Monday, December 30, 2013

Writer vs Author?

In my last post, I used the word “author” in the heading and “writer” in the body of the post.

In general, I call myself a writer and have for years, pretty much the whole time I’ve been writing freelance. 

Many people, reading my serious writing, have tried to call me a “journalist.”  I felt awkward letting them do so since, although I write well, I don’t technically have a journalism degree.  It felt a bit like being caught practicing medicine without a license… but not quite, because I wasn’t putting anyone’s health at risk.

When she was just getting started, Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club and many more) once announced proudly that she was an author.  “A contemporary