Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A New Year's Resolution Request

Dear all my online buddies,

I hope everyone had a safe and fabulous New Year's Eve (and hopefully a little less wine and next-day Advil than YT) and is off to a rollicking start. Thanks, Cyn, for pointing out that 2008 is the year of the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac--lunar rat year? seems like it should be promising for us ;)

I for one have made a string of resolutions (actually, they're more like goals, which seems more proactive) and I'm sure all you diligent folks have your own, as well. But I have a proposal for one more resolution that I'm making and that I hope you, specifically the writers and publishing folk among you (which is basically everyone who reads this in some way, since blogging is a very powerful means of dissemination), might think about to. It's this: write/edit/publish with agenda.

The longer I work in publishing and the more projects I see pass over my desk or those of my colleagues and competitors, the more this matters to me. I know that working is supposed to make you jaded and mercenary, not more passionate about what you do. But the more I understand the industry and think about things like the impact of literacy, reading material, corporate censorship, education, and formula fiction, the clearer the truth becomes. Written word is an intensely provocative medium that for thousands of years was used primarily to convey ideas. Reading is an extremely personal and often life-affecting activity. An author should recognize that he or she can't imagine which device or thread of their work might echo in a child's (or an adult's) head and change their attitudes or behaviors. And so an author should be responsible for every sentence and make sure that he or she is creating thoughtfully.

So the goal: think about what you stand for, and when you can, make your readership think about what you stand for. I know this isn't a new idea, but it's gotten so very lost that we really need to think about it seriously. Having a message and being responsible for it is so very much more crucial at this juncture than it ever has been in history--people produce, absorb, distribute, and purchase media in volumes impossible until very recently, and at the same time retailers and investors are becoming increasingly narrow-minded, profit-conscious, and homogenized. I'm not striking out at them here--corporations can't help corporate structure and I do believe they do their best, mostly, to be responsible about stocking selections; however, it should be clear that this situation only amplifies the need for responsible authorship and publication so that the selection available to them to pick from is something that will contribute to the positive shaping of society, and not the negative. There has never been a time like this very moment when writing with agenda was more important.

I know what I stand for (literally, I sat down, thought about it for a really long time, and wrote a bunch of bullet points on an index card that is now pinned by my desk). So I hereby solemnly resolve that in 2008 and in all years going forward I will, to the absolute best of my ability, not acquire, edit, or endorse books that go against my beliefs, not for profit, not for glory, not for fun. I will remember how powerful words can be and remember, in the immortal words of Spiderman's Uncle Ben, that with great power comes great responsibility. This is something I will (and do) think about everyday.

I sincerely hope everyone will join me.

Happy 2008, everyone!!

Ratty love,



Vesper said...

A beautiful resolution, indeed... Something for all of us to think about.

Happy New Year, Moonrat!

cyn said...

i love your passion, MR! and yes, the ratties are turning 24 (or 36 or 48, etc) this year. the golden pig is shuffling off in a few months time.

crikey, write with an agenda. i'm happy when i write some good prose. maybe i'll get there some day! happy 2008, everyone!

Ello said...

Excellent, excellent! I applaud your sentiments. Words are so very powerful. EVen though my blog is pretty agendaless, my writing is not. I always have an agenda when I write. It is what motivates me to write in the first place. It is what keeps me going through research and hours of staring at a blank screen. The belief that I have an important message to share with the world.

Happy New Year!!!

Cakespy said...

Moonrat, this is an awesome post to start out 2008. So much better than a goal to lose weight or (horrors) give up dessert. I fully stand by this--I think it's such a universal idea!!

You rule.

Merry Jelinek said...

This is fabulous!!!!!

I'll echo Ello here, my blogposts don't always have an agenda... though I think my moral beliefs show through more often than not, but my writing - there's usually a biggie in the center plotpoint itching to be pondered. Those are the books I love to read and I would much rather write something that speaks to my soul, that's bigger than the snackread that's palatable but forgetable...

So, anyway, I applaud your resolution... I've said before that I'm not making resolutions this year, just aiming to complete my current goals and create new ones... but I'll add this one to my desktop reminders - "With great power comes great responsibility..." and I'll think of both you and spidey...

Now I'd love to see your bulletpoints :-)

Happy New Year, Moonrat!

Anissa said...

Brava! Beautifully put, Moonrat. May the year of the rat sprinkle droppings of genius in all that you do.

intact said...

The best New Year's Day post EVER. Thank you. & thank you. & yes I will yes ...

Linda said...

Provocative... brave words indeed.

