How to be cool, or thinking about audience

Posted July 12th, 2012 at 1:29 pm.

This post is the first in a series of blog posts by the Tri-Co DH summer fellows.
Hema Surendranathan (BMC ’14) is interning at Electric Literature.

“Bob Dylan never has his own cigarettes”

Click on the link. If you have, you’d have visited Electric Literature’s Recommended
Reading, a Tumblr account where a major literary journal publishes free fiction every
week. In their third issue, you can read Marie-Helene Bertino’s “North Of”, introduced
by the PEN/ O’Henry prizewinner, Jim Shepard and starring, you guessed it, Bob Dylan.

This summer, I’m working with Electric Literature as their publishing intern. EL started
off in 2009 as a quarterly journal, dedicated to fostering the publication and reading of
quality fiction in a digital age. The journal’s first issue featured work by Pulitzer Prize
winner Michael Cunningham, but what really made the journal stand out was its
availability on the iPhone and iPad. EL was a pioneer in the field of digital literary
journals, but in terms of speaking to digital humanists, the company was thinking about
storytelling in same ways DH scholars are: as multi-modal, flexible and translatable. EL
pairs their writers with illustrators, musicians and artists to create Single Sentence
Animations inspired by EL’s stories.

Now, EL is focusing its energies on non-profit work, releasing published and new fiction
onto Tumblr for free. Recommended Reading works on a four week publication cycle:
first with a story chosen by EL, followed by an excerpt from an indie press, then an
author recommendation, and finally a selection from a magazine’s archive.

I came across the journal when the author Nathan Englander visited Bryn Mawr in the
Fall of 2011. Englander read his short story, “The Reader”, which had been recently
published in EL and followed his reading with the Single Sentence Animation paired
with the story. I had never been moved by an animation before. I left the auditorium high
on the newness of it all: someone had read me a story, translated it into illustration and
scored it. It seems simple enough. Yet, what shocked me most was the quality. I’d never
tasted a story/animation/song, so good, so jam-packed with content, so efficient.

Working at EL is a little bit like learning how to be cool. I’m learning the value of
thinking about audience carefully: this week, I reached out to bloggers with an email
titled, “Bob Dylan can be a real baby.” I spend a lot of my time creating spreadsheets,
picking out potential partners, press and advertising targets. I also get to read a lot of
amazing fiction before any of it hits the presses. A lot of what I do could be hashtagged
as a lesson in #appropriateness. Scholarship trains you how to communicate with depth,
but maybe it’s marketing that orients you to think about communication in landscape:
“who could be interested?” and “how can I get them to listen?”

My immediate goals for this summer are:
1) to code-switch effortlessly between audiences in email communications
2) to evaluate my writing outside of an academic context
3) to see creative marketing opportunities in any product.

Since an essential motivation of the DH initiative is to spread the word, this internship could teach me how to do it.

Filed under: Hema Surendranathan,TriCoDH Fellows by jenrajchel

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