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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