Thursday, July 3, 2014

Being Known

As Sacchi wrote on Monday, I hung out with her and Jeremy Edwards over the weekend, and, inspired by the current topic at The Grip, we spent some time recording a conversation about friendship. Jeremy heroically provided the equipment and processed the audio from that, and I'll share a few snippets here.

I want to make this post worthwhile even for those who aren't set up to listen to audio, so I'm going to riff on some of things that came up, then embed the clips (and link to where they're hosted).

Do You Know Me?

I tend to assume that people don't remember me. Unless I am certain it isn't necessary, I usually remind people of my name and where we've met when I encounter them in person. In cover letters, I'll usually tag previous interactions (such as, "You've published my work in four of your books") up to, perhaps, a ridiculous point. After all, if the editor has published my stories in four of their books, I would hope my name would at least ring a bell...

Similarly, I don't assume readers know who I am, though at this point there are a pretty large number of places where they could have encountered me.

There's a downside to this assumption, though. What seems like prudence to me can lead to impostor syndrome or a tendency to miss out on opportunities to interact with the larger community. If I had a dollar for every time I've wondered if I'm "allowed to" interact with someone on Twitter, I'd have at least a month's rent.

And to become friends with people, I have to allow it. My behavior can lean formal in a way that I think holds people at arm's length. I want to relax that at least a little.

I brought up this point in the conversation with Jeremy and Sacchi, and we discussed becoming friends with others in the erotica business.

Direct Link

Do You Really Know Me If You Don't Know I'm Annabeth?

I keep my ego shelf in the living room, which is the first room a person walks into when entering my apartment. I've questioned the wisdom of this many times, because it's been awkward once in a while. For example, my priest came over once and was sitting not three feet from my vast collection of smutty books. I will probably forever wonder if he noticed or not.

There's a reason I put the books there, though. In a small way, it's an effort to avoid feeling ashamed of something that's a huge part of my life. I would like to believe that anyone who's close enough to come into my apartment is close enough to see the books. When I do get asked about them, I answer honestly, and this only gets weird some of the time.

The thing is, if you don't know that I write erotica, then you're missing a big part of my life. For me, the question of letting real life friends know what I'm up to as Annabeth is still active and difficult.

Jeremy, Sacchi and I talked about our experiences in this respect.

Direct Link

Do You Really Know Me If You Know That I'm Annabeth?

I try very hard to be real in conversations in person or over e-mail—in private conversation, really. I try to tell the truth on this blog, as well. On The Grip, I've discussed some really difficult issues that I don't usually talk about, and I have the same ideals for my Annabeth Leong blog.

For me, that's come as the result of becoming bolder and braver. I have seen so many exhortations to never discuss politics on social media sites (you don't want to alienate your customers...). Here's the thing I've finally realized. If you don't like my politics, you won't like my writing. I craft my writing to be inclusive of people of all genders, races, orientations, etc. Accurately representing the world is one of my deepest passions as a writer. I also believe in questioning stereotypes wherever I can—and for me that's good both as politics and as strong characterization and plotting. I've had places where I've fallen short, of course, but I've been trying to make my voice stronger lately.

That said, the way I'm Annabeth in public does still conceal some things. I don't generally post about what discourages me, what business practices I think are nonsense, and so on. This touches a bit on what Giselle brought up, in my mind anyway. I need a little privacy to myself. I am as present as possible in all my writing—whether that's stories, blog posts, or brief things on Twitter. It's not the whole picture, though.

That's where writer friends come in. I've been making an effort lately to have at least a few friends who know what I, as Annabeth, am struggling with. And I think it makes all the difference in the world.

Jeremy, Sacchi, and I talked about discouragements as a writer, particularly about moving on from erotica.

Direct Link

There are five more snippets than the ones I included with this post.

If you're interested in the entire conversation, I've got it all posted here, along with descriptions of what we cover in each section. If anyone has trouble getting the clips, shoot me an e-mail and I'll happily send them to you that way.

And thanks again to Jeremy and Sacchi for a lovely conversation.


  1. I'm downloading your clips so I can listen to them on my computer that actually has a sound board LOL.

    Your post really made me think about the dualism in my own life. Unlike you, I don't feel I can disclose my identity as Lisabet Sarai with many people who know the "real" me (now there's a loaded term), and vice versa. Of my closest friends, only two or three know about my writing. On the flip side, I mostly keep quiet about my non-erotica life when I'm interacting with my author friends. In many cases, they don't know my real name - even when I've met them in person. It's not that I don't trust them, but it's very easy to let private information slip out unintentionally. I live in real fear that I'll be exposed. You have no idea the extremes I go to in order to prevent this.

    So do either set of friends really know who I am? My writing is a secret but cherished part of my self. My other career is equally dear to me. I can't share both with most people.

    Of course, one could argue that you never show the same self to different individuals. Perhaps this is just a more extreme instance of that truth.

    I hide *my* books in a locked storage room in our apartment. Sigh.

    1. Thanks so much for the comments. To be clear, I don't disclose my Annabeth Leong identity with many who know my legal name (Better than real? Maybe?). Because of how big the Annabeth Leong identity has grown, though, that makes things a bit awkward. For example, most people know that I write—I've got degrees in it and lots of work history with it. If I don't tell them about Annabeth, then it looks like I've quit writing, since that's the majority of what I do. That bothers me after spending my life devoted to writing.

      As far as people who know me as Annabeth, I tend to like for them to call me Annabeth (even if they know my legal name because of contracts, etc).

