This month, I spoke with the owners and staff at two bookstores— Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe in my current home of Bend, Oregon and Union Ave Books in my childhood home of Knoxville, Tennessee. I wanted to hear success stories and learn the ins and outs of how to start and run a bookstore. I’ve created a super informal “How-to Guide,” compiled at the end of this piece for all of you out there who have wanted to open your own slice of book-heaven, but did not know where to begin. And, above all else, I spent this time researching, talking, and writing to highlight exactly how bookstores flourish: by supporting and having support in their community.
Many young writers, like myself, don’t know the first thing about getting published.
Because, either our writing programs didn’t teach us and/or because even successful writers don’t often talk about the process. And when publishing is talked about, it is often through a privileged lens— a lens that doesn’t help the majority of new writers reach their goals. So how do we help each other get published when we aren’t privileged? We learn by example.
I chose these writers to be our examples not simply based on their popularity and their relevance alone. It’s also more than that. I wanted to highlight not just how White men can get published, but how everyone else can get published too, including Black writers, Asian writers, women, non-Western writers/writers who tell non-Western stories, and LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) writers. This is important. White people, especially White men, have owned the publishing stage for centuries. But what about the rest of us?
This post is for the rest of us.
“Educated” suggests that Dr. Westover’s education is complete. But I believe our work is never done.
Memoirs are a reflection not simply on what was, but how that affects what is. That reflection is missing in Dr. Tara Westover’s wildly popular memoir Educated. What she is missing out on is the opportunity to address a massive and impossible question: How can we improve education for everyone? This is a great moment for Dr. Westover to step up as a survivor and a potential leader, someone who can maybe help others in her situation, with bold ideas for change— brave, and again perhaps impossible solutions for girls who grew up like she did. But she doesn’t. She approaches the ledge, looks down, and then backs away. Accountability is key here. Dr. Westover is accountable for her beliefs AND for her silence in the lack of her beliefs.
I won’t settle not because I hate Tara Westover or her story. Quite the opposite. I won’t settle because I love Tara Westover. I love her as much as I can love a stranger, a fellow writer, a fellow woman. I’m here to challenge her because I care. Love is work, after all.
If you are contributing to the collective knowledge on the internet— by writing, by producing, by speaking, by sharing personal experiences— this is labor. We all deserve payment for our labors. It may not be much. It may not happen right away. But if people are following you, if people are engaging with your words and ideas, if people are in love with what you do and who you are, then let them pay you— somehow.
By studying the structure of first chapters, we end up talking everything from non-western vs western literature aesthetics, to discomfort, to the “writerly” image, to passion, to feminism, to reflection as an active force, to time and even physics.
Though I have problems with lots of books on writing, I still must read them. I must make the space for them in my life as a writer. If I don’t, I run the risk of closing myself off from the (relatively few but important) lessons that are there to be learned. We have to suffer moments of irritation, of annoyance, of boredom so we can access the moments of brilliance. That, after all, is what writing is all about.
Rebel-Mouthed Books is all about giving readers and writers the resources they need to explore and grow within the bigger literary community. We share book reviews, writing resources, tips about the publishing industry, and all sorts of other fun stuff that readers and writers want. To be the best resource for you all, I have a few Do’s and Don’ts that I’d like to explain here so our beloved readers and writers know what to expect on this blog.
I perused as many listicles as I could find announcing new book releases for 2019 and to save you time, I picked my own personal “standout titles” from each list.
My criteria for “standouts” are simple:
Is the book written by a writer of color?
Is the book written by a woman?
Is the story one that we readers have not yet heard before? AKA is this book another fun, typical crime thriller or does it have something totally new to offer us? I have nothing against genre reads, but I’d prefer to give this space to books that are doing something different. Genre reads are fun and engaging and exciting, so truly, I mean no offense by this criterion.
I LOVE PODCASTS— BUT SOMETIMES I FEEL GUILTY LISTENING TO THEM WHEN I FEEL I SHOULD BE READING. SOLUTION? BOOK PODCASTS.
As a reader and a writer, I’m constantly searching for music that fits my mood as I’m doing what I love. That’s why I created my own playlist on Spotify for readers and writers like me! Check us out at RebelMouthedBooks!