What is a good literary citizen?

When I walked into my public library last week to return some books, I noticed a flyer for an upcoming book release party. The author was a local memoirist; it looked like she may have written about her journey with dyslexia; that was my guess anyway.

“Perfect!” I thought, making a mental note to attend.

I like to support local authors, and in preparation for the day when I become a published author, the book release party was a good opportunity to observe what’s involved.

When I got home, I put the date in my calendar, but I couldn’t remember the author’s name. A few days later, when I tried to look it up on the library’s website, my internet was down and then I forgot about it.

But I went to the party anyway. When I left the house, I told my husband, “I may be the only one who shows up, so I don’t think I’ll be too long.”

I pictured an insecure woman nervously facing a row of chairs, empty except for me. Giving her a smile of encouragement, I would listen intently, and after her reading, we would commiserate on how difficult it is to get readers’ attention. I would buy her book, her only sale that day.

Reading it at home, it would be an amateurish, blow-by-blow chronology, like many self-published memoirs, in my humble-as-yet-unpublished opinion. But I would support her as a writer because I know firsthand it is a long, lonely, and hard as hell road to publication.

In short, I planned to be in good literary citizen.

A good literary citizen supports other writers and authors.

There are many ways to practice literary citizenship, also called “writer karma,” as I write about in this essay. 

The bottom line is supporting and promoting writers, the art of writing, and the written word in whatever ways you can. I wanted to show up in person for the local author, and that’s what I did.

Is that music? I thought as I walked up the stairs in the library. It was—a two-piece band. And food. And wine. And a crowd?

Waiting in line to buy her book, I read the jacket and realized it was the author’s son who had dyslexia; she had fought to help him succeed, and now he was about to graduate from Oxford.

It was a story similar to mine: A challenged son who becomes a productive adult because of the love of his mother. The book is “Reversed, A memoir,” by Lois Letchford.

A confident Ms. Letchford enthralled the audience with readings from her book. I know I will be humbled and inspired by her writing, as well as by her story. When I finish reading, I’ll let you know more about it.

Someday, I’ll have my own book launch party. I have the perfect model to follow.

I hope you’ll be a good literary citizen for me.

If you can make it, I hope you’ll attend, patiently waiting in line to buy my book, giving me smiles of encouragement. In return, I’ll do my best to inspire you with my story.


  • Karen DeBonis

    Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, the entangled mix told in her memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" forthcoming in spring 2023. Subscribe today to receive Chapter 1: A Reckoning.

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  1. Jack Herlocker on March 28, 2018 at 5:16 PM

    Good for you for thinking ahead, Karen!
    Deb enjoys doing book events (www.caitlynsadventure.com/meet-the-author/book-events.html). In terms of sales, we got out what we put into them, but in terms of the joy of meeting people (especially kids, since hers are kids books) she’s had a wonderful time. I bet you’ll get the same enjoyment, and you’ll prep more so you’ll get sales, too. (Although… a band? Well, this is why I’m not in marketing.)

  2. Karen DeBonis on March 28, 2018 at 6:26 PM

    Well, I’d love to have a band, but I know I’ll have to weigh the cost of a band against the ten cents or so I may earn from each book sale. Hmmm. Maybe I can just hum a little. Can Deb sing?

  3. Janis on March 30, 2018 at 1:08 PM

    I would love to come….you know me..always like a party! However, I just hope it is not in the same year as wedding planning because I do believe I have mush for brains!! I am always very late reading your posts and sometimes not responding at all, but just know I am so proud of all of your accomplishments and can’t wait to say…I knew her when!!!

  4. Karen DeBonis on March 30, 2018 at 2:11 PM

    Oh Janis, I always know I can count on you!! And you’re making me blush. I so appreciate your comment from your mushy brain. LOL! And don’t worry … I kinda have to finish writing the memoir before I can have any kind of party. You’ll be well recovered by then!

  5. Paula Ransbury on March 31, 2018 at 11:41 AM

    What a fun and exciting event it will be for you and everyone fortunate enough to know you and be in attendance! I can’t wait!

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