Suspend Your Disbelief

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Writing for the Long Haul

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In the L.A. Times, author Dani Shapiro reflects on the challenges of a writing career–the lost days of “writing in the cold” for years while building a reputation, the recent “blockbuster or bust” mentality, and how emerging writers can persevere in spite of all of this:

I recently had the honor of acting as guest editor for the anthology “Best New American Voices 2010,” the latest volume in a long-running annual series that contains some of the finest writing culled from students in graduate programs and conferences. Joshua Ferris, Nam Le, Julie Orringer and Maile Meloy are just a few of the writers published in previous editions, but now the series is coming to an end. Presumably, it wasn’t selling, and its publisher could no longer justify bringing it out. Important and serious and just plain good books, the kind that require years spent in the trough of false starts and discarded pages — these books need to be written far away from this culture of mega-hits, and yet that culture is so pervasive that one wonders how a young writer is meant to be strong enough to face it down. […]

But in the last several years, I’ve watched friends and colleagues suddenly find themselves without publishers after having brought out many books. Writers now use words like “track” and “mid-list” and “brand” and “platform.” They tweet and blog and make Facebook friends in the time they used to spend writing. Authors who stumble can find themselves quickly in dire straits. How, under these conditions, can a writer take the risks required to create something original and resonant and true?

Read the full essay here.

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