at 10:00 AM.

RPGs, whether tabletop or electronic, allow us to play characters different from our current real-life configurations. Playing RPGs can therefore be freeing for trans and genderqueer people. It can also be awkward or even triggering. What insights into ourselves or the world have we gained by playing RPGs (tabletop or electronic)? How have RPGs helped us gain catharsis? What messed up situations have we encountered?

My fourth panel is called “Trans Narratives: Pitiful and/or Powerful?”. It’s at 1:00 PM on Saturday, and goes something like this:

Some trans people experience a lot of marginalization for being trans, and some of us have quite wonderful lives. Do we have to portray ourselves as underdogs to get anywhere? Is the “pitiful trans person” narrative more destructive than it is constructive? Can we also make room to celebrate how far we’ve come in our own lives, personally and as a community?

Looking forward to this one, should be interesting.

My last panel is called “Trans Body Positivity”, and it’s one I’m moderating this year. I moderated a panel last year. I was not expecting to moderate a panel, and didn’t realize I was until the day of. Despite being the least moderate person I know, it went well, probably because I remembered the cardinal rule: always drink in moderation.

Body acceptance and positivity movements contain some very worthy goals. Living in a trans body can cause attaining those goals to be more complex and confusing, however. How a trans person feels about their body before, during, and after various stages of transition varies greatly. A trans person choosing not to transition at all (or who is unable to transition) may have to learn very different ways of accepting and loving their body. For nonbinary trans folk, there might be whole other issues to deal with. How do trans people engage with and contribute to body positive movements? What do we have to teach others from our own experiences?

This panel is at 10 AM on Sunday.

Okay, so…

I have spent most of today sorting and collating stories to try to come up with a tentative “best of” list, with things of short story length that can stand on their own. These will be posted from this blog’s queue at noon each day from now until the end of the month, as “I Do Not Fight Monsters” was posted today.

I wound up with eight of the required nine, inclusive of today’s. It was challenging in part because the largest single body of my work is serial stories, and while there are some excellent standalone stories in my serial universes, I did not want them to dominate things. So there will be two, maybe three stories from the Tales of MU universe (or MUniverse), though not ones that require knowledge or investment of the main ongoing story.

Interesting thing about how it shook out: while a few of the selections defy such easy categorization, it was about half modern supernatural/horror and half high fantasy.

The point of this exercise, again, is to give prospective patrons a clear idea of what I have to offer, fiction-wise. I’ve been getting a lot of note for my wit and my insight; not so much for my storytelling, and that’s going to change. I’m still shaping up my Patreon presentation to reflect this, but starting in June I’m going to be writing and sharing (under a patron-only lock, at least initially) a new short story every month. This is not going to be the extent of my writing activities, but I do think it’ll be a draw.

I chose today’s selection because it was my first full-length story I submitted for publication anywhere as an adult, and it was accepted on the first try. It also has another bit of “historical” significance: my now-boyfriend Jack read it aloud in one of his college classes, years ago, before we had ever even met in person. Surprisingly (or maybe not, as I actually am kind of a big deal), his professor was already familiar with me.

Anyway, if you want to see what I have on tap, just bookmark and check it every day in May. A new story goes up at noon, Eastern time.

Acknowledging an elephant standing awkwardly in the same room with my big plans.

The flipside of my new and growing confidence is that I am sitting on months… possibly close to a year… of unanswered and even unread email from the depths of my anxiety. There are people who sent me questions and inquiries, people with whom I had begun collaborations, people I was in the midst of doing business with when things went downhill and I just sort of snapped and lost all of my ability to deal with my normal channels of communications.

I’m sorry to those people, both the ones I know about and the ones I don’t. Knowing that I completely disappeared without a word from the ConCom mailing list and did none of the work I had been prepared to do for this year’s con is giving me a mounting of sense of dread about showing up at WisCon next week, and I’m not sure what to do about it, especially since I still feel massively unprepared to look at, sift through, or respond to my work email.

This is the kind of thinking that keeps me in the hole once I fall into it. Knowing that’s what’s happening helps a little, but it doesn’t end the effect.

I saw a great stream of tweets by Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle on Twitter) that talked about this. I’m going to quote her here:

“How come people think your depression isn’t real if it doesn’t look or manifest itself like theirs? What a strange barometer.

What people think you shouldn’t be able to do when you’re depressed is not an actual barometer for how depressed you are. It just ain’t.

When I’m depressed, I can still get up and go to work, but I get easily overwhelmed by email. I can tweet, but I can’t talk on the phone.

We need to do away with the idea that because you see someone casually interacting online they must be in great mental health.

I think this is how some people slip through the cracks even though we’ve seen people tweet, update & publish blogs right up until the end.

There’s more in the same vein, but that’s the crux of it. It made me feel better to read someone else writing about it, about the exact situation I’ve been in and the exact way I’ve been feeling. This was the real single largest roadblock on finishing Angels of the Meanwhile, but also the hardest thing to explain because “I am afraid of my email and I can only even marginally function if I continue to ignore it” sounds, as Ford notes later in the stream, like an excuse to anyone who doesn’t feel it.

