If you are at all involved in the world that writers, editors, and all word nerds live out a major portion of their lives then you have heard the term literary citizen. This is a person, typically a writer who engages in community with other writers, libraries, book stores, and all places that are devoted to supporting books and or writers.
I participate in that community every time I connect with someone who writes, for a lot of writers literary citizenship is played out online particularly on Twitter. Having recently joined Twitter I can attest it is the place to be as a writer (followed by my beloved instagram). This also happens when you’re part of a writer group, go to a poetry slam, network at a conference, read for a lit journal, or do anything to support your fellow writers, because lets be honest us writers need each other though we love our readers like nothing else (I mean who wouldn’t love being told, I read something you wrote and I enjoyed it, that stuff can leave me high for days). This is all to say that I am so grateful for the community of writers and the chance to be a literary citizen.
Last weekend I was given the incredible opportunity to go to the 19th annual The Muse and the Marketplace. There is nothing like being with a bunch of people obsessed with the same nerdy things as you are (and if you’re not a nerd in any capacity, I’m sorry for you we are a delightful bunch). And please note the word given. I was able to go there by a fully paid scholarship, and never before have I felt like I belonged somewhere. That I was deserving, and I hope one day I can pay it forward and not only pay for myself, but pay for someone else to go, because there is no shame in needing the support of your community.
To be an artist is to have a certain amount of privilege. Art is so necessary, but it’s hard to be an artist when you have the bigger concern of getting food on your table. It’s hard to grow as a writer when you don’t have access to resources, and I’m not even talking about classes or MFAs I’m simply talking about being able to read good books, participate in the literary world, and have consistent time to write. So I am grateful that Grub Street constantly strives to make their resources accessible to those who need it.
I am thankful I was able to receive a full scholarship, I’m thankful I was able to take it with grace and feel like I belong. Especially as a person of color. There have been many times in my life I have doubted I belonged, especially as a mixed person, especially when I’m the only or one of a few people of color in the room. I was reflecting on this as I’ve been writing daily poetry for #NaPoWriMo 2018. I wrote a poem about a time in college when I won a scholarship to live on campus my sophomore year of college and was then told by a “friend” that it was because I wasn’t white and wouldn’t have won it otherwise.
That was not the first time accusations like that have been made, and I doubt it will be the last. But let me tell you I deserved the scholarship then, and I sure as hell deserved this scholarship today and you know why? Not because I am the greatest writer ever. Not because I am a person of color and have struggled. Not because I am such a good person. Simply because I am a writer who needed it and decided to ask for help. And every person who applied I have no doubts deserved it too, because sometimes you don’t need to be extraordinary or super deserving, you just need to be a person in need of something. I am thankful to the literary community that this time was my shot.
I was told at the conference, you only need one agent to say yes, one editor to say yes to get published. And that’s all it takes for a lot of opportunities. So I’m going to celebrate every yes I get and do my best not to take a single no personally, especially since it’s typically my writing not me that’s being judged anyway. And when I get to be a more powerful literary citizen I can’t wait until I get some opportunities to say yes too. We all need a leg up we all deserve it, and I do think if I keep pursuing I’ll get one.