When you either watch your television sets or on the internet at home readers, you’ll witness the spotlight on the more successful best-selling authors. The veterans who made a name for themselves by the novels they wrote, or the sudden emergence of a newcomer (newcomer to the general public) with a story to tell for this current generation. Among them are the millions of lesser known writers who produce works but aren’t noticed by the public eye. The only avenues in which to gain an audience are book festivals, interviews with digital or print media, readings, everything else the famous authors don’t need to do; their fans are the ones with long lines in bookstores waiting for the release of their latest works.
As you may have guessed reader, the author of this essay is far from a famous author. Now when I began writing at an early age, it was for the love of writing a poem or short story. The idea of becoming as famous as Ray Bradbury, Langston Hughes or Isaac Asimov never occurred to me until much later in life. My goal was to be like Shakespeare, a writer whose works could be discussed for years and years. Based on my own experiences so far, I had no idea I would be in front of a camera discussing my work or opening a mobile bookstore, let alone be in charge of a Black Book Expo but I’m not as close to the eventual goal I aimed for nearly two decades ago. I’m still one of the millions of lesser known authors who keep writing in the hopes one day I will become a “famous author”.
The literary world has changed quite a lot since my days of reading books in my local library. There are new forms of entertainment, other venues to snatch the eyeballs off the written page. The advances in technology relating to home entertainment make my goal a lot harder these days. Even before the days of social media, I faced a challenge by the same target audience I sold my books to. You put in all the hard work to write a piece of literature that hopefully gains a new reader only to find the readers themselves don’t finish the entire book and critique your works without even finishing it! There’s no greater frustration than to endure piecemeal criticism from a reader. This is what it’s come to in our modern day and time.
I see this in my writer’s workshops. When I continued the workshops from a group of authors whom I associated with, there would be a roomful of ambitious first-time authors ready to learn the steps of publishing a book. Two years ago, there were only a handful of potential writers in the conference room. Most of the attendees were from another class. After close to forty years, I will say the art of writing has changed dramatically. The nature of reading a book has changed from print to where you may be reading this essay from, on your phone or from your computer or tablet. The aim of storytelling has changed from basically telling a good tale to which everyone can learn from to a select target audience with tales of representation and other new genres you may have seen listed here on the blog before. There’s nothing wrong with that; every generation undergoes a change in the literary world. It’s no surprise the stories I used to read back then have little to no relevance now.
The literary scene has changed so much that most of the same authors I used to meet in our local literary events have stopped writing. Lack of profits, lack of support, whatever the reasons, these authors who put in the hard work of publishing a book, are now back to maintaining a living for themselves. They did not reach the status they hoped for when they wrote their books and in a way, that’s sad. It’s also part of the writer’s life. Rather than ‘give up the ghost’, I am still one of the few who continue this dream. Perhaps it will be here on the blog I will inspire a new author to write their book or an idea they can grow and help them with their literary vision. If I can do that, then I’ll accept it. Until that time, all I can do is write….and dream.
Charles L. Chatmon