OTW Guest Post: OldToadWoman

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Interviews by Fans
Title: OTW Guest Post: OldToadWoman
Interviewer: Eskici
Interviewee: OldToadWoman
Date(s): July 18, 2019
Medium: online
External Links: OTW Guest Post: OldToadWoman; Wayback; archive link
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

OTW Guest Post: OldToadWoman is a 2019 interview done as part of a series. See OTW Guest Post.

Some Topics Discussed

  • Supernatural
  • print zines
  • privacy and Fanlore
  • disavowing and distancing ones' self from one's old fanworks

Some Excerpts

How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?

I don’t know whether it was a teacher lecturing me on plagiarism or a classmate teasing me about making up silly stories based on a TV show, but I somehow knew I wasn’t allowed to write fanfiction before I even knew what fanfiction was.

I stumbled into science fiction fandom in college and it was just a magical encounter. You’re allowed to write stories and share them with other fans without having to worry about them not being “good enough” to publish, and it’s okay if they’re based on TV shows and movies that already exist? Yes, please!

Unfortunately, I was very short-sighted and jumped into fandom posting under my real name. I can’t really talk about my first fandom without basically doxing myself. Even though I was submitting to zines under my real name, it never occurred to me that what I wrote back then would leak out beyond that small fandom and end up documented on the Internet forever* [stay tuned: There’s a happy ending to this one]. One woman in our fandom used a pseudonym and we all thought she was a bit pretentious and now I realize she was the only smart one. Of course, at the time I was writing pretty innocuous fluff. I had no idea that someday I’d be writing explicit fiction that my boss might not approve of.

Once if you searched my real name online, my fandom activities came up on the first page of Google. By then, I was working for a very conservative company and I remember feeling absolutely panicked. It’s all faded away now as I’ve successfully been living under a rock long enough.

I grew embarrassed by my writing and just quit entirely. Enough time went by and I convinced myself that everything I’d done in my early days of fandom was garbage.

How did you hear about the OTW or its projects?

I’m really only familiar with AO3 and Fanlore. I had friends who were posting to AO3 and recommended it, but this was during my fandom hiatus and I wasn’t planning to write anything, I was just occasionally reading other people’s stories there. Eventually, I got it into my head to write a new story. I’d been kicking the idea around for a long time without ever writing it “because I don’t write anymore” and the plot bunny finally won and I wrote it. I had to get a friend to show me how to post and kind of hold my hand through the process because I was so unsure of myself. I’ve been posting there ever since.

I can’t remember where I heard about Fanlore, but I remember it instantly carrying the dread of, “Oh, please, please, please, tell me I’m not on there under my real name… well, crap.” Young-me was soooooo stupid. Google has forgotten about me. Fanlore hasn’t. It doesn’t even link to anything embarrassing, just lists of fanzines I contributed to, but I still cringe over it. [This is the happy ending! Fanlore worked with me and removed my name from their site, so now all the old stuff is appropriately attributed to my old fannish pseud.]

How has your style as a writer and as an artist evolved over time?

The most obvious difference is length. My early stuff (the stuff you won’t find on AO3 and which I officially disavow all knowledge of) was incredibly short, mainly just vignettes, disconnected scenes, too much unfinished stuff. The fiction I have on AO3 is of much more varied length (drabbles all the way up to 127,707 words) and it’s all finished. I’ve learned my lesson with works-in-progress and don’t post those publicly anymore. Aside from the sin of posting stories that I never finished, young-me wasn’t as bad a writer as I had remembered. I re-read a few of those stories recently and they really weren’t half bad, even the mistakes were the kind of thing I still catch myself doing occasionally.

The other big change is that now I write smut. Not all the time, most of my stories are still gen. But I remember when I swore I wouldn’t ever write a sex scene, not because I disapproved, but because I didn’t think I was capable. I had it in my head that a sex scene had to be perfect and sexy and romantic, and I wasn’t the kind of writer who could pull that off. And then I got this idea for a sex scene that was funny and awkward and slightly gross and their timing was out of sync, and the story just worked. That was my breakthrough. I can’t write good sex, but I can write awkward and funny sex and that’s okay.

As for art, the biggest change is that I spend more time on each piece before I give up on it. (Well, usually. I’ve been giving up a lot lately.) The eraser is your friend.