Yeah, That’s Not How You Do Literary Citizenship

getting real tired of your shit“I’m a professional writer of forty years! Can any of you stand up and say the same?”

The microphone hijacker is drunk. His shouts crash out of the speakers and drown the awkward silence.

A group of (really quite talented) writers in their twenties had gathered at the bar to read poetry and prose, to listen, appreciate, and celebrate each other. I came thinking, “Maybe I’ll read next time.”

The drunk does not approve. He repeats: “I’ve been a professional writer for forty years!” He reads clumsily from his partner’s book of poetry. He commands us to purchase it when it goes on sale next month on Amazon. To the relief of the crowd, he only reads one poem before retreating to his table.

I’ve been, for the most part, quite lucky in my meetings with other writers, so this man’s rude interruption last night came as a nasty surprise. I’ve had writers judge me for writing and enjoying genre fiction and young adult, but I’ve never personally come up against someone so bitter. It’s a part of the writing world that I’ve been vaguely aware existed, but have not encountered.

What causes an older, more experienced writer to shame someone for their youth and relative inexperience? These writers came wanting to build a sense of community, wanting to support each other and perhaps attract more to the fold, and they were shouted down by a bitter old man.

You could hypothesize that it has to do with age. The landscape of writing is changing. More people than ever before can be published writers. Is he resentful? Is that why he reminded us multiple times that he’s a “professional” writer, despite acting just the opposite? But my experience with older writers has always, on the whole, been incredibly positive. They’re often willing and eager to share their experience and help younger writers through the many stumbling blocks of the profession. Or, when they’re older but new to writing, I’ve been treated as a fellow student of the craft, someone else who’s still really learning.

Perhaps this comes back to luck. I hope not. I want writers like last night’s drunk to be a minority. I want the kind, encouraging writers like Cathy Day and Linda Taylor to outnumber him.

The readings continued despite him. Writers and those who had come to listen fought back against him. I imagine he was too drunk and angry to care about our words the time, but I hope he woke up this morning regretting his actions. I hope he thought over what he’d said and done and realized how toxic such behavior is to the writing community.

I have never done a reading in nearly so public a place as a bar. I’ve read in classrooms and at a bookstore surrounded by my fellow Alphans, who outnumbered the unknowns. Those were safe spaces. A bar has the potential for, well, people like that drunk. Even when he wasn’t interrupting us to give the worst possible publicity for his partner’s poetry, his table was rude and loud. Readers at a microphone surrounded by several speakers could hear that table over their own voices. That wouldn’t happen in the kind of secure environment I’m used to. That honestly scares me. I don’t know how I’d react in that situation, and I hate that I’m so intimidated.

The thing that really sucks is that I’m probably not the only one. What if one of the readers last night had that experience and is frightened off from doing it again? What if someone came, like me, thinking that they might join in and now, like me, are kind of freaked out by the idea, all because some drunk writer decided to take his frustrations out on us?

I am incredibly proud of anyone who puts themselves out there and does a reading like that, even moreso if you can survive an experience like that and do it again. We need more of those people spreading confidence and support, getting the bitter poison out of our collective systems. Maybe those of us who have a little less courage can take strength from them. I hope I can.

What about you? What’s the worst (or best!) experience you’ve ever had with a reading? Can you empathize with this dude more than I can? Have you seen more of this dark side? Hit up the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Short Story Month

A short story is like a short sloth: Fucking awesome.

A short story is like a short sloth: Fucking awesome.c

Now that school is over and I’m getting used to my new job, I can dive back into blogging and writing. Maybe you’ve been in a bit of a rut, too. What better to get us all back on the writing wagon than a month-long writing challenge?

You know about NaNoWriMo, right? 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s difficult and exhilarating and if you even think it might be your type of thing, you should try it. But that’s not until November (barring Camp NaNoWriMo), so what do you do if you just have a lot of trouble writing without those pre-set goals? Or maybe you just aren’t so great in the novel format.

I have some pretty cool news for you. Turns out, May is Short Story Month, sponsored by Story A Day. The idea is to write a short story every day in May. Honestly, that kind of makes me squeak in terror – oh god EVERY DAY? – but it also sounds amazing. It’s not about writing and polishing and editing a story every day, it’s about just writing it. Get that story out there. As someone who sometimes thinks way, way too much during first drafts, this is the kind of kick I enjoy.

I know it’s already May 10th, but that’s no reason not to get in there! Go check out their daily writing prompts to get yourself going. Or if you’re more of a short story reader, go check out their recommendations. Get to know the short story a little better.

What do you guys think? Are you gonna give it a go? I think I am.

April Awesomeness

Slothtastic blasphemy!

Slothtastic blasphemy!

Oh man, it’s already May? You know what that means. April Awesomeness. I don’t know about you guys, but I totally need this awesome to distract from how godawful my word count was in April. Also, you know. Finals. That’s a thing that’s happening.

Let’s procrastinate together. Awesomely.

This spinning seal is chill as fuck.

Shark-cat on Roomba chases duckling, because reasons.

FLOOMP.

SCIENCE. SPACE SCIENCE. SCIENCE IN SPACE.

Disney photography using people of size and color!?

Face it: Little girls are better at designing superhero costumes than you.

As my boyfriend said, “This is the kind of bitterness that can only happen if you have a cat that you love.”

Is this a corgi scared of its own reflection? Yes. Yes it is.

A father dances with his princess.

Last but far, far from least: Misha Collins and John Barrowman tango into our hearts.

Hit up the comments with your April awesomeness, whatever it may be. I will hopefully be back on your computer screens next week with Tuesday Reads. This summer, you may even see me in video.