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Published Author Speaks: Your Duty as a Literary Citizen

I had the privilege of listening to Stephanie Vanderslice, an author of three books and blog writer for The Huffington Post, speak about literary citizenship as part of Oswego’s Living Writer Series.

Literary citizenship is a difficult term to describe because there is no one concrete definition. Though some might compare it to platform building, Stephanie explained that these two phrases are not exactly synonymous. Literary citizenship is not just about promoting your own work, but also promoting the works of others in ways that benefit everyone in the literary community.

In order to give the audience a better understanding of this concept, Stephanie related a story about a local author named Tyrone and Andy, a preteen boy with a dislike for reading. Tyrone presented Andy with a copy of his published book along with his email address. Tyrone then told the boy to write him with any questions or comments he had about the book.

“Tyrone saw an opportunity to make a connection and, on an individual level; that is literary citizenship,” Stephanie said.

Literary citizenship is all about the idea of giving back or “paying it forward” in ways that encourages reading and writing. It’s about building and nourishing a literary community based on interactions with others or “perpetuating literary culture in a world where its lights are dimming,” Stephanie said. Here are several ways to pass on the gift of literacy:

·      Give books to children to read

·      Donate to book drives

·      Participate in cash mobs and spend money at your local bookstore

·      Teach creative writing in prisons

·      Lead creative writing workshops in nursing homes

·      Provide one-on-one tutoring in writing

Remember that you have the power to support someone else’s work in the literary community whether it’s by recommending a book to your friends, writing an online review of your favorite novel, providing helpful feedback on your classmate’s short story, or even reading to your little brother or sister. What you do in this world matters. When you promote another author’s piece of writing, it benefits others in a ripple effect, which is the most important message of literary citizenship.

Lindsey Moses is a junior majoring in English at SUNY Oswego. She is currently a member of Alpha Sigma Eta, Oswego’s chapter of the International English Honor Society, as well as an editor for the Great Lake Review literary magazine. She also works as a tutor in the Writing Center, where she helps fellow students focus, develop, and organize their writing. In her spare time, Lindsey enjoys reading, writing, traveling, listening to music, and attending concerts.
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