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EP 132: Reconceptualizing Success (1): With C E Hoffman, Author of "Sluts and Whores"

Updated: Feb 17, 2022



Listen on Spotify.

Read the transcript of Part Two here.


Summary


In this episode, @tete.depunk and I interview C E Hoffman, the author of "Sluts and Whores."


“Sluts and Whores” is C’s debut collection of short stories and poems that challenge negative stereotypes of sex workers via a dark magical landscape. It was published by Thurston Howl Publications in 2021.


This powerfully-written collection is nearing its one-year anniversary so we’re going to discuss what it means to be successful. C covers how they’ve come to define success since publishing their work, while me and Tete touch on how Tapas has helped us define success.


We also touch upon the ups and downs of publishing and promotions. We explore how to get published in the following episode.


Check out C's website here: https://cehoffman.net/


Buy "Sluts and Whores" through Amazon and other online stores!


The book is also available at other stores! Just Google "Sluts and Whores C E Hoffman" and you should be able to see other places you can buy the book.



Transcript


Note: I've highlighted the main points of the interview in red.


Fortunus Games:


Hi, everyone! Today, we have a very special guest: we are interviewing none other than C E Hoffman, the author of "Sluts and Whores."


"Sluts and Whores" is C's debut collection of short stories and poems

that challenge negative stereotypes of sex workers via a dark magical landscape. The link to buy the book is in the description.


This powerfully written collection is nearing its one-year anniversary, so we're going to discuss the ups and downs of publishing and promotions, and we're also going to be talking about the concept of success and how it applies to writing.


So first of all, congrats on reaching the first anniversary of your book being published. How does it feel to have been published for a year now?


C E Hoffman:


It's a mix of surreal and Sisyphean, I'll admit. On the one hand, I am overwhelmed by gratitude, of course, but on the other hand, you realize as soon as you get published, especially a full-length manuscript that your work has yet begun


Fortunus Games:


How do you feel like? Do you feel like your work has yet to be done, like, are you adding more things? Do you think you will be republishing your work with more additions?


C E Hoffman:


I mean, definitely, when you receive feedback en masse as opposed to beta readers or friends, you definitely get a different perspective of the work than you anticipated, which may not necessarily lend to editing that previously published work.


It definitely lends to what you're going to focus on in the future. You know, people always say you need to stay true to yourself and your muse, and I totally agree, but artists don't live in a vacuum. We also live amongst our audience and it's really important to hold that feedback and use that even if it is feedback where you recognize, well, that person just wants something that I don't offer and I can move on.


Fortunus Games:


That’s true. How have you defined success as a writer? How would you suggest writers define their own idea of success?


C E Hoffman:


I just love that so much because, of course, I've been contemplating on this a lot with the anniversary of the book so nigh and I think the reason artists especially find difficulty qualifying our success is because there’s so often an incongruence regarding our financial trajectory and our career trajectory.


We can actually hit an apotheosis-like publication but still like me, be stuck in a pretty abstemious financial situation.


And I think that's a greater problem - it's a societal problem for sure. It's probably - sorry to kick Aristotle butt here, but it's kind of a materialist problem too. The value that we've put on money so much, you know, that we've assumed.


We really have assumed a meritocracy, but I find that materializing the ideal is way more difficult than it sounds. I think a person can have a fantastic idea and even a great product and that's not always even the same thing, but that won't necessarily amount to sales, especially in this day and age.


It won't necessarily result in being known in that traditional way that I myself

have associated with success, so it's a real jigsaw puzzle, an emotional jigsaw puzzle for writers, I think, especially because anybody can be a writer and technically anybody is a writer as long as they have social media or anything like that, so the very craft and the very art is continuously evolving and it keeps us on our toes spiritually, intellectually, creatively.


So it's very, very difficult, but I have been going into this idea of success a lot, like pertaining to the career versus financial aspect.


Winston Rowntree is such an amazing illustrator and writer in their own right and they're actually illustrating and animating the short film based on one of the short stories in my collection that's going to come out in celebration of the book.


And that's a huge success on its own, but it's an artist-led success.


Its something that I did that I fundraised that Winston helped fundraise via Kickstarter, but he has this amazing series called “peopleWatching.” Anybody listening, you should definitely check it out and there's this great episode called, like, “The Secret Losers Society,” I think is what it's called, where it's people who are secretly losers or people think that they're not and one of them is a writer.


