Wednesday, September 17, 2008

If you care about writing, if you care about reading, click here.

Cathy Day, author of The Circus in Winter and Comeback Season offered up smart, insightful, well-said thoughts and ideas on this:

"Here’s the problem—as I see it. We employ writers to teach people to write stories at a historical moment when the channels to disseminate those stories are becoming more narrow, if not closing altogether. Seemingly more people than ever want to write and be published, but nobody’s buying—not the publishing houses, not the American public. And so, we have a log jam. A glut of stories, and there’s no where for them to go. I worry about this a lot—not just as a writer but as a teacher of writing. But rather than bitch and moan about it, here are some ideas I have about simple things we can all do to help.

• Subscribe to the print literary magazines. If every person desperate to publish in the Whatever Review would buy a one year’s subscription, then maybe the magazine could afford to come out more than once a year, could afford to pay its writers in more than contributor’s copies, and could hire a staff to tackle the ever-mounting slush pile. You don’t even have to read the Whatever Review if you don’t have time. But don’t throw it away. Leave it somewhere. Give it to a student or friend.

• Support online literary journals in whatever way you can. Read them. Promote them. Submit to them. Give them money or help direct them to people who will give them money.

• If you can afford it, buy books when they are published, in hardcover. Don’t check them out of the library. Don’t wait until they come out in paperback—they might not because of low hardcover sales.

• If you teach, adopt books for your courses as much as you can. Don’t just Xerox one story. I know we want to save our students some money, but don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

• We need to start teach non-writers how (and why) to be consumers of fiction. Show them where they can find books and stories, and most importantly, teach them to love stories enough to want to continue to buy them after they are no longer required to.

• When someone on TV (say, Oprah or Jon Stewart) or someone who has a national audience (say, Stephen King) celebrates a book, interviews an author, does anything to put a book on the national radar, we must celebrate that rather than immediately assume the book must be middle-brow drivel or that the author is a publicity seeking hack. In other words, we are very bunged up legitimacy, and I think we’re going to have to get over that if we are to survive.

• We need to start thinking outside the box. What if stories could be downloaded and listened to, like songs on iTunes? What if there was a Short Stories station on XM or Sirius radio? What if someone reading a short story became that week’s viral video? What if you went to Barnes & Noble and stood in the literature section and turned facing out every short story collection? What if you took every sadly-neglected book you absolutely love off the Siberia shelves and piled them in the high-traffic areas of the store?

• Instead of peppering editors with questions that all ask the same thing (What’s the secret to getting published?) we should just thank them for publishing at all and think of ways to stop clogging up their transoms. We can’t ask: how do we save books? We need to ask: how can we help to create a populace that devotes time and resources to reading them? We can’t ask: how do we save print culture? We need to ask: how is print culture already evolving and how do we make sure we evolve with it? And I ask myself: Can creative writing programs work simultaneously to both protect our literary traditions and lead us into the literary future? How can we work—individually and collectively—to create a world in which writing can flourish?

P.S. I apologize to all my poet friends for being story-biased here."


Flynn said...

An interesting response to the NY Mag piece:

Jorge said...

My 10 year old self would never have said what my 24 year old self is about to say: It makes me sad when I hear about the book industry going under.