Following years of working full-time in advertising, toiling away at a full-length book, enduring countless rejections of already-made pieces for lit journals, and dozens of failed magazine pitches, I finally got a break with Humber Lit Review. This 3500-word essay was written in pieces from my blog, in an email I was sending out to friends and family, and in notes on my computer. Persistence!
I was so hungry to find out what was wrong with me for many years as I struggled with attractions to people who were all wrong for me. I couldn’t work it out! My loved ones were consistently frustrated with me for choosing impossible romances but my brain really wanted those people. Until it didn’t. Books, therapy, self-excavating, work work work, and I finally got to witness how my brain ‘parked’ on certain people or subjects (or substances) as a way to mitigate anxiety. It was a long, hard road. But I feel more free every day.
Women in Clothes
I read that Sheila Heti was making an “email” list in order to compile emails of famous and/or well-known people and let the rest of the world (the people on the list) have access to these elusive messages. I loved this idea because I have exchanged countless letters via email and some of my most compelling exchanges happen there. One of her emails suggested a dating scenario where she’d help really interesting people meet each other and I thought it was real and wrote her to sign up. As did a bunch of other people. I was set up with a writer in NYC and it didn’t go very well, but it did allow me to “e-meet” Sheila Heti and fill out the questionnaire for her collaborative book.
Funny that this quote was selected but it does accurately sum up my experience of change rooms.
I would probably disagree with myself now. I don’t care that much about wearing makeup when I’m out and about, nor do I care that much about people ‘seeing’ me though this was a pretty constant preoccupation most of my life. Getting older is awesome.
I can’t remember why I ended up pitching this piece to CHIC and it demonstrates so many things I struggle (d) with:
- I failed to drum up the confidence to pitch frequently to lots of different publications (never too late though, right??) even though I’m a decent essayist/journalist
- Because when I did pitch this food truck piece, they were immediately receptive
- During the “payment” negotiations, I asked for more than they said I should. I mistook that difficulty as a slight on my ‘value’ or worth and froze up, couldn’t pitch or write essays anymore. Rookie mistake!
During a writing program at Simon Fraser, I began compiling notes I’d been saving for years, some of them just random thoughts about what it meant to be of this new online generation, meaning of identity, narcissism, etc. And this essay called “Quit Facebook” was born. adbusters graciously accepted and published it and the online version went, sort of, viral. I was invited to attend a TV show in Italy (that never materialized) and published all over the place, including Russia. Crazy! This essay eventually ended up in a textbook for essay writing.
Quit Facebook (2008)
I think this is a good essay and its arguments stand the test of time. It’s also a really interesting “screen cap” of a new era. Its innocence is endearing and enduring…and I’ve gone on to quit Facebook several times since.
Big in Russia
A senior editor from L’Officiel Russia read the Facebook essay and loved it, decided to print it. So cool!
"Carmen Joy King" in Russian
I did a writing program at Simon Fraser University called The Writer’s Studio. It was a year-long mentorship program and it really changed my life. I met all kinds of other writers writing and caring about writing and caring about each other. I practiced reading in front of a crowd and got really confident. I wrote a very personal story from the heart and my fellow writers reacted emotionally to it. I loved my mentor Wayde Compton because he was sparing in his critique but warm, genuine and informed. He’s continued to be supportive a decade after I left the program. Amazing time in my life!
It was a gift to write this while surrounded by supportive peers. It was a deeply personal story and attached to all sorts of shame, but I excavated it and told the truth and it was beautiful. I love this story.
adbusters #72 (dreams come true)
Before I became a corporate person in her 30s, I was a girl searching for meaning in her 20s and adbusters was one of the places that helped me understand the inequities of the world and its systems. Getting published (after just ONE submission) was a dream come true. I was beside myself with joy. Hilarious that I later went on to work in advertising, the devil according to adbusters, but such is the beautiful nature of life everchanging.
A Piece of Garbage
This was inspired by a real dream that I had while in Japan doing a Buddhist meditation retreat. It was SO REAL and definitely a phase where I was paying close attention to my dreams to better understand my waking life. The piece (hehe) needs some heavy editing, but it’s lovely.
Street Corner Paper
Now defunct Street Corner out of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I knew someone who volunteered there and they were kind enough to publish my poem about women.
Lilith Tells Gogol
I was reading a lot of different things to feed my writing, especially books about male and female figures throughout history. I guess I saw the women as empowered because, despite the shame attributed to them as sexual objects, they remained symbols of the complexity of femininity. And men seemed (to me) to be slaves to other forms of objectification as equally complex. And so who was at whose mercy?
I think it’s a beautiful poem and richly evocative.
“Lilith Tells Gogol”
Between her soft thighs
In the movement of her hips,
Like unreachable kites
Like owls in the night;
The final prize.
Your hands which pound stamps
and pull reigns.
Whose fingers history’s braggarts enslaved.
Whose hands reached out to beg entry
To the world I hold between my legs.
In the whispered secrets of hips,
A sacrifice of pride.
So at whose feet, I ask, did you lie?
my first publication! 2006
I love this. A local guy in Edmonton started a magazine he sold at farmer’s markets and other places around the city. He gave me a chance. It’s sweet.
walk with me
I was crushing HARD on a guy on MySpace and staying at my mom’s house over Mother’s Day. I was lonely. This was the first time in my life that I understood what it was to fall in love with someone’s ‘virtual’ image.
The Immaculate Will
I spent hours staring out at the forest behind the school where I was a teacher’s assistant in rural Japan. It was astonishing to watch each season there, it was almost like I’d never paid attention before. And something came to me one day in the autumn and it seemed to be about art and God and I needed to write it in a flash. I’ve edited it a bunch of times since this publication, but the essence of what I felt in that moment remains.