I’ve known from a very young age that I loved to write. This isn’t to say that I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the field just yet, but I was aware of how much I enjoyed creating my own stories outside of the classroom on a daily basis.
I would like to think my passion for storytelling came from my early affection for reading. As a child, I would go through a book series in a week as I became fully immersed in the world built by the author. Over time, this infatuation gave me the knowledge I needed to create my own written work to the point where I was just focused on the content I was producing instead of continuing to dive into my novel collection—until one year ago.
The course entitled “World of Publishing” (ENGL 3140) taught by Professor Sonya Huber changed my life as a writer. I registered for the class fall semester of my junior year as my interest in the publishing industry is very apparent. However, I never expected to learn about the term “literary citizenship” during that time.
In the middle of the semester, we were assigned a reading by Professor Cathy Day who teaches Creative Writing at Ball State University. In a nutshell, the piece “Cathy Day’s Principles of Literary Citizenship” explains that as an aspiring writer, it is important to submerge yourself in the literary community as a whole since there are other jobs than just writing like editing, publishing, teaching, etc.
Day provides six examples that turn into principles: write notes to writers, interview writers, talk (informally) or review (formally) books you like, if you want to be published in journals then read and support them, if you want to publish books then buy books and be passionate about the community because it is infectious.
Participating in the literary community is different for me now. I no longer read books only because I want a good story. I read because as a writer I want to actively support another creative. (Note: this does not help my book-buying addiction, but it does help the economy and I stand by that.)
Since the new year, I have read 61 books and have left them all a review on GoodReads, rejoined a book club, written fan letters to authors, attended panels and discussions on the industry and constantly shared my love for the industry aloud. Because Day is right! How can I claim to be a writer when I’m not supporting my peers, publishing companies and fellow readers?
I almost feel ashamed that I didn’t realize my participation as a literary citizen was lacking before I was assigned Day’s reading for class. However, I couldn’t be happier knowing that I’m aware and active now as I feel like I truly belong in the community.
If you are a writer or aspiring writer, I would take Day’s argument into serious consideration. Go beyond just putting pen to paper and dive head-first into the literary scene! We’re all waiting for you to take the plunge.