Sunday, January 13, 2013

8 Reasons to Be a Better Literary Citizen

If you follow me on Twitter, you may already be aware that this semester (my last!) I’m taking a class on Literary Citizenship. In short, being a literary citizen entails giving back to the writing and publishing world in whatever ways you can: buying books and reviewing them, interviewing authors, engaging in conversations with other writers and readers via social media, etc. A good quote:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” --Dale Carnegie

Frankly, the best thing about taking this class is that it is forcing me into a lot of interactions that I am not comfortable with and would never seek out on my own. Reading the syllabus made my heart drop into the pit of my stomach. This is, in many ways, an excellent thing. It’s only by pushing our boundaries that we see how far we can really go.

Without further ado, here are eight reasons why I think that I (and all the rest of you writers!) should take a class like this, or at least make an effort towards becoming a better literary citizen:

1. Great Readings
There are seven books on the syllabus, authored by Chuck Sambuchino, Jennifer Egan, Carolyn See, Elena Passarello (who is coming to BSU!), Austin Kleon, Eugene Cross, and Marcus Wicker. I’ve read about half the Sambuchino book, Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author, and already I’m learning a lot. This will be the third time I’ve studied Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, and I am 100% okay with it. Read it and you’ll understand.

2. Geeking Out With Others > Geeking Out Alone
I am a nerd, and I know what it is like to interact with people who share my passions. Just like Harry Potter and Star Wars, there is a writing community out there that is more than happy to talk shop, recommend books/authors, offer feedback, and (on occasion) swap rejection stories over email so the other person can't see you sobbing into a glass of wine. It always feels good to be a part of something bigger.

3. Awesome Writerly People Everywhere
Not only will I be interacting with writers online, I get to spend three hours of every week in a room full of them, and all of them are going through the same chaotic trial-and-error transformation into social media butterflies that I am. It’s like group therapy. Even though I don’t know any of them very well, I’m hoping that will change as the semester progresses, and it would be nice to stay connected as we move forward with our professional lives.

4. Required Weekly Blogging
I suck at blogging regularly. I know it. You know it. Now my grade depends on it, and I’d really hate to fail a class after making it to my final semester with a 3.8. Again, I’m hoping this will become a good habit that lasts long after the class ends, because I know it's important beyond my academic career.

Ahaha, philosophy jokes are the funniest. I promise.

5. I Am Often Confused by the Interwebz
I just created a Twitter account and this blog at the beginning of last semester, because Cathy Day said it was a good idea back in my noveling class and she usually gives A+ advice. I’m still shaky at best with my Twitter etiquette (Twittiquette?) and don’t even get me started on Blogger; I’m lucky I’m even able to post. Now I have my own domain name and the implications terrify me. Any opportunity to learn more about navigating the vast and murky terrain of the internet is welcome.

6. Another Step Towards Conquering Social Ineptitude
If you know me, you know that my favorite adjective to describe the depth of my shyness is “paralyzing.” Since this class is forcing me to be a part of the literary community and actually-- oh God-- say things to people I don’t know, hopefully it will form good social media habits and help me be more open to communication.

This, like 95% of Socially Awkward Penguin memes, is totally me.

7. Writing and Reading Saved My Life
I’m going to get sappy for a moment here, so either skip to the next point or pull out your hanky. I firmly believe that I only survived middle school because of reading and writing. I escaped into books when life was too much, and I wrote when I felt like my notebook was the only one listening. I have always felt that I owe books my life, and though things are a million times better for me now, that dedication helps me to keep pushing when I just want to lay down my pen and give up. This class is all about giving back to writers and publishers. You can see why that would be important to me.

8. It’s the Final Countdown
I have one semester left in my college career. This blows my mind. Even though I’ve been writing novels, querying agents/publishers, submitting stories, reading voraciously, studying the craft, and thinking of myself as a writer for probably seven or eight years, I don’t feel ready to step into the world and hang out my shingle just yet. This class, and the connections/relationships forged through it, will help me form a network to fall back on when I get lost or find my courage flagging.

To follow us as we sally forth into the unknown (and to find the blogs of my comrades-in-arms), check out the class blog. You can also keep track of us on Twitter through our hashtag (#litcitizen), by following our fearless leader (@daycathy), or to a lesser degree by following me (@KJNealWriter). Any thoughts on what it means to be a good literary citizen? I’d love to hear them!

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