25 year-old Denis wants to attend the MFA program at Hollins in the fall, but can’t afford to go. Sound familiar? Denis’s solution, though, is new. He decided to do some internet fundraising. He writes on his blog:
Instead of asking people to loan me money for school, I’m now asking them to simply give me money. To that extent, I’ve created a fundraising page on fundable, and if you can spare $10, please pledge towards my goal. Since I can’t get a loan and there is no way my parents can pay my tuition, I’ll have to rely on the kindness of strangers.
You can check out his fundraising site directly here. At time of writing, Denis only had $10 in contributions. Is this because his campaign is brand new (launched 7/13/09) or because there’s a recession on, or because this idea simply isn’t going to work?
There’s also this article, over at Publisher’s Weekly, about writer and blogger Dianna Zandt, who, after signing a deal for her first book that provided no advance, decided to “crowdfund” the money she needed to write over the summer. It helps that her topic is “…writing about the power of social media to shift perceptions and cultural values.” She’s been pretty successful so far, it seems – you can read her thoughts and feedback on the process (plus tips for others who are considering going the the same route) here.
What do you think? Are Denis and Deanna smart to try this approach? Is their initiative laudable? Do their requests for funds seem justified to you? And is this a sign of things to come?
Anyone about thinking about applying for an MFA in the next season (or, for that matter, those about to start a program) would do well to check out a couple of posts over at the Virginia Quarterly Blog about how the current publishing and financial shake-up is affecting university presses and university sponsored literary magazines. VQR editor-in-chief Ted Genoways reports that times are hard. LSU’s Southern Review is under threat of closure, as is Middlebury College’s New England Review, and other venerable titles — The Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, Oxford American — might have folded if not for emergency fundraising.
Genoways argues that these literary outlets are essential for academic depth and breadth, as training grounds for future writers and editors, as homes for innovative writing, and, not least, as valuable PR for the institutions that create them. “If not for Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, and The Oxford American,” he writes, “I would never think of Kenyon College or Washington & Lee University or the University of Central Arkansas. The excellence of these publications gives their universities a national profile.”
University sponsored lit mags are also MFA recruitment tools. LSU’s MFA website states: “LSU has an extraordinary English Department, and LSU Press has made important contributions to American poetry and fiction. The MFA program offers opportunities to gain editorial experience by working for our many magazines and publications. The New Delta Review, The Southern Review, and The Corpse . (If you are interested in editorial experience and would like to be considered for an assistantship at a particular review you are advised to make your interest clear in your application letter.)”
And if The Southern Review folds, LSU? Then what?
You can read the original posts here and here.
That’s where the publishing industry is going, apparently. As in, down. Way, way down. Deep into them there tubes.
Massive lay-off and some resignations, and entire trade divisions being wiped out. As gloomy as this might seem — especially for young writers, signing up for MFA programs and laboring over yet-to-be-sold first books — you can be sure of one thing: The human need for story will never diminish. How people buy and consume those stories, though, is likely to change, perhaps beyond recognition. This metamorphosis is going to be painful (what metamorphosis isn’t?) but whatever emerges might well be stronger, more efficient and actually better for writers.
In the meantime, information is power, people! KNOW what you are getting into. Be informed. To that end, here’s a helpful links round up. All hail the death of book publishing as we know it!
Read Galley Cat for breaking news. In particular here, here and here.
Things are not much better in the UK, in case you were wondering.
The Times weighs in, with some good common sense, about what new technologies mean for the demise — or not — of the book.
Booksquare has their own, ballsy take on the situation.
Then, if you really want to shock yourself, read this:
By jove, I think I might have done it! Embedded a video! Huzzah!
This is Jim Levine, principal at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, talking at the Strand book store in New York, about what he’s looking for in a memoir. Those of you exclusively in the third category — the “exceptional writing” group — have the hardest sell, in my opinion, and the most work to do, because in that case, you are selling art, not ideas or experience. It can be done though — just look at Mary Karr.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Video care of GalleyCat, at Media Bistro.