As I sip a dark red vanilla rooibos in a Seattle teahouse and type these words, I am feeling rather smug. Today is Hug an Author Day. Already, I have hugged fourteen dead writers (via Facebook, of course. I didn’t exhume them or anything. That’s just creepy). I have also hugged five living writers, among them three colleagues here at Tweetspeak whose work I ardently admire, even though I don’t tell them so very often. And it’s only noon.
I also, I confess, feel annoyed. I am struggling to compose a post for Tania Runyan, one of those writers I tweet-hugged. Goodness knows I’ve had plenty of time to think about it: she asked me over a month ago to write something along the lines of Cathy Day’s post about literary citizenship and how Tweetspeak fosters it.
I have read Cathy’s post half a dozen times now, and really? I think she says it all there, and better than I can. I haven’t lived long enough as a literary citizen. I mean, I buy books, and I hug authors (but only once a year), and I do the occasional blog interview. But I’m not living la vida literaria, you know? At least, not the way she envisions it.
Here in all its g(l)ory detail is how she envisions it:
1. Write “charming notes” to authors.
As in, every time you like a book, tell the author. Via Facebook or Twitter or email or even old-fashioned snail mail to the publisher if you have to. I think this is wonderful advice—I’d surely like to be on the receiving end of a charming note or two (or a hundred).
I also think it’s daunting. What to say to Jeanne Birdsall? Or Tracy K. Smith? Not to worry, Day says. Don’t gush; don’t try to be smart. Just tell them you liked what they wrote. Hence my five e-hugs today.
Now this, I’ve done. (An interview with L.L. Barkat landed me my position here at Tweetspeak, in fact!) Day says writers love to talk, so let them. Then submit what they said to a print mag or online site. Or, if you have a blog, publish it there. Good for the writer, good for you.
We do this here at Tweetspeak, in a way, though a lot of our “interviews” take the form of Journey into Poetry posts, where readers get a glimpse into the lives of poets. (Perhaps you’d like to follow up with one of those poets and get a “real” interview?)
3. Talk up books you love and write reviews.
Tell your friends and acquaintances. Write a review on GoodReads and Amazon and B&N. Terry Whalin suggests tweeting the permalink to your Amazon review to help spread the word about the book.
You can also write reviews on your blog. Eric Metaxas is out of my league for an interview, but I can write a review of his book and tweet a link to it. Which I did, and which he retweeted, driving an insane amount of traffic to my blog. Reviews of books you love have a way of returning to you ten, thirty, even a hundredfold.
Also, there are a lot of books out there. As Day points out, readers need trusted filters to know which books are worth their time. Like Tweetspeak’s book review guru Glynn Young, you too can become that trusted filter.
4. If you want to be published in a journal, support that journal.
Subscribe, for heaven’s sake. Or if it’s a free online journal (like, um, Tweetspeak), talk it up. Tweet about it. Charm your Facebook friends with links to interesting articles. Don’t be one of Dan Chaon’s “lame-o people” who doesn’t read journals and then cries that no one wants your work. (And no, I have never been that writer. Ever. Well, maybe once, or twice. Maybe.)
5. If you want to publish books, buy books.
Period. Day says to forget the raging controversy over where to buy them. Just buy them, okay? She reminds writers that books and journal subscriptions are a tax-deductible expense.
I would add, if you’re on a limited income (who isn’t?) and can only buy a few new books, choose ones by living writers. Save your used-bookstore purchases for best-sellers and dead people. The living writers need your money more than the dead ones.
Also, you know that Tweetspeak has a sister press, right? And all our books’ writers are currently alive. I’m just saying.
6. Be passionate about writing because passion is infectious.
If you live in a literary desert, as Day does, create an oasis. Start a home library and lend books to friends, colleagues, the neighbor’s kids. Start a book club or writing group. Volunteer to organize a series of readings at your local library.
She even suggests taking a photo of your bookshelves and posting it on Facebook. Above all, she says again, buy books. “Commit to buying 20 books a year every year for the rest of your life.”
I confess, reading Day, I felt a tad (okay, a lot) overwhelmed. When exactly am I supposed to have time to do all this stuff? Then I realized, I don’t have to do all of these things all the time. A charming note here, a blog interview there, a review on Amazon or GoodReads every now and again. And a book or two every month. That’s not much. In fact, that’s what I’m already doing.
What about you? Simply by being part of Tweetspeak, you’re helping to create a more literary world. This is a place where writers can come and play with words, without fear of “failing” (whatever that means). We post reviews and interviews, provide links to great content from other sources, and spotlight both established and emerging poets through Every Day Poems. It’s a great place to launch your own literary citizenship.
Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few more authors to hug today. Perhaps, you, too, have an author you’d like to hug?
Photo by Tracy P, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year