A Strong Year for Book Sales in France, Bryan Washington on Writing for One’s Community, and More

by Staff

Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—publishing reports, literary dispatches, academic announcements, and more—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories.

The European and International Booksellers Federation reports that 2021 was a remarkable year in book sales in France, in spite of the pandemic’s challenges. “After a turbulent 2020, many bookshop customers in France returned to stores last year, driving an increase in sales of about 20 percent. However, the results are not only a matter of chance or opportunity, but they highlight the hard work of the whole book chain.” A new French law setting a minimum shipping price for books was also a boon to independent bookstores. (Shelf Awareness)

Details have been revealed about a January 10 meeting in which a school board in Tennessee moved to ban Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus, an account of the Holocaust, because of “eight curse words” and an image of a naked woman in the book. In an interview with CNN, Spiegelman remarked that the ban “has the breath of autocracy and fascism about it. I think of it as a harbinger of things to come.” (NPR)

Writer Atom Atkinson reflects on their evolution as a queer teacher and role model and learning to “write past queer melancholy in the classroom,” thanks in part to the craft lessons of Harryette Mullen. “I could do something with my alertness to the problems of the role model: I could teach more like the way Mullen wrote, with unimagined readers in mind, only now it would be in service of the unimagined queer futures of my students.” (Don’t Write Alone)

Xochitl Gonzalez, author of Olga Dies Dreaming, describes how thirteen years as a wedding planner not only inspired her novel but prepared her to be a writer. “You have to be able to laugh, to be able to find certain things ridiculous. That ability to find humor in moments of gravity or sadness or absurdity is something I really wanted to preserve in the storytelling.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Often it doesn’t feel like there’s anything I can contribute that hasn’t already been said by someone I admire, but occasionally there’s a perspective or shift I think I can offer, in the language I would use in speaking with folks that I’m in community with. This really drives what I write, how I write it, who I write for—and also who I work with. Your mag might be ‘general audience,’ but are you open to understanding that this is the audience I’m primarily writing to?” With Nicole Chung, Bryan Washington discusses writing toward his community and the essential place of self-care in creative work. (I Have Notes/Atlantic)

For Electric Literature, Aleksandra Hogendorf rounds up seven favorite books set in bookstores, including The Sentence by Louise Erdrich and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hours Bookstore by Robin Sloan. “If eau de bookshop is your favorite scent, then this reading list is for you.”

“On the bus back from New York City I courted the terror, the whole span of what it is like to be born, to fall in love, to love someone and live a life with them and then at the very tail end of it encounter death.” In an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir Aurelia, Aurélia, Kathryn Davis ruminates on The Seventh Seal, the weight of a crush, and the omnipresence of mortality. (Paris Review Daily)

Molly Templeton proposes a method for creating a reading spreadsheet and savoring the small pleasures of a life lived in books. “It’s satisfying to add a book to the sheet, to fill in the date I finished reading it, to pinpoint that moment in a tiny, personal way. You don’t have to do any of this. But you just might find some joy in it.” (Tor.com)