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Mar 1, 2021Liked by Chris La Tray

I'm all in on the dome.

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I've never been able to make enough writing to quit my day job -- maybe if I'd been braver about being broke I would have written more, but I was terrified of being homeless and so I kept my day job and bought a house. It's paid off now, so that helps. But still. I mean, over the 3 years my novel was in print, I made about 25K total. It was such a shitty amount of money, and all the people who were taking little bits of it (cough cough agents) kept telling me how fucking grateful I should be, which enraged me, that it was clear the whole publishing system was set up for people who had inherited money or married it. I did get a visiting writer gig out of it, but I've never figured out how to make money as a freelancer. That's why I do tech writing. It pays.

On the mutual aid front --one of the things that keeps me from losing my entire mind as Livingston becomes a bougie suburb of Bozeman, is the Food Resource Center. After 2008, when town was hit so hard, the LFRC set about building intentional food resilience. The food pantry was reconfigured like a grocery store, they put in a Health Dept rated kitchen that people can rent, they started teaching classes to skill people up for the local restaurant businesses, and they started buying from local producers then processing and freezing for their clients. They provide frozen meals for seniors made from local food. They started a (very bougie) bakery to raise money to bake bread and ship it to food banks across the state. They partnered with the Hospital and Farm to Schools to get more local food into local institutions, and to teach kids, even rural kids here, what good food is and where it comes from. This spring, as it all went to shit, they worked with local ranchers who wanted to start a pipeline for donating, slaughtering, and distributing ground beef to food banks around the state. It's local food for local people. It's mutual aid. And now that we have so many retirees who have moved here, there's always volunteers. Sadly, thanks to the pandemic and the collapse of tourism, they're needed more than ever.

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I did a lot of technical writing in my old job and it made me want to eat glass. I planned for poverty, and now I'm at a point where I could live for 2-3 years on that $25K. But I don't have an agent and my overhead is incredibly low and I recognize that as a degree of privilege few others have.

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Yeah, that's been my plan for years -- pay everything off so I can live cheap. No agent here anymore -- I had 3 (people kept quitting the business), one of whom is now a Very Big Cheese but who was such a condescending bitch to me that I'll never forget it.

I've really given up on ever being able to make any money writing. Which sucks, but who does? I don't really know any writers who live off their books -- most of them teach. And I'd rather write tech docs than go back to another academic department (although I loved my students).

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My impression so far is the ancillary things that pay are a large part of my writer's income: workshops, panels, things like that. The writing itself? Not so much. Still beats the hell out of flying around the country sitting in conference rooms with a bunch of moneygrubbing assholes though, heh.

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founding

I do love my agent and she earns every bit of her percentage, but on the other hand I've been trying to come to terms with the fact that that particular route of publication can be limiting with regards to ideas that get funded. Newsletters actually seem like the best idea to come around in a long time! I mean, if I get $1/word for an essay it feels pretty amazing, but it was a good rate 20 years ago so what does that mean? (We know what it means, it's all broken.)

Re your point about workshops and so on, Chris -- one of my mentors is a well-known, internationally published author of many books, and he told me a few years ago that he hasn't made his main income from writing for years. It's all workshops and panels and so on.

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I find it to be one of the unexpected side benefits that I enjoy. At least so far.

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I keep reading this over and over and over trying to think of something intelligent or helpful to say in response, but I just keep coming to that last paragraph and thinking yup, yup, yup. What else is there but to care for life? What else do we have but one another? Thank you, Chris, for being here, for reminding us of this.

(Also, I carry the Mutual Aid sticker around in whatever notebook I'm using at the time. I would have pinned it on the wall above my desk because I love to look at it, but the pandemic has lost me my office. So now the Mutual Aid sticker is my office. Seems fitting.)

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Thank you, Nia. I love the idea that the Mutual Aid sticker is your office.

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founding

Me too! It was a half-idea to keep me sane but now suddenly I'm delighted by the idea ;)

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I get so confused when it comes to mutual aid/giving in general, going back and forth between whether it's better to pick one thing and do it well (depth) or be flexible enough to give away to people/needs as they come up in your face (breadth, but in proximity). I keep wavering back and forth, so that I worry we wind up doing both, albeit poorly. Obviously, the best case scenario would be that we could trust the government to do the heavy, systemic lifting and leave us to do the smaller, more manageable, closer-to-us work.

I love the dome idea and that last paragraph made me teary.

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Yeah, best case would be not having to pay for people's insulin and dental work and things like that. What a concept! But I'm with you, my efforts are pretty scattershot and are driven as much by whether I am flush when a need arises or not. So far I've not had to ask for help much, but I'm one bad health issue away from that, frankly.

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I'm not kidding the new guy's ass but it's been a month. Shit has been done. Enough? Not hardly. But once again the media is following the fascist. We are so deep in shit that an inch less isn't even noticeable. He has to do better, but at least we can push this guy.

like on the border.

Am I happy with him? No. But every day something is being done or undone. Not enough. But something. We can't be satisfied but we can't lose what little we gained. We are on a precipice.

we should have a stronger leader,but we don't.

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I'm sure I'm too harsh on him. I just snapped when we found time to bomb Syria and kill brown people, yet again, but no debt relief, for example.

