How Barbara Kingsolver makes literature topical — from climate change to opioids to how to write a good tweet
By Mary Ellen Callahan
September 6, 2018
Mary Ellen Callahan
The world is a more complicated place now than when I started writing this column three weeks ago. My life is, as always, full of lessons to learn. I can think of one now: When writing about a topic, write about things that are important to you. The topic may change over time, but the things that matter to you won’t.
So let’s talk about what it’s like when you write about a topic that isn’t that interesting. Like the topic of literature, which is currently in a period of change.
The past five years have seen a massive upswing in the popularity and attention paid to the written word. Publishers now spend billions of dollars annually on marketing, advertising, and promotion. According to the American Booksellers Association, U.S. bookstore sales of e-books more than doubled between 2013 and 2017. Sales of e-books increased by 4 percent in the period between 2016 and 2017.
The public is embracing reading as never before, and writing is a tool for communicating with it. You can use the Internet to write about writing. You can write a good book with the Web. You can publish e-books. You can publish a book on your blog, which you can also have linked to your e-book. You can publish a series of short stories on Instagram, and then send them to a number of different media outlets — as happened earlier this month when author Rebecca Pahle published a collection of short stories on Instagram and Medium.
Pahle decided to take a short cut to publication. But by publishing her work on Instagram and Medium, she’s cut out a lot of the time-consuming work involved in getting her work out into the world. She knows there are other things she could have done. When you publish your work to various platforms, you make sure it gets on everything — not simply to the best-performing