Yeah and oh my gosh, he has this point where he's like, you know, anytime I go back to my hometown, people come up to me and tell me how amazing and successful and famous I am but I literally made 12k last year.


And that just makes me laugh so much because I looked at my taxes and I made 4k last year, so if I'm only judging success via those terms, I'm not coming up with some great numbers.


But if I allow for a broader abstraction of success, that success has to do with much more than what we can see, I come to a greater emotional conclusion. But that's a work in process, I mean. We all struggle with the division between art and self, but art is a huge part of ourselves and ourselves are a huge part of our art.


So we do qualify them similarly when we put our art out there we're putting a huge chunk of our heart out there - or our babies, whatever you want to call it, so it's a very vulnerable thing for us and it's difficult to feel rejected even if you're not being rejected again.


Artists are so sensitive and I think one of the worst things pertaining to success as an artist is the myth of the overnight success.


Nothing grates me more than that idea of the overnight success. There's no such thing. Any overnight success that we know about they have been toiling away for 10 years minimum as a rule. Usually, most of us, we started this when we were kids.


I know I did. I wrote my first novel when I was 11 and that's a long time coming, just to be almost 30 now and finally having a full-length publication out there.


Fortunus Games:


Absolutely. I mean, a lot of the overnight successes are basically kind of manufactured by the media because it makes a good story.


C E Hoffman:


Exactly. We really want that sound-byte of success, you know, and I love the idea, kind of the more Stoic idea that true joy true happiness needn't be found in hedonistic happiness, but in eudaimonic happiness, in effort, the effort and energy that we put in, something the actual process.


So if you're deriving fulfillment and joy from that from the sweat the blood and the tears that we all know goes into writing, I think that's a success.


I think if you're just trying to sleepwalk through the process, whether that's the conception, the actual writing, the editing, the promotion, and you're just waiting for that fallacious castle in the sky where you can put your feet up, I don't think you actually want what you think you want.


I think there's more avarice in that than passion, and I think that's the best definition of success is, “Have you truly followed your passion? Have you not only

followed it, but have you committed yourself to it?”


Fortunus Games:


That's so true, and I think, Tete, you have a lot to say about that because you have realized similar conclusions this year, haven't you?


Tete.Depunk


Yes, yes, I have. I do understand so very well the blood sweat and tears that go into writing and, you know, not only that, but you know, balancing that with the strains of other things in life and how, you know, it's so hard to compartmentalize it that it becomes kind of a holistic unit at times, and it can be frustrating because life demands a certain compartmentalization of us as the writer and then us as ourselves in a society as workers or citizens and such.


And I understand the joy that comes from hard work. I certainly understand that you can't derive this sort of hedonistic pleasure from wanting to reap success instantly or think of this as you know just solely on the basis of that kind of conventional success.


And I understand that very well and my friend, Fortunus Games, has really

encouraged me to pursue the self as a writer rather than ignore it and be brought down by you know a system that would encourage people not to pursue it, and I've been very grateful for Fortunus Games’ encouragement and all of her help and advice.


I did have a couple of questions. One question I wanted to ask is, “Given the concept of success explored here, what rewards have you seen resulting from your successes?”


C E Hoffman:


Oh, I love that so much. I love a lot of what you said, of course, because you're so right that this dopamine-driven society actually kind of looks down on the true effort that results in true success and I think that true success is mostly internal.


I think for me, when I look at it, I really try to measure these successes by my amount of gratitude and my amount of generosity.


I think those are two of the greatest treasures that humankind can behold, and there have been frustrations. You know, I'm not gonna candy coat this process by any means. That would be naive and misleading. There's been so many ups and downs, but there's been many a zenith as well and most of that is internally driven where I am so humbled. So I think that's been the best thing about it for me, personally, is that it's really really opened up my heart chakra, that ability to receive, that ability to celebrate myself, to accept myself where I am.


And then, of course, again, though, this seems to be an iteration here, maybe, it's a theme. We don't belong in a vacuum, so as much as that's been a real blessing for me personally, I have to be really grateful as well for the community that's evolved around the inception and publication of this book.


You know, I have so much to thank my publisher, who is also a very hands-on

Editor. You know, I have to thank all of the people that were involved in the short

film and I just have to thank so many friends who are willing to be fans, which I think is the best thing you can ask for.


And I have to thank the Twitter writing community. I mean, that was how I met you two and I'm very grateful to be sharing this space with you and so many others. Just amazing people. Too many honestly for me to name right now.