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The mistake the electorate makes now is in thinking anyone they elect can salvage a situation that forces much larger than any human institution on earth have brought us to. We've been going on for years about how utterly unsustainable our model is, and we've been right. Well - this is what unsustainability looks like where the rubber hits the road. Everything we thought was normal but really wasn't goes away. We won't be electing anyone who can solve this. It can't be solved. Unless you take the larger view, in which case it IS the solution, the unsustainable going away as it must. Surviving this is the new challenge. Not surviving it in terms of your career, mind-you, but in terms of your person.

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I enjoyed your article on AHP. There’s a raw sense of sincerity and frankness in your style of writing that resonates really well.

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Thanks, Josh. I appreciate the kind words.

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Mar 3, 2021Liked by Chris La Tray

Great article. Great clip of Malcolm X. I’d pay to read your newsletter! I can’t afford much, but I’d pay you something.

After reading the comments I’m happy we have poultry and a big garden. But I’m an optimist; not a Biden lover, but an optimist still. Thanks for writing. ❤️❤️

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Thanks, Victoria. I think I'll probably add a pay option soon, though it feels a little weird to.

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So "mutual aid" is simply a new word for "community." I'm not sure we need a new word for that, but i do agree that we have no community today, and that we sure as hell are going to need it when the money runs out. Money being what we thought we could substitute for the community the techno/machine era effectively destroyed in little more than a century.

I used to sell some articles freelance. I even sold one or two to some prestigious publications as a sideline to my career in the natural sciences, under the guise of "expert witness" rather than expert freelancer. Got a couple of fairly fat cheques back when. And you are right, not only has the money gone out of it, but so has the etiquette. Thirty years ago it was getting tougher but i always got a response to my queries, even if on occasion it was just a form letter. In attempts to sell the odd piece in recent years, i have gotten zero response of any kind from anyone. Agents, magazines, publishers. Zip. Worse, even some of my dear ol friends have caught this same rude virus. I swear they ignore 80% of their phone calls, and never call you back, either. And they think this is normal human conduct. I suppose it is, now. What it isn't is decent human conduct nor a particular sound survival strategy. But we don't get that, now. Such is the decay of our current state of affairs, and in more cases every day, the decay of our own person.

The internet has destroyed the disposable income of the publishing industry, as it has the recording industry as well (another business i had some success in for awhile, landing a contract with a Nashville based company as a songwriter back when.) So anyways, now i make no money in the recording industry, i can't get anything published, and my career in the natural sciences is over, cos that's one more luxury career of the 20th now swirling down the tubes. All of these things, the internet notwithstanding were on their way out anyway. The zenith of our current model where money replaced community is 50 years in the rearview mirror now. The middle class is evaporating, the specialty careers as described are going away and never coming back, ever, as a paying proposition at any rate - they are enjoying their last gasp now. The pirate class is making off with most of the spoils, yes. This is what they do at these stages in the histories of rise and fall. I now raise livestock, and damn happy i do. If we think things are bad now, wait a few years, then a decade, then a few decades more. They are going to be unimaginably foul once the system of fiat aid money that will be the last gasp for the middle class craters what is left of our disintegrating economy. At which point we will all be engaged mostly in raising/procuring baseline sustenance and all understand what only those in "third world" countries and on Indian Reserves and in ghettoes understand life to be today. And we won't be surviving at all without "mutual aid"/community, no. Just had this discussion with my neighbor today in town, in fact, just two hours ago at the feed store. He also raises livestock, and he also reckons we'll be down to raw survival before a whole lot longer, and will need to band together in order to succeed on any level. So yes, just had a real-world discussion on mutual-aid before reading this. I'm grateful to have a neighbor who gets this. What is happening today is the process of an utterly unsustainable model returning to human demographic baseline. 90-something-percent peasants involved in subsistence living, and a handful in the ruling classes, their own power and reach much reduced. It won't be so bad once things settle out. It's what brought us up until the anomaly of the past century after-all. It's the in-between that'll be brutal. And i'd say we've officially entered it in 2020.

The good news is, this scenario will be levelling most of the pirate class, too. It's coming for all of us, it will just come for them last, on average, if the hungry=angry hordes don't kill them outright, that is. Which is precisely why so many people want to be rich. For the R-value against the outside elements.

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Mutual Aid as a specific way communities operate has been around as a named concept for over 100 years, which doesn't make it exactly new, it's just been taken out and polished up a bit in this country. I'm all for it. I have more faith in a less grim near future than you do, but it could still go either way. It all depends on how many folks are willing to roll up their sleeves.

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Also, yes please can we make the dome a thing? That's the best idea since Douglas Adams wrote that scene about the spaceship full of middle managers sent away from their home planet and told they were the first wave of settlement on a new one.

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Had to pass along this new magazine a former coworker started after reading this: https://pipewrenchmag.com/ I managed to miss Tim Cadogan comments. It's both wonderful to hear a leader acknowledge the tough truth on their platform and also wholly depressing all at once. Thanks as always for your words!

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Thanks for this, Anne.

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deletedMar 5, 2021Liked by Chris La Tray
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Thank you, Courtney.

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