As an Alaskan writer, one of my goals has been to foster literary citizenship. But what does that mean?
Literary citizenship can include everything from promoting fellow writers to attending readings to volunteering in schools or for a literary journal. For me, an important criteria is to do what I enjoy. There are so many opportunities, so why do something I lack the expertise for or I find stressful?
Here are my top ways of engaging. But I’m also interested in what others are doing and how you each perceive the idea of literary citizenship.
- Buy Books. What’s not to love about this? Buying books, especially from a local independent bookstore, is a win-win-win. I get a new book, support another writer, and support my local bookstore, which for me is Fireside Books in Palmer.
- Support Writers on Social Media. Whether you go to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, or some other site, this is an easy way to get the word out about your fellow writers. It’s even easier if you just share what others have posted.
- Donate Your Time at a Jail or Treatment Center. Although this can take a lot of effort, I’ve also found it the most rewarding. Often, the biggest challenge is simply getting in the door. Most institutions have an abundance of regulations that can make setting up a program difficult. That being said, I’ve taught workshops at Clitheroe Inpatient Facility, McLaughlin Youth Center, and North Star Residential Treatment Center. I think what I love the most about working with people in transition is their delight in discovering language and writing. In meditation there is the phrase “beginner’s mind” and that’s that I see working in these situations: there are no preconceived ideas or expectations. I also think writing can be another tool in the toolbox for change and for dealing with stress.
- Volunteer at Schools. Whether you’re helping judge a writing contest or you’re taking part in a reading for National Poetry Month, giving time at a school is a way to instill love of literature and to support young writers and readers. This is an area that I hope to explore more in the future.
What ways have you found to be a good literary citizen? What’s your favorite way to engage in the literary community?
Julie Hungiville LeMay is the author of the poetry collection, The Echo of Ice Letting Go (University of Alaska Press, 2017). She holds an MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles where she served as poetry editor for Lunch Ticket. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Julie has lived in Alaska’s Matanuska Valley since 1978. You can find more information at julielemay.com.