During Mercury retrograde, I don't think names are gonna come quickly to me, but I think that's the best thing is that, again, you're sharing a really ugly, beautiful, raw, wailing piece of yourself and you're putting that naked heart out into the world and it means so much when fellow heartbearers respond and say thank you.


I think like it's so easy to create this kind of divisive attitude where it's like, oh, there's artist and there's audience. And I totally disagree with that. I think especially for a truly successful artist, their audience is composed of other artists. You know, we comprise our own fan bases, we support each other, we lift each other up, we collaborate.


When you look at some of the greatest literary movements, you know, the Harlem Renaissance, the Beats, the Romantics, you know, what were they called, I think they're called the Inkwells, you know C.S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. They were all friends who encouraged each other and gave each other a space to thrive.


You know, as personal as art is, we can't do this alone.


Fortunus Games:


I totally agree.


Tete.Depunk:


Absolutely. I absolutely agree. I mean, that is such a key part and I think we're so very fortunate now to have social media and connect on a better level, connect on a more personalized level and find people who vibe with us so well and that we're able to learn from them and they're able to learn from us and it's so wonderful to be part of the writer community and meet and engage and support and collaborate you know with fantastic creators like yourself and Fortunus Games.


And you're absolutely right. It’s such a vital part to not only an author's health, but I think the welfare of their own creation and creative process.


Fortunus Games:


I think it's also a really motivating factor as Tete has found out this year by joining Tapas,io which is a site where we both post our works. And you know, Tete has really attracted a lot of attention there through her works, and I think a lot of the comments there are what really make you want to keep on posting your work.


Tete.Depunk:


Absolutely, it surely is. I think the best motivator is to know that there is a purpose to the writing and that it is being enjoyed by people and that the story itself has purpose and that the characters are loved, because I think there's nothing more crushing to a writer than to do then to create their craft and have no one to enjoy it or appreciate it or feel something from it or appreciate it.


And it has been such not only a leap of faith but there's been such a wonderful synergy from the various creators on Tapas who have given such wonderful support.


And I've been very fortunate to learn about themselves but also their wonderful works. Many of their works are just truly compelling like it's better than anything that's being put out there by mainstream media and I'm really amazed by them and I'm amazed by their support as well.


C E Hoffman:


I love that because we have to admit it's always the pleasantest surprise when a friend or someone just in a community, someone of an indie status, is really good at what they do.


You know, I think, it's like when you go see a local band, you have a certain bar and that is placed there because of the mainstream presumption, right, the bandwagon fallacy, right, if it's popular, it must be good. If it's not popular, it must not be, and we don't realize that there are tons of just industrial algorithms that actually decide what's popular and what's not.


It doesn't actually have to do with merit, but at the same time we still hold those prejudices and when you go see that local band and they're amazing, I think for me, especially, because I do still judge success by this, sometimes, my first question is like, why aren't they famous? Why aren't they on the radio?


And actually, that makes me think of Borscht, this amazing Edmonton band. I grew up in Edmonton. I'm still in Edmonton right now, actually, and they just released a new album. It's fantastic. One of the songs from the album is the credit song on the short animated film and they just write amazing stuff, you know.


It's that quality of art and I think that's the real measure of success too because why are we all here? We're here because Muse called us here, right, we are subjects to the Muse and what does the Muse ask of us?


It asks of us to give as much as we can and to do the absolute best that we can. It’s like that part in Franny and Zoe, you know, where Zoe's like to Franny like, “If you have to act, if you have that hankering, you have to do it with all of your might. Be god's actress! How pretty would that be.”


And I love that. I love that the Muse doesn't just call us to create and play and explore. She does, but she also asks us to do it with all our might and to find the true expanse of living within that.


Tete.Depunk:


Yes, that's so true. You know, that's so true. That is absolutely right, you know, to be

totally driven by the Muse and it's an experience and creators have that joy to experience.


And I did have another question since we're on the subject of motivation. Would you say that these successes affected your motivation in writing or did it change your viewpoint on certain aspects of life or issues?


C E Hoffman:


Yeah, I think that all art is therapy if you're doing it right.


So there's been a lot of therapy for me with this book, of course, even the subject matter of the book. I could say it was something I wanted to put to bed. I've even referred to it as a kind of exorcism, but I think all of that's a little dramatic because really, for me, this was just bringing an unspoken part of life to light.


Not to say it's entirely unspoken. There's some really cool non-fiction collections

written by sex workers about sex work, but I had yet to see that subject matter elucidated via fiction, and since I'm a fiction writer, I thought that was a really perfect place for me to write in.


