There is something to be said about the golden age of literature:
The time when television, film, video games, and the internet did not steal away eyeballs of potential readers.
Authors like Fitzgerald, Hughes, and Austin had enormous audiences of readers just waiting for their next books, aching for a new story or poem, because reading was one of the primary sources of entertainment in the world.
Today we have to shout and flail just to be noticed above the noise. More than a quarter of Americans report not having read a book within the past year. And more books are published today than ever before.
It ain't easy finding an audience.
But there are some distinct advantages to publishing books in today's world. Yesterday was a fine example:
It started with an email from a teenage girl in Columbia, who wanted to know if my upcoming book, Storyworthy, was going to be translated into Spanish. She's read Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend and The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs (both available in Spanish) and was hoping for the same from my next book.
We exchanged emails throughout the day. She asked me questions about my novels and my writing process, and I asked her about the town where she lived and what she wanted to do for a living when she was finished with school. Despite the fact that we lived on two different continents and spoke two different languages, we connected in a way that would've been impossible just 20 years ago.
I ended my day with an interview via Skype with an Australian-based podcast. The host of the show and I discussed Storyworthy and my storytelling career. Specifically, we talked about the teaching of storytelling, the components of an effective story, the best means of delivering presentations, keynote speeches, and the like.
I was able to engage in a face-to-face conversation with a woman on the other side of the world, and that conversation will be turned into a podcast that can be listened to by anyone in the world.
But the moment that best illustrates the good fortune I feel about being alive today came in the middle of the day, when I received a Facebook mention from a reader in India.
"Awestruck seeing how the basic human emotions n stories are the same across continents and time zones and developed and developing countries.. one of my favourite author Matthew Dicks feeling the same in America which I sit and feel here in a corner in India.. Nostalgia is universal..."
This says everything.
A reader in India is reading my blog.
A reader in India is reading my books.
I'm the favorite author of a man in India.
Best of all, thanks to the internet, enormous distances, multiple time zones, and countless cultural boundaries are pierced rather easily, bringing two people together in both thought and sentiment in a way that could've never happened before the twenty-first century.
I can't tell you how excited and surprised I was to see this appear on Facebook. Thrilled, even.
Fitzgerald and Hughes and Austin had larger, more attentive audiences for sure. There were far fewer books being published in their day.
But none of them could've connected with readers on three different continents, in two different languages, in a single day. If given the choice, I would absolutely take a larger, more attentive, more voracious audience of readers, but if that can't happen, I'll take days like yesterday and consider myself blessed.