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Concluding my log of quotes from Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a LivingI EARLY DAYS and II THE DAILY GRIND–with final section of the book, III SOMEDAY.

It was Austin Kleon, in conversation with Manjula, who inspired the idea for this series. In “Selling Out” Austin also remarked: “What happens when the thing that kept you alive suddenly becomes the thing that literally keeps you alive? The thing that kept you spiritually alive now not only has to keep you spiritually alive, but also has to keep you financially alive? Like, literally, alive. Like, food in your mouth.”


“A Sort of Fairy Tale” Malinda Lo

“The fact is, financial necessity can be extremely clarifying. When your goal is to make enough money to pay the rent, writing loses a lot of its artistic mystique and becomes something much more mundane: a job. Thinking of writing as a job made the countless uncertainties that come with being a writer manageable. It gave me a rubric by which to measure my success. But without financial need, I found it difficult to continue thinking of writing as my job. And if I didn’t need to write for money, why was I writing?”


“FAQ: How to Buy a HomeMallory Ortberg

“But it is important to acknowledge the distinction between being broke and being poor.”


From “Diversity is Not Enough” by Daniel José Older (click to expand)


“Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing” Daniel José Older

The question industry professionals need to ask themselves is: How can I use my position to help create a literary world that is diverse, equitable, and doesn’t just represent the same segment of society it always has since its inception?”


“Worth” Jennifer Weiner

“Would I have taken the deal, knowing what it meant? In the business of being an author, is it better to be broke but respectable than it is to be rich but dismissed? And why does it even matter? I’ve been asked, more than once—usually by one of the writers on the broke-but-respectable side of things, unpublished or underpublished or underappreciated, well-reviewed but not well-read, one who can’t imagine that it’s anything other than heaven on the other side of the fence. You’ve got money. What could be wrong? Who cares what people are saying. Just laugh all the way to the bank!

I can’t answer them.”


“The If of It: Lunatic Independence in Nine Easy Steps” Laura Goode

Preliminary research revealed no studio would acquire or produce a screenplay about three diverse women trying to discover America and themselves through politics and sex.”


I deeply appreciated this book, found it invaluable. Much gratitude to Manjula Martin for creating this compendium that kept it real about money and art and publishing but also most notably enriched the conversation about class.

For sure, I’ll return to the thoughts of Colin Dickey, Kiese Laymon, Leslie Jamison, Malinda Lo, Daniel José Older, and Laura Goode, time and time again, like found treasure.


Continuing my log of quotes/treasures from the second section of Scratch: II THE DAILY GRIND.


“The Best Work in Literature” Manjula Martin

I had a bundle of life experience to write from, a bifurcated class identity, and a resume full of holes bigger than the ones in my unfinished manuscripts.”


“Against ‘Vs.’” Leslie Jamison

“What if we stopped thinking of money as the dirty secret of creative pursuit and instead recognized money as one of its constituent threads? Whether we like it or not, money’s presence in art doesn’t depend on whether we consider its presence. It’s always already there.”


“Love for Sale” Harmony Holiday

“Rather than death and taxes, death to black taxes. En masse. In the name of the legacy of Amiri [Baraka]. In the name of black radical writers who do not want to fund the systems their words seek to dismantle.”


“Sad Birth Lady” Meaghan O’Connell

“This trouble happened throughout the proposal process, moments when I wondered if I was making a huge career mistake. How to parse self-sabotage from self-preservation, fear from knowing better?

I came back to this fact: the book was something I would have loved to read.”


“Ghost Stories” Sari Botton

“Exactly how much do I make writing other people’s stories? For most books, I receive a flat rate—anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 in my case, plus or minus a percentage of the author’s royalties. Sometimes I get a percentage of the author’s advance—twenty-five to forty percent in my experience, plus or minus a percentage of the author’s royalties—but I am told the top ghostwriters get fifty. In the best cases I have gotten forty, with twenty-five percent of the author’s royalties. Here and there, I charge by the hour, $50 to $90, for what I call ‘editorial hand-holding’ for clients who can sort of write, but need a lot of guidance and editing work.

For me, ghostwriting is a job—one I wouldn’t do if I didn’t need the money.”


“…the guild economy is the dream…” Susie Cagle in Scratch

“Economies 101” Susie Cagle

The sad secret of this economy is that no one knows what anything is or should be worth.”


“Security” Roxane Gay

Manjula: “What were those [first book] deals like?”

Roxane: “For the novel [An Untamed State], I got a $12,500 advance. And for Bad Feminist, I got $15,000.”


“Monetization” Choire Sicha

“Writers whose work is published online should and must understand how websites work in general, as well as how the websites on which they are published work in the specific, so as to not be idiots. This particular pursuit of non-idiocy is sometimes referred to in journalism as ‘following the money,’ also know as ‘understanding the basic economic structure of the industry from which one earns a living, or hopes to.’”


“The Jump” Sarah Smarsh

On quitting her job to write THE book: “Of all my troubles, I’d most underestimated the psychological trauma of relinquishing a professional title that commands respect and proffers identity in society that values productivity above all else—a trauma likely exacerbated by my having been born, by class and gender, to little respect. As a woman who had worked nearly every day since adolescence for some employer, I’d never had so much time on my hands. I felt lost, crushed by the weight of open space and infinite possibility I’d supposedly longed for.”


Next up: The final log III SOMEDAY. 

For the June issue of Curve magazine, I connected with Ariel Levy to discuss “too much” women and her memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply. The interview and book review are in the Pride issue and on newsstands now.



During our interview, I asked Ariel why she published this memoir about losing the life she was authoring for herself, which included being a reporter, wife, and mother. She did not spare herself. Ariel went well beyond the writer’s call to sit down with the page and open a vein.

Yet writing is one thing, publishing another.

“These extraordinarily intense things happen to the human female animal around the reproductive system,” she responded. “If you’re female, you will have some kind of drama around menstruation or pregnancy or birth or menopause.”

Ariel continued; noting that as a feminist, she believed:

“The whole world of human reproduction in the human female animal—that affects half the human population—is not something that is a subject for literature much. So I felt strongly that this was a legitimate subject to write about and that it was worthwhile.”

Through Ariel’s willingness to put her life on the page, to lay her mind and body bare, we can become better acquainted with our own thoughts, discover shared experiences, and challenge our perceptions as we keep evolving, generation after generation.

This is the revolutionary Mother Nature of memoir.

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