May 10, 2004

Librarians who Write, Yet Again

I'm glad to see that discussion has revived on NMRTWriter, the discussion list for librarian-writers hosted by ALA's New Member Roundtable. NMRTWriter is not a perfect list--I wish it were more private and invitation-only, and that we knew who was subscribed--but many established librarian-writers subscribe to it, something highly in its favor (although the newer writers are important members of this community, too). The limitations of NMRTWriter can be addressed as they are on other ALA lists: by getting to know people, and writing them off-list when you have something delicate or sensitive to share.

It seemed that no sooner had I, in my ignorance, proposed the idea of a list for librarian writers then at least two other lists sprang up like mushrooms after a rain. But the new lists simply repeated the shortcomings of NMRTWriter without offering any clear advantages. If I'm going to share my joys and concerns in a writers' community, it might as well be on a list that has struggled along for awhile.

I would encourage the people who created these lists--and any other librarian writers who feel the need for community and feedback--to bring their subscribers over to NMRTWriter. To subscribe, send a message to with the following in the body:

subscribe nmrtwriter FIRSTNAME LASTNAME

Unless your mother named you FIRSTNAME LASTNAME, replace those words with your real name.

I admit to feeling a little silly about joining a list founded by NMRT, when I am really more eligible for OMRT, or at least MAMRT. But as Mehitabel said, "wot the hell, Archie, wot the hell." It's a nice group, and I have a feeling it will be a good place for me, particularly during these next two years. And why not for you, as well?

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April 24, 2004

Librarian Writers, Part Deux

The response to my earlier post about librarian writers was fascinating. I'm trying to probe what it is we feel we need. I'm tossing out the following to see what resonates with you (and I'll create a new post on my blog, since many but not all of the respondents are already on NMRTWRITER):

* A blog to post successes/questions/failures/whatevers

* A discussion list oriented toward published writers

* An informal organization for librarians who write

* An entity not necessarily related to ALA (no offense there to ALA)

* A casual community of published writers

What needs are we trying to fulfill? I think they exist, but pinning them down may be another issue. I sense needs for writers who are already writing--something low-overhead (presumably, we're all busy writing), but a community to tap when you are struggling with questions such as is this contract o.k., should you try writing outside the library press, how do you market my book, how can you get past writer's block, where can you find an indexer/editor/illustrator, how do you get over a bad review, how do you organize time for writing, how to break into a new writing area, what kind of experience did you have with X editor or Y press, or even writerly questions about the mechanics of style, grammar, and punctuation. Not to mention the inevitable get-together at library conferences, or even very occasional chats by AIM or other low-cost means.

... Or even just to be able to list on your c.v., "Founding Member,"

I'll add that I was surprised to hear that NMRTWRITER existed, and that it is under the aegis of NMRT was even more surprising. Sometimes I am asked why I am not on such-and-such list, and I usually say, "because I have a life." But I would have been on NMRTWRITER a long time ago if I had known it existed. That said, without a Web presence or easily-accessed archive, I don't know if NMRTWRITER is more than ephemerally useful to us.


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April 23, 2004

Librarians who Write

For librarians who write--in country or not--what about an Algonquin Circle, just for us? A list, or a blog, or even just a button we could wear on days we're feeling proud of our efforts? We could meet at library conferences and do Show and Tell.

I've proposed this from time to time over the last ten years. It's always met with tepid interest, although in my most insecure moments I'm sure this group already exists and that there's an agreement that I won't be invited to it ("she has comma issues, and did you catch that run-on sentence in her last piece for AL?").

I like the NWU guidelines for membership: "You are eligible for membership if you have published a book, a play, three articles, five poems, a short story, or an equal amount of newsletter, publicity, technical, commercial, government, or institutional copy. You are also eligible for membership if you have written an equal amount of unpublished material and are actively writing and attempting to publish your work."

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The Pragmatic and Unimaginative Shall Inherit the Earth

Late this June, I'm starting an MFA in Writing at the University of San Francisco. People ask: poetry? Fiction? (Just this week, a colleague persisted: "no, tell the truth! You write fiction, don't you?" To which a friend once responded, "you write great fiction, Karen--I've read your grants.")

For anyone who missed my last 100 articles and two books (actually, that would be quite a few of you, but never mind), I write non-fiction (a term right up there with "horseless carriage," but that's a rant for another day). And courtesy of Ruth Seid, I know I've made a good choice (although I should add writers that choose their genres like parents choose their children):

Life of Verse Is Not as Long, Study Says

Nonfiction writers outlive poets by six years, literary researcher finds.

By Sandra Murillo
Times Staff Writer

April 23 2004

From Ernest Hemingway to Sylvia Plath and Virginia Wolff, the literary world has long had its share of tortured, depressed souls. But poets, says one San Bernardino psychology professor, die younger than playwrights and nonfiction writers.

The complete article can be viewed at:,1,1600439.story

Visit at

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