Imagine this – the year is 2003. It’s Sunday morning, around 11 o’clock. You make French toast. You are in your home in San Francisco, on a quiet street near Golden Gate Park. You’re wearing your favorite cozy bathrobe.
There’s a knock on your front door. How weird! You weren’t expecting anyone. You are going to answer, because why not.
At your door is a 10-year-old girl, accompanied by a little boy, who she explains is her little brother.
She also explains to you that she lives down the street, and that she knocked on the door because she wonders if you would like to buy her book of poems, entitled “Reading with the stars, by Anya” (unfortunately phonetically similar to but completely disconnected from the hit TV show, Dancing with the stars). She offers to charge an extremely reasonable $10/book, which equates to about a dollar per poem.
How do you say no to this little kid and her even smaller little brother? You buy the book. Obviously.
By this point, you’ve probably figured out that I’m the girl from that bizarre anecdote. It’s a true story, except the neighbor actually didn’t buy the book. But they invited me and my brother to eat French toast, which I remember was probably worth over ten bucks, with the required labor and such – so overall it was actually a better deal for us.
I approach this story as an introduction because I think it says a lot about who I am and how I am.
But before I get into all that, allow me to introduce myself! Hello, my name is Anya and I am very, very, very happy to share that I am Autostraddle’s first ever Director of Brand Partnerships. I’ve loved, read and been obsessed with Autostraddle for the past ten years and honestly can’t believe I work for an organization I believe in so much. What is a Director of Brand Partnerships? More to come, but in short: there are brands desperate to reach you – yes, you! — and I’m going to help them do it, in exchange for $$$. It all comes down to maintaining Autostraddle.
So back to the 10-year-old girl with the book of poems. First of all, what’s more cheerful than selling your own book of poetry to unsuspecting neighbors? ????
In reality, it took me about ten more years to realize and embrace my homosexuality. It’s a classic story – I had no idea I was queer, although looking back, it’s so… what’s the word… obvious. (The obsession with the local college women’s soccer team; the refusal to wear pink; the fervent support of my high school’s Gay Straight Alliance combined with the inexplicable refusal to join; etc.)
Everything went wrong in college. As I was neck-deep in the bewildering confusion that is the new homosexuality, an older, wiser homosexual asked me a seemingly innocuous question: “How are you?” Naturally, this completely broke me, which led them to tell me about Autostraddle.
I read everything – EVERYTHING! — Autostraddle had to offer. (Yes, including that.) (And that.) What I lacked in my own language, I found in Autostraddle’s. I learned that it was normal to feel confused. I learned that there was nothing wrong with feeling that confusion creep toward clarity. I learned that he — me? me? — could even be celebrated! I learned that there were so, so, so many other people like me. I sat in front of my computer screen for hours and felt anything but alone.
I really, honestly, deeply don’t know how I would have got through this period without Autostraddle.
I found a file called “Reading With The Stars.pub” on a save of a save of a save, and I can’t open it, because that’s even “.pub”. However, for reasons unknown to myself, I apparently saved my poetry book’s table of contents separately – as a Word document, which I can open. So here is the table of contents of the book I tried to sell:
I mean, the depth! Range! Pure volume! Who the hell is Toddy and how can I reach him!! The collection seems extremely character-driven, while of course touching on some relevant themes, including the idea that we should be grateful, machines, and, in a shocking meta twist, stories.
Kidding aside, I’ve loved telling stories for as long as I can remember. What started as dictating fairy tales to my compassionate and helpful mother turned into an avid diary, which evolved into playwriting. I write plays to deal with the things I can’t stop thinking about – my obsessions, my questions, my fears and my desires.
I wrote the first play I was proud of in college, just when I heard about Autostraddle. I had just read some key excerpts from Frances Willard’s diary (historical queers!!!) where she writes about her…friend…Mary Bannister. So I wrote a play about two girls trying to figure out their feelings after being cast in their high school play as Frances Willard and Mary Bannister (it involves slumber parties, cookie dough, and Ouija boards ).
I haven’t really been able to stop writing plays since then, for better or for worse. My most recent play is about an old man who lives in his house surrounded by piles and piles of pancakes, which are also his memories. It’s a meditation on the need to share memories, when sharing memories is like eating pancakes.
I think I write to illuminate and celebrate existential fear rather than ignore it. To embrace sad happiness, nonsense and the inscrutability of everyday life. I write to hold people close, knowing it will never be close enough. The outfit is the important thing, anyway.
Maybe that’s what Toddy meant.
Interestingly, there is a reason my brother was with me when I went door to door trying to sell my “book” (10 pages stapled together). It’s because I asked him. He’s four and a half years younger than me, and I remember thinking, he’s younger, so he’s cuter, so people will be more likely to buy from us if they ask.
What a strange thing for a 10 year old to think! And… what a clever commercial approach?!?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed selling things. Not just anything, though – things that have real, undeniable value, which I believe would do real good. Like my poetry book, or so I thought at the time. It’s extremely silly to look back, but at the time, I really thought my book contained powerful things, and the world would be better off experiencing them. And so I thought it should make money.
This took several forms in my lifetime: selling soap at the family camp where the children were constantly covered in dirt; selling hand-knit hats (yes, I love knitting) at my college book fair (which goes better with reading than a cozy hat); organize a showcase of student talent in my high school when there was none.
All of these efforts also involved fundraising for other things: the proceeds from the soap were split between me, my friend, and a charity; the hats raised funds for the survivors of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia; and the Student Talent Showcase was a fundraiser for an educational nonprofit called Aim High. (I feel like I should mention that I started a club dedicated just to knitting hats, cementing my status as an extremely cool sixth-grader. The club was called HATS and stood for Help Aid Tsunami Survivors and if that isn’t a stellar mark… I don’t know what is.)
I don’t think I have to convince any of you that Autostraddle has inherent good. For the last decade of my life, Autostraddle has been a warm abundance – of guidance, of joy, of community. And I bet it has been for many of us, and will be for so many more to come.
This inherent good deserves and requires continued and stable financial support, and we will get it. We’ve come this far in large part because of your incredible generosity in fundraising and memberships (thank you, thank you, thank you!!!).
And now it’s time to go even further.
In a strange and unpredictable way, this position seems to combine all the disparate parts of me: Gay! Tale! Business! All for a cause close to my heart! So to say I’m excited about this work is really the understatement of the century. I’m shaking in my boots! I jump for joy! My heart beats wildly ! I am all of these things at once!
Between poetry book and soap opera and weird plays and now, I’ve worked at media agencies large and small, creating content and building media strategies for multi-million dollar corporations. But they don’t have what Autostraddle has, because they don’t have…you!
Brands want — no, need! — to talk to you, and they are willing to pay. So… we’ll let them do it! All of this, of course, while centering content from our absolutely amazing editorial team and staying true to our values, so that we never lose the integrity, honesty and uniqueness that makes Autostraddle so special.
Let’s do this! Maybe you have an idea of a brand that might like working with Autostraddle (or maybe you even work for one of these brands, or their agency!). Maybe you feel excited like me. Maybe you don’t even have anything to say, but just want to reach out! If any of these things are true, seriously, email me!
Me, at 10 years old, I could never have imagined how it all happened and how good it all would feel. So let’s keep building things we can’t yet imagine – let’s create a stronger, more stable and healthier financial future for Autostraddle than we ever could have imagined. Onwards and upwards, friends!!!