cover image Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living

Edited by Manjula Martin. Simon & Schuster, $16 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3457-9

Martin collects interviews from her online magazine, Scratch, and pairs them with new and reprinted essays to demonstrate that the mysterious economics of literature create wildly different versions of writerly success. The writers, including Alexander Chee, Jonathan Franzen, Roxane Gay, and Jennifer Weiner, recount an assortment of amusing anecdotes, hard-headed pragmatism (Nick Hornby: “I do understand I’m working in a marketplace”), some tongue-in-cheek ribbing (J. Robert Lennon: “Art and commerce are not separate. They are not even different”), and a few harrowing tales of poverty, discrimination, and despair. The collection pokes holes in cherished cultural myths about the writing life and examines, from various angles, the transformation when writing goes from being a dream to a job. The shared conclusion among the diverse, entertaining, often humorous, sometimes plaintive voices is that writing should be as remunerative as any other useful skill, but the work must be its own reward. Martin’s collection removes the romantic veil surrounding the production of the written word and provides some solid counseling for aspirants on what it means to offer the labors of their heart for sale in the marketplace. Agent: Kate McKean, Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. (Jan.)