Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Whys of What We Do

With Kim Rosenfield's re: evolution off to the printer, and Allison Carter's A Fixed, Formal Arrangement due in any time now, I've turned my attention to writing the Figues annual new membership letter. This is the letter sent to those who have signed up to be on our mailing list, but who have not yet taken the next step of officially becoming a "subscribing member."

(BTW: all of you out there who need to renew your membership, please, RENEW TODAY. As mentioned, we have books at the printer, which means we need your support in order to pay that bill. But even more, the TrenchArt Tracer series is really dynamite, or to paraphrase Mathew Timmons, "Wow! I want every one of those books.")

But back to the new member letter, its intention to persuade others to support Les Figues. All non-profits send fundraising appeals, and as any person working in non-profit development will tell you, the primary source of funding for non-profit organizations is individuals. When I did fundraising for social service organizations (everything from HIV/AIDS to domestic violence and sexual assault), these appeals were easier to write. For God's sake, people were dying. But when it comes to the arts, there often isn't the same kind of urgency. Publishing a book of experimental/avant-writing won't help feed and clothe anyone, even the author.

Of course, the writers published by Les Figues aren't writing in order to make money; they're writing for other reasons: because they have something to say, because they love literature, because they want to shift cultural conversation. I know for me, I realized at some point I wanted to do more than survive. I wanted to engage with others on a deeper level, which is what I think art does. Because it goes inside you, through your eyes and ears, until it gets into your head and heart, and isn't this wonderful?

I just asked Vanessa this same question –– why do you write –– and she thinks I have the question all wrong. For her, the question is why would somebody not write? What made a person quit writing? Why not make something? Why why...why not?

What do you think?


Sawako said...

You, Les Figues, are wonderful, yes. Why I write and why I don't write. Maybe it's like that thing they used to tell teenage girls, regarding sex: if you don't make up your mind, the boys will be happy to make it up for you.

But for me the real draw is that I have something to say but am unable to say (speak) it. And if I write it, it gets closer to whatever it was I had to say than anything else ever can, without ever getting there completely, either, because by the time I've written it, the "it" has changed, and also because if I do manage to do it, I'd have to stop writing, and writing is, after all, a pleasure and solace.

K. Lorraine Graham said...

I don't think everyone began writing and then stopped, but the "why not make something" makes sense to me. Perhaps almost everyone has attempted to make something and then either stopped or continued doing it. I like writing because I like words and their flexibility--the way they can be material in a variety of ways and take in different textures: sight, sound, touch, informational. I'd love to make edible words, too. And words that smell...