For the longest time I had trouble finding out what was happening in the literary world. It seemed everyone knew about some new book or some new author or some new prize winner before me. Not that it bothered me much—I have such a long lists of classics to chew through that I didn't really care. But I'm now going through that list at a fair lick, reading about 100-110 books a year, and it's gotten to the point where:
- I got tired of the oldish-sounding English and wanted to read something contemporary and not having to wade through the weirdly composed sentences and the archaic turns of phrases and having to put up with occasional misogyny and some puritanism here and there and constant references to religion or God.
- I got sick of reading mostly white males as literature seems to stand on the bones of white males and I've had about enough of that—I still love you, white males, my partner Royce including, but I wanted more women voices and black voices and gay voices and all kinds of voices.
- I have found authors whose voices I loved and I wanted to read more of their recent writing.
- I felt a new hunger, a hunger for more than just novels. I wanted to expand, to read poetry and essays and non-fiction.
- I was plain jealous of hearing all these news about new books from other people and I wanted to be at the source of the news too, to be the first to find out about this new book or that new book and to form my own opinion about it before reading someone else's opinion about it.
- I was feeling increasingly sad because I still haven't found a good source for news on great new indie books and I'm still upset that I don't know where and how to find them.
So I decided to talk to the Universe (it was time). I said, "Hey, Universe, I want to get the latest hottest news about books." Miraculously, the Universe answered. I had a new update for my iPhone and suddenly there was this new icon called "News," and I have finally found a way to get my news in the "Literature" and "Horror fiction" and "High Fantasy" categories.
And this is what happened next.
I found out about John Freeman and his new biannual publication Freeman's: The Best New Writing on Arrival which I will be getting. It seems like a good place to sample new writers, their voices, before diving any deeper. Moreover, through John Freeman I have stumbled on Granta of whose existence I have forgotten. The only trouble is, subscription costs money and I can't afford it right now, but I will in the future.
So what about us indies? Is there a publication like that for us? Not that I know of.
Recently my short story Ilka was printed in the Paper and Ink Literary Zine in UK, and in the copy I got in the mail and it was chokeful of great short stories and poems, printed old style, looking almost like it was printed by hand, and that is the first and the only indie publication that I have found so far. They were funded by Indiegogo. Check them out and spread the word.
Now, I'm aware there are magazines publishing short fiction, all kinds. That's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for a place, a journal, a piece of paper, whatever, where someone can tell me, "Here, these are some great snippets written by people who write other, bigger stuff." I want something like Freeman's but for indie writers who are currently active and might have an excerpt to their novel there, or a poem, or a flash fiction piece, or a letter. Anything.
There is a place that is somewhat like this.
I'm curating the writing community on Ello that has now grown to 10K followers and is growing every day. That is where I get to read current published and unpublished indie writing, daily, and I have the privilege to select and repost those pieces that strike me as good or that need to be read because of their subject matter or that are written by a new writer who needs a visibility boost or are simply too fun not to share. So this is my current indie reading reprieve.
I urge you to sign up on Ello if you're not already there and post excerpts from your indie writing because IT NEEDS TO BE SEEN. The community is growing fast, and it's a sign that the pain I'm experiencing is not only mine. People crave good writing. They crave a place where they can find it, just enough every day, as a highlight, something quick to give them a taste of the writer and their writing style and then maybe going for a book or two of theirs, or even more.
I have talked about this pain before and some of you suggested that I start a publication like that. I don't have the time right now, but who knows, maybe one day I will. Or maybe there is something like this out there already?
So what about you? How do you find out about new writing? What are your sources? Any particular periodicals? Blogs? Reviewers? I'm curious to see and understand the landscape of how we choose what indie books to read, where we find them. Maybe, once I understand it, it will work itself to something bigger in my head and I'll be able to contribute to the better discoverability of new independent writing. Because I really want to find hidden gems and give them a boost. Well, what do you say?