Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Strange Case Of The Writer Who Wanted To Make A Living

So in January 2015, YA Author Stacey Jay got slammed with blowback for a Kickstarter campaign to write and independently publish the sequel to her traditionally-published "Princess of Thorns."

The frenzy of mean comments and internet nastiness was seemingly due to her asking, in that Kickstarter, for money to live on while she wrote the book. And not "Lives of the Rich & Famous" money, either. Just, as she put it,

I asked for 10k to fund a Kickstarter for the sequel for Princess of Thorns and EVERYONE who contributed would have been given a copy of the book (from the $10 donation level on up). 7k of that would have covered my living expenses while writing the book. After taxes and promotional expenses I planned to take out of that budget, I would have been making about 11.00 an hour to write and edit the novel.

A lot has said about this online, with a number of writers rising to Stacey's defense, but the controversy itself raises the issue of privilege in the arts and the corrosive romantic mythology of the 'starving artist.' It also reveals a strong undercurrent issue: the financial ability to be able to take the time to hone your craft and write and publish is not separate from why we lack a strong showing of minority voices in books for children and teens.

YA Author Marni Bates wrote a good piece on this, where she compared Stacey Jay's Kickstarter to the Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter. She also quoted Virginia Woolf,

 “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Twitter blew up about it, too, and one posting has really stuck with me since. YA Author Malinda Lo, whose novels (including Ash and the Adaptation series) feature lesbian and bi teens, wrote on twitter (@malindalo):

"I have to admit, people. I have a patron. She is my wife. It hasn't always been that way but in the last couple of years? Yep."
1/7/15 9:09 AM


"If I didn't have a patron I'd be writing books about straight people by now. I kid you not."
1/7/15 9:17 AM

I'd like to share just one more tweet, this one from Amy Boggs (@notjustanyboggs):

"We will lose a lot of worthwhile and *important* voices if only the rich can publish well."
1/7/15 9:19 AM

Crowd-funders, like Kickstarter, could be a grass-roots, market-based way to increase the diversity of children's and teen literature. It could be an end to this terrible idea that writers shouldn't make a living writing, an end to the presumption that if it's your creative project, you should work for free while you pay everyone else.

But sadly, not this time. Stacey has pulled her Kickstarter campaign, and has even withdrawn from being on social media for now.

Illustrate and Write On,

1 comment:

Cecilia Clark said...

If I had known I would have supported her and I am an 'almost' starving writer too. Brave of her for telling it like it is but next time I know someone with a kickstarter campaign I shall suggest they pretend the living money is for the cost of paper and ink so they can do a writerly glamour on the patrons. All this online hate is so depressing. The internet should be a place of wonder and exploration not a minefield of haters.