Being a Literary Citizen by Julie Dill
Recently, I was introduced to the idea of literary citizenship by one of my MFA faculty members. I was so intrigued. What does it mean to be a good literary citizen? I began to think about this () and asked: what have I done in past years to support the writing and literary community? How have others supported me on the road to publication?
Some of my thoughts about being a good citizen of this community:
- Simple, but of course: buy books, and check out books from the library. Like so many, Im one with a To-Be-Read list the size of Texas. My happy place is the bookstore and I go to the library often.
- Attend conferences. I view conferences as a win-win for all involved. Writers gain valuable industry insight, and editors and agents find promising manuscripts.
- Subscribe to writing magazines and literary journals or encourage your local library to subscribe. Im a magazine/journal junkie. I cant get enough. And how cool is it when you open up a lit mag and see that one of the writers is a friend?
- Serve as a judge for writing contest or book award. I have served as a judge for the Oklahoma Book Award for at least ten years. I have met wonderful people in the literary community and have read so many great books.
- Join a critique group. Ive been with my three gals for almost ten years. Word by word, page by page, were getting somewhere. Even better, theyre true friends.
- Take other writers seriously, no matter where they may be on their journey. This could be anyone. Just last weekend we celebrated my daughters fifteenth birthday. I had a carload of teenagers talking about all the things that teenagers typically talk about. One friend, seated in the passenger seat, began to ask me about my book and show some interest. Then, he says, I write too. Im a poet. I like to write song lyrics. We had a great conversation about writing.
- If your book is content appropriate, visit with young readers and writers. When I was in fourth grade, Bill Wallace came to my elementary school for an author visit. This was HUGE for me because I was a reader, and it made me realize that authors were real people. Fast-forward (ahem) twenty-five years, and I found (okay, stalked) him at a conference and showed him A Dog Called Kitty- my tattered paperback from fourth grade. Tell me this didnt make some kind of impact on me as a writer.
- Attend book signings. Billie Letts is one of my all-time favorites. I attended one of her book signings about eight years ago, and when I got to the front of the line to have my book signed I got up the nerve to say, Ive been writing. Im working on a book. When she signed my copy of her latest book, she wrote this:
I was there to support her; ironically, she supported me.
I say all this to illustrate how important community is for me, as a writer. Citizenship equals responsibility. This thriving community of writers that I am fortunate enough to be a part of is a result of a whole bunch of people taking a whole bunch of responsibility. To those people, I say thank you.