As Book Review Ed for the Los Angeles Review, I recently needed to recruit a few additional reviewers, so I placed an ad on CRWROPPS. Although the positions don’t pay, within twenty-four hours I had received sixty responses, most including CVs or samples of published reviews, and most from writers who would be well qualified for the job, even if it paid.
The overwhelming response for these gigs sheds, in its way, some light on the literary profession. I know of few industries outside the arts where an advertisement for a volunteer position would bring so many professional applications. This result, and the fact that CRWROPPS, a simple online posting service, reports a membership of nearly 6,000 writers, indicates the still large, and growing community of writers, despite an almost complete disregard of the literary world by mainstream media. It means also there are far too few publishing opportunities, especially for those who believe criticism is as important a part of the literary world as the more creative endeavors.
This is not a surprise, but it is a bit of an eye-opener regarding how the cramped literary field has forced writers to jump at even the slightest opportunity for publishing credits.
So few outlets for true self-expression in our society. Most respectable literary journals receive hundreds, often thousands of submissions for every poetry and fiction publishing slot. The scant number of outlets means writers must scramble for every chance to see their names in print. Isn’t there some way we can merge literature back into our culture, to make it matter to a significant percentage of the population once again?
What about an American Idol for writers? A show where budding poets and prose writers audition their work in front of a panel of literary stars who react, sometimes belittle, and then vote on the merits of the storytelling. I’ll bet it would be as entertaining as any other singing/dancing/comedy showcase on the networks today, and instead of promoting meaningless, corporate-sanctioned displays of self-indulgence, it would invite viewers to not only view, but participate in discussions of art and how it comments on the world, and maybe even create some art of their own.
Am I dreaming? Probably.