SWF Seeks a Good Story

On Friday, I had lunch with my friend Mark Bonner, a writer and editor based in New York City. Among other things, we discussed online dating and the ways that social networking has changed (ruined?) how people date today. We both agreed that online dating lessens the chance that a couple will have a good story to tell.

On Friday, I had lunch with my friend Mark Bonner, a writer and editor based in New York City (he’s currently seeking a full-time job – check out his awesome website!). Among other things, we discussed online dating and the ways that social networking has changed (ruined?) how people date today.

We both agreed that online dating lessens the chance that a couple will have a good story to tell. Match.com has a microsite that might lead people to believe otherwise; happy couples share their success stories. But at the end of the day, they all met on Match.com.

When I signed up for a month on Match.com last summer, I actually met someone who I liked enough to date for four months. One evening, when we were returning from New York City on the PATH train, another couple asked us how we met. My date answered before I had a chance: “Mountain climbing in the Swiss Alps.”

I loved his answer, but the moment made me realize that I desperately craved a good story. I didn’t actually want to tell anyone that we met on Match.com and always hoped that the question would never arise.

I guess the story of how you meet your significant other isn’t that important if you’re happy, but, as a writer, I’m obsessed with stories. I have completely sworn off online dating simply because I don’t want the story I tell my grandchildren to include eHarmony or Plenty of Fish.

As Mark said to me, “The story of your life is the most important story you’ll ever tell.” If I hold out for a “real” story, I’m bound to get one eventually, right?

I think social networking in general has hindered our ability to develop deep relationships, even friendships. I’m starting to think it’s a good idea not to “friend” someone I’m dating on Facebook, at least not until I have gotten to know them well in real life.

By stalking that person’s pictures, status updates, and comments, I make up my own story about the person’s life (one that’s probably not completely true).

Wouldn’t it be better to get to know someone by asking them questions? By discovering things by accident? By having misunderstandings and arguments? Isn’t mystery and curiosity more fun?

Imagine talking to someone for the first time in weeks without seeing everything they have posted on Facebook and Twitter. Think about how rich and loaded that conversation could be. Think about all the things you could learn about a person in an enhanced, personalized way.

Being Facebook friends with people I don’t really know or ever see is fun because I’m probably never going to know their complete stories. I am free to create stories about those people, and these stories don’t really matter in the long run.

However, I’m starting to think I would be happier creating and keeping my closest relationships offline.

(Photo by JonDissed)

Laryssa Wirstiuk is a social media marketing and online image consultant. Learn more about how she can help you and your business gain friends and customers by visiting Comma ‘n Sentence Consulting.

Content Is Fine, but a Platform Is Divine

How does a media company, especially an emerging media company, earn a solid enough reputation to entice readers to pay? The New York Times can flirt with the prospect of offering premium online content because they are The New York Times. I have thought about this question as it relates to Too Shy to Stop.

A few weeks ago, in a post called “Twitter Is the New Flea Market“, I explored possible answers to my question: is the Internet simply one large flea market?

I wrote:

When I think about all the people trying to sell their services/products on Twitter, I think about a large, bustling flea market on a Saturday afternoon.

Twitter is a big empty field where all the vendors set up their tents and tables, peddling their wares. Most of these goods are the same, but the vendors do their best to sell you, taunting you with their tempting deals and charming outbursts.

Cultivating an online presence is definitely an important aspect of any business’s marketing campaign. But that doesn’t mean social media marketing is the be-all, end-all strategy for attracting new customers and creating a solid brand.

Innovation means pushing the boundaries both on and offline.

Reviewing my initial ideas, I realized that these same observations can be applied to the numerous online magazines/newspapers and print publications trying to cultivate their online presence. So many people keep asking: how can a website that only offers content make any money? How can content be a commodity?

Sadly, I don’t think content in itself can be a commodity, at least not in the digital marketplace. Readers are so spoiled by free digital content that they will skip pay-to-read content for the (usually) poorly-researched, poorly-written version.

How does a media company, especially an emerging media company, earn a solid enough reputation to entice readers to pay? The New York Times can flirt with the prospect of offering premium online content because they are The New York Times.

I have thought about this question as it relates to Too Shy to Stop, the online arts and culture magazine that I founded in 2008. Sure, offering great content on a regular basis is an admirable endeavor, but doing simply that is a dead end.

