Ever since I rolled into town a few days ago, I’ve been trying to meet up with various people to involve them in my nefarious art plans. One such person sent me a rather embittered email late last night that included this sentence: “there are some good folks around, but most of the bham writers that are worth anything stay hidden because of the lack of support for good work while mediocrity gets the highest of praises.”
Well, Birmingham writers. It’s time to come out of hiding. My initial plan for the Southside Fiction Writing Workshop was to be a traditional workshop where 4-8 beginner writers would come to me to help hone their craft. But it can also be a sort of roving salon where more established writers meet and talk about the things that are challenging them. It can be a way for creative people to exchange ideas and encourage one another to do awesome things.
Among a lot of the people I know, this is basically what happens by default when we just hang out. I was having dinner last night with a bass player I know, and we spent a couple of hours plotting out how we’re going to start three different bands with distinct agendas and take over the Birmingham music scene. And it ended with a lot of specific ideas about who to try and recruit and real logistics of how this thing is going to happen. What we need though is something that is more organized and has outreach, that goes beyond barroom talk.
I don’t think this person’s complaint is symptomatic of Birmingham writers in particular. Mediocrity wins out in almost every form of entertainment, everywhere. If you want to do something serious, you have to try harder and you have to expect to be ignored by most people. It’s the same way in Manhattan. It’s just that fraction of a percent of people that are interested amounts to a little more because it’s a bigger pool you are drawing from.
However, Birmingham’s smaller size can be a strength because the “scene” need not be splintered the way it is in New York and other large cities. It can be more inclusive, and in fact, it has to be. Otherwise, as the person who wrote to me last night said, “get used to reading in front of a mirror and your dog.”
So this is a call to all serious writers and artists and performers who feel they are doing contemporary, cutting-edge work that challenges mediocrity and the mainstream. Take up your arms. We are going to make some shit happen around here.