I know that I’m going to have to take responsibility, clear out the mess, and make what amends that I can. Part of my action plan for June is to spend some time each day… at the end of the day, so I can face it after I’ve accomplished my other goals for the day and am riding high… and clear out a hundred email messsages (most of which, I know, will inevitably be junk mail, automated updates, etc.). At that rate, it will take me about a month and a half to get through it.

As part of that, I will be making personal apologies as appropriate. Until then, if you were waiting on replies or actions from me in the past year and have been sitting here going, “Why is she talking on her blog and Twitter about all the awesome things she’s going to do if she can’t even reply to me?”, please know that I understand the position I have left you in and that I am sorry.

Okay. So. Business plans.

The fact is, I’ve been doing this crowdfunded on the internet thing longer than almost any author currently active. I was doing it before it had a name, before there were all the tools we have now, and before there were reams and reams of advice to follow on how to do it right.

The fact is, things should have been getting easier for me with the influx of new tools. The fact is also that they haven’t. My peak financial success as an author came before Patreon, before IndieGoGo and Kickstarter.

And the reason for this, I believe, is that rather than using new tools to make my life easier, I’ve been using them to make my life more complicated. Rather than using them to do more of what I was doing, I’ve been listening to other people’s advice about what to do with them, even when it didn’t fit what I’ve been doing.

Where I get into real trouble with crowdfunding… well, it ties into what I was talking about in my status post earlier today. The feeling that I’m not doing enough. I start soliciting money in exchange for the stories I create, and then I feel… and there are those piles of advice out there telling me that I should feel this way… like I have to add something extra, like I need to provide incentives, like a bank giving you oven mitts or a foam beer thingy when you open a checking account.

My dad told me a story once (and then maybe ten or eleven more times after that; we are a family of storytellers) about a new client of his who asked him why he didn’t send out extravagant holiday gifts to remind his clients that he appreciates them, as is common in the business. “My last guy always sent me a turkey,” he said, or words to that effect. My dad’s response was to show him how his account had fared under his stewardship, and tell him, in effect, “Merry Christmas.”

Going forward, that’s going to shape my basic approach to things. No promising turkeys. Once upon a time, I made $1,200 a month in recurring reader donations on the strength of little more than “I’m writing what I want to write, and if you want to read what I write, you can pay me to keep writing it.” I mean to get back to that point and surpass it, also on the same strength.

Now, it’s not just that my business direction floundered in the intervening years. I have also been struggling creatively, mostly because I was struggling cognitively. You go back a bit over six years and I was in a pretty scary place. I had serious, persistent memory problems. I had focus problems. My always (and still) bad sense of direction and poor visual processing of faces was at a debilitating level. I started experimenting with dietary supplements to improve things, and while those experiments are ongoing, I have been improving in a more or less steady direction.

Recent changes to my lifestyle have kicked that into high gear, and then this past few weeks I added a few more touches to my regimen that have me feeling… well, like I did back in 2007, when Tales of MU was new. I mean, I still have anxiety and such. On a purely cognitive level, though, in terms of clarity and strength of mind, I am on top of the world. I’ve been there for a few weeks now, through poor sleep and sickness, even.

So, anyway.

Here’s the plan.


The hardest thing for me, using Patreon, has been to figure out how to sell myself on it, basically. What I’m offering. My creative output, at its best, is very eclectic. There’s poetry, flash fiction, my takes on explaining topics, out-and-out opinion pieces, stories, and stuff. Then there’s my biggest historical money-maker, Tales of MU. It’s suffered quite a bit lately, and one of the reasons it’s suffered is that I have a hard time figuring out how to sell it alongside everything else… do I make my Patreon “Tales of MU and the rest” or more, “Here’s everything I do and Tales of MU”?

Well, here’s my solution: I’m splitting my Patreon in two. Two patreons. One for Alexandra Erin In All Her Glory, one for Tales of MU. The Alexandra Erin one is going to be on the monthly plan. The Tales of MU one is going to be on the pledge-for-work plan; meaning, if you pledge $1 per chapter, then I get $1 from you each time I post a chapter. This also adds in some accountability.

The Alexandra Erin one is going to be my current one, because, it’s really not going to change much, especially from what it’s been lately, when Tales of MU updates have become basically quarterly occurrences. Once it’s divorced from Tales of MU, the eclecticness of it all is going to be something that I embrace. I mean, it’s not like people never buy a thing that gives them some current events, some opinion, some humor, some fiction, etc. That’s basically a lot of magazines, right?

So the details are still firming up in my brain and probably won’t settle completely until after WisCon, but starting in June, my creative and insightful output is basically going to, in some form, be shaping up into Alexandra Erin: The Crowdfunded Zine. I’ll still be writing and posting stuff to my blog or directly to Patreon throughout the month, but I’m going to be collecting, collating, and polishing it as I go so that at the end of each month I have a shiny package I can give to my patrons and sell to anyone else who wants it, and that I myself can look at with pride, knowing that yes, I definitely accomplished things this month.

Tomorrow I’m going to be updating my Patreon page and getting the new one in order.

Now, here’s an important thing: if you like Tales of MU and you also want to just support everything that I do, you will not have pledge twice. I’m not going to be like the Coca-Cola company, worrying that sales of Diet Coke are cannibalizing the market share of regular Coke.