Are You a Literary Citizen?

One of the tenets of the Whidbey Writers Workshop is the concept of literary citizenship. It’s a simple concept really. Are you willing to do something to contribute to the literary world or are you in it only to get published?

Kate Gale, of Red Hen Press told us that when they exhibit at the annual AWP conference (in 2010, the  conference is being held in Denver ) 99.9% of the people who approach their tables want something. And they want it without really having pounded the pavement to earn it.

You might be ask, what does that mean—earn it? Why do I need to earn it? I’ve written a work of genius; all I need now is for someone to recognize that and publish me. Well. Perhaps. But why not think of it this way instead. What you can do for the literary world, so that when you approach potential publishers, it is not as someone asking for something but as an equal. If you take this approach, basically, you’re saying you know this is hard work, you know you need to pitch in and give to the community, not just expect to take from it.

This can be contributing to something that’s already ongoing (like helping to organize a reading series) or creating something new that benefits the literary community. For example, for a children’s writer like me, I can volunteer at an organization like 826 Seattle, a writing support center for kids. You can volunteer at your local school or library or bookstore. There’s no shortage of ideas.

Just by tapping into your skills, you can easily find something that you like to do that will also benefit the greater community. And when that happens, good stuff will follow for you.

One thought on “Are You a Literary Citizen?

  1. Sharon, I’d add the tremendous sense of satisfaction that comes with the knowledge you’ve helped someone else achieve their goals—literary or otherwise. And it’s infectious—when I mentioned the possibility of starting a reading series here in Michigan, every member of my writers group volunteered to help.


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