I’ve been thinking about the way that we see writers portrayed in media since I read an article by Jaime Fuller about Stephen Crane’s wife, Cora, and since I learned about #ThanksForTyping, a hashtag created by Bruce Holsinger who noticed a lot of dedications in books from male authors to their wives to thank them for typing up their manuscripts*. Fuller and Holsinger shed a light on the real lives of writers. The media has given us an image of the solitary writer who struggles alone to finish their writing and get it published. Sometimes we see a literary agent or publisher who champions the writer’s work, with maybe a few family members in the wings.
Holsinger’s Tweets made me laugh and groan at the same time. Fuller’s article, which explains all of the work that Cora Crane did to keep herself and her husband fed, clothed, and housed. This isn’t to say that Stephen Crane didn’t hold down jobs while he was writing. He did. Sometimes. Cora did the lion’s share of the earning in her life. At times, her life was really interesting and I was much more interested in her exploits rather than in what Crane was producing.
Both of these had me wondering about all the people who made my favorite books and stories happen. Creating a published work isn’t just coming up with a story idea and putting in the time writing it all up. When writers don’t have a good support network—as we know from many essays written by mothers who try to write while their young children are destroying the house or from Cora Crane’s story—it’s possible that there would be a lot less reading fodder in the world.
If nothing else, authors have much gotten better about acknowledging all the people who helped bring their work to publication, based on the length of the acknowledgements at the end of the books. They make for great reading, much better than “thanks for typing.”
* I recently came across one of these awful dedications in a donated book that we ultimately rejected. I posted a picture to Instagram.