Go to press, skip the paper — be heard

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If you write, then you want your voice to be heard. There are new avenues to send your words down, thanks to the Internet and digital readers. These can be a straightforward as your PC or Mac, or as boutique as this spring’s forthcoming Sony Reader.

Our advice for today is not to consider how your story will be published. By the time you’ve finished polishing it up, something new is likely to emerge that can get it, and your voice, out to readers.

In a bit of irony, the mainstream paper press is noticing these digital alternatives. This week’s issue of BusinessWeek ran a story titled “Digital Books Start a New Chapter.” It talks about Amazon’s electronic delivery of things like short stories and essays for 49 cents each. A writer needs to have a book in print through Amazon to qualify for this program, so it’s not entirely an alternative. But it’s a start.

Amazon already holds a lot of useful information in digital format, like the ability to search many of its books for a phrase or word, then read the match right online. Amazon also puts sample chapters online for your free consumption. Today Amazon recommended The Writer’s Voice to me, and was glad to serve up the free first chapter, Finding a Voice — a quest we undertake each time we meet at my Writer’s Workshop groups. The chapter compares the digital world’s delivery of information with the pleasures of writing for readers of literature. Stories speak to us with a voice, A. Alvarez says.

“Imaginative literature is about listening to a voice,” he says. “When you read a novel the voice is telling you a story; when you read a poem it’s usually talking about what its owner is feeling, but neither the medium nor the message is the point. The point is that the voice is unlike any other voice you have ever heard and it is speaking directly to you, communing with you in private, right in your ear, and in its own distinctive way.”

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