In a few months, American citizens will elect a new president, a new leader who will set and direct the country’s agenda for the next four, maybe eight years. While I don’t want to talk about which candidate has my vote (I promised when I started my blog four years ago that I would avoid the BIG THREE–politics, sex and religion), I do want to share that I take my citizen duties very seriously and will be at the polls bright and early on November 8th.
Being an American citizen is not the only citizenship I claim. I am also a literary citizen and I take those responsibilities just as seriously. At least I have, starting this year. Let me explain…
Earlier this year, the Writers’ League of Texas (WLT) sponsored a panel discussion on the topic: what is means to be a good literary citizen. The panel was moderated by the president of WLT and panelists consisted of a book publisher, authors and an ex-literary agent. One by one they shared their views on the topic with remarks ranging from the use of social media, book reviews, networking, attendance at conferences/festivals, mentorship, community outreach, bookstores (retail and online) and more. I should stop at this point and explain that the moderator defined the word literary to include all aspects of writing, publishing and marketing, this being a more expansive definition than the usual application.
I spent a lot of time after that session thinking about how being a good literary citizen plays out for me. What, in fact, it means to me and that brings us back to 1) deciding that I was indeed a literary citizen; 2) what that looks like for me in practical, everyday life; and 3) my commitment level to that role.
So since I have decided I am a literary citizen, an invested member of one of the world’s greatest fraternities, and because I want to be a good literary citizen, this is how it plays out in my life.
As a good literary citizen I PLEDGE to
- As a reader – attend books fairs/festivals; buy books from local bookstores and online; support my library with attendance at hosted events and by utilizing their many services; write and post book reviews; use social media to promote authors, books and festivals; encourage young readers; read aloud to the young (and old) ones in my family; give books as gifts.
- As a writer – tell the best story I can; commit to continuous improvement in my craft; maintain involvement in writing/critique groups; honor my writing time; focus on my writing goals; find ways to keep the creative juices primed; be open to changes in the industry.
- As an author – support the players (readers, writers, book clubs, writers groups, non-profit literary groups, libraries, bookstores, literary publications, events and programs, etc.) in the literary field; promote, advocate or comment on legislative regulations and business practices impacting the literary world; protect the image of the written word; teach young and adult writers about the craft.
- As a publisher – publish quality books at a good value for readers; share stories that entertain but also cause readers to think and feel; work to improve the literacy rate by sharing my love of reading; embrace new technologies and practices; support the host of players that make this the absolutely best industry to work in.
I know this is a mouthful (or rather a pageful) and I reserve the right to adjust and update these duties as I collect more experiences in this great experiment we call literary. But I’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about being a good literary citizen?