At Thanksgiving, many of us reflect on all that we're grateful for. High on my list this year, as every year, are books. I cannot imagine my life without them.
I recently asked my Poets & Writers colleagues which books made the greatest impact on them this year. As a group, our tastes and interests are wide-ranging. The titles that came up included Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, Speedboat by Renata Adler, May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes, The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, TransAtlantic by Colum McCann, and We the Animals by Justin Torres. A number of small press publications were also mentioned, including Scott McClanahan's Crapalachia, from Two Dollar Radio and Mary Ruefle's poetry collection Trances of the Blast from Wave Books. As for me, I was immersed in Anna Karenina for the better part of the summer, and Tolstoy's world is still alive in my imagination as the year winds down.
Consider what it takes for these books to reach their readers. Foremost is the effort and discipline required of the writer to get words on the page. Then the courage to share that work with fellow writers, teachers, or agents; synthesize the feedback; and then revise and revise. Eventually, and happily, a partnership is forged with a publisher. Editors then go to work on the manuscript; more revisions follow. Once the book is released, the author and publisher mount an effort to gain notice in a crowded marketplace. The support of reviewers and booksellers may play an important part at this point. It is an unwieldy and imprecise process, fraught with all the stuff of life: business and politics, limited resources and limited vision, commercial imperatives and cultural prejudice. Sometimes these obstacles impede worthy work from being published and finding an audience. But often enough, writer and reader are finally united -- heart to heart, mind to mind.
I am grateful that writers keep at it, and very thankful to have an opportunity, through my work at Poets & Writers, to support their efforts.
I hope that perhaps we've helped your writing in some small way this year. Maybe you used one of our databases to find information about an MFA program to apply to, an agent to approach, or a writing contest to enter. Perhaps our weekly writing prompts helped you through a dry spell. Maybe reading the Why We Write column in Poets & Writers Magazine strengthened your resolve, or you received welcome advice from a fellow writer in the Speakeasy Message Forum, or a grant through our Readings/Workshops program helped you reach an audience.
All of these resources depend on contributions from the Friends of Poets & Writers. The Friends are writers -- and editors, agents, publishers, teachers, and readers -- who value the work we do and the support we provide to writers. I hope you will consider joining us. In order to sustain our programs, we need to add 250 new Friends before the end of the year. Can you make a donation today to help us meet this goal?
Please make a contribution at a level that is right for you.
With very best wishes for the holiday,