Without the Internet and WordPress, Too Shy to Stop and this blog would not exist. Who knows? Maybe, in an Internet-less world, I would spend my nights cutting and binding pages to make a zine that I mail out to my loyal subscribers. It doesn’t matter.

My reality includes plans for a private Too Shy to Stop companion website (it existed once on a basic level) that satisfies very specific ideas and needs I have related to the site and potential advertisers. I will need to create a platform that doesn’t yet exist.

I stumbled upon this blog post by Valeria Maltoni, who built one of the first online communities associated with Fast Company magazine.

She writes:

What if Twitter goes away one day soon in the way many publications and media channels have in the last couple of years? What if Facebook decides to charge you a steep fee to even develop a fan page, create a group or build a community there?

What happens to your content? Where are the connections going? How will you reestablish that influence?

Yep, all those social networking gurus, online marketers, make-money-online specialists, etc. will lose their greatest (free) tool. They all desperately depend on tools like Twitter, and their inability to innovate and create a proprietary medium will eventually be their downfall.

You know that Destiny’s Child song “Independent Woman“? They sing, “’cause I depend on me”. To be a media company, you have to CREATE a new platform that is wholly your own.

Online publications will not make money by simply offering content, no matter how good the content. They will make money by leveraging new and innovative technologies and personalizing these technologies to fit their needs, audience, and image.

(Photo by goodrob13)

Laryssa Wirstiuk is a social media marketing and online image consultant. Learn more about how she can help you and your business gain friends and customers by visiting Comma ‘n Sentence Consulting.

10 Haikus Dedicated to Twitter Spam

Twitter spam is so special that it should be honored with poetry. Spam includes: barely-legal webcam girls, social media gurus, people that promise I can become rich in just one month, people who follow then unfollow me, weight-loss and fitness programs, and accounts promising free merchandise.

Tweet that you’re lonely,
barely-legal teenager.
Show us your webcam.

A million follow
me on Twitter. It’s a dream.
You’ll make it real.

Terms: you violate.
I will never know you, friend,
account suspended.

Another guru
tells me social media
will boost my profit.

Lost a follower.
I wonder what I said wrong,
who I offended.

Free iPad, MacBook
if you click this shady link!
(Virus is the cost.)

Lacking avatar,
your face is the Twitter bird.
What hides behind it?

You need to lose weight.
We sell fat-burn shakes and pills
from a basement lab.

Make money at home
while wearing your pajamas.
Be rich in a month!

Follow me again
because you unfollowed me.
Follow me again.

(Photo by Tom (hmm a rosa tint))

Tweeting from the 2010 AWP Conference

I am in Denver, CO, attending the annual conference and bookfair for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. When I attended last year’s conference in Chicago, I could hardly believe how many people still support and believe in print as a medium, despite all the hype about print’s impending death.

From Thursday to Sunday, I will be in Denver, CO, attending the annual conference and bookfair for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

When I attended last year’s conference in Chicago, I could hardly believe how many people still support and believe in print as a medium, despite all the hype about print’s impending death.

In my blog entry about last year’s conference, I wrote:

If you have ever worried about the death of print, you should have attended the bookfair, which was a smorgasbord of literary journals and publishing houses dedicated to literary fiction and poetry. The exhibition rooms smelled of glossy covers and freshly printed ink on paper.

This year, I’m curious to see how many publishing houses and literary magazines have recently adopted social media marketing strategies, and I’m also eager to learn about new or interesting ideas regarding publishing and new media.

Will attendees be carrying their iPads? Will exhibitors talk about printing and reading alternatives?

As I observed last year, the literary magazines and publishers that attend this conference cater to writers hungry to be published, win writing contests, and gain exposures. Most writers dream of seeing their names in print, right?

I hope to attend panels about writing for and seeking publishing opportunities in new media, and I’m curious to observe attitudes regarding new alternatives.

I have noticed that writers within academia (major sponsors of this conference include universities and non-profit arts foundations) tend to be slow to adapt technological advances.

I plan to take a lot of notes, and I’ll be tweeting about everything I observe. For your convenience and my own sanity, I’ll be tagging my tweets with #AWP10, the official conference hashtag. If you want general conference updates, follow @awpwriter.

I will report my observations on Monday! I’m also taking requests for souvenirs – leave suggestions in the comments below!

