The Importance of Literary Citizenship

Posted by Klarisa Loft, Fiction Reader for issue 4.2


As a student who is currently taking a senior seminar in creative writing as well as the editing and production workshop in which we create Gandy Dancer, I’ve been hearing a lot of discussion on what it means to be a literary citizen. I feel like this is an important topic to tackle outside the classroom as well. The literary community is a small one, especially in a modern world where the study of humanities is confusing to many since it doesn’t lead to a particular job.

In other words, we need all the support we can get.

This is where that literary citizenship comes into play. Writers have our love of reading and writing in common, so how about we fuel each other with that positivity? Don’t lurk in the literary shadows. Come out. Attend readings near you; help promote your friends’ literary accomplishments through social media. Subscribe to a literary journal you enjoy. Buy books! And when you read something you truly like, let that writer know. Every writer deals with a fair amount of rejection; it comes with the territory. But, as accustomed to it as someone might be, it never hurts to know that there are people out there who genuinely like and believe in our work. This is what spurs us to keep going. In her book Making A Literary Life, Carolyn See suggests writing charming notes to the writers whose work you enjoy and appreciate. She says that a notecard is all you really need for this; it takes a few seconds and has to power to drastically improve someone’s writing confidence.

A Handy Guide on Literary Citizenship

A Handy Guide on Literary Citizenship

It can be more comfortable to do these things in our preferred genre: Fiction writers attending fiction readings and poets sharing poems. But that segregates an already small community into even tinier groups. I write genre fiction and thought that I wouldn’t like creative nonfiction. But when taking a chance on it, I found that it opened a fresh perspective and reading experience that I hadn’t received before. Being open to other types of writing not only helps those who write it, but can also provide a new avenue of enjoyment for oneself. I also take the time to read my fellow writers’ works in progress. In order to get to that final draft, a writer needs to test what they have on other people, since readers see a piece of writing a lot differently than the writer of that piece does. Providing feedback can give writers the information they need to direct their writing where they want it to go.

So, don’t just keep those favorite stories, essays, and poems on a shelf or bookmarked in your browser. Talk about them. Share them. Dare to put them in front of people who wouldn’t read them otherwise. And, most of all, let the writers you read know they have readers.




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