Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Posts I Won't Write

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I’ve been planning out my last week here as Open Book’s writer in residence, and while I’m excited to mail it in tomorrow, and post an interview with some Toronto magazine publishers on Saturday (and how could I leave without saying goodbye on Sunday?), my eyes are beginning to spontaneously issue a little liquid at the thought of some of the posts I’ll never end up writing. Here’s the highlight reel of what I haven’t done:

  • I have a 1,500-word post discussing the videogame Sid Meier’s Pirates! as a metaphor for writing. I’ve been toting this one around since I wrote my first post, and it stings a little to have to bury it (like treasure!), but at least I can share some of the links I was going to include.
  • I discovered much too late in my tenure here that this month marks CWILA’s first anniversary. Would someone care to pick up my slack and inquire at CWILA HQ about year one? I’m especially interested in the early returns from the critic in residence position.
  • And on a CWILA-ish note, I was (ambitiously) considering looking into the point at which sample sizes stabilize for things like CWILA’s The Numbers and the VIDA Count (similar to sports-related investigations into the same). I perhaps too jokingly noted that numbers aren’t used enough in book analysis, but seriously, we don’t use numbers enough in book analysis.
  • And on a sport-ish note, I was eyeballing a discussion of sports and literature. Maybe wrangling the folks from The Barnstormer and/or Priscila Uppal. Alas.
  • I was going to poll my overflowing readership about the best contemporary one-sided epistolary works. (Aside: Do they still count as epistolary if there aren’t any response letters?) I’m thinking of books like Letters to Wendy’s, Overqualified, or Letters to Kelly Clarkson. Which I guess I can still do here. Anyone?
  • I was going to use a discussion on name-dropping and the trouble of discussing books by friends/family in a formal context as a sneaky way to link to Leigh Nash’s book, but I suppose I can also just do that here.
  • I really should have done something on non-published literary events like Write Club.

I was also planning to write a post on online content and the difficulty of running literary blogs. But I never got to that, or any of the other topics above, in part because I have a day job. Open Book pays its writers in residence, and more than I would have guessed, but also not enough to buy the time it would take me to produce truly in-depth content.

Which isn’t a criticism of Open Book (that they have this position at all—and put no restrictions on it—is impressive). It’s just that nearly all non-government literary organizations and presses are in a constant state of bootstrapping and never have enough money for anything.

Thoughtful discussions take time to produce (especially if you are like me and your brain plods along as if wearing shoeboxes on its feet). And it takes money to be able to afford that time. Without making too many assumptions regarding their finances, I worry for sites like Lemon Hound and the Town Crier that regularly produce content that is worth reading and that you rarely see in other venues, because it is hard and it takes time and energy. I worry that one day they won't be able to afford it anymore, and that what we'll be left with will be as useful as a ketchup-dispensing robot, which is to say barely to not-at-all.

If I can go back to my second bullet point above for a moment, one of the things that most excites me about CWILA is the Critic in Residence position, because it is (modestly) funded, and worthwhile reviews, critiques and discussions require money. If I can add anything to Ian Orti’s phenomenal wine-induced CanLit rampage, it’s that we need to fund initiatives like writers and critics in residence. And while the phrase “content producers” is usually used as a veneer for Internet bottom-feeders that churn out a constant stream of sludge, it's time for us to properly recognize and fund our quality content producers (like Lemon Hound, Town Crier et al).*

*Oooh! Another post idea! A look at the types of book coverage and non-poem/story content that university-funded literary journals provide, and perhaps some finger-wagging at them re: why they don’t do more.

We don’t need to give money to these sorts of endeavours, of course, and it’s hardly the only area that’s underfunded (e.g., ask anyone working at a small published what their real hourly wage is. I suggest having a bottle of scotch and box of Kleenex on hand).

Where this money comes from is another obvious question mark (though as Orti notes, the granting system as it stands could certainly stand to be modified). But surely it’s clear by now there is a serious lack of book-related coverage, content and discussions. And if we don’t start providing folks with the means to carry out this sort of work then it will stay that way.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Andrew Faulkner

Andrew Faulkner co-curates The Emergency Response Unit, a chapbook press. His first book, Need Machine, was published by Coach House Books in April 2013. He lives in Toronto.

Go to Andrew Faulkner’s Author Page