(Photo by janetmck)

5 Ways Social Media Has Made Me a Better Writer

Social networking tools have definitely helped me improve my writing. If you truly want to improve your writing for all media, you will use every opportunity to improve your craft. To provide clear and clever content, you should shake what your momma gave ya (whether that be 140 characters, infinite space of a blog post, or a sexy booty).

More than once, I’ve heard the argument that Twitter can help people improve their writing. When your medium has a 140-character limit, you tweak your message until it’s crystal clear.

However, I’ve seen some very poorly-written tweets from people on a consistent basis, without any signs of improvement. I also know some writers who can tweet but who, when given the opportunity, mentally masturbate all over a page.

If you truly want to improve your writing for all media, you will use every opportunity to improve your craft. To provide clear and clever content, you should shake what your momma gave ya (whether that be 140 characters, infinite space of a blog post, or a sexy booty).

Social media probably won’t help you if you have no interest in craft, but social networking tools have definitely helped me improve my writing in the following ways:

1. Dialogue – I used to be terrified of writing dialogue, and I have great respect and admiration for screenwriters and playwrights. Dialogue is so difficult to write because it can easily sound contrived. We don’t usually think too much before we speak, but we think a lot on the page.

Watching dialogue unfold online has definitely helped me feel more confident using it in fiction. Gchat conversations are a great way to practice safe textual banter. Twitter @ replies are another way to hone dialogue. Even a Facebook status and its subsequent comments mimic a conversation.

If you read my Twitter stream, you probably notice my “OH” (overheard) tweets. You probably think I’m just being silly by posting these bits of conversation, but I actually like paying attention to dialogue and thinking about what makes it work.

2. Precision – Without the benefit of facial expressions and hand gestures, I must be very precise when writing for social media. Generally, I don’t have a lot of space to convey my message.

When I write fiction, I can take my sweet time getting to the point, and I can use fancy tools like figurative language. However, most readers don’t have the patience for these things. Social media allows me to practice on a contemporary audience.

3. Discipline – Blogging and sharing little bits of creative writing with my social media audience has provided me with discipline. I become accustomed to updating my blog and offering new content on a consistent basis.

Because I blog every night, adding creative writing to the blogging mix just makes me feel more obligated to tend to it. Anyway, it’s a treat after writing professionally all day.

4. Confidence – Sharing writing of any type can be a very daunting task. By now, I am pretty much used to it (harsh but helpful criticism in grad school workshops toughened me up), but I still get nervous when sharing new work. Most of the stuff I write for this blog does not require a lot of my emotion. But creative writing (…wait for the drama…) drains my soul.

Posting short story revisions on LaryssaWrites.com has slowly boosted my confidence and helped me realize that I don’t have to be afraid. The more I share my stories, the more I realize that people can relate to them. I should share what feels emotionally genuine to me.

I’ve also learned to shake off some of my perfectionist tendencies. When my priority is airing out a new piece of writing and letting it see the light, I have to accept that the piece might not be perfect. Trusting the process is the key to confidence.

5. Inspiration and Creative Stimulation – Being active on social networks means that I am constantly in conversation with people. Before Facebook and Twitter, I was mostly inspired by real-life conversations, but the inspiring and profound moments in daily mundane conversation are rare. Online, I have thousands of different perspectives and voices buzzing around me at all times. Any second could be a chance for a new idea.

I love pushing people further, asking questions, picking brains, and getting other people to challenge me. I sometimes like to pose incendiary questions or make daring statements just to see if anyone can shake me. For a creative person, social networks are a great high-energy environment. Pretend you’re playing a game of double-dutch: jump in when you seek inspiration and jump out when you need introspection.

How has social media helped you improve your craft?

(Photo by Glamour Schatz)

Zen and the Art of Blogging

Creative writing demands a different frame of mind than article writing, research paper drafting, and blogging do. But that doesn’t mean someone who does one can’t do the other! The place where you start is just a place to start, and then you work out from that point. The process is not necessarily linear.

Earlier this week, my friend Christine tweeted:

Creative writing is initially hard when all you know is journalism and research papers. Thoughts, @ryssiebee?

I absolutely agree! Creative writing demands a different frame of mind than article writing, research paper drafting, and blogging do. But that doesn’t mean someone who does one can’t do the other!

