Want to be a good literary citizen? On a tight budget? At Sundress we came together to bring you 22 ways that you can be a good literary citizen–for free.
1. Attend free shows.
Support your local poets by showing up to hear them read! Faces in the crowd are such an encouragement to a poet, especially if you approach them afterwards to let them know what you enjoyed about their reading. It is an easy way to become part of a community. Find events near you here: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/events or look up your local writing groups and libraries.
2. Trade books you have read for books you haven’t read: what better way to discover new literature than from other readers?
Whether you get together with a few friends and trade paperbacks over a glass of wine, or hold an advertised community book exchange, this is a great way to refresh your bookshelf and discover new authors.
3. Workshop with friends.
A good workshop friend is someone who loves you enough to be honest about your work. You don’t want false compliments. Find a friend who writes in the same genre and who knows how to give honest, helpful criticism, and try setting up a weekly or month meeting. The accountability of having regular meetings to will do wonders for your productivity.
4. Volunteer. Give back to your literary community by lending a hand.
See if there are any local or online publications that need help. Many literary journals rely on volunteer work for most of their staff. You could be a content editor, a social media manager, even a volunteer bookkeeper. Whatever your area of expertise, there is someone in the literary community who would be grateful for those skills.
5. Offer advice to those who ask: NOT to those who do not ask. They may not need your advice.
Sometimes refraining from giving unsolicited wisdom is the kindest thing because it shows that you have faith in the other person’s abilities. Assume that people are competent their craft and treat them equally as your fellow writers, but be willing to share your experience if they ask to hear about it.
6. Review books — any and everywhere: Amazon and Goodreads are great places to leave book reviews.
Book reviews are free to write, easy to post, and so helpful to writers. Reviews help authors get the word out, and the more reviews a book has, the better the amazon ratings. Even a short review can give a marketing boost as well as simply being an easy way to encourage fellow writers.
7. Promote other writer’s work through social media.
Read something you enjoy? Tweet about it! Tag them on Facebook! As long as you are using social media to procrastinate, you may as well give a shout-out to your fellow writers. This is a compliment with marketing built in, because you are recommending the work to your followers.
8. Teach work written by living writers and let the writers know how students respond.
Give your students the gift of becoming connected to their contemporary literary community. So many English majors only know authors from previous eras and aren’t connected to who is writing now. Have your students read widely, then write a note of appreciation to a writer they admire.
9. Review books that aren’t already getting a ton of attention.
If you enjoy a book, look for its online presence. If it is being ignored, you could be the one to write that first glowing review that helps others discover it.
10. Organize literary events.
Contact a local coffee shop or bookstore and see if they will host a poetry reading. Or maybe find a local author who would be willing to run an evening workshop at the library. Whatever you decide to do, you can easily make a Facebook page to advertise and promote your event.
11. Read for journals.
Lend a journal your reading eyes and discernment. Since literary journals often rely on volunteers, skillful readers are needed to help find the right pieces to publish. Reading for a journal is fun, and it can help you develop your own literary preferences.
12. Teach free workshops: because you have so much knowledge to share that could help other writers.
You can offer your workshop at a local library or through a writers group. Or, if you don’t feel like teaching a group in person, you can always coordinate an online workshop.
13. Proofreading/Editing for free or for the same services in return
This can sometimes not only help another writer out, but help you out as well. Sometimes writers have looked at their own work so much that they are no longer able to catch some mistakes. Having a second pair of eyes is really helpful, whether you want to offer feedback about voice and structure, or whether you can give detailed grammar advice. This is a great way to develop the skill of proofreading, which can help you in your own work.
14. Give away books you have already read.
If you enjoy a book, give it to a friend, or drop it in a “Little Free Library.” You can find one, or how to start one, here: https://littlefreelibrary.org/
15. Attend readings.
Sometimes support is simply showing up. If the event is an open mic, bring a poem and participate.
16. Actively request books at your local library.
Libraries are constantly adding new titles that they know people want–so let them know what you want! Poetry, especially, needs to be specifically requested, since budgets are often small enough that it gets overlooked. Request books by living authors to help spread the word about their work.
17. Tell a writer how much they rock: Something as simple as a compliment can make a world of difference.
Writers look at their own work for so long that it is easy to doubt whether it is any good. Hearing a compliment, however small, can be a really nice confidence boost.
18. Write them a fan letter.
Or an email, or a Facebook message. As long as you are giving genuine reactions and specific praise for the work, you will make an author’s day.
19. Take a selfie with a writer’s book: After all, there is no better feeling than seeing people in real life with your work.
Your smiling face will be the compliment, and showing how excited you are on social media will help promote the author’s book.
20. Host a reading featuring local writers.
The writing community may be worldwide thanks to the internet, but there is still something about getting to know writers from your local community. With the local writing community, conversations at a reading have the opportunity to turn into more regular meetings and partnerships. You could find your next workshop partner while coordinating an event that will be good for your local writers.
21. Support kids and community writers beyond the professional literary community.
Kids are the upcoming generation of writers, so they need lots of support. You could be a mentor with an organization like Girls Write Now (http://www.girlswritenow.org/) in New York City, or contact a local school or library about starting a writing program for creative kids.
22. Spread the word about the awesome things presses do in the literary world
Because presses deserve some love for all that they do.