Can I get 100 AWP members to vote in this election? HOW ABOUT 1000?

AWP is huge. 60% of this enormous community needs to vote. Let's do it.

AWP is huge. 60% of this enormous community needs to vote. Let’s do it.

Cathy Day here. If you teach creative writing at an AWP-member school, pay attention. I know you’re busy, but take a minute and vote in the AWP election. President Steve Heller spells it out here:

“We must muster a quorum to address our association’s regular lack of a quorum. Perhaps this is the inevitable quandary of having an association of independent thinkers, a corporation of writers and teachers.”

Translation: because AWP has gotten so big, its governance system needs updated. But to make a change, 60% of members have to vote.

Better translation, from AWP board member Anna Leahy:

Got that? If you don't vote, lawyers will get AWP's money instead of writers. That's the best reason yet, people!

Got that? If you don’t vote, lawyers will get AWP’s money instead of writers. That’s the best reason yet, people!

60%! That’s going to take a big push, people.

I voted a few weeks ago, but this thing’s not going to fly unless I can get–I don’t know–100 other people to vote. And they get people to vote.

So: let’s use social media to do some good and start bugging people!

Who’s eligible to vote?

  • program directors of institutional member programs (like my boss Mark Neely, who directs Ball State’s creative writing program)
  • directors of WC&C member programs (like the director of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference)
  • faculty at institutional member programs (like me and half my Facebook friends)
  • independent members who have joined at non-student rates

So: not students.

To check your membership status, visit My AWP Account.

Go here to vote.

Another good reason to vote (other than this One-Time Quorum-Because-Getting-a-Quorum-Regularly-is-Impossible thing) I know two people who are running as representatives, my BSU colleague Jill Christman (read her kick-butt statement here, even if you don’t live in the Midwest) and my pedagogy buddy Anna Leahy who teaches at Chapman (read her awesome statement here).

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.

Thanks, and may the force be with you. 


How to Talk to Writers

"Stay in touch!"

“Stay in touch!”

A key principle of literary citizenship is that writers should build their community and expand their circles.

Not “network.” Not “schmooze.”

In her book Living a Literary Life, Carolyn See advises writers to send one “charming note” a day to someone in the publishing field—a writer, editor, publisher, etc. The point isn’t to ask for anything, but rather to just make a connection. These days, thanks to social media, it’s never been so easy to make those kinds of connections.

I require my students to friend or follow or email someone five times a week. Friending on Facebook, liking an Author Page, following on Twitter: these are “passive” acts. But at least once a week, they’re supposed to actually say something to somebody. Such as “I enjoy your work,” or “You published one of my favorite books,” etc.

Read the rest of this entry »


Austin Hayden discovers Scott McClanahan. That’s definitely something worth writing about.


On Writers Without Websites

yoga_mat_1

[This is cross posted here and on my blog, The Big Thing.]

My husband and I have started a little website business, of sorts. We’re not looking to build or expand, mind you. We have one client, my yoga teacher/massage therapist. I’ll call her Violet. She runs a studio out of her lovely historic home. I go there a few times a week and do yoga in her dining room and get acupressure massages in a little room off the kitchen. Violet’s been doing this work for over 30 years, and working with her has made a big difference in my life.

The Findability of Violet

I only found Violet because a friend of mine, Nancy, introduced me. I would never have found Violet on my own. There would have been no way to find her.

See, I knew Nancy did yoga, but I didn’t know where. So I Googled “Yoga Muncie.” This made me very depressed.

Go ahead. Try it.

One day I was walking home from the bus station and saw a sign in a storefront window of women doing yoga postures.

A yoga studio?! Three blocks from my house?! Hooray!

But as I got closer, I saw that the sign was advertising “the Christian alternative to yoga.”

Really? Really!?

This made me even more depressed.

But finally, I ran into Nancy and said, “Hey, I had back surgery. I’ve gotta get back into yoga.” And so she took me to one of Violet’s classes. I don’t know how I would have found Violet’s house otherwise, or known when to show up, etc.

See, Violet doesn’t have a website.

She does have a phone number and an email address, but obviously, since she’s teaching yoga classes or giving massages all day long, you have to leave a message.

When are her yoga classes? You can’t look it up on her website, so you wait for her to call or email you back. Which she does of course, as promptly as she can.

She’ll add you to her email list, and that’s the only way for you to find out that she can’t do Wednesday’s class this week, but she’ll be back next week, and next month, she’s having a yoga retreat, etc.

What I’m trying to say is that I desperately needed Violet to get a website and start communicating with me more effectively. But this is a hard thing to say to the woman who’s palpating your psoas muscle.

Bartering

But one day, I finally did it. Shortly after creating the website for my Literary Citizenship class, I asked her if she’d be interested in letting my husband and I make her a website in exchange for some massages and yoga classes?

She said yes.

We met with her and got a sense of what she needed her website to do. The different hats she wears. The big picture. We went home, and I told my husband, “You start and I’ll take a look at it.”

A few days later, he showed me the theme he’d picked out.

“Why would you pick that theme?” I asked.

“It’s good for images,” he said.

“Exactly.”

“Isn’t that good?”

“No,” I said. “You don’t go to her page to look at pictures. You want information.”

[Then we had a fight. I’ll spare you the details.]

The next day, I went through the WordPress themes and picked ones in which:

  • The name of Violet’s business would be big, prominent.
  • The navigation menu would be the first thing you saw, as if to say, “Are you here for Yoga reasons, Bodywork reasons, Food reasons, or Retreat reasons? Click here.”
  • Then you’d see Violet. Because after all, she is owner, sole proprietor, and only employee. You’d see her phone number and email address, as well as her impressive bio.
  • The next thing you’d see would be her calendar.
  • Then you’d see a Google maps widget so you’d literally know how to find her house.

I built the pages and the architecture in one hour. I’m a client. I knew exactly what someone would come to her website wanting to know.

Why did I expect my husband to know this? I have no idea.

Being a Small-Business Owner

Being a writer or artist means you’re the owner of a small business called Being Yourself.

That’s what finally got me over my technology hump, actually. My aversion to having a web presence. I thought about all the businesses that drive me crazy because they won’t adapt. The ones you can’t Google and find out when they open or where they are or what they’re like. The ones you want to recommend to your friend, but there’s no link to share, no page to like. You can’t use a credit card there. They have a sale, and you never hear about it. Everything about this business is hard, and you stop going because God help us, you need something easy.

Websites are like airports. Good ones anticipate your needs and why you’re there and route you where you need to be. They’re easy to find, easy to leave. They piss you off as little as possible. They’re aesthetically pleasing.

I told Violet not to be afraid of technology. “You’re just making it easier for more people to find you. Which means you can help more people. And that’s a good thing.”

Getting to the Point: Writers Without Websites

I know a lot of writers who won’t go online, or will only do it in very limited, very guarded ways. I keep a list of them in my head: Writers I Wish More People Knew About.

Maybe they can’t afford a website. Maybe they think social media is evil. Maybe they think they shouldn’t have to do this work, or they think they don’t have time, or maybe they simply don’t want to.

Seriously, if you know a writer nobody knows about because they’re not online, offer to help them. Show them. Barter with them.

Believe it or not, there was a time when the very idea that I needed to own cathyday.com and blog and update and Tweet filled me with rage. God, how I resented what publishers expected of me, what you, gentle reader, expected from me.

Now, I can’t imagine my life otherwise.


What did you do today to get someone else’s work discovered?

Reading in public is an act of literary citizenship

Q: Professor Day, how do I get published?

A:  Work to create a culture in which books can thrive.

Q: No, seriously. How do I get people to buy and read my work? How do I get discovered?

A: What did you do today to help get someone else’s work discovered?

This is the essence of literary citizenship. Or as Chuck Sambuchino says in  “How to Support an Author’s New Book: 11 Ideas for You,” a new post over at Writer Unboxed:

Help writers sell books. It’s that simple. Just help them and support the publishing industry. Good karma will befall you, and the hope is that others will help you in return as your big release day comes.

They are simple steps: Buy the book. Make sure it’s face-out on the bookstore shelf. Read the book in public. Request the book at your local library. Be an advocate for the book on social media, etc.

If you’re a part of the indielit world, the small press scene, these ideas and suggestions will be nothing new to you. These strategies are what have allowed the independent literary press world to explode and expand in recent years. (Go to the AWP Book Fair. You’ll see what I mean. 11,000 attendees. 650 exhibitors.)

But all authors need readers who will do these things, whether they’re publishing with a tiny micro press or the Big Five.

And all creative writing students need to know this is work they can (and should) do. 

In 1967, there were 13 creative writing programs. Today, there are more than 500. Every year, we generate thousands and thousands of graduates. We spend a lot of time and energy helping them to self-identify as writers. We are fools if we fail to show them how to self-identify as literary citizens, book buyers, lifelong readers, and lovers of books.

We’re creating a small army. Imagine what good work they could do.


Things I Should Have Said in Class Tonight about Blogging

Things I Should Have Said in Class Tonight about Blogging

I’m amazed that it actually took me two years to figure out that I should blog about teaching. Like, duh? I was this person walking around with a big sign on my forehead. Everyone else saw this sign, everyone understood this sign’s essential truthfulness, but I couldn’t see it.


An Interview with Vouched Books founder Christopher Newgent

Ball State’s own literary citizen: Christopher Newgent, founder of Vouched, talks to Adam Robinson.