Books change lives

change livesIn case you were thinking that I was teaching students how to be “hype-machines” in my Literary Citizenship class, check this out from my student James Gartner:

Literary citizenship isn’t just about engaging people who already love to read or write and talk about books, but also about expanding the literary world. Books can change lives and influence attitudes for good or ill.

Read the rest of his excellent round-up post here.

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Can I get 100 AWP members to vote–again?

yopp

Let’s practice some genuine literary citizenship, people. Let’s do something positive.

AWP is this close to having a quorum. They are at 54%. They need to get to 60%. By next week!

Incentive for them: If they get to 60%, they save beaucoup bucks in legal fees, and they’re better equipped to serve you.

Incentive for you: You can win a Kindle Fire or Paperwhite. Plus, you know, making a difference and all that.

Just go here and vote.

Even if you voted last year–the last time I tried to help in this effort–you have to vote again!

How should you vote? Vote yes or no. Doesn’t matter. Just vote.

Who should vote? Every freaking body. Tenure-track faculty. Non-tenure track. Individual members.

What are you voting for? Here’s the explanation from my friend and colleague, Jill Christman, member of the AWP board.

We are closer than we have *ever* been to reaching the quorum necessary to reform AWP’s governance and enter this millennium with pens poised.  AWP’s current articles of incorporation and bylaws have many vestigial remnants from the 1960s and 1970s, when AWP was a much smaller organization. We need new bylaws and articles to help AWP to better serve a more diverse and bigger association. Regional representation of the programs and faculty will continue in the new system of governance, with the regions expanding from five to six groups of membership. Each of the new Region Councils shall have a representative on the board, as the regions have now.

The last call for votes brought us up a couple percentage points, but we’re not to 60% yet, and we need to get there before the end of this semester.

You don’t have to vote “yes.”  You don’t even have to vote “no.”  You simply have to register your presence.  Let us know you were there. Remember, the voting cycle started anew in Fall 2013, so if you voted *before* that, do it again now.

Remember the final pages of Horton Hears a Who​?  The mayor tearing up those fabulous Seussian staircases in Whoville with his megaphone in search of that single shirker?  That final, critical, town-saving “Yopp”?  Go find the Jo-Jos in your program and encourage them to put down their yo-yos and vote. We can do this.

After you vote:

  • Leave a comment here.
  • Tweet “I voted in the AWP election. I’m a #litcitizen” and I’ll see it.
  • Share this link on Facebook and rouse YOUR friends into a voting frenzy.
  • Let’s do something positive.

A Better Place For Readers

These are excellent questions: What are some books that you needed and didn’t know about? What are some books that you had that helped you figure things out? And how are you making sure that other people know how great they are?

Brittany Means

When we talk about Literary Citizenship, it seems like we say a lot about making the world a better place for writers, and getting people interested in books. Which they definitely should be. But maybe we should start talking about how to make the world a better place for readers too. Let me explain. As a kid, reading was such an important part of my life. I read on the toilet, at recess, when I should have been sleeping, during church.

ImageOne series that I loved with all of my heart was A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. What made it so great was that Violet Baudelaire, the oldest, was a girl like me and she was the one who was generally in charge, saving the day, fixing everything. As a kid who was also, incidentally, a girl, and someone not very in control of the events in her life…

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Weekly Experiment: Outward Only

Every week in my Literary Citizenship class, I’m giving my students a new weekly “experiment” or intention.

This week it’s “Outward Only.”

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Social media doesn’t have a reputation as a force for good. A lot of people think that it makes us self-absorbed, etc. And this is true, don’t you think? It’s hard not to use SM to celebritize ourselves, to share our oh so amazing thoughts, to brag on ourselves oh so humbly. Social media does cause us to turn inward. So let’s try something different for a week: lets use it to focus outward instead.

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For the next week, use social media ONLY to help others. For one week, you are trying to make the world a better place for books. Share links. Praise others. Thank others. Talk about books you’re reading, your favorite writers or magazines.

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Nothing about yourself unless it helps someone or something. Outward focus only. Nothing inward.

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Every time you engage in this activity, use the hashtag #litcitizen.

It’s like #fridayreads.

Actually, that’s exactly what FridayReads is: Literary Citizenship.

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Join us. (And please share this post widely. Thank you!)


Form a Blog Circle

I gave the Discovery 2013 interns some “Summer Homework.”

Why?

