I recently read “Move over, here comes Armstrong - Make that Rodriguez” in Dirt & Seeds by Heather Sharedden, who lives in Yamhill County, co-owns the Velvet Monkey Tea Cafe in McMinnville, and who has published four novels; Damaged Goods, Windless Summer, Mineral Spirits, Blackbelly. She asks the question “What if sports were for sport, and not money?” She leverages the recent Alex Rodriguez and Lance Armstrong drug revelations into a bitter sweet discussion of how lucky she and her fellow writers are.
Sharedden says except for the very famous few most writers have day jobs to keep warm, dry, and sort of well fed while writing whatever they can scratch out the time for themselves. So true of writers. I would add musicians, actors, sculptors, visual artists, many of us in Arts Alliance of Yamhill County, and basically almost all of the cultural workers in America share that reality.
For their toil, if writers are lucky, they get invited to a local library or asked to read at one of the vanishing bookstores, and the exceptional few might be invited to a big literary festival. Writers spend more time and money on research, travel and production that they ever make in the market place. Sharfeddin says “To be a true writer is to reach a point in your career when you can no longer deny that the reason you do this is because you love it, otherwise you would have moved on to something more lucrative a long time ago.” She is talking to all of us who toil as cultural workers in our distorted landscape of fame and notoriety.
Then Sharfeddin has some fun with the Armstrong/Rodriguez connection when she suggests that writers “go on, unchecked, using all manner of performance enhancing drugs” She suggests that many of our heros have used drugs “once… or forever.” Unlike the sports world, no one demands pure urine and blood to give or take away literary recognition or awards.
Lance and OprahA RodFun, but the fun turns to something else, our culture of fame at its worst. The famous fallen sports heros can now ever so easily turn to writing. Their fame will get them a book deal with the money and the promotion. Readers seemed to be fascinated more by a peek into the life of a name they recognize than the well crafted stories of experienced writers.
Writers have no choice but to let the American literary market place do what it does. They will go to readings of fellow writers at the local library and go into the schools to excite young voices to express themselves.
Those of us who are writers, musicians, actors, visual artists, or in my case film maker. have to continue to support our fellow cultural workers when they read poetry at the cafe, play music at the coffee house or street corner, stretch it out in a part in a difficult play, display their work at a local gallery, or seek to increase the cultural density of their community by producing culturally relevant videos.
The Rest of us in the muddy cultural fields
Because the American market place will not support us, as Sharfeddin suggests, at least to me, like with all manner of locally based sports from tag football to pickup basket ball games, those of us slogging it out in the muddy cultural fields have to support one another. And maybe we get to smile and have some fun while we are at it.
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Labels: Culture, Op-Ed, writing