Ten FAQs about Digital Literature

(1) Are there any prerequisites to being a digital writer?

To be a digital writer, it’s probably best if you like to write, or at least not hate it.  Then, if you can pull as many muses into your corner as you can, that might help: history, music, dance, astronomy, and art….

Patience is a virtue with digital writers, as you will have to explain what you do to a great many people who have never heard of it….

Having a thick skin and (again) more patience will help protect you from the slings and arrows of outrageous critics.  Critics love to criticize, and when it is something new and without precedent, they will laugh and grind it under their heels….

(2) Do I need to take a class in digital writing to be a digital writer?

Most of the digital writers working today teach courses they never took when they first started out.  A truism of the avant-garde: there are no teachers in your field, so you have to teach yourself, so you can become a teacher.

(3) Is it true that digital stories were on the web back in prehistoric times, when humans lived in caves?

This is totally true. Plato writes about it in his “Allegory of the Cave.”  Caves were a perfect place for projecting digital works, and cave dwellers were among the first to recognize this (before them, it was nomadic tribes, who used deer hide tents).

The web back then was less sophisticated than it is now–being constructed of stone, goat’s intestines, elk horns, and camel hair–but its reach was global, with fewer system outages and faster download times.

In the Middle Ages, this technology was lost, and only recently reconfigured through electronics.

(4) Are digital writers flesh and blood people, or are they virtual, like their stories?

It depends where you meet them.  If you meet them online, they are virtual, and their primary substance electrons and code…

If you meet them in the flesh, their virtuality plays second fiddle to the fact that, at any moment, they could bleed all over your favorite carpet.

(5) Is it easy to be a digital writer?

 If answers were songs, try this (sung to the tune of “Yesterday,” by the Beatles):

Digital

All it takes is

lots of time

and what you make

may be fine

if going digital

is on your mind.

(And so on, with feeling…)

(6) Does it cost a lot of money to be a digital writer?

After you have made the initial investment in a good computer, some software, a sound recording device, and whatever other tools you need to make multimedia works of literature, the overhead is remarkable low.  It would be best (to build branding and reader loyalty) to have your own website, so add about $10 a year for the registration of a domain name.  Then add another $10 a month for server costs (provided you don’t go viral, in which case you’ll need a bit more than that).  Finally, if you use them, there’s the periodic cost for royalty-free images or audio files purchased online–most of the code you’ll need will be free–so tack on another $200 a year.  At these rates, your total for a year of publishing digital literature is approximately $330, which is cheap compared to most other businesses.

Since you won’t make much (or any) income, it’s money down the drain, but don’t worry: you can list it as a business expense on your income tax (I’d love to hear your conversation with the IRS agent).

(7) Can I make any money being a digital writer?

Let’s do the math:

Expenses a year (see #6 above):            $330

Income publications:                                 $0
Income readings:                                       $0
Income exhibitions:                                   $0
Work sold:                                                 $0
––––––
TOTAL:                                                     -$330

Your talent? Priceless.

(8) Is there a website where I can find links to digital literature, and learn more about new media?

Do a Google search on “Electronic Literature” or “E-Lit” or “Hypermedia” or “Digital Literature,” and here is some of what you get:

Born Magazine–http://www.bornmagazine.com

Chico.art.net–http://www.csuchico.edu/art/net/

CONT3XT.NET–http://www.cont3xt.net/

Digital Technology and Culture–http://digitaltechnologyculture.motime.com/

Dreaming Methods–http://www.DreamingMethods.com

Drunken Boat–http://www.DrunkenBoat.com

Eastgate–http://www.eastgate.com

electronic book review–http://www.electronicbookreview.com/

Electronic Literature Directory– http://directory.eliterature.org/

Electronic Literature Organization–http://www.eliterature.org

Electronic Poetry Center–http://epc.buffalo.edu/e-poetry/

FILE (Electronic Language International Festival)–http://www.file.org

furtherfield.org–http://www.furtherfield.org/

Grand Text Auto–http://www.grandtextauto.org/

Hermeneia: Literary Studies and Digital Technologies Group– http://www.hermeneia.net/eng/index.html

Hypercompendia–http://www.susangibb.net/blog2/

Hyperrhiz–http://www.hyperrhiz.net

The Iowa Review Web– http://iowareview.uiowa.edu/

Java Museum–http://www.JavaMuseum.org

netpoetic.com–http://www.netpoetic.com/

newmediaFIX–http://www.newmediafix.net/

New River Journal–http://www.TheNewRiver.us

nt2–http://www.labo-nt2.uqam.ca/

Rhizome.org–http://www.rhizome.org

trAce archive–http://tracearchive.ntu.ac.uk/

Turbulence.org–http://www.turbulence.org

Vispo–http://www.vispo.com

Word Circuits–http://www.wordcircuits.com/index.html

WRT: Writer Response Theory–http://www.writerresponsetheory.org/wordpress/

And the list goes on…

(9) Are digital writers happy people?

You can’t get much happier than a digital writer.  Because they practice in an emerging form, they have nothing to lose.  This makes them reckless, and beyond sadness.

(10) If I wanted to be a digital writer, how would I begin?

Read the FAQs above. If you have any questions, make up your answers.

(November 8, 2009)