I Just Want to Give People a Fucking Chance

I just want to give people a fucking chance.

When I first started out writing professionally, it was kind of terrible. I’m not referring to my work, although my goodness have I grown as a writer. I mean the process of going from writing being a dream to it being my actual career. I taught myself everything I know now about what it is to be a freelancer. Doing things myself isn’t something I am new to and oftentimes, I prefer to figure things out by myself. All I knew was that I was finally ready to pursue my dream (and put that 4-year expensive piece of paper to use) and fucking write.

I pieced it all together from scratch. I thought back to my college days when I found the address of my favorite magazine in their masthead and went to the offices relentlessly until they offered me an internship.I clicked around on my favorite websites, looked for editors’ emails, and sent them unsolicited (and unorganized) pitches. I got multiple rejections or outright ignored until I made adjustments and started to curate the perfect pitch — then I finally heard back.

My first editor was incredible. But after her, it went downhill — quickly. Other editors weren’t really kind or helpful at all, it felt like they all had seen “The Devil Wears Prada” far too many times. They denied my requests to reject certain edits when I asked to not focus on rough aspects of a piece, and in some cases even killed them mid drafts to I guess teach me some sort of lesson. I’ve had editors give me little to no information on how payment worked, told me their inbox was closed for questions while I was working on a piece. Others didn’t even want to explain certain journalist verbiage and terms that were incredibly new to me. I spent quite a bit of my first year or so in the “Writer Twitter” streets learning about payment, what publications/editors to avoid, and opportunities to get published. After particularly daunting experiences with some folks, I’d always tell myself that if I got the chance to be an editor somewhere I would NEVER be like that to my writers.

Here, at Autostraddle, I get to be the kind of editor I needed when I was starting out. When you invest in Autostraddle, your money funds editors who treat emerging writers with interest and respect, who genuinely appreciate the Black queer and trans writers we publish.

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Six months ago I got that opportunity. I was offered the position of Culture Editor here at Autostraddle and was nervous when I accepted. I talked about my worries when the position became public and although most have dissipated some still pop up. I wonder if I’m doing enough to keep the promises I made of putting Black writers first, uplifting the voices of Black creatives, and of course — giving Black writers opportunities. Although people like to send me messages of discouragement and tell me I could be doing more, I know that I am keeping my word.

As Culture Editor, I have been able to give emerging writers their first bylines that aren’t wrapped up in trauma. (Like this, this, and this!) I’ve been able to help build up the type of portfolios they want, filled with the type of things they enjoy writing about. I recognize that the word “I” has been used quite a bit by me, but I take no credit for the amazing work these writers have produced. I only use the word so that you, as a reader and hopeful donater, understand the type of work I’ve been able to do in the position I’ve taken on. The type of things that bring me joy and happiness is giving a chance to those who just fucking want one. I’m trying to tear apart this notion that has been created by cishet white freelancer writers that makes others think they don’t stand a chance in this industry. It’s the same one being upheld by many other publications and it stops Black writers from even trying — it almost stopped me when I was starting out.

two spinning spacey pyramids

There are special moments that make me realize my work is valuable. The ones where a writer trusts my guidance when editing their pieces, when they trust me to not erase their voice when making suggestions on a personal essay, or when they feel like they don’t have to draft 30 emails to ask questions or feel like a pest when they press send — those are the things that make me feel like what I’m doing here is worth it. I want to inspire both emerging and established Black queer writers to look at our working relationship and know that there are editors out there who care. I’m not saying that I’m walked over by my writers or that I don’t have any boundaries with them as we work, but what I am saying is that I am determined to not treat them as though they and their work are disposable — a way that I was treated by editors in the past.

I’ve only been at it for six months and I want to be at it for far longer. So basically, I need your whole ass dollars in order to do that. The money you give to us pays me to do what I love so that I help others do what they love AND fucking pay them while doing it. The rate I give Black and POC writers is slighlty more than I extend to others, and while I’m not going to get into the whole why I do, you just need to know that it’s fair. We have been at it for over 10 years, using your dollars and clicks to keep going. We need your help to keep giving you content, introduce you to writers, show your our lives and so much more.

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On this corner of the internet, we hope you feel like the ever-important chosen family — one that’s hella real with each other. Sometimes family doesn’t agree with each other. Sometimes family pisses you off and you don’t visit for a few months in hopes that they change and get a pleasant surprise when they (or you) do. And sometimes a family needs help and doesn’t need to be in dire straits to ask for it.

So keep helping us. We’re finally in this beautiful spot where we almost don’t have to play catch up, a place where we are kind of ahead and want to keep building on that. Think about it like this, Do you know that feeling where you don’t have to worry if you’ll have money to pay rent? When you look at your account and realize that not only can you pay rent but you can order your favorite takeaway too? It feels good, doesn’t it? We want to keep that feeling going for our little site.

So if you have it, or know someone who does, then help out. Quite literally every dollar helps, over 70% of donations last time were under $50 but if you wanna donate bigger amounts please fucking do! If you make a big enough donation I might tell you what my secret finsta is and trust me — it’s mad worth it.

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hishelli

Shelli Nicole is a Detroit-raised, Chicago-based writer. Her work has appeared in Bustle, HelloGiggles & Marie Claire. She is terrified of mermaids and teenagers equally.

Shelli has written 131 articles for us.

6 Comments

  1. Damn. I’d already donated and was pretty sure I’d given all I could this time around, but this was an effective pitch! I don’t understand why folks take the time to send discouragement, but I hope you’ve been getting as much encouragement and support as you’re giving writers.

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