By Jeff Kurrus
A couple of months ago, I sat on a literary panel for my upcoming children’s book, Have You Seen Mary? The topic was on writing, publishing, and the behind-the-scenes of each, and myself and four other writers and publishers discussed these subjects in front of about 40 aspiring writers in the audience.
And while it was nice to talk about my book, and the process it took to create, there was another panelist’s words that I cannot get out of my head. “As a publisher if I like your work,” she said, “that’s not enough. I’m also going to see who you’re following on Twitter and other social media. If you’re following, say, Ashton Kutcher, then I’m going to take you off my list. You should be following blah-blah…” She then named a couple of poets that these writers should be following, and this statement disturbed me very much.
The first thing some of the audience members probably did when they left this discussion was make sure they were “following” the right authors. “Everyone that’s a poet in town knows every other publishing poet,” this panelist also said.
However, I can’t imagine that Ted Kooser knows every publishing poet in this region. I may not be giving him enough credit, I understand, but I’m sure he’s spending much more time writing than he is following someone else’s writing. “I love the Smoky Mountains,” he told me recently in a conversation, “because when you’re there it seems as if no stone has been left unturned. The entire landscape is filled with untold stories.”
Stories. That’s what writing comes back to, and what the writer should be spending the majority of their time doing instead of wondering who they should be checking in on. I understand the concept of knowing the field, knowing your audience, and being able to conceptualize the holes that you see in the current literature, but I also think that when I’m on my deathbed I’m going to be more concerned with what I was writing than worrying about what all the “right people” were writing.
When a writer approaches NEBRASKAlandwith a potential article for our pages, I read it. When they submit photos, I look at them. If I like either, I pass them along to Doug Carroll, Jon Farrar, and Tim Reigert. If I don’t like them, I still pass them along. If they’re not clean (full of gross errors), I kindly return them to the solicitor.
Not once in the process do I see who their friends are on Facebook, or who they are following on Twitter. I have no idea what Rick Rasmussen does – all I know is that he takes beautiful bird photos. While I know he is young, I do not know the education background of Luke Kathol, but I’m always excited when he sends in more material. And there are several others whose work is judged on the most important piece of information – their work.
The sad part is that there was probably a writer in that audience who had a great idea that afternoon of the panel discussion, but spent their time that evening making sure they knew every other writer in the Omaha area instead of following their own good thought.
I’ll take my chances writing. I always have, and I always will. And I hope any aspiring writers out there do the same.
Visit jeffkurrus.com, but only after you’re created something today.