The first difference between creative writing and more journalistic/research-based writing is that, while doing the latter, you usually know where they want to end. You almost always have a goal in mind.

Of course, the point of writing a newspaper article or research paper is to uncover something new or to synthesize information in a unique way, but you usually has an agenda before he/she starts writing.

While you may discover something new along the way, you are, for the most part, driving a car to a specific destination. You are either vaguely familiar with the route, or you have a GPS with you.

When I’m writing a story or poem, I almost never know where I want to end. In fact, if I know the end before I start to write, I can guarantee that whatever I write will be total crap because it lacks imagination and possibility.

To extend the car metaphor with creative writing, you decide to get in your car (the car of your dreams), you turn the ignition, and you sit there until you’re ready to go. You have no destination, and you drive until you run out of gas. Creative writing is a joy ride.

Breaking a bout of creative writer’s block is not about knowing WHAT you want to write. It’s about knowing where you want to start. You have to start somewhere, and the place you start probably won’t be the beginning, at least not when you get to the end (is that too confusing?).

The place where you start is just a place to start, and then you work out from that point. The process is not necessarily linear; you can go in circles, you can overwrite. Creative writing is a discovery process in more ways than one.

The mental preparation required for creative writing is much different from that when writing a journalistic piece or research paper. With an article or research paper, the collecting of sources is a meditative process. The writers forms the paper in his/her head while gathering sources and then strings them together to create a story.

For creative writing, I have to be in a very specific frame of mind. Nothing else can be bothering me. It’s very much like trying to go to sleep. If I have a lot of things on my mind, I will not be able to start writing, the same way I will not be able to sleep. I usually find myself writing new fiction on the weekends or when I’m on vacation because my mind is clear.

After a long day at work, it’s almost impossible for me to switch from work brain to creative brain.

Which is why I blog. Blogging is as close to my work mindset as I can get, and doing it means I’m still writing everyday, which is so important to me.

My creative writing blog is kind of an illusion. Yes, I’m offering new short story excerpts every day, but what most readers don’t know is that I started writing my collection in the summer of 2007. The stories that I casually post every day are the result of many hours of staring at blank screens, writing, rewriting, deleting, changing narrators, living and breathing my characters, rearranging, copying, pasting, hating, and loving.

I’m at the best part, the part where all I have to do is perfect the prose. This part of the creative writing process is more akin to blogging because I’m not actually creating anything earth-shatteringly new.

To be honest, I haven’t written a new story or poem in months. My mind is not in the right place.

That meditative state that’s perfect for creative writing comes and goes. It’s not even worthwhile trying to pursue it until you feel you are so full of thoughts and emotions that, if you don’t write them, you are going to explode.

(Photo by mattimattila)

More Mileage from a Blog You Sometimes Fuel

One of my favorite professors asked, “What’s the point of doing this if you’re not having fun?”. Remember: she was speaking to a room full of people so determined to cpublish a book that they would drag themselves through miles of mud to do just that. But I will never forget the question she posed.

Admit it: you only update your blog when you feel guilty. Twitter reeks of blog neglect and half-hearted attempts at updating:

@OhThatStevie: @JennyBec1969 I honestly am going to try to update my blog a little more often than once every blue moon.

@littleponderer: Watching Underbelly. I should update my blog but I’ve been soooo busy – hopefully will update it tomorrow.

@jacksonstf09: It is amazing how awesome a person can feel after a 2 hour workout…I feel AMAZING…I really should update my blog. I think I will 2day.

@defiantprincess: I wanna update my blog.. but too lazy to type. Should I ?

@farchadhilahmoh: so bored. i think i should update my blog to chase the boringness away.

@noeminoems: i should update my blog..but that can wait, like how it has waited for months now x:

@Huizhenpawnyou: Should I update my blog?

You get the point. If I had a penny for every time someone used the words “should” and “blog” in the same sentence, I would be a very rich woman.

When I was in grad school for creative writing, one of my favorite professors asked, “What’s the point of doing this if you’re not having fun?”.

Remember: she was speaking to a room full of writers, people so determined to complete a manuscript and publish a book that they would drag themselves through miles of mud littered with glass shards and syringes to do those things. But I will never forget the question she posed.

Have you ever wondered why my blog is so entertaining (ha ha ha)? If I had to write about social media in a formal way, if these posts were homework assignments, I would not last more than a week. I have to constantly reinvent this website to keep the work fun for myself.