Many of these students were in my Literary Citizenship class this spring, but some were not, and so we’ve decided to spend the 10 weeks leading up to the conference doing some training via “homework.”

Every Friday by 3 PM, they’ll engage in something I call “Charming Notes.” It’s a version of what Carolyn See prescribes in her book Making a Literary Life. They’ll be required to friend or follow or engage with five people, writers, magazines, agents, or publishers in order to expand their literary horizons. (We did this in my class during Spring 2013, and it worked wonders.) One of those five must be an “active” note–meaning they have to say something to the person, comment on a blog, send an email or message, not just passively follow someone.

Every other Friday by 3 PM, they’ll post to their blog. I’ve told them that these posts can be:

  • journal entries
  • book reviews/what they’re reading
  • commentary about articles they read while preparing for MWW
  • interviews with writers
  • a roundup of links to helpful articles or information
  • fearful questions and anxieties
  • a response to someone else’s blog post
  • I’ve recommended that they use my blog Literary Citizenship for inspiration, esp. the links in the right-hand column.

I’ve warned them: “You can blog about or share your own writing, but primarily, the goal is to be interested in what other people are doing, not what you’re doing.”

They must read ALL of each week’s posts (5 or 6) and comment on them. In a sense, they will “workshop” each other’s posts, but in a supportive, helpful way. Such as, if they think the post could be formatted more attractively or they catch a typo, they should tell the person in our private FB group (only we see that). But if they want to engage in a conversation with the post, they’ll do that in the comments section.

Basically, I’ve created a blog circle.

Ultimately, I want each intern to find the community they need and blog about whatever they need to blog about, but I also want them to form a community among themselves.

The internet is about circles and communities and connections. Our job is to find the right ones to plug into. 

A metaphor: going online at first is like being a boat drifting in the middle of the ocean. You write into a void. No one can find you. You’re a needle in a haystack. You’re not even a ping on anybody’s radar.

What you have to do is find some other boats and tie yourselves together. Not just any boats. The right boats. Boats like you.

Hang out with them. Talk. Learn. Eat. Plus, you’re more visible to search parties.

Who’s in your blog circle? If you don’t have one, think about how to find one.

An example: I just proposed a panel for AWP 2014 in Seattle on teaching novel writing. The first people who came to my mind were people I’ve met via social media who share my interest. John Vanderslice comments on my blog “The Big Thing” quite often because he teaches a similar class. Then there’s Roxane Gay and Jon Billman, with whom I talk about the subject on Twitter from time to time.

They sent me Charming Notes, or I sent Charming Notes to them.

That’s the benefit of being online, I think: that when particular opportunities arise, names come to mind.


Bringing New York Publishing to Muncie, Indiana

Kiley Neal, Sara Rae Rust, and Kam McBride at the first meeting of the Discovery 2013 Internship, which will give 11 Ball State students the chance to work directly with literary agents, authors, and other publishing professionals. Boo ya!

Kiley Neal, Sara Rae Rust, and Kam McBride at the first meeting of the Discovery 2013 Internship, which will give 11 Ball State students the chance to work directly with literary agents, authors, and other publishing professionals. Boo ya!

Thanks to a grant from the Discovery Group, I’ve hired 11 Ball State students for internships at this summer’s Midwest Writers Workshop. I want to tell you about it, so mosey on over to The Big Thing to learn more. They will be teaching literary citizenship to others. It’s really amazing.


Playing the Digital-Word-of-Mouth Game

The infographic in question.

A few days ago at BookRiot, the writer Andrew Shaffer asked the question, “What do readers owe authors?” He was responding to a much-discussed infographic that’s been making the rounds. Shaffer notes that Amazon’s recent purchase of Goodreads highlights the importance of “digital word-of-mouth” and how authors and publishers need to do “everything in their power to increase the chatter surrounding their own books on social media.”

He cites these familiar examples:

I’ve seen readers tweet to writers that they enjoyed their books, only to have the writer respond with a “small request” to leave their thoughts on Amazon in the form of a review. Snider even suggests that readers “download and print the infographic to use a checklist” when buying books, so they don’t accidentally forget to like, tag, tweet, share, or review their new purchases. When did being a reader begin to feel like such a chore?

Since I’m basically teaching a class that encourages students to be “literary citizens” and directly participate in book culture by “helping” authors in these exact ways, I’ve given this matter a great deal of thought.

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