For that I was happily prepared. But a question posed by the coordinator of my session (Self-Publishing) surprised and stimulated me. She asked:
What can libraries do for writers?
We typically think of libraries as institutions that feed our passions for reading, researching, and learning. The flip side of reading, researching, and learning, however, is writing. Someone writes the books we love. Someone writes the research findings and textbooks we need.
When it comes to creating memoirs and family histories, most individuals have to figure out—without professional guidance—how to tell their stories in writing. Their solitary struggles can delay completion of their work for years; all too often the effort is abandoned altogether.
Some libraries offer free literacy classes. Several in my area, offer journaling, memoir writing, and even writing classes for youngsters.
But could more local libraries become the places where those in our communities go for free writing instruction? In addition to teaching memoir and family history writing classes at the occasional library, I teach talented writers through community education programs, senior centers, and in retirement communities. But I know equally talented writers who cannot afford even the modest cost of those classes.
What Libraries Can Do for Writers
1) Perhaps libraries could avail themselves of grants earmarked for memoir writing classes. It would make sense for libraries, those repositories and consumers of writers’ work, to underwrite writing instruction a couple of times a year.
2) Many libraries host public readings of local writers’ published work. They could also sponsor writing contests and readings of excerpts from works in progress.
3) Libraries could stock the best-written and historically significant memoirs written by residents of the area. My students have written about life in a small Italian village in World War II officially hearing that the war was over when it wasn’t; a dramatic liberation from a German POW camp; life in a 20th century New England orphanage; even a mystery novel loosely based on the author’s experiences.
4) Hosting a series of seminars on self-publishing would be helpful to librarians and writers alike. Some libraries are partnering with Smashwords as a publishing platform. Other companies, such as FastPencil, evidently are getting into the act, as well.
5) Writers who want to self-publish their memoirs and family histories often need computer classes that cover effectively using Google for research; scanning and inserting photos into documents; downloading and saving documents; and formatting their manuscripts for publication.
Writers: Does your library offer memoir or other creative writing classes? Would you take advantage such free classes if your library made them available?
Librarians: I’d be happy to talk with you about short courses for your writer patrons. Please use the Contact tab at the top of this page to get in touch. Thank you.