Agenda totally motivates my writing. If only one person reads my work and comes away persuaded mental illness is not a condition to demonize or glorify, that mentally ill people love and can be loved, then I will know I've succeeded as a writer.

Folks in the business tell me my writing shines, but in the same sentence also let me know they 'shy away' from 'projects that deal with mental health.' Thank goddess I am as tenacious as a fly on poo... :^}

This is a beautiful, inspiring post, one of the most important I've read on any site. Thank you for your resolve.

Happy New Year... Peace... Linda

Aparna said...

moonratification of major treatises -

your post was beyootiful to my wordhongry eyes. and a fresh tickle of an idea to start off the new yeaaarrrgh!!! i need an embroidery with these wise verbs pronto! i'm thinking handcrafted. meet me at the mansion for the drop-off. hup hup. don't have all year now! WINK WONK.



Church Lady said...

I love this post. Beautifully written in every possible way.

For me, these words are comforting and validating. I put together a site a few days ago which illustrates my agenda for writing--to bring smiles and laughs. I want to transport kids to other places. Fun places. I feel like I'm going against the trend toward edgier, more serious writing which dominates right now. But I feel passionate about wanting to write books that make children feel better, not worse, about life.

I don't want this to turn into a rant or a ramble. Just wanted to say thanks for an eloquent post.

writtenwyrdd said...

Very thoughtful post, moonrat. I agree with most of it in principle, but I am not a person who writes with an agenda except to write a ripping good tale.

Although it makes me feel rather small and jaded to say it, I am afraid that I prefer to read as escapism and to write escapist drivel.

Josephine Damian said...

WW, I'm with you - it's all about entertaining the reader. Agenda and writing? I gotta disagree with Moonrat on this one, JMO. I say save your agenda for the soap box - I think Roth's politics (which agree with mine) are best left out of his novels - he should save his agenda for the Op-Ed section of the Times.

Colorado Writer said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and goals. I am stealing your index card idea.

Happy 2008!

Sarah Hina said...

I think the key to all writing is authenticity. If your words, and ideas, are authentic, then they will rise and move on their own. The reader may not be conscious of any agenda, but the truth will bleed through.

Thanks for the insightful post.

moonrat said...

WW, good writing is an agenda in itself. i've said that before and i stand by it. make it your agenda not to use boring language or not inspire your reader.

JD, i'm sorry you disagree. but i also want to clarify--this goes much deeper than politics. i get especially upset about this in terms of children's literature, because i know exactly how impressionable i was as a kid and still see the results (positive and negative) of things i read when i was younger. the recent publication/popularity of The Luxe (i did a review on thebookbook if you want to know more) really got my hackles up.

but just to take a very simplistic example: say, hypothetically, that you are personally against racism of any kind. take a stand on that issue by not letting your protagonist use racism in a glorified way. that simple. although you might think this (and other related examples) are no-brainers, the truth is authors often get caught up in their stories and don't see the implications of random words/phrases/ideas they've been plowing through for a long time.

Precie said...

Moonrat--I heart you and this resolution request.

Happy New Year!

(josephine--for once, I have to agree to disagree. While I totally agree that overtly polemical writing--like, um, say, an author with the initials A.R. whose massive novels TF, AS, etc., are not at all veiled and extremely heavy-handed--isn't appealing in fiction, I would absolutely say that work like Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns functions beautifully as an agenda-driven work of art. I think his brilliant writing, especially his tantalizing use of two limited third POVs, is exactly what makes the underlying agenda powerful WITHOUT force.)

The Anti-Wife said...

Wonderfully stated.

Charles Gramlich said...

Gorgeous post. I couldn't agree more and will certainly join you in this resolution, although it is something I think about often as well.

writtenwyrdd said...

Moonrat, regarding your clarification about careless and unintended interpretations, I think it might be a good idea to go over drafts with that thought in mind. Not just checking that it makes sense, but if the sense your writing makes is according to your intent. Like accidentally fostering racism or sexism.

In either case, your passion in this matter is impressive. It is refreshing that you have that sort of (dare I say it?) zeal in your work.

Maria said...

You really need to meet a good friend of mine. Seriously.

She works as an assistant editor and while she has no blog, she sounds EXACTLY like you.

I just saw her when she was visiting her parents over Christmas and asked her what she was reading these days. She said she hated the fact that she read so much for her job that she disliked reading when she came home.

The highlight of her year: working on a book with a famous supreme court justice.

Lovely, lovely post.

Shameless said...

Well said! Bravo.

angelle said...

agenda, indeed. you know how i feel about this.

yeah, i'm going through all your backposts. slowly.

word veri: mudabu.

hee hee hee.