Honestly and truly. And I didn't write these stories around a theme. I actually looked at my catalog and found that a lot of my stories already featured sex workers, so it just was a really really seamless fit, so that's definitely the way that it's changed my outlook on life. It's really solidified for me the idea that art can do more than just entertain.


I like to think of this book as educational, but I like to think that it can do something more too, that it can humanize a group of people that unfortunately, to this day, are not extremely humanized.


As per motivation, I have to admit all of the rigors of self-promotion have definitely zapped me of some of my stamina. I did have to take a little hiatus from promotion and I have written less while promoting you know you're putting so much of your chi into that, you really can't diversify your output much more beyond that, but I think that also gives respect to the natural ebb and flow of the creative process. Sometimes you're gathering inspiration, writing, editing, revising, promoting, or seeking agenting or publishers, which is a whole other

facet and literally each one of these things is a part-time job and we really need to give ourselves compassion and practice a lot of compassion because so much is expected of artists in with the advent of the internet.


It's this idea of, “Oh well, you can do it all yourself, so why shouldn't you?” And the answer is, “Well, gosh, because like you were saying too, I need a work-life balance.”


I don't know how to do all of this, so it really brings back that idea of a team. You know, the more I think about this…I haven't verbalized this before, but I'm starting to love the idea of a self-promoted writer's agency, where it's like a collaboration between fellow writers who all help promote each other's things.


Because it can be so exhausting and sometimes even outsourcing that can have its problems. You know, I did outsource some marketing to a small group and there have been a lot of problems. Unfortunately, just with you know, small things like the spelling of names and having to clarify details or having certain templates going out.


So, it didn't quite work for actually alleviating that burden. It actually became something else I kind of had to manage, so I like the idea of fellow writers championing writers, you know, and

actually doing that as a collective.


Tete.Depunk:


Yes, that's absolutely true. I think that's such a vital thing and I was actually

thinking of that when you were mentioning earlier about the writer's movements and different groups that how to merge like the Romantics, the Inkwells. I was even thinking about abroad, like say. the European Futurists and such.


It’s so vital to have that because what with the machine of everything of popular demand and the algorithm perpetuated by the mainstream media, which is very much corporate itself.


It tends not to support the individual voices. So it’s very vital to get out there.


I was going to say that you know, from a very practical standpoint, how was it like to publish for the first time?


Do you have any publishing tips for other writers who are interested in publishing? How did you find your publisher?


Was it easy or hard to find a publisher? You know, the practicality of it, beat the pavement if you will.


C E Hoffman


Oh yeah. I love that question because I have learned in trial by many fires I was

overzealous, overeager.


And it’s a long time ago now, you know, I had a few, I would now in retrospect call, semi-finished products. They were completed manuscripts, but they needed revision, and when I was 18 to 20, I wasted no time querying as many agents as I could find. Back then, of course, I was doing it with those big writers’ digests, like they’re these monoliths that you could buy.


It was like a little directory of agents, and I used those many a time, and I did get some requests for pages or manuscripts, but it all really fell through, which definitely damages one’s self-esteem.


It definitely makes one a little shy to jump back into the fray, which is another reason why I think it’s so important to come into one’s inner stillness and inner knowing, and you know, quoth Jonathan Larson, “Be motivated by love as opposed to fear.”


And I think, unfortunately, for a lot of writers, because we have many time bombs ticking away, many, many time bombs, you know, whether it's the rent or our mental health or anything else, we really feel a certain pressure to get things out there you for that same reason too we hate the idea of our characters being locked in some cellar where no one can see them.


But I think sometimes that can then lead to rash decisions or taking things out before they're ready because when I look back, now, if I'd had any of those things published then, I would abhor them now, and instead, I was able to sit with them and actually one of those books in

question is one of the next things I'm going to pitch.


So when it came to and this had been a long time coming and I’d taken a long rest

from trying to pitch full-length manuscripts, I'd continue to get things published in short form, mostly short stories and articles, a few poems. I'm not the best poet, but at this point, it was really an advent of flow. It definitely just came to me. It definitely came to me as a vision I saw - the title and the cover.


The cover was all my idea from the beginning. Well, no, that's a silly thing to say. It wasn't my idea - it was channeled to me from Muse so it became very obvious that this is what I wanted to do.


The best advice I would start with is for a writer to know what they really want from publishing because with self-publishing, you're just out there and you are in complete control.


