Have you read it? “It” being Maureen Johnson’s accidental manifesto? It’s unsurprisingly fabulous, I love love love it, and I don’t see much point in trying to blog something like “Yo, I have a manifesto too! Serious!” That would be rather silly, mostly because I, um, don’t have one. I gotta slay a few more dragons or something before I have the notches in my belt required to write a manifesto. So I’m just gonna blog about one tiny bit of The Great and Terrible Accidental Manifesto of YA Author Maureen Johnson. To be specific, it’s this one sentence, in the final indented paragraph, the manifesto itself, right before the expected torrent of comments. Among her varied bits of stellar advice is this: “Give things away and take things that are free.”
I know, I know – I am a shallow, materialistic pinhead. I am consumed with the minor, relatively-easy-to-gain thrill of winning blog contests and amassing the corresponding blog contest prizes. I also like it when people send me free stuff without asking me to enter a contest – in some ways that’s even better, and since I’ve chosen to try my luck at chasing the conjoined brass rings of Representation and Publication I’ve been grooving on my tremendous good luck at having free books sent to me. The most recent example is this ARC of THE MAGNIFICENT TWELVE: THE CALL, written by Michael Grant, published by Katherine Tegen Books and sent to me by none other than Katherine Tegen editor Molly O’Neill herself, who I’ve apparently brainwashed into thinking I’m some sort of buzz-generating dynamo. This is very flattering, especially when I consider myself to be not much more than a yammering spazzoleum.
Still, I do enjoy getting the free books, almost as much as I enjoy reading them, and I was pondering the veracity of Maureen Johnson’s statements about making the Internet a place for doing things you love to do, and witnessing and enjoying the things that other people love to do. Is giving stuff away and taking stuff that others are giving away such a thing? I guess so, right? I mean, I love it. It’s a bit of a small-scale thrill winning a copy of THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY on the Tenners’ blog, for example, but it was a real thrill, small-scale or not. And getting an ARC sent to me by someone like Molly, who is established in the industry and participating in the creation of fabulous books and hobnobbing with big-time author people like The Fayz, is an even bigger thrill. Who doesn’t like the feeling of developing some degree of connection (regardless of the depth or type of connection) with people whose work you admire?
Sure, there are concrete motives on all sides. Everyone who is (or aspires to be) a professional in the world of children’s literature is interested in actually selling books – it is a real-world necessity, after all. There are business needs which we can’t ignore. And I cannot escape the unflattering reality that I experience more than a few tremors of self-importance and irritating smugness about getting to read THE MAGNIFICENT TWELVE before all of the unwashed masses who have to wait until the book’s actual release date. And you’ve noticed all the crazy Molly O’Neill name-dropping in this blog post, so you already know that I’m as prone to the narcissistic “whoopdedoo, look at me getting ARCs from the famous editor” type of remark as any other shmuck. Yes, when I give away a book or a #mikesempire t-shirt or whatever, I am trying to get people to read this blog. Guilty. I am guilty on all counts. I am riddled with guilt.
But I also genuinely feel that both giving away free stuff AND accepting free stuff are genuine acts of engagement with the kidlit community, because seriously, y’all, it’s a way of sharing books! It’s not only sharing the corporeal ink-on-paper reality of books, it’s also sharing our love for books and our admiration for each other’s work. It’s an attempt to create moments in which our separate feelings of wonder and excitement and contemplation can merge, if only briefly, into a more potent and effervescent cocktail of shared experience. And yes, that’s true for accepting free stuff as well as giving it away.
*sigh* Now I’m feeling all weepy and sentimental and inspired. I have a sizable heap of finished books right over there on my desk, I think next week I’m gonna give a bunch of ’em away. Stay tuned, beautiful people.