Photo by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash

Dear Literary Organizations

(I’m looking directly at one in particular, but this can be applied to many):

Please stop it with the elitist snobbery. You can’t claim to be inclusive if you’re not really inclusive. Either you’re elitist, or you’re open to all works of writing, regardless of one’s pedigree, background, identity, perspective, prior publications, or experience. Either you’re elitist, or you’re trying to truly build a community of writers. Either you’re elitist, or your organization is there to help further the careers of not just artists you’ve “hand picked” to elevate, but all artists that come to you to take part in your community. Either you’re elitist, or you run your fellowship, scholarship, and contest selection in a fair, just, and transparent way.

The only way to make effective changes to your organization is to open your doors wide and shift your organization’s culture to one of complete generosity and graciousness. Take the ego out of everything, especially if you are run by elitist egotists. Get rid of people who are ego driven. They are not leading your organization into a sustainable future. They are leeches and they will eventually destroy anything worthwhile that your organization built. They will not build anything worthwhile either.

Here are several questions to ask to see if your organization’s leader has the best intentions: Are they willing to help promote the work of artists in the community (not just their friends or friends of friends)? Can they lend their extensive networking power to help get the word out about important issues without them making it about how good they are to do so? Are they willing to step aside at times to allow others to help grow the organization? Do they regularly snub other members in the community for the sake of seeming selective? If they refuse, defer, or play games with you when you try to work with them, then you know they’re all in it for themselves. Get rid of these people!

Until you address your core philosophy and make certain the people working for you are not in it for themselves, all your marketing hype is self-centered preening on your part. An organization like this will never have real respect for the work of people who aren’t part of its in-group, because it has no respect for artists in the first place. It’s all about trying to make a name for itself and the friends of its leaders instead of actually doing what it should be doing to grow an robust literary community.

To the elitists running organizations, please step aside and let someone else lead. You should not be running anything.