So I think self-publishing is best for people who are like I'm just happy with this as it is. I care much more about the story and the characters and connecting with fellow writers than I do connecting with like a professional realm or with a larger readership or anything like that.


And when you're not so hung up on typos and, you know, the editorial process, I always especially recommend self-publishing to punk writers or transgressive writers because that stuff always has sat a little raw, and it's supposed to be unpolished, so that would be my recommendation for that.


For something like this, I knew it was a smart idea to go with a small but traditional publishing house because I thought it was very topical and that people would be ready for it, but I also recognize it's bringing a lot of shadow into light that not everyone's comfortable with.


I mean, feminine sexuality alone is still a big struggle for lots of people, let alone sex work, so I knew that I would need a smaller publisher who wouldn't shy away from transgressive material, but who could still give me that official validation.


For example, I'm now a member of the writers union of Canada, and to qualify, you need to have at least one full-length publication that's published through a traditional publishing house.


So if you want to go for a little more “professional” - success, again, success comes in all shapes and sizes - then that [publication] would be what I'd recommend. And especially for a short story collection. because agents will rarely look at a debut short story collection and, to be honest, it's rare for agents to even look at debuts. They are out there, but they're rare.


Now for my second short story collection, “Losers and Freaks,” which is kind of a spiritual sequel as indicated by the title, I am going to be querying agents for that, but I've done a lot of research and that's another thing I'd suggest.


So an agent. I think lots of people really just jump on the idea of an agent as I did too. 10 years ago, when I first started this journey, I think that an agent is for a very specific career step. All of these things are steps. All of these things are experiences.


So, I think for most people, the best idea would be to start with a middle ground, kind of indie publisher, because that gives you a step into the professional realm if you do want to be eventually agented.


But again, being aware of one's needs is really really important there, and I think that's a really good start.


I do have a few practical tips that I can also share, like one or two items which I found really beneficial, but I think that's the best place to start is the old adage, “Know thyself.”


What are you doing with this?


What distribution do you want?


Who is your audience?


How open are you to feedback?


Because if you're gonna go even an indie publisher route, you need to be ready for “This chapter needs to be cut” or “Can we change the ending?” and not everyone is okay with that, which is fine, but if you are okay with that, then that's a route you might want to take.


Tete.Depunk:


This is such invaluable advice because so many people, especially writers starting out, they're not sure what landmines if are waiting for them in the traditional publishing process and, as you pointed out, indie is probably a safer option especially for more transgressive writers, you know, writers that are basically putting out material that may not be openly embraced

by the bigger, more traditional publishing houses.


And this is just absolutely fantastic advice. An agent should be considered more of a career step than actually controlling the whole process from the beginning.


So let’s say a writer has a complete novel and they’ve already done all of the necessary editing and it’s a bit of a hot cake ready to go, ready to serve.


What would be the best option for that kind of writing seeking publication?


Would it be wise for them to secure an agent or should they be very independent on their first outing with this?


C E Hoffman:


It would depend a lot on their current training and CV. So if you already have a number of publications in magazines or anything like that, you could already maybe go with an agent, especially if you have formal education in writing.


Other than that, I would still suggest that they take a step back if they haven't been published in many places. Start with publishing some novel excerpts in magazines and short stories, anything else, any other material that you have get yourself involved in the community because that's what it's all about too.


It’s wonderful because then once you get a book out, you have these promotional

channels. You can go back to that editor who loved your stuff and say, “Hey, can you put an interview on your site or something like that?”


So that would be what I would definitely recommend starting with. Make sure that you have a real catalog. Make sure that your book has a backbone in your own literary universe. Make sure that when you go to a publisher or even to an agent that you can show them, “I’m in this for the long haul. This is what I've already done, and this is what I want to do.”


You really need to show that you're serious and again, though you know there are always people who are willing to take a chance, but most people want to see that you are really firm in your voice and your craft before they're going to want to invest that time in a full-length publication.


Tete.Depunk:


That's an excellent answer, and that really does show the practical realities that first time writers or at least first time publishing would face.


And you're right. I think it's it's very very vital to build up that backbone and build up that foundation, those steps, those rungs on the ladders, so to speak.


C E Hoffman:


Exactly, and I actually have more to say, but I know we're maybe running out of time, so maybe we'll leave it for the next sesh.


Fortunus Games:


Yeah, absolutely. This was a great discussion and we covered a lot already. In the next episode, which will be coming out next week, we will be learning more about the publishing process and how that ties into success.


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