      But it does seem as if I'm headed toward blending the identities more. I've got points of overlap that I can't really avoid. (Before the Annabeth identity really existed, I was involved in the goth club scene. Now I read as Annabeth at fetish events, which overlap with the club scene. So I've had people calling me by my legal name at fetish events and have run into people at clubs who know me as Annabeth. Etc.) If I'd planned this all out in advance, I might have been able to keep better separation, but I didn't know how this would go!

      But your last point is really key. I think it's true that one never? rarely? shows the same self to different individuals. It's a fascinating thing. Sometimes I feel like I get close to the people who bring out the sides of me that I want to spend time in—which is sort of a narcissistic way to think of friendship.

      Anyway, thanks for all the thoughtful commentary!

    2. Annabeth, I love your deeply thought out, honestly revelatory, and so well expressed reflections. Your post brings so much additional food for thought to the in-person discussion we had.

      I can relate to what you say about "get[ting] close to the people who bring out the sides of me that I want to spend time in—which is sort of a narcissistic way to think of friendship." Personally, I like to think it's a mutual phenomenon (and goes hand in hand with my also just liking the friend's personality per se)— so hopefully it's more symbiotic than strictly narcissistic, when all is said and done. (:v>

      Living in a culturally bustling but somewhat small community where a lot of the same people show up in different contexts, I think I've prompted some confusion (or at least surprise) by using two different names in conjunction with public events. My erotica identity isn't secret; but since the pen name is the name I'm known under in that field, it's what I use when I get behind the mic to read my erotic lit. But I also write plays and act and occasionally sing, and those credits have always been under my real/legal name.

      I'm so delighted the three of us had the opportunity to hang out on Saturday, and very grateful to the technology that has enabled us to wangle an audio document to preserve and share. I had a blast with you two!

    3. Thanks, Jeremy! I'll accept your friendly amendment from narcissistic to symbiotic, and that's a nice way of thinking about it.

      I loved hanging out with you and Sacchi as well, and hope we do it again sometime!

  2. Me again... This conversation is amazing! You are all so articulate, I could hardly believe it was extemporaneous. (I guess great writers are good with words in other situations too...)

    May I share the link to your blog on the ERWA Writers list, Annabeth? I think that many of the members would love to listen to this.

    1. Yay, I am glad you were able to download the clips! Please feel free to share the link—that would be lovely. :)

    2. Thanks for the compliments, Lisabet! And your comments, as always, are full of insightful wisdom.

  3. Interesting take on pen names and anonimity - it was possibly naive of me in the beginning not to select a pen name, but honestly I haven't had any negative comments from friends or coworkers - I don't have a family so didn't have to worry about that. On the other hand, very few of my friends read my books so I guess that's why the shock value doesn't come up in conversation.

    1. If it's working for you so far, I guess it's fine! :)

  4. Wow! I just listened to the complete list of clips, and had fun all over again reliving our conversation. Jeremy gets the credit for coming up with this idea, and I think Annabeth inspired it with her previous podcast here. Both of them have the tech chops to make a coherent whole out of our ramblings--well, I was often rambling, but they were very focused and, as Lisabet said, articulate. I was lucky just to get to be there. Thanks, guys, you rock!

    1. Don't sell yourself short, Sacchi. You contributed plenty of cool stuff!

      Thanks for the kudos. I'm glad Jeremy joked about doing the podcast, and that we all followed through. I'm glad you enjoyed hearing it again, and thanks to you as well!

    2. Yes, Sacchi, this was definitely a perfect THREE-way team effort! Thanks for your many, many fascinating, educational, and entertaining contributions!

  5. Wow, first of all, thanks for letting us into your conversation! What a treat. I wonder what kind of tech chops you have to achieve that.

    I always liked the idea of name tags at get-togethers. Saves lots of embarrassment. ;>)

    At this point. I feel like I've joined a writers community with ERWA and now here, at OGG. I am lucky to be located so close to San Francisco, where I've had the opportunity to meet quite a few writers, but my core group of day-to day friends are in book production and other aspects of old school publication or the antiques business.

    Momma and I wear several hats in our little community, and my experiences are much like yours, (I think it's Annabeth) that the reactions vary so much it's too much of a gamble to let it out about my hobbies. I pick and choose as to who I tell.

    Good advice and insights into the editor's role as well. Thanks for that too.

    1. Hi Daddy, glad you enjoyed the conversation!

      Jeremy owns the proper digital recording equipment to get decent sound. I did sound editing in grad school, so I'm familiar with what to look for and the basics of editing. I'm not sure which editing software Jeremy used. My own experience is with Audacity, but I'm rusty enough that I left the actual tech work to him.

      Yup, I was the one talking about varied reactions. It's hard to juggle being part of various groups. I'm always jealous of your San Francisco residency—I've had so much fun every time I've been out there!

    2. My only experience with Audacity has been just before I was thrown out of some bar. :>)

      Next time out here, give a heads up. We'll do lunch. Don't worry, I'll try not to be audacious.

    3. Technical note: I use a program called Rip Edit Burn. Though I suppose it's primarily marketed for making CD-Rs, I really like the editing module as a tool for finalizing one's home-recorded audio materials.

    4. Daddy: Lolgroan. I'll absolutely give you a heads up next time I'm out your way! I don't get to the West Coast as often as I used to, but who knows?

      Jeremy: Thanks. When I realized I wasn't sure what program you used, the geek in me was a bit frustrated. Good to know about Rip Edit Burn!

  6. I listened to the whole conversation on your blog, Annabeth. Great use of technology! I especially like the distinct sounds of all three voices -- I was never in doubt about who was speaking. You've covered a lot of philosophical ground.

    1. Thanks so much for checking it out, and I'm so glad you liked it! :)


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