Literary Citizenship

What is Literary Citizenship?

Literary citizenship is not only being a good “citizen”, but it also includes becoming part of a literary community and that “is a network of people who actively and openly read and write. To engage in literary citizenship is to be a part of this community, which involves the crucial acts of buying, reading, reviewing, and promoting books in order to support aspiring and professional writers, as well as encouraging a reading culture”. In other words, it means to choose your favorite author, an up-and-coming new author, a well-established author, or any author for that matter, and support them.

Literary citizenship is a right and an honor for readers and writers alike to employ. Shining a light on other authors and their work is helping out the writing community. Being a great literary citizen involves more than just support, it also involves promoting literary citizenship as a whole, and inspiring others to also join the cause. Author Shannon Cain points out that literary citizenship needs to be tended to by doing the following:

  • Read. A lot.
  • Subscribe to literary magazines.
  • Buy books. Review them, and publish the reviews.
  • Teach.
  • Celebrate the achievements of your colleagues. Champion their work.
  • Share your power.
  • Donate to small presses. Volunteer. Join a governing board.
  • Practice humility.
  • In workshop, be patient and kind and truthful.
  • Attend talks and conferences. Listen hard.
  • Mentor a new writer. Be mentored.
  • Be a good friend to other writers. Keep generosity in your heart.
  • Realize that literary citizenship makes you a better writer. Know that the more you give, the more you get back.

There are so many other ways things you can do to support literary citizenship and be a great literary citizen. Cathy Day, author / speaker / literary citizen, and teacher of creative writing at Ball State University, lists a few of her own principles and those are to

  • Write “charming notes” to writers.
  • Interview writers.
  • Talk up (informally) or review (formally) books you like.
  • If you want to be published in journals, you must read and support them.
  • If you want to publish books, buy books.
  • Be passionate about books and writing, because passion is infectious.

To be a great, an amazing, and an epic literary citizen one must be loyal and respectful of the cause. Loyal because the cause is important. More important I think to the authors because it’s their work you are supporting and promoting. Anyone can be a literary citizen. If you love to read/write, buy books, write reviews, blog, connect to others, etc. you too can be a literary citizen. Be respectful when speaking/connecting/workshopping with other writers. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Become a literary citizen today, buy a book, write a review, hug a writer.

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