You need to imagine that your blog is a game you play with yourself. Consider the ways you amuse yourself when you’re stuck in traffic, when you’re waiting forever in a doctor’s waiting room, when a flight is delayed, when you can’t sleep at night.

Your blog should be the most fun you’ve had since marathon Monopoly sessions with your next-door neighbor.

I know you’re laughing right now. You’re thinking: “Going out with my friends is way more fun than blogging” or “Playing with my new puppy is way more fun than blogging”. Well, if you think those things are more fun than blogging, then you should be doing those things and not blogging.

Okay, I admit that was kind of harsh. You should be doing those things, blogging when you can, and not complaining or feeling guilty about it.

Before you play with your new puppy, though, consider these points:

1. Blogging is a great way to experiment with an idea before you fully commit to it. A blog post is hardly ever a fully realized and realized piece of writing. Anyone who believes that his/her blog posts are written at full potential really needs to give true writers more credit. Good writing takes many drafts to develop and perfect.

However, if you really like an idea and want to pursue it further, you should consider taking it off your blog and to another venue. My Comma ‘n Sentence blog posts have become longer-form articles (see “Too Shy to Schmooze: Creative Networking” and “Business Owners Building Networking Bridges“). Currently, I’m working on expanding the ideas I first shared in “The World Wide Web Is the New Water Cooler“.

2. Blogging is a great way to discover and reinvent yourself. After blogging for a few months, you might actually enjoy reading your old posts. You will start to notice how you’ve grown as a writer and a person, and you can use this knowledge to gain greater insight into yourself. In addition, you can also use your old posts to help you brainstorm ideas for new posts. 

3. Blogging can give you motivation (as long as you have enough motivation to blog). Whether or not you actually have an audience for your blog, blogging makes you think that you’re writing for an audience. Someone, somewhere on the Interwebz, expects you to write clearly and creatively. This knowledge will challenge and motivate you.

I recently started a creative writing blog for this very reason. I was having trouble motivating myself to tackle revisions, and I hoped that blogging would hold me accountable. In grad school, I was forced to write and revise for my professors and workshop-mates; blogging for an “audience” mimics that feeling. I don’t want to disappoint my loyal readers!

4. Blogging can give you hope. Half the fun of blogging is sharing what you write! I don’t know about you, but one thing that gets me out of bed every morning is the excitement I feel when I think about promoting and sharing my work with my current and potential friends.

Don’t get me wrong: life is great for so many reasons. But I’d rather not imagine my life without writing and sharing. 

(Photo by kevinspencer)

Sending Messages in Digital Bottles

Have you ever had so much to say to someone but couldn’t tell that person? Have you ever written a letter to someone and then ripped it into tiny pieces? If you answered “yes”, then you’re in luck! The Internet makes it easy for you to write anonymous notes to people who will probably never guess you are writing about them.

Full disclosure: I’m kind of obsessed with the second person voice, and I love the art of letter writing.

I’m especially enamored with the idea of writing letters to people who should never read them, and I enjoy reading letters never sent – it’s a juicy form of voyeurism.

Have you ever had so much to say to someone but couldn’t tell that person? Have you ever written a letter to someone and then ripped it into tiny pieces? Have you ever addressed another person in a diary or journal entry?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re in luck! The Internet makes it easy for you to write anonymous notes to people who will probably never guess you are writing about them.

Blogger Anna from Shmitten Kitten writes:

I just want to complain about you to the anonymous masses in a place you’ll never see it. Is that too much to ask? Maybe I gotta take this complaining business underground. I need a Fight Club situation where me and a bunch of people can all go and complain about people without them ever finding out who did it.

Here are a few websites where you can post your own anonymous notes and read other letters-never-sent:

Dear Old Love: By e-mailing dearoldlove(at)gmail.com, readers can submit one -sentence notes intended for former lovers. Notes range from nostalgic to angry to heartbreaking and even demanding.

Every day, the editors post (and cleverly title) approximately 10 new notes. What I love about reading these short posts is the chance to “read between the lines” – what takes just seconds to read gives me fuel for my mind to wander for a few minutes. I like to imagine the people writing the notes and also the intended recipients. Sometimes, the notes even read like poems.

If you want to carry your voyeurism with you, you should know that some of the best posts from Dear Old Love have been compiled in a book of the same name.

