|Arts & Culture Archive|
You can find Part 1 here.
A transcript is after the jump.
JEFFREY BROWN: Do you worry about the readership? The lack of readership? I mean, that's the other thing we hear a lot about?
JOSHUA FERRIS: I don't personally, but it's a kind of a low-boil concern, I think, where you feel like if it continues to drain away, what are you doing it for. At the same time I think that if I didn't have a readership I would still continue to write. I think that the ambition that a writer has to realize his or her project would be there regardless of readership if that writer were in it for the right reasons. It's a little like asking a banker during the financial crisis if he was uninterested in making money anymore, you know. Despite the fact that it feels like there is a crisis still going on, there's an enormous ambition out there in young writers and that's not going to be taken away by the changes in the culture or in the commerce.
ANDREW ALTSCHUL: Unlike bankers, hopefully nobody wants to drag us out back and rough us up in the middle of our crisis.
HANNAH TINTI: As an editor, except maybe the writers that I've rejected. They might want to do that.
JEFFREY BROWN: Through your magazine, you're reaching -- it's a niche audience, right? But you see it as a viable niche.
HANNAH TINTI: Oh, completely. The surprising thing, when we started one story we really thought it was going to be a couple of hundred of friends and friends of friends reading it and then it took off in this enormous way. Our subscriptions have never gone done, they are always going up, going up, going up. We've got about 10,000 subscribers now. So 10,000 people get sent a short story to them every three weeks. And our subscribers are very loyal, they're very excited, as soon as people sort of find out about what we're doing they join in. We are now on Kindle and on the iPad and that has also increased our exposure. I'm really not worried about people not reading anymore. I think there's always going to be readers.
ANDREW ALTSCHUL: And one of the other things that has been a result maybe of a shrinking publishing industry or shrinking readership is that actually writers nowadays, I think, are a lot more community minded than maybe in the past.
JEFFREY BROWN: Meaning what?
ANDREW ALTSCHUL: Meaning something like One Story, for example, they not only have published 150 young writers in their time, but also they follow these writers' careers, they help to promote their events and their books when they come out. I published a story with One Story in 2005 and still when I have a new book come out they say, what can, how can we help? And this has nothing to do with technology. One Story started using the U.S. mail as their main technology. And I think there's a lot more things like that, the Rumpus, the website I work for, that are really intent on promoting community among writers and artists.
JEFFREY BROWN: I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I've heard anecdotally -- and I'm asking this because of the AWP conference that you are all here for -- more people than ever taking writing classes nowadays, and yet as we've been talking about it seems as though fewer people are actually reading books. I don't know if that's true, but let's say it's at least not going up. We have more people writing. Now what explains that?
JOSHUA FERRIS: Well, it's a totally different bag of tricks. I mean, you want to be a writer because you want to express yourself or you want to capture something in the larger world or get your experiences down on the page. And reading is just simply a different thing, it's a much less selfish impulse. I think you have people who are trying to find whether are not they both have the literary stamina and the literary talent to finish a good story or a good novel. When you go into a bookstore you can be overwhelmed by the number of things that have yet to be read by you. I often feel like I'm perfectly at home when I'm in a bookstore, but someone once said to me that are going into a bookstore for them was like going into a hardware store for me. And I understood immediately why it would be a daunting thing going into a bookstore and you have no idea where the screws are, but it's just a different hat you're wearing when you're being a writer than when you're being a reader.
JEFFREY BROWN: To make it personal, when did you decide or know that you were a writer or wanted to be a writer?
HANNAH TINTI: When I failed at something else. But it's partly -- I mean, my mother was a librarian, so books were always extremely important and kind of hallowed in our household. But I actually studied science and majored in science in school and then I just happened to take a writing class and all these things kind of shifted and went together. I realized that while I was extremely interested in science I was not particularly very good at it, while I really loved writing and I seemed to have some sort of, maybe just because my mother was a librarian, just that world was very natural to me. I decided that I should really go there instead. It wasn't sometime I always thought I was going to do. I thought I was going to be the next Jacques Cousteau. So maybe I'm doing that --
JOSHUA FERRIS: There's still time.
HANNAH TINTI: Yeah, but doing it in a different way and now I just can't imagine doing anything else and it's incredibly rewarding.
JEFFREY BROWN: Andrew?
ANDREW ALTSCHUL: I was a dabbler in high school, college and after college. But I started showing what I was writing to friends and at some point somebody said to me you know you should think about going to graduate school. And I was so completely ignorant about what one does to become a writer that I said, For what? I didn't know there was such a thing as a graduate program for writing. A couple of years later I sent some applications out and wound up at the University of California at Irvine, a program that I adored and by the time I left I knew this was where I going to be spending my life.
JEFFREY BROWN: And I didn't ask you. Did you come as a reader or as a writer?
JOSHUA FERRIS: I knew that I wanted to be writer when I failed at it. When I failed at writing. Because I thought well, you know, I can do this other thing fairly well and this third thing --
JEFFREY BROWN: When was that?
JOSHUA FERRIS: Oh, I was probably -- I mean, when I really knew I wanted to be writer I was probably 17 or 18. But I remember as a very young kid I was encouraged by my mother to write and I asked her at one point in time if I could use a curse word. I don't remember her exact response, but I do remember the substance of it was that if it was in service of the story it was perfectly fine.
JEFFREY BROWN: Oh, that's good mothering.
JOSHUA FERRIS: It was a good response.
JEFFREY BROWN: That's very nice mothering. All right, Joshua Ferris, Hannah Tinti and Andrew Altschul, thank you all very much.
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