Literary Citizenship – Pay It Forward

What is literary citizenship? How do you promote it, and are you a good literary citizen?

Some of my shower thoughts (best time for thinking, right?) kept tumbling around and then mixed with Cathy Day’s talk about literary citizenship at the 2012 Midwest Writers Workshop.

Cathy, author of The Circus in Winter and Comeback Season, said that being a good literary citizen is being part of, and promoting, a literary community: reading, writing, and all that goes with it.  She suggested a few things we could do to build that community, and, as writers, build relationships that will benefit our own careers in the process:

  • Talk about books with LIVE people (in person, as opposed to not-dead).
  • Write notes to authors when we enjoy their books.
  • Be interested in others.  She quoted Dale Carnegie: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in them, than in two years by asking them to be interested in you.”  Which is what we try to follow in Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone model.
  • Recommend and review books, whether on Twitter, FaceBook, blogs, Amazon, Goodreads, or simply to our friends in person.
  • If we have a blog, interview writers.  If we don’t have a blog, consider beginning one.
  • Read and subscribe/purchase journals, magazines, and books – they can’t keep publishing if people don’t buy them.

If you’re a writer and you’re hesitant to get out of your comfort zone with this, remember that if we want to write for a particular magazine or publisher, we need to do our part to make sure they’re still in business!  “You need to pay for the road you want to drive on someday,” Cathy said.

It was a great talk, and if you want a more complete version, check out her essay about it on The Bird Sisters (it’s a guest post).

So . . . it was hard coming back to my blog after a few months away. Kristen Lamb has taught us WANAs not to center a blog around writing, or we’ll only draw other writers to it.  But I wasn’t thrilled with the lack of focus, so I’ve been thinking about what I really want to write about and who I’d like to be my audience.

It really comes down to telling stories.  Stories of my life, yes, but also stories that I’ve read and stories that I’m writing. I’d like people to come away from my blog post having enjoyed a story I’ve told, or adding a book to their own To-Be-Read list, or with a tip on writing their own story.

So I’ve been changing the look of the blog.  New header picture (did anyone notice?), new logline that will probably morph into something else, and I’ve pulled all my Jen’s Writing Desk posts back into this one.  I’ll still write about crazy, wonderful, mixed-up life, but look for book reviews, writing tips, and other literature-oriented semi-wittiness, too.  And the new Sunday Funnies, ‘cuz I just couldn’t resist. (You can thank Myndi Shafer’s Quick Giggles for that.)

So…the question of the day:  how do you feel about literary citizenship? What do you do to encourage and support writers? And what do you really think about my new header?

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7 Responses to Literary Citizenship – Pay It Forward

  1. Morgan says:

    I do enjoy your new header though I don’t know what the old one looked like. I love books and bookshelves. It seems that it is a time for reviewing what we are doing and what we need to do because a lot of what you are talking about rings for me as well. It has come to my attention that I need to be leaving reviews for books that I have purchased and that I have enjoyed. I am putting forth a better effort in that area. I also have been looking at my blogs and how to consolidate them. I will be working on that in the next month. I agree that we can’t have only a writing blog that is only going to attract writers. What is interesting is I only began that blog to have a place to check in with my Row80 writer group. Now I spend most of my blogging time there neglecting my other two.

    I look forward to checking back and seeing how things progress on your blog.

    Morgan recently posted..Journey to Me and a Row80 Check InMy Profile

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Hi, Morgan. I’m glad the post clicked with you. I love talking about stories in any form, just need to think about doing it for my blog instead of sitting here wondering what to post and why i can’t just work on my book. Or read another story! I need to add an ROW80 update at the bottom of the next one and get going on that, too, but I’ve been trying to keep the pressure off. Hah! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Hi Jen,
    I love the new header -definitely a bookish site and one for all things literary. I enjoyed the post -it’s a good way of looking at things. I subscribe to Writers magazine (don’t know if it’s just in the UK) and look forward to getting my monthly quota of writing tips, inspiration and competitions. I guess I’m contributing to the circle of literary life. I buy books of course and I post comments on other book lovers blogs as well as having contacted the odd writer to tell them how great their new book is. And it’s a great feeling to interact in this way and a very positive thing to do. Reaching out to others who are essentially strangers, is a little scary for some but in the world of blogging, it’s perfectly acceptable practice and probably the only way a blogger will make friends and begin to connect with others. We have to become extroverts in cyberspace.

    Best wishes

  3. Like your new header – I’m always attracted by anything “bookish” and your title also catches the eye. Also like the “Literary Citizenship” concept. When it comes to finding out about people, I try to emulate my Grandfather. He wasn’t a writer, but he loved to meet people and simply by asking a question or two and then really listening could come away with their life histories. I’m fairly new to blogging but I’ve found it a great way to connect, and the various blogger awards floating around are great ways to not only find out more about fellow bloggers but also to encourage new bloggers whose writing you want to share.

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Hi, Helen. What a great inspiration in your grandfather – ask a few questions and then LISTEN. Something I’m working on, but I need to get better at. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. “You need to pay for the road you want to drive on someday,” –I like that quote, it’s very interesting and making me think. Thinking is quite a feat for me in the late afternoon! 🙂 I think telling stories is a great idea. I like how you’ve got real life in your blog title–and you can’t beat books for an image!
    Coleen Patrick recently posted..The Freedom to Express Our Frolicking EnergyMy Profile

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      I love that quote too, which might be why it’s in bold caps in my notes! And thanks for the thoughts on the new header. I like the “real life” in the title, too – can never get away from real life! The other one I’ve been tossing around since putting that one up is “Surrounded by Story.” What’cha think?