"I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing." - John Cage

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Literary Citizenship: Reach Out to Sustain Your Writing Process and Build Literary Community

“Literary citizenship is the importance of remembering that no one is alone in the writing world.” – Roxane Gay, Eight Questions Writers Should Ask Themselves, Writer’s Chronicle, Nov 2013

As citizens of Tahoe and the larger literary community, we are all contributing to the same big work; we are all on the same team.  One writer’s success is success for the whole community. How can you find ways to reach out and participate in order to make a difference in our communities?

Play more than one role in the community.  In a strong community, we also play the roles of volunteers, organizers, in-kind contributors, and board members. From A Good Literary Citizen, Joey Franklin, Poets and Writers, Nov/Dec 2013: “I don’t see writers as simply writers anymore.  They also inhabit these roles we used to call editor, publisher, agent, and even reader. When one goes to the AWP book fair one sees the same people on one side of the table move to the other side of the table…Working in a writing community can be a seamless existence. There is not a specialty category, not a ladder to climb.  It is a network, a hive.  It is this big work we are all contributing to, doing what little and all we can.”

Participate in literary events.  Sundance Books in Reno hosts talented speakers, salons and readings monthly.  The Literary Arts & Wine reading series presents 3 regional authors at Coffeebar the third Sunday of each month.  Attend this reading to meet other writers in Tahoe and be inspired by new work.

Network to find ways to connect and collaborate.  What goes around, comes around. Is there a nonprofit organization that shares a common value with you that you can “adopt”?  I have volunteered my coaching skills to ARC, an amazing program that teaches literacy, wilderness and leadership skills to ESL students here in Tahoe.  Stoli the Cattledog and I are also a Certified Pet Therapy team at the Truckee Elementary, working with students on reading skills each week. 

Communicate your gratitude. Focus on thankfulness. Send a note to an author you admire or a mentor who helped you this past year. Send a note to an organization or business that you admire in the community for its work in building and sustaining community.  Notice the benefits that you gain in taking these actions before any expectation of reciprocity.

Reach out to your community in order to accomplish your own goals.  As you look for opportunities to network and collaborate, ask yourself what support do you need? Where can you find it? Answer these 5 questions for your writing process. Be measurable and specific with your responses:
  1. What are your writing goals for 2016?
  2. What has worked for you so far with community and networking?
  3. What opportunities do you see in your community? How can you develop these further?
  4. Who/what can you help support?
  5. Make a list of actions/connections to make in the next year.

One person can make a difference! Supporting community will in turn strengthen your own writing and help sustain a strong literary community that we all share.