Ex Boyfriend Dead Letter Office (mentioned in Shmitten Kitten post from above): Similar to Dear Old Love, Ex Boyfriend Dead Letter Office accepts short letters to ex-boyfriends. My favorite thing about this website is the editors post a picture of a stud-muffin celebrity namesake with each note.

Secret Tweet: Secret Tweet is unique because it functions as a blog and also as a Twitter account. You can submit a confession in 140 characters or less, and Secret Tweet will post the confession to the website and Twitter. Characterized by a number, each tweet is completely anonymous.

One has to wonder if bored Internet users are simply submitting ridiculous stories to be considered as Secret Tweets. However, that possibility is what makes the site interesting to me; you will never know if the tweet is true or false, and you can’t help but wonder about the people submitting them (crazy enough to perform some of these acts and possibly even crazier to imagine them).

Following the Secret Tweet account is fun because, every once in a while, a confession will appear in your Twitter stream and catch your attention – these tweets are usually very different from other things people are tweeting.

Letters to Dead People: Celine Song creates designs graphical, black and white letters to dead people, and she posts these letters on her tumblr. In a letter to the living people who read her blog, Celine writes, “It is also really fascinating to me how wildly misunderstood some of these letters are or how some people passionately disagree with me.”

By composing original letters to famous dead people like Shel Silverstein, Adolf Hitler, and James Joyce, Celine reveals more about herself than she does about the dead person. Obviously, everyone would have their own questions that they would want to ask a dead person, if they had the opportunity.

Do you know of any similar websites? Please share links in the comments.

(Photo by internets_dairy)

Fact, Not Fiction, for the First Time in Years

I promised myself that, upon my return from San Francisco, I would throw even more of my heart and my soul into my side projects, which means blogging here every day, reviving Too Shy to Stop (we already have three new articles scheduled for publication!), and tackling the revision process for “The Prescribed Burn”, my fiction manuscript.

The first person who can guess the song lyric reference in the post title gets a free hug (no Googling allowed!).

I promised myself that, upon my return from San Francisco, I would throw even more of my heart and my soul into my side projects, which means blogging here every day, reviving Too Shy to Stop (we already have three new articles scheduled for publication!), and tackling the revision process for “The Prescribed Burn”, my fiction manuscript.

The last thing on this list is probably the most difficult for me, but I am going help myself by taking advantage of two things I already do well: blogging and sharing via social media.

After some thought (not too much), I decided to make use of two domain names that I already own: LaryssaWrites.com and ThePrescribedBurn.com. I set both URLs to point to a WordPress blog where I am going to post revisions/additions of my manuscript, which is currently approx. 60,000 words in length.

Yeah.

I need to get serious about revising this thing. I have already gone through the whole manuscript twice: once because I had to make it decent enough to submit as my grad school thesis and again because I changed the perspective from third to first person. I have also added a lot of content since May 2009, when I graduated.

Though I feel the story is in the right place, I don’t really like the writing. The language and artfulness of the manuscript is not up to my personal standards; this was not a priority during my first few revisions because I wanted to get the structure right before I focused on the details.

On my new blog, which you can follow most weekdays (new content at 10 AM, just like with Comma ‘n Sentence), I will post very small chunks of the manuscript, revised with close attention to detail, language, and syntax.

In grad school, I would write “harder” because I knew that someone was always holding me accountable. Without that extra push, I have difficulty focusing on what I know I need to do. Dear readers, won’t you be my extra push?

I am completely aware that sharing my work in this way may change the way my completed manuscript will be received in the future, but I’m willing to take a risk; I feel the payoff will be much greater in the long run.

In an essay (read it – it’s good!) from The New York Review of Books about the future of book publishing, author Jason Epstein writes:

The difficult, solitary work of literary creation, however, demands rare individual talent and in fiction is almost never collaborative. Social networking may expose readers to this or that book but violates the solitude required to create artificial worlds with real people in them.

I don’t know where this experiment will lead me, and I may terminate it if I feel that the results are detrimental to my creative process. For now, I remain positive and hope you will follow me on my journey to create a work of art. As always, your feedback and constructive criticism is more than welcome. Love.

