Reading and Recipes #3

We posted our second Reading and Recipes ( http://readingandrecipes.wordpress.com ) dessert-and-story combo a short time ago. This week it’s all about LEMONS (hope you can see that yellow on your screen)–lemons on your fingers, lemons in the dessert, lemons in Allison’s hair, lemon scent everywhere! You ought to check it out–even if you don’t make the dessert or download the story, you’ll still get the smell of lemons wafting out of your computer (or iPad or Kindle or smartphone or whatever Internet device you’re using)!

Hey, and thanks to your response (Yay for visitors!), Reading and Recipes is slowly climbing the charts at the various search engines, is now high on Google’s list for the query “reading and recipes” and climbing on other directories. So, thanks for your interest and patronage! I hope we continue to give you reasons to visit the website.

Reading and Recipes has brought a new audience to my fiction, with these new readers added to those that have encountered my work on this website or on smashwords (and their third-party sites, including Apple and Sony and Barnes and Noble and Kobo), along with various friends and family members (and some of their friends and family members) that have received my fiction in manuscript form over the last year or so. In short, for someone with no readership a year ago (I’ve had written stories for most of my life, but hadn’t circulated anything for nearly twenty years), I now have a steadily growing readership, and one that is becoming increasingly diverse. I’m very pleased at this development, and can only hope that my writing provides an enjoyable escape to those that take the time to read it.

But this diverse readership casts a new light on an old question. A few years ago while in college (well, O.K., a few decades ago), I wrote an essay titled “To Whom Do We Write?” It won an award and was published in a journal, so I was happy about that. But I didn’t write it to try to win an award or even for a class paper. I wrote it because I wanted to know the answer to the question posed in the title–at the moment of creation, when the words are forming in one’s mind and being transferred by pen to paper or keystrokes to computer text, who is being addressed? In short, during that critical metamorphosis from imagination to reality, who is the author telling the story to? Of course, the answer to this key question will vary from author to author, and from story to story for a particular writer. Further, the audience at the moment of creation may bear little resemblance to the eventual audience for the work. In fact, I’m guessing (based only on personal experience) that the object or plant or animal or person or persons of address at creation has virtually no relation to the eventual audience.

So who, then, is this audience at the story’s birthing? Is it human? Singular or plural? Past, present, or future? Young or old? Stranger or familiar? Supportive or skeptical? Rigorous or easy? The list of possible identifying traits could go on a long time, yet get us no closer to an answer or even a generalization. And as if the potential responses thirty-three years ago weren’t numerous enough, the reach of the Internet–not only in space but in time–induces a quantum leap in possible answers. Emily Dickinson couldn’t have conceived, even with her high-octane imagination, addressing a Nepalese herder or Japanese businessman or Chechen teacher. But today I can. In fact, to publish on the Internet, one must grant such a diverse, virtually boundless, potential audience; otherwise one is simply denying the single defining attribute of the medium. (Now, while I might conceive of such a potential audience, I don’t presume it–and perhaps that’s an important distinction to remember in exploring this question.)

So in the Internet age, my thirty-three-year-old question seems to get only bolder (as in both font size and insistence!) while the answer(s) get only fuzzier. Am I now maybe writing to that Nepalese herder? An eight-year-old Haitian in 2040 listening on an implanted chip? An automated page-view counter on a server in Uzbekistan? If I’m not, maybe I should be. Maybe that’s how I get read, how my humble gifts get used, now or in some impossible to imagine future.

Or maybe I’m still just writing every word to a particular individual out of love. That individual may change from story to story, year to year–or not. But maybe in the end–Internet or not, audio books or not, mass-market paperbacks or not, printing press or not–that critical audience at the creature’s birthing is a loved one, given this precious gift–quality and readability not assured but intent always so–out of love.

Today’s answer, anyway.

JA

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