Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writer Friends, Gertie Stein, Elbert Hubbard, & Thomas Helbig at Guido W. Baudach

When I had my first poem published, I wanted to tell everyone. & yet I didn’t because I felt some sort of shame. My professor JL, someone I look up to and trust, told me it was “smart kid syndrome”: at some point, I had been taught that accomplishments were like dirty little secrets.

I’ve published since that first inking, and I still have a hard time sharing that fact with people. Why? Well, it’s not just the “smart kid syndrome.” Instead, it’s because so many of my writer peers annoy me on a daily basis. If they’re not promoting themselves on their blogs or via their Facebook statuses, then they’re shooting out form emails asking me to buy the issue in which their gem is tucked.

This isn’t to say that I am unhappy when I hear about my friends, acquaintances, and coworkers finding success – I attended Hollins University, a space that encourages community (i.e. friends reading friends, interdisciplinary lovefests, dining hall pow wows about the things we're reading, the thrill of reading one another’s work, etc.). I love it when a friend shoots me an excited text or email about a publication. I loved the feeling when I helped a friend published her short story (i.e. Fugue, a stunning space for words).

The difference seems to be in self-promotion. I grumble like my father used to when people market themselves or “network” with other writers. We’re outsiders anyway; why the heck are we trying to promote ourselves?

Perhaps I’ve attached something too holy to poetry. Perhaps I just want my friends to relish in their work without seeking the approval of an over-caffeinated and over-worked editor. Perhaps I just want the emails to be more personal and to not include a link asking me for $10 in exchange for three copies of a journal I do not have time to read.

Perhaps I need to be less grumpy and close-minded about this. I mean, after all, I didn’t like Gertie Stein the first time I read her: took me three years, a fierce professor (Cathy H.), and some heavy-duty reading and evolving before I could make sense of Tender Buttons.

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”

-- Elbert Hubbard


Anonymous said...

Gosh! You just find the best artwork to post on your journals! <3 Love <3

I can empathize with your apprehension regarding the sharing of your success. (I even hate putting a good college GPA on my resume!) Still, I love hearing about your successes! It's great to me that wonderful people are producing important art and getting recognition for their contributions to a rather artistically-starved world!


LBeezee said...


You are too sweet. I just love when people appreciate the art I share: It really is the grown up version of show and tell.

Maybe it's how some folks share such information: It's almost like they dull the effect of their accomplishments by saying looklooklooklookatme. Maybe it's the impersonal nature of it. I'm trying to pinpoint why some folks bother me and some do not with their sharing of such information. It has to relate to the word genuine, but that word seems abstract unless I better understand this.

I like the point you make about how such information could serve as inspiration to artists who struggle with whether or not to make art in a "rather artistically-starved world."