And Then the Creative Class Spontaneously Combusted

According to science fiction writer Gwyneth Jones, the company as a digital publisher is now getting “…unprecedented access to billions of tiny payments, for product that costs them effectively nothing, at their point of entry. This seems to mean they don’t have to worry about any form of resistance at all…”.

On Tuesday, Guardian writer Alison Flood reported that approximately 6,500 writers opted out of Google’s plans to digitize books. Flood wrote:

“Former children’s laureates Quentin Blake, Anne Fine and Jacqueline Wilson, bestselling authors Jeffrey Archer and Louis de Bernières and critical favourites Thomas Pynchon, Zadie Smith and Jeanette Winterson have all opted out of the controversial Google book settlement, court documents have revealed….

As well as the authors named above, these include the estates of Rudyard Kipling, TH White, James Herriot, Nevil Shute and Roald Dahl, Man Booker prizewinners Graham Swift and Keri Hulme, poets Pam Ayres, Christopher Middleton, Gillian Spraggs and Nick Laird, novelists Bret Easton Ellis, James Frey, Monica Ali, Michael Chabon, Philip Hensher and Patrick Gale, historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, biographer Victoria Glendinning and bestselling author of the Northern Lights trilogy Philip Pullman.”

I really do admire the fact that these well-known, well-respected authors and their representatives have chosen to take a stand against Google. They took the time to research the company’s plan, and they decided that they did not want to be a part of it.

When an author’s work is published, he or she can decide in what form the work can be published. The author can restrict publication in other mediums. Google is violating that right.

According to science fiction writer Gwyneth Jones, the company as a digital publisher is now getting “…unprecedented access to billions of tiny payments, for product that costs them effectively nothing, at their point of entry. This seems to mean they don’t have to worry about any form of resistance at all. I don’t like the sound of that, not from anybody’s point of view.”

Despite my support of these authors, I have my qualms; it’s easy to argue about publishing rights when you have a good reputation and an impressive publishing history (easier to obtain in the past, when print was still the only option).

As someone who is working on a collection of short fiction and who one day hopes to be published in some way, shape, or form (I just want my work to be read, honestly), I am fully aware of how difficult it will be for me to get my work noticed once I am finally ready to distribute it to the world.

I’m not the only one writing books.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “More than 10 times the number of colleges and universities offer the M.F.A. today in creative writing than when Associated Writing Programs was founded in 1967. Thousands of graduates now receive such degrees each year.” And that doesn’t include the people without writing degrees who are crafting books!

Oh. my. goodness.

All these people are hungry to be published. Wouldn’t you be too if you spent years of your life working on something that you believed was good? Most of these people would be thrilled if Google decided to publish their work.

Yes, Google only “publishes” authors who have been previously published. But I can almost guarantee you that Google will seek new ways to act as a publishing company in the future.

I’m actually really surprised that twriters are the only ones speaking out against Google. The publishers should be angrier – shouldn’t they? The major houses need to rethink their business models if they don’t want to lose out to Google.

I don’t really have a solution because, to me, the whole thing seems like an unstoppable train. Writers are HUNGRY to be published. One day, the beloved authors cited above and their estate holders will no longer exist. They can only fight Google for so long.

Where are you, publishers? Why aren’t you fighting the good fight?! The best insights/ideas I’ve seen are contained in this essay about the revenge of print from The Brooklyn Rail:

“In a flagrant attempt to compete with Internet culture, to crash books into the marketplace on hot button topics from steroids to celebrities, from political scandal to political ascension, corporate publishers aim now to meet immediate demand. If a book about teenage vampires becomes a bestseller, then the hustle is on to find and market a series about pre-teen vampires. And because of this constant rush to the market with books that have the shelf-life of a bruised tomato—in hardcover, with supplemental cardboard cut-outs that stand in chain store windows and usher customers down narrow sales aisles—this ideology has influenced the ebb and flow of the industry…

The goal for book publishers, most simply put, should not be to undertake a virtual arms race of developing technology with both the Internet and media, or to try to compete on a bloated scale with music and film, or even to translate a work to conform to an undetermined potential future model. The mission for book publishers and print media at large should be to create a product that is irreplaceable and indispensible.”

People are writing irreplaceable, indispensable things, and they are trying, waiting. Their desperation will enable companies like Google to take advantage of them, the creative individuals, ultimately helping themselves destroy their own value.

And then the creative class spontaneously combusted. The end.

(Photo by joguldi)