Discussion → community building?

  • Hedge.thumb
    Oct 30, 02:01pm

    I came across a piece in the Conversational Reading blog today about the International Festival of Authors in Toronto. The authors spend a week living in Toronto, and attend as many events/readings as possible, also mingling with readers.

    It got me thinking about community building in general - author/reader interaction certainly contributes to expanding the literary community, but is the physical aspect of that interaction the key element? I'm not sure where I stand on this..

    What things do you think a community needs to work? What makes a community worthwhile?

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    Carol Novack
    Oct 30, 07:16pm

    Thanks, Anna. As you asked, I will posit three questions, three being the magic number in some circles. :-)

    First of all, what is a (literary) community?

    Second of all, if there is such an entity, what is the value in belonging to it?

    Third: Who in this group considers her/himself a member of a community? What is this community, why do you consider yourself a member, and what does membership/a feeling of acceptance (charged word) do for you and the literay "world" at large?

  • Hedge.thumb
    Oct 30, 07:40pm

    Hm, I guess it is a sort of constructed concept - I suppose a literary community is just people that care for literature - for me, I have a longing for a socio-cultural impact. In some ways, belonging has a very simple benefit: people power to pass it on..

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    Dave Clapper
    Oct 30, 11:20pm

    I definitely felt a sense of community at AWP. Tons of readings, lots of conversation, an awful lot of alcohol. Helped me to care about what's being published, how it's being published, etc., in a way I want to care on a daily basis, but usually don't have the time. Was energized by that for months.

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    Susan Gibb
    Oct 31, 06:55am

    Hi, new here, but I do have some feel for artistic community after trying many methods of forming or staying within a group.

    I suppose Carol's questions are a good path to follow. I would think that a literary community is any number of people who enjoy interacting over the common interest of reading, writing, purpose. The value would be mainly that sense of reinforcement as well as sounding board for inspiring new directions that is missing in our other relationships. As to your third point, Carol, I'm thinking that this is more than validation or camaraderie. There's a sense that while everybody thinks they're a writer, there are few who take it more seriously and understand its passion and work. It's support, but from people whose opinion you trust as knowledgeable in the field. I know personally that if you stick another quarter in I'll dance some more.

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    Carol Novack
    Nov 04, 10:14pm

    I think of a literary community in narrow terms as a group of writers with a common aesthetic or sensibility (more or less). Eg, there are fiction writers who follow principles of "minimalism," others who want to obey to a tee the rules of arc, character development, epiphany, etc., still others who want nothing but to deconstruct traditional forms of fiction or at least follow their own linguistic rhythms, and others who are only interested in writing flash fiction. There are "language" poets, "sound" poets, post-beat poets, poets and fiction writers who consider themselves "realists" and write about "what they know," and metaphorical or language focused writers who shun what's commonly referred to as "realistic." "Realism" is the big "literary" trend in the USA, as evinced by the recent poet laureates, nearly all of the best selling playwrights, not to mention best selling memoirists and fiction writers (aside genre specialists like that horror writer in Maine). In general, writers with certain aesthetic sensibilities will be published in journals and presses whose publishers share these sensibilities. (Stating the obvious.) Random House would probably shun a novel that an independent press like Raw Dog Screaming, Crossing Chaos, or Green Integer, Spuyten Dyvel would pounce on. Narrative and The New Yorker are not likely to publish a wild bizarro or stream of unconsciousness short story. Certain journals are dominated by men their 20's and early 30's who write about sex and drugs (ok, don't all pounce on me with knives). Others simply publish very few women, and a minority publish mostly women.

    I see cliques all over the place, not only in journals, and there are many who publish the same authors over and over again, but in reading series.

    At AWP, writers who graduated from an MFA program in X University will socialize with other alumni/ae from X University. AWP is a great site for reunions, and there are academic communities galore.

    Well anyway, that's my view of literary communities. They're no different from other communities, say big important private criminal defense lawyers, tortured public defenders, baroque specialists in music departments, blues saxophone players, big shot prosecutors, rich corporate lawyers, environmental biochemists, gynecologists, etc. etc. It's the herding instinct and the wish for validation, approbation, acceptance, and comprehension. Say oh boy, Jack, I just love how that paragraph moves without a single, fucking period of comma, or oh sister, I love the way you created that character -- the story moved me to tears.

    So ....

  • Hedge.thumb
    Nov 05, 09:05am

    Hm - So do you think of it like post-politics something that's a nice idea, but makes little sense practically?

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