I recently deleted my Foursquare account, deeming it an unnecessary use of time and energy and a poor excuse to have my phone on the table when out with friends. In its place are several new apps on my phone that I look forward to using: Storyville and Goodreads. I’ve started building up my bookshelf at Goodreads, adding friends that I’ve met around the online literary block, writing and reading reviews. When I first started my account, I made a point to gush about a recent discovery at the time: Jenny and the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willett. It was one of my first reviews on the site, and last week I got a nice surprise because of it. I received a message from someone over at the Metazen blog telling me that Jincy Willett would be publishing a new story on their site as well as an interview. And this morning I headed over to check it out.
“I DON’T TRASH MY OWN LIFE” is a bit of metafiction, something I’d never read from Willett. It’s an enjoyable read, told from different perspectives of authors trying to create the character of Marlene. While the voices of these authors, represented by differing fonts, are interesting and relateable in their frustration and suddenly halted sentences, I admit that my favorite part was the chunk toward the end that represented the narrative about Marlene. Here, Willett really shines in her ability to describe so many people in what seems to be just one description of one character.
Another treat over at Metazen is an interview with her. Willett’s insight is invaluable, her wit engaging, her love of writing, infectious. But I’m biased. Here’s a little timely bit about the publishing industry to whet your appetite:
Metazen: I agree, but if we all did that we wouldn’t sell any books, would we? (Not that most writers sell many anyway.) Are you concerned about the state of the publishing industry? Is it sick? If you think it is, do you think the disease is terminal?
Jincy Willett: Honestly, no, because I didn’t much care for what was happening before the Internet and the e-book revolution. There are, what, 10,000 books published per day? We are all, or should be, readers first, writers second. Now the only way a community of readers is possible is for us all to be reading the books we’re told (by the Lists) to read. That’s bad. I grew up in libraries: I discovered my favorites on the shelves. They weren’t marketed to me, at least not the way they are now. And there are, it sometimes seems, more of us writing than reading. Aspiring writers enter MFA mills and dream of bidding wars, and some very talented ones get them and publish books that draw an outlandish degree of critical attention and really aren’t very good, because the writers aren’t ready yet. And many fine writers, many great writers, turn out more books than they should, because they’re expected to. Somehow we’ve got the idea that writers should be able to support themselves with their writing, and that you’re not a writer at all if you’re not writing, even after you’ve actually gotten one fine book published, or one great story. That’s just wrong. A few very industrious, very talented people pay for room and board and a whole lot more with their writing, and good for them. But for most of us it’s a cottage industry, and there’s nothing tragic about that. If the current shake-up results in a return to the cottage, maybe we’ll get our books back. Books aren’t movies, and they aren’t television, and authors aren’t celebrities (unless they are—Dickens, Twain, Sedaris). Sorry, I’ve totally lost the thread of this conversation…
And here’s a bit on what she thinks about going to school for writing:
Look, if you can get a free ride in a writing program, as I did at Brown (because I had done my undergraduate work in philosophy there, and because faculty wives got freebies)—if, for example, you get a fellowship—then it can be pleasant to spend a couple of years in the company of other writers. But it isn’t necessary. Don’t pay for it. Save your money.
Instead, live. Stay alert. Pay attention. Read like crazy. Write. Learn the world for heaven’s sake. Keep sending your stuff out (when you think it’s ready), and when it comes back at you, send it out again. Don’t paper your walls with rejection slips. Throw them away.