Cathy Day’s principles of Literary Citizenship

LitCit

Sometimes I talk about these principles at writer-type gatherings.

Cross Post Alert: I published some initial thoughts and principles about literary citizenship, in March 2011 over at The Bird Sisters, writer Rebecca Rasmussen’s blog dedicated to artists and writers. I got a lot of my ideas from this post on the Brevity blog.

Literary Citizenship

I’ve been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years now, and here’s something I’ve observed: what brings most people to the creative writing classroom or the writing conference isn’t simply the desire to “be a writer,” but rather (or also) the desire to be a part of a literary community.
Deep down, we know that not everyone who signs up for the class or the conference will become a traditionally published writer. Well, so what? What if they become agents, editors, publishers, book reviewers, book club members, teachers, librarians, readers, or parents of all of the above?

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What is Literary Citizenship?

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Advice to an Aspiring Author on How to Publish Your Book

by Shannon Cain

1.) Write well. Pursue this goal for about 10 or 20 years.

2.) Tend to your literary citizenship:

  • Read. A lot.
  • Subscribe to literary magazines.
  • Buy books. Review them, and publish the reviews.
  • Teach.
  • Celebrate the achievements of your colleagues. Champion their work.
  • Share your power.
  • Donate to small presses. Volunteer. Join a governing board.
  • Practice humility.
  • In workshop, be patient and kind and truthful.
  • Attend talks and conferences. Listen hard.
  • Mentor a new writer. Be mentored.
  • Be a good friend to other writers. Keep generosity in your heart.

3.) Realize that literary citizenship makes you a better writer. Know that the more you give, the more you get back. Forget about publishing. Just write. And give.

Shannon Cain’s story collection, The Necessity of Certain Behaviors, won the 2011 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. She is a manuscript consultant and teaches fiction in the MFA program at Bennington College. This advice appeared in the newsletter for Kore Press. Leslie Pietryzk noticed how awesome it was and blogged about it at Work-in-Progress.