A couple of years ago, I came up with an idea to put on a community party, of sorts. I had been running a small publishing house of my own with only limited success, and I began to form a theory as to why. Very few people in the community were choosing to read authors from this area. How can writers who work here, in the southeastern quadrant of a southwestern state get any support or traction if our community doesn’t support us? Why don’t they support us?
My answer was, they simply don’t know us. They haven’t had a chance to read our work. Since that time, I have had the chance to try and share my own work, as well as the work of writers I have published and writers I admire. It is not easy. There is some element of, “If it’s from here, it must not be that good.” That’s ridiculous. Obviously artistry is not limited to urban locals. Look at Peter Hurd’s paintings. They are astonishing, beautiful. Georgia O’Keefe was living and painting in New York with her husband, but when she came to New Mexico, that was it. She moved her life and her work here. Artists, writers, and poets are everywhere. They reside in the heart of their vision, and that vision is not limited to an urban community.
On the other hand, the publishing center of the United States is New York, New York. This has partly to do with its historic roots. Many of the best publishing houses are there, and they have been there for more than a century. Take Knopf. I first heard the name specifically in college, but I knew their productions before that because I came from an erudite home. The name of the company fills me with romantic rapture even now. Their books bespeak excellence in both content and production. They publish Pulitzer winners, National Book Award winners, Nobel Prize winners. Why all that success? Because they are good business people seeking to produce a superior product, and they groomed the reading and writing communities along the east coast. Of course, they have the advantage now of a remarkable organization and a HUGE reading audience. Writers PINE to get a letter from Knopf. They should.
I would love to have some small portion of the cache of Knopf. However, I live here. I love this place. I am never going to read a novel titled STANDARD DEVIATION by Katherine Heiny (though that sounds hilarious). I prefer to read books that have some real interest FOR ME. I prefer to read books that are linked to my life and my experience. I prefer to read Barbara Patterson or Joyce McCollaum or Ralph Rivera or Hedda P. Saltz, not simply because they are people I know, but because their work is MORE RELEVANT to my life than Katherine Heiny’s.
Look, I have no problem with this Heiny woman, and I might read her book. Who knows? I just want to read books that make some sense to me as well. And…I want book clubs to read the authors I publish. They are amazing writers, and they will give readers great joy if only the readers will give them a chance.
Beverly Coots, another writer friend of mine, encouraged and worked to get another BOOKISH AFFAIR on this summer. So…we’re having one on 23 and 24 June. It will be great and fun and worth everyone’s trouble. I hope folks will come. Anybody out there who reads this, tell me what you think of the image we made for the event. Isn’t she beautiful?