This is probably just one more post that the world doesn't need to read, but I need to write it. Maybe I won't post it, it's currently being saved as a draft. I suppose if you're reading it now, and it's not in the form of an email, then I have chosen to change draft to publish and post it online. If I've done so, it's not because I believe it's extremely well-written, or well-argued, or anything of extreme value. I'll have done so because, believe it or not, there's a small audience that returns to this site every so often to see what drivel has spun from my head via my fingertips. It might be an interview with an author. It could be a book review. Sometimes it's 30 mini-book reviews because I've managed my time poorly. Occasionally, not so often as say, Ed Champion, it's a quick rant-like burst of words responding to something I've read on various other sites.
Most of the time I'll stay out of the fray. I typically don't find I have much to say that hasn't been uttered elsewhere. The few times I do jump in with a post, I would assume most who read it find my initial beliefs were accurate. This current fray? The fact that newspapers are trying to increase their profit margins by eliminating, reducing and/or marginalizing their books coverage. What began by the National Books Critics Circle as a plea to sign a petition to send to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (they've recently removed the Books Editor from her position there, offering to possibly retain her at a different position within the paper - thereby eliminating books coverage as a regular feature), has turned into the occasional barb from members of the NBCC towards litbloggers.
I won't repeat them, or credit them, here. Chances are, if you're reading here, you've already read of the comments over at Ed's, Jeff's, Colleen's or many other places. The one small thing that I haven't read, and maybe I've just not read things closely enough, though I do believe it's been an underlying aspect of most of the replies to these comments, is that when you make a generalization about a group of people, say litbloggers, you are taking a shot at something about which there is a great deal of pride.
I realize that the folks in the NBCC are worried about literature, and the discussion of it. That the removal of book pages from our newspapers does not shine well upon our nation at all. However, the underlying sound to the bulk of the posts being done lately at Critical Mass, while noting the above, comes across much more as, "How will we earn a living?" I understand that feeling well. Hell, prior to starting up Dzanc Books with Steve Gillis my income was generated by the automotive industry in SE Michigan. During the seven years that I've involved in the online literary community I've been fired three times due to lack of work at my employer's, found the bulk of my success to be working at a temporary company as a part sorter (my full-time positions have been as QC Manager - not much actual sorting involved), and I'd supplemented my income by delivering newspapers overnight.
Oh yeah, during that timespan, I developed a little thing called the Emerging Writers Network. I did this in my spare time, not because I was being paid, not because I was getting free books (hell, I did it for two years before I knew there were publicists sending out copies of books and another two before I had the nerve to inquire about a galley), and not under the guise that it might lead to a membership in the NBCC - though, through some flukes, I believe I'm only one printed review away from being able to apply for membership.
I did it because I loved reading, loved sharing my opinions about what I read, and was having fun doing it. Tons of fun. At a time when not much seemed to be going right in my life, beyond the flourishing of my young children, the endeavors of the EWN just might be what kept me sane.
Now, back to the pride aspect that I believe the print reviewers just might be forgetting when they include one snide sentence about litbloggers, or online reviewing, in an otherwise well thought out post about the problems with the demise of book pages. It is absolutely there when it comes to myself. I try to hide it, to be at least slightly humble. After all, there are plenty of people doing things with much more powerful numbers than I am.
However, looking back over these seven years. I can say that I started from scratch - knowing, at that time, two published authors and no other living soul in the literary world. I started emailing book reviews out to people. 21 to start and they had no choice. It includes the two published authors and 19 family members. That email list has grown to over 1700 people. People who have asked to be put on that list. That found out about because others told them about it. Suggested, even, that they join up. Is it the audience that any NBCC member has with any one of their published book reviews? Hell no, but, in my defense, I don't have the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle or any other major newspaper, delivering my words to the doorsteps of thousands. And, I don't let myself believe that there aren't a couple of people who joined hoping only to find me more likely to review their work - that goes with the territory.
However, 1700 EWN members and some 300 (which is a pitifully small number compared to other litbloggers out there) daily visitors to the blog are not huge numbers, not even close, but they're numbers that I'm extremely proud of having developed, on my own.
Update - This will seem odd, an update before actually posting, but I'd be pretty remiss had I not linked to a new post from this morning by John Freeman, President of the NBCC, in which he wishes to point out that while there have been some comments within posts on the NBCC Blog the past week or so that might make it seem as if the folks of Critical Mass have issues with blogs (and a side note, at least a couple of these comments have been by Mr. Freeman himself), it is not the intention of the current mission to further the divide between print and online, it's more that they believe blogs are doing just fine these days and print reviews need their focus. Freeman doesn't necessarily point to his previous comments directly, but does at least acknowledge that there are many fine litblogs out there - linking to half a dozen or so (though to my knowledge, none that have so far made any critical comments towards the recent comments), which is a good thing, as the ones he's pointed to all have a great deal to be proud of.
Second Update (5/1) - I've actually emailed with John Freeman and have come to the conclusion that the majority of the posts that included what appeared to be shots at litbloggers really were not specifically setting out to do so. My belief is that they really were trying to express that this particular issue (the removal of the AJC Books Editor from her position, and elimination of said position) is more about print reviewing than reviewing in general. That is, they were trying to explain that the issue wasn't affecting litblogging - I just think the choice of words wasn't the best in many of the cases, but do not believe most were said with the intention to belittle litbloggers.