Last Week in Literary Controversies: Raziel Ried Responds to Conservative Critic Barbara Kay

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Every time a critic makes a statement like “I’d not have wasted tax dollars on this values-void novel” it is important to raise an eyebrow. Not only is this type of rhetoric completely false (it postures weakly at a civic good which it reveals itself to not understand), it demonstrates a profound conservatism, a conservative which is often antithetical to literature worth giving a damn about. Last week, Raziel Ried, author of When Everything Feels Like the Movies, a Governor General’s Literary Award–winning book, defended herself against the National Post’s Barbara Kay in an amazing op-ed published in The Walrus. The ensuing conflagration in the comments and elsewhere is well worth the read. Go and take a look.

Murder your Spreadsheets: introducing the editors who will keep you up to date on literary submission deadlines

Liam Sarsfield and Jessie Jones, your editors.

Liam Sarsfield and Jessie Jones, your tiny editors.

Most of my literary side projects have gone nowhere. First, it was a poetry blog. Then, it was a publishing company. After that, a magazine. There was an app. I’ve filled more space in my notebooks with writing about what kind of literary institution I want to build than actual “literary” writing.

Up until a few months ago, I had made peace with this impulse and had started the process of convincing myself that none of it would ever get built. Then, I observed a conversation between Jessie and our friend Garth Martens about the spreadsheets they’d created in order to keep track of deadlines for publications, contests and fellowships. They talked for at least twenty minutes while I stuffed myself with onion rings. By the end of it, I could tell that Jessie was envious: Garth had amassed what sounded like a colossal and definitive list and had worked himself into a lather generating the will to maintain it. Walking home, brainstorming ways to keep abreast of deadlines without having to be an ascetic, we had the idea for Literistic. We’ve been hammering away ever since.

A little about us: we met while we were both still lucky enough to be taking classes with Tim Lilburn and Steven Price. We currently work in technology. I’m a designer by trade. Jessie is a copywriter and support staffer. You can follow me on Twitter, and follow Jessie on Tumblr. You can read a little bit more about how Literistic works in our article, “Building Literistic: Humans, Robots & Juvenile Capitalists.” We’re hoping we can make your lives a little easier. Sign up for Literistic here.

Building Literistic: Humans, Robots & Juvenile Capitalists

Sketches for our almost-finished website. Care of the amazing George Bletsis.

“Give the people what they want,” says misanthrope and juvenile capitalist Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch, the overseer of News Corp, and one of the world’s most popular television networks, has made his enormous fortune manufacturing carcinogenic fast-food info-tainment for the largest possible audience. His work, or his network’s work, is, for whatever reason, what a great number of people want to watch when they get home from work. Literistic’s success is totally contingent on our ability to give our people what they want. How are we going to do this without being stupid, racist or worse?

We’re going to start by doing a lot of things by hand. Human curation is underrated and we’re going to be doing a lot of it at the beginning in order to make sure that Literistic is actually useful. The internet has made human curation (done well!) a rare and precious thing. It is always easier and less expensive to figure out a way to have a machine do your work for you (where were the machines when I suffered through that Milton class?), but this won’t work for us, especially at the beginning. Human curation done well requires that we have a crystal clear idea of who our subscribers are. Right now, we’re only going to include listings that are relevant to a young, ambitious writer. Maybe this writer is considering MFA programs or has just graduated with a BFA. Maybe they’ve published once or twice in a college journal or some other mid-range magazine. This is the type of person who we want to help.
LiteristicBut okay, yes, we are also going to use some modern technology to get a read on our subscribers. While our understanding of who Literistic is for is sufficient enough to justify the project, it’s still very vague. It’s one thing to think you know who you are curating for and another to actually know. We’ll be tracking the demographics of our subscribers using Google Analytics and Facebook. We’ll be measuring click-through rates to see if anyone is actually interested in what we’ve included. At some point, we may start automating much of the curation using highly-detailed forms — we could serve deadlines based on what each subscriber has specified. Right now, this approach seems slightly inappropriate, given the relatively small amount of people who are interested in publishing literary work in Canada, the United States and Britain. It’s also something that anyone who thinks critically about quality is justifiably skeptical of.

Literistic Spot

We’re also going to try to be hyper engaged with our subscribers. We’re going to try to tweet a lot (omghowamIgoingtodothisIhatetweeting) and to send a lot of emails. We’ll ask each subscriber for a list of publications, contests and awards and compare those lists with our own and with others. We’ll do this over and over again until we’ve identified the repeats and subtracted the outliers. We’ll do this until the list gets super good. Literistic should get better with age.

Finally, we’re going to talk to people and to provoke. We’re going to try to create a community around literary ambition that isn’t compromised by advertisements or sponsorships. Let’s hope it works! Sign up for Literistic.