Week 12: Are Fiction Writers More Competitive Than Poets?

So Hananah made what is a rather interesting and possibly unbecoming  (for fictioneers) observation. She messaged K.K. earlier in the week, and the conversation went something like:

Hananah: The poets. I noticed something this morning about the poets.

K.K.: Like how it’s fun to read their status updates in poet voice?

Hananah: No, not that. All of the poets on my feed seem so celebratory and complimentary towards each other. They don’t just “like” each other’s work. They “share” each other’s work.

K.K.: You shared my story this month. You’re the best. [*huggy emoji*]

Hananah: [*huggy emoji*] But here’s the thing. I can’t really think of another time I have done that.

K.K.: Hm. I think I’ve only shared one story. [Editor’s Note: It was Melissa R. Sipin’s story in Guernica. See story here: Mercy ]

Hananah: I know, right? Why is that? The poets are like a unit. A band of poets, all rah rah rah and stuff. Fictioneers need more of that. What the hell. Why aren’t fiction writers doing more of that?

K.K.: *speechless*

Hananah: This thing with you and me. This camaraderie and support is crucial. Poets seem to get that. Are we fiction writers just more competitive?

K.K.: Well. Yeah. My first thought is, yes, fiction writers are more competitive. But in our defense, there are less spots available in journals. One issue of a journal may have 14 poets but only 3 or 4 fiction writers. Our art takes up more space, so there are fewer spots available.

Hananah: I sort of see your point. But even so, don’t you think being part of a successful “community” reflects well on us? All for one, one for all?

K.K.: I’m not saying we SHOULD be competitive. I’m just guessing at why we might be more competitive than poets.

Hananah: Let’s ask around. We should co-write the blog about it this week. I want to know what people think.

Cue K.K. attending the Natasha Trethewey reading at Vanderbilt on Thursday night. Here was a plethora of poets to ask. She asked a group of three or four poets, and they more or less answered simultaneously and unanimously.

K.K.: Guess what the poets think about this.

Hananah: What?

K.K.: I asked some at the Vandy reading, and they all said the same thing. Fiction writers are more competitive because of the money.

Hananah: What money?And why am I stuck so far away from all these readings?

K.K.: They said fiction pays. Or has the potential to. One beautiful and talented poet said, “Because you guys might actually be able to pay your rent with what you get.” Whereas, poets are all competing for the same five dollars, so they are happy to be recognized at all, which also means they are happy to see anyone in their field being recognized at all.

[Editor’s note: To her credit, another beautiful and talented poet apart from the rest said that this was all crap. That poets are just as competitive, but for whatever reason, put on a better show. All sources will remain as anonymous as they are beautiful and talented.]

Hananah: Well, that is an interesting one. The money angle. I am sure that has some part to play in it at some point. Although there is still the prize of recognition for all writers, no? Why does competition change if the prize is $5 or $5000? Is the prize less desirable to poets? I would guess not. The prize is the prize. Recognition is recognition. I feel like comparatively speaking it’s the same. I’m interested to know what other fiction writers think about this.

K.K.: I am, too. I buy all of my friends’ books, fiction or poetry, but is there some underlying competition in the fiction world that prevents us from “sharing” versus just “liking” each other’s successes.

Hananah: Well, I have to admit that all the “likes ” I got on my “acceptance” yesterday made me feel all warm and fuzzy and it was mostly fiction writers and poets. I miss the US, dammit. Can’t wait for AWP. (That is a total sidebar).

K.K.: We writers do love to hang out and drink. Next question: why do writers love and possibly prefer to drink with each other?

Hananah: Because that’s the only people that understand–you, or anything else. Period. It’s the only conversation I find myself at home in.

This is truth. We find ourselves at home together. Like minds. Similar struggles, external and internal. But the question still remains: Are fiction writers more competitive than poets? Does it matter? Let’s discuss over drinks.

[Sewanee Nights]

[L to R: Melissa Rae Sipin-Gabon, Hananah Zaheer, K.K. Fox, and John Poch]
[L to R: Melissa Rae Sipin-Gabon, Hananah Zaheer, K.K. Fox, and John Poch]
[Sewanee Mornings] SewaneeFoundArt

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