Be an Open Node: Blake Butler on Literary Citizenship

August 14, 2008 § 30 Comments

Blake Butler, fictionist, blogged in a most excellent fashion recently about the need to be a positive karmic force in the world of literary citizenship.  What comes around, goes around, he reminds us.  Here’s an excerpt and a link to the full (albeit, oddly titled) post:


Here are some ways you can do more, outside of spending $$$.

(1) When you read something you like, in any form, write the author and tell them. You don’t have to gush or take forever. Just tell them you saw it, you read it, you liked it. It’s a supportive feeling. It’s better than not saying anything.

(2) Write reviews of books you like. Short review/long review, whatever. It’s not that hard. It takes a little work to think about it clearly, but what goes around comes around. You can’t expect to be recognized for your work if you aren’t recognizing others for their work. Open the doors.

(3) Interview writers. New writers or well known writers. You like somebody’s work a lot? Ask to do an interview with them. It doesn’t take a ton of effort. Write up some questions. Let them talk. Spread the word. Talk. Say. Get. Eat.

I have done this for years and have made friends by doing it, have ‘opened doors’ so to speak: in other words, by helping others, you are also helping yourself. If spreading others’ work isn’t enough in your mind, think of it as ‘connections.’ (I hope you don’t have to think about it in this way to justify it because that is sad, but, well, some people…) Things often can/might happen as a result of these things, on both ends, even if they are just small things, small things add up, small things can be good things, haven’t you read Carver, momentum.

Energy. Power cock.

(4) If you have free time, start an online journal. Start a blog, a review, an anything. If you don’t know how I’ll help you. Say stuff. Mean what you say.

(5) If you have a journal already, respond faster. Pay attention to your inbox. When someone asks a question that feels dumb or unnecessary maybe, answer it anyway. Don’t be a fuck. Yeah, we’re all busy. Yeah, things take time. Work to take less time. It’s okay to move forward at a wicked pace. (And yes, as an editor, I too struggle to adhere to this advice, but I struggle at least, everyone struggles, but you can always struggle more. I am so tired of seeing journals with 200+ days response time, why do you even exist? Does it really take that long to like something? People should stop sending to these places. Seriously. Just stop sending.

Yeah I know the flood comes strong. Stand in the flood. (Me too.))

Seriously, Conjunctions/Ninth Letter/Subtropics: these 3 journals get just as much work coming in as anybody, and they all respond often in less than a month.

To everyone: Push the fucking envelope even harder than you do. Be an open node.

All About “Winkles” and Other Rumors

April 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

0x600Author Blake Butler recently spread One Hundred Literary Rumors over on the Vice blog.  Apparently, a few of our nonfiction brethren are a little wackier than we knew them to be. Or at least according to Butler:

— Though he can see fine, Michael Martone prefers to read braille.

— Steve Almond’s childhood nickname was “Winkles.”

— Cheryl Strayed suffered a three-week phase where she could eat nothing but chopped walnuts.

— Lorrie Moore won’t play Monopoly unless she can be both the banker and the iron.

Butler offers up lots of other juicy tidbits about our literary heroes and heroines, but there are many that he has missed.  What (friendly, fictional) rumors do you think are missing about our prominent nonfiction brethren? Drop them below in the comments, if they aren’t too slanderous.

 

On Genuine Literary Citizenship

September 26, 2011 § 5 Comments

We’ve talked in the past about literary citizenship: the importance of giving back to the world of journals, books, and other literary venues if you hope eventually to thrive within that world. Author/editor Matt Bell, interviewed by Ploughshares, reminds us again, clearly and articulately:

I think the big mistake most writers make is thinking that becoming involved in your community is something you do after your book is published. Instead, I urge writers to become involved as early as possible, in a genuine, non-book-related way. It’s always a little off-putting when a person suddenly becomes interested in book review venues only once they have their own book. In a similar way, it seems false to only be interested in independent bookstores when you’re trying to get your own book stocked. The better solution is, as a part of your daily work as a writer, support the communities you wish to be a part of, by reading books, writing reviews, promoting other writers or bookstores or whatever in your social networking. It’s a small but old truth, but the more you give, the more you will receive. And this isn’t any kind of slimy networking. This is every writer’s responsibility, and the writers who create the most buzz for the good work of others will find that same energy waiting for them, when their own excellent book finally comes out.

Bell’s full interview is well worth reading.

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