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Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living Paperback – January 3, 2017
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"Illuminating...Includes hard truths and thoughtful meditations on class and capitalism while also functioning as a survival guide.” —The Atlantic
"Excellent, honest looks at the economic realities of writing for a living.” —GQ
"Scratch repeatedly demonstrates the nitty-gritty on this stuff...the relationship between work and money in writers' lives." —Slate
"Honest." —New York Times Book Review
"Solid counseling for aspirants on what it means to offer the labors of their heart for sale in the marketplace.” —Publishers Weekly
"In her introduction, Martin suggests that writers are “yearning for any scrap of information about how their own profession functions economically.” She’s right. . . . These voices occasionally stand at a miked podium and tackle ideology and institutions but more often pull up a chair with a cup of coffee to talk brass tacks. Readers will greedily (pun intended) soak up such details." —Booklist (starred review)
"In this well-organized, fascinating anthology, a host of fiction and nonfiction authors share practical tips and emotional intelligence. . . . Highly recommended for both experienced and aspiring authors and for avid readers who want to learn the back stories of the contributors." —Kirkus Reviews
"I loved this book...I read through it in one sitting." —Jaime Herndon, BookRiot
"A useful and inspiring read." —The Millions
About the Author
Manjula Martin is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience in print and online publishing. She founded and edited Scratch magazine (2013-2015), an online journal of interviews and information about writing and money, and created the blog Who Pays Writers? Her pieces have appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Aeon Magazine, Pacific Standard, Oyster Review, and SF Weekly. She writes “The Dough,” a series about women and money, for The Toast and is the managing editor of Zoetrope: All-Story. She is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto and a graduate of Mills College. Scratch is her first book.
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So I've seen some people say they found the book depressing, but maybe my expectations for making a living as a writer are super low or something because I actually found it encouraging. While not all of the essays focus exactly on making a living, the ones that did were frank and honest and most importantly to me—though most of them struggled at first, they did eventually reach the point where they were comfortably making ends meet, often through multiple streams of income. Some were more open about numbers than others, but they all ultimately talked about their own experiences and how they got to where they are today.
The interviews and essays reveal many different options out there for writers—everything from writers living solely off their fiction, writers living off several writing income streams, writers with full time jobs, writers with part time jobs, and writers dependent on someone else's income. To me, it was an encouraging reminder that one way or the other, writers figure this stuff out, and so can you.
While there were a couple essays/interviews that I didn't particularly care for—especially one interview that was pretty literary elitist and eyeroll-worthy, to say the least (looking at the lineup, I'm sure you can probably guess which contributor it's from)—I found most of the essays and interviews to be enlightening, interesting, and even entertaining.
All in all, if you're looking for some frank talk on a writer's income from a variety of professional writers, I definitely recommend picking up SCRATCH. Whether you find it encouraging or depressing will probably depend on what you're expecting in terms of how writers make a living, but either way it's an eye-opening read that I'm definitely glad arrived in my lap at the time that it did.
"I write for pleasure, but publish for money. Vladimir Nabokov (1955) In these essays the writers used many means to write as much as possible, dealing with editors, literary agents, reviews good and bad, all forms of commerce--whether blogging, tweeting about books liked or disliked, talking about books at dinner parties, book events. These connections are necessary for a serious writer that wishes to publish. Many writers work under extreme stress anxiety and their writing doesn't always bring much satisfaction and can be somewhat disappointing. There are living expenses to be paid, student loans are due, and building a career in writing eats up every spare minute the writer has. According to Leslie Jamison talking about money forces the acknowledgement of aspects of the creative process that makes people uncomfortable. Writers are not only producers but produced.
Like it or not, money is present in the creative arts: an independent book vendor sells his books on the street, Zora Neale Hurston's death in a welfare hospital, Jean Rhys impoverished obscurity and alcoholism, Nellie Bly going undercover in a mental asylum with hopes of a staff writing position at the New York World. Raymond Carver openly discussed his dismay and resentment over the interference of his children and family responsibilities on his writing career. Not all tenured professors at prestigious universities found personal fulfillment, an example of David Foster Wallace was noted. Included were interviews with Cheryl Strayed, Jennifer Weiner, Jonathan Franzen, Nick Hornby and others.
Many writers had impressive credentials from assorted MFA writing programs including the Iowa Writers Workshop. Whether the writers taught as adjunct professors, teaching fellowships, or in MFA writing programs, the interesting process of professional writing, the honest and often ordinary life of a writer, also family life, friends and fans. This is an encouraging inspiring read for a better understanding of a life in writing. Many thanks to NetGalley for the e-ARC for the purpose of review.