Lit-Cit; a no-brainer
I’m doing laundry. I hope I have time for a haircut before my flight to L.A and AWP, baby. Excited, to say the least. Before entering the MFA world, I had no idea about writer’s conferences, let alone AWP. What’s the point? Shouldn’t all true writing be done in a garret or a remote log cabin far from the bustle locust?
In our last fiction workshop, led by Lori Ostlund (read her, her writing f-ing rocks) we discussed literary citizenship. Another new concept. And lickety-split, here I am riding the catch-phrase bandwagon, ticket purchased from Ms. Google, into definitions, debates and diatribes. This search lead me back to AWP, there will be a workshop on Saturday by Lori A. May author of The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship and The Writing Life. The tenants are surprisingly obvious: Write charming notes to authors, check. Interview literary folks you respect, check. Read journals and subscribe, check. Write reviews, check. Buy books and rave about them, check (Aaron Reeder’s first book DAWN, just out by Orange Monkey Press, also f-ing rocks).
So why does a quick search result in so many articles against literary citizenship? I don’t know. Is everything polemic? Because saying something loud and wrong sells? If I write blue, someone will take offence and write pink, and off we go into politics. Daily, I’m blown away by no-brainers like: taking profit out of healthcare or allowing women to make their own decisions about their body or walking around with a loaded gun… I can’t believe these are actual issues. Have we not evolved? But I guess we are all allowed to pursue our own happiness and that’s more important. There is no right, only loud. My fact is your fallacy. Your fallacy drives me up the wall, but I’ll listen. Everyone has the right to hold floor.
I’ve become a literary citizen without even knowing I had applied for a passport.
It feels like that 13th donut that comes with an MFA.
Is engaging with community essential? Yes, unavoidable, for a writer.
Does it detract time and energy from other pursues? I just spent the last thirty minutes drafting 344 words, and perhaps a baker’s dozen might read this post, if I’m lucky. I could have been plugging away at my earth-shattering, heart-wrenching novel, perfecting that epic villanelle, querying agents with honey-dipped-rose-blossoms, chiselling stories with tooth and ear-wax, but I’m not. So what am I doing? Am I trying to build a readership? Attempting to help other MFAers? Doing a prose crossword while my clothes dry?
To be able to afford to attend AWP and eat and drink, I had to apply to the department for funding. I had to spend time not writing, not thinking about characters and plot. Proposals, recommendations, budgets, all take time—the conference itself will probably also plough into writing time, just like those obligatory classes where we all find ourselves asking why do I have to take this? Why am I here? I just want to write. The answer I always give whining students is that at least we’re not digging coal. We’re properly ensconced in air-controlled classrooms, a conference-centre ballrooms, a froth-blaring coffee-shops. We’re online and with fast fingertips and connections.
Applying for grants and scholarships and attending conferences is business. Just like submissions and publishing and taxes, so learn to love it almost as much as the actually writing. Or bang your drum in isolation and count the years before you tire of your own tune.
Have I done my 1000 words today? Not yet. Do these words count? No. But my laundry is done and I can’t wait to see L.A. again and meet new people from all walks of life that have bought the literary-ticket and inhabitant a common dominion. No one can build walls around this sovereignty.
Your passport has been issued, just by reading this, even if you didn’t apply.