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Book Reviews, Criticism, Publishing, Ruminations, The Writer's Life, Writings

On Book Reviewers and American Writing Idol

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.


About Joe Ponepinto

Co-publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review. Author of "Curtain Calls," a featured Kirkus Review. Married to Dona. Dad to Henry, the coffee-drinkin' dog.


11 thoughts on “On Book Reviewers and American Writing Idol

  1. There is/was such a thing in the visual arts. Bravo Network had a show last season called something like Next Great Artist. Each week the contestants were challenged to create a piece based on a theme. Then the judges would eliminate one of them. Quite interesting.
    Of course written works don’t make good TV. But wouldn’t it be fun?
    “Jon, your theme was a bit pitchy and frankly the entire plot was so Saturday Evening Post. The metaphor was strong, and I think you should stick to poetry.”
    Casting? I’ll be Randy Jackson, Stewart can be Simon Cowell and Christine can be Jennifer Lopez. You Joe? You’re Ryan Seacrest.

    Posted by jonzech | April 19, 2011, 2:10 PM
    • And of course you know what would happen. Some complete no talent wannabe writer would stumble through his story and become a national sensation… oh wait, I’m thinking of Dan Brown…

      Posted by jpon | April 19, 2011, 6:48 PM
  2. I could never be Jennifer Lopez. Sure, I’m good looking enough, but I’m far to snarky.

    Posted by cpurcel1 | April 19, 2011, 2:22 PM
  3. And I apparently can’t spell, so I’m right out.

    Posted by cpurcel1 | April 19, 2011, 2:23 PM
  4. Would we all have to be good looking to compete, as with other competition shows? Well, the way poetry is headed (again I grumble about Oprah’s photo shoot of “rising” poets, all of whom look like runway models), I may have to invest in a nose job anyway.

    Posted by Kelly Davio | April 19, 2011, 6:19 PM

    Posted by jonzech | April 19, 2011, 6:28 PM
  6. Apparently this blog was so good that World Media Information picked it up. I can smell those royalty checks already.

    Posted by jpon | April 19, 2011, 6:49 PM


  1. Pingback: On Book Reviewers and American Writing Idol « OnLit | World Media Information - April 19, 2011

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