Today I'm happy to welcome guest host Barbara Millman Cole, an award-winning short story author, magazine columnist, editor, writing teacher, and creativity coach. The following article originally appeared in Author Entrepreneur Magazine, and is reprinted here with permission.
Scaffold Your Literary Life
Build a Literary Community: Invite Readers to Participate
By Barbara Millman Cole
“Heroes didn't leap tall buildings or stop bullets with an outstretched hand; they didn't wear boots and capes. They bled, and they bruised, and their superpowers were as simple as listening, or loving. Heroes were ordinary people who knew that even if their own lives were impossibly knotted, they could untangle someone else's. And maybe that one act could lead someone to rescue you right back.”
― Jodi Picoult, Second Glance
― Jodi Picoult, Second Glance
Reading this passage by Jodi Picoult causes our emotions to well, our thoughts to awaken, and our imaginations to travel deep into the story community she creates. Without blatantly asking us to join her, she pulls us in with her literary style. We pause a moment to ponder her subtle idea. In this short passage, she defines the act of building community as “people who knew that even if their own lives were impossibly knotted, they could untangle someone else’s. And maybe that one act could lead someone to rescue you right back.” These words make us think about our own relationships to the people in our communities and how we forge relationships by giving of ourselves, in the simple hope that someone else will feel compelled to reach out for us in return.
As authors, we aim to stir imagination, engage minds, and ultimately, invite our readers to participate in our work. Simply, in so doing, we hope to find and build our own literary community.
When we are young, we are taught to include everyone in our games on the school playground. We are taught to find ways to make the game fun for all, and as children we readily alter the rules of our games to involve the whole group. We build our friendships by letting everyone participate and add to the game. As writers, we are charged with the same social duty – to bring our readers into the circle and let them play along with us as we construct our stories.
No matter our style, there is a community of readers thirsting to find and join us in our efforts to express our stories. We literally will build our literary communities by writing in a way that makes our readers feel they are partners in our work.
What do I mean by ‘partners in our work’? A good piece of writing mesmerizes its audience to such a degree they forget their own lives for the moment, leave their world, and enter into the world the writer creates. As authors, we strive to illicit audible gasps, awes, or sighs; physical sudden jerks, sharp pains, or sweet longings; and mental solutions, predictions or, vows in the hearts and minds of our audience. Swept by atmospheric tides, pulled into tumultuous eddies, or caught up in emotional currents purposely placed before them, the readers cannot help but choose to participate in what they are experiencing.
What better way to approach our writing projects than with this laudable aspect of artistry at the fore of our personal mindsets? How do we begin? By tapping into our own intuition, allowing ourselves to go deep into our own minds and hearts to discover what we want to impart as artists. If we ourselves are swept up, pulled, and caught by the tides, eddies, and currents of our own imagination, imagine how that will translate into our stories.
When we invite our audience into our stories, provide them with images, phrases, and metaphors that stimulate them to weave the story along with us, we allow our readers to be part of our work. Readers who feel fully engaged with our stories will become part of our literary community. As authors, we begin our novels, short stories, memoirs, plays, poems, and personal essays with the goal of inviting our readers to participate with the simple hope they will reach out to us and join our literary community in return.
Barbara Millman Cole is an award winning author of Short Literary Fiction, content editor, and creativity coach, who helps writers delve deep to discover their true meaning. Understand why you create so you know what to create. Contributing author of Creativity Coaching Success Stories and author of the forthcoming book, The Painted Woman and Other Short Stories, she can be reached at email@example.com. Find Barbara online at http://www.meetup.com/The-Writers-Place/. ©2013 All rights reserved.