The future that I imagine for writers is one in which a cultural shift has occurred of paradigm-shattering proportions. A change akin to the end of legalized racial segregation and discrimination against women, both revolutions that I have witnessed in my lifetime. The future 1 imagine will save, salvage and reshape not only writers, and the work we do, but our culture and society, as well. If I am going to imagine a future, my motto is dream big, dream deep, dream for everybody.
In the future I imagine, we have reclaimed our voice, our rightful place, and this is how it looks:
The Person of the Year on Time magazine’s cover is the author of a children’s book, because Time has recognized that if we don’t get our children back to reading, there simply will be no one in the generations to come who cares about the enduring stories enough to read them.
Because of consumer demand, cell phones are made sexier, more fun and more enticing, not just with access to music and TV shows, but also with audio of lines from the poems of master poets like Lucille Clifton and Robert Pinsky.
In recognition of the inherent value and necessity of literature, and its role in making it possible for us to live as world citizens, ABC airs a Friday night review of the weeks news events discussed by writers, imagine Russell Banks, Nikki Giovanni and Azar Nafisi referencing “War and Peace,” “The Red Badge of Courage” or the poetry of Walt Whitman to analyze the war in Iraq.
MTV’s sister channel is LTV, Literary Television, where cutting-edge purveyors of poetry, fiction and nonfiction discuss their creative processes and jam intellectually with creators of music, cartoons and the visual arts, demonstrating what everybody knows and believes: Literature rocks! In response to LTV, BOOK TV relents and agrees to feature and interview novelists as well as nonfiction writers.
First-time novelists are profiled on “Sixty Minutes” because it is understood that they have accomplished the equivalent of discovering America or landing on the moon. Mike Wallace gets writers to reveal the ways in which they are conjurer, magician, disciple, artistic obsessive-compulsive. Lesley Stahl gushes during one interview with a newly published author and pronounces the literary first novel to be “a thing of beauty, an amazement, small, precious, throbbing with a beating heart.”
The only criminal acts are committed by people breaking into libraries and bookstores, stealing classics to satisfy their addiction to the truth.
Reading is “in” again, an activity considered hip, cool and as alluring as being thin or rich.
Standardized tests have been abolished in schools. Instead, beginning in first grade, students spend the first 15 minutes of their school days writing poems, stories or essays about subjects they care about. As a result, an epidemic of overachievement breaks out in inner-city schools.
A Cabinet-level Department of Arts and Letters is mandated to integrate the inspirational, thought-provoking effects of writing and reading literature throughout each federal and local government agency. A privately funded study finds that citizen satisfaction with government programs increases dramatically.
Writers accompany U.S. diplomats on all international negotiating missions.
A springtime ritual across the country sees young emerging writers celebrating the season by giving poetry readings, performing plays, reading from novels and memoirs in prisons, retirement homes and schools. The readings are featured on the local and national news, and make the front page of The New York Times.
A new generation of writers establishes cooperatives that publish ground-breaking, innovative literature which finds readers, dominates the best-seller lists and gives the major media and publishing conglomerates the competition they need.
I could go on; really, I could. But you see where this is heading. You see what is possible.
This is the future I imagine, and I won’t admit to being fanciful, outrageous or unrealistic. I am a writer, and for me, those are merely character traits. This is my blueprint. My manifesto. We’ve got work to do. Let’s get busy!