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:
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.
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.
Austin Hayden discovers Scott McClanahan. That’s definitely something worth writing about.
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.
There’s something about the term itself—Literary Citizenship—that seems to get through to writers (old or young), makes a lightbulb go off over their head.
I know it had that effect on me in 2008 the first time I heard it.
And that’s important.
As self-helpy as it sounds, becoming a writer is about figuring out what makes your lightbulb go off, finding the quotes or concepts to write on your 3×5 cards and pin above your writing desk.
Raymond Carver said:
I have some three-by-five cards on the wall now. ‘Fundamental accuracy of statement is the one sole morality of writing.’ Ezra Pound….I have a three-by-five card up there with this fragment of a sentence from a story by Chekhov: ‘…and suddenly everything became clear to him.’ I find these words filled with wonder and possibility.
What aphorisms or maxims or quotations have helped you the most? Do you keep them in your head, scrawled on the wall, post-it-noted to your laptop?
Tell me about them.
Here’s the reason I’m asking.
Tonight in my Literary Citizenship class, we’re discussing Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life and Austin Kleon’s Steal like an Artist.
Honestly, I don’t use this kind of book in my creative writing classes nearly as often as I should, the kind of book that starts a conversation about creativity, process, the writer’s life, etc.
Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and one of my favorites, Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write: A Book about Art Independence and Spirit.
I remember well the lessons of Bird by Bird.
- The one-inch picture frame.
- It’s okay to write a shitty first draft.
I remember well the lessons of If You Want to Write.
- Know that you have talent, are original, and have something important to say.
- Know that it is good to work. Work with love, and think of liking it when you do it. It’s is easy and interesting. It is a privilege. There is nothing hard about it but your anxious vanity and fear of failure.
Here are the aphorisms in Carolyn See’s, Making a Literary Life
- Keep it to yourself.
- What’s your material?
- A thousand words a day.
- Charming notes.
- Pretend to be a writer.
- Hang out with people who support your work.
- Do some magic.
- Make rejection a process.
Here are the aphorisms in Austin Kleon’s, Steal like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative
- Steal like an artist.
- Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
- Write the book you want to read.
- Use your hands.
- Side projects and hobbies are important.
- The secret: do good work and share it with people.
- Geography is no longer our master.
- Be nice. The world is a small town.
- Be boring. It’s the only way to get work done.
- Creativity is subtraction.
Here’s one I use a lot, both in my teaching and my writing: “Only trouble is interesting.” Janet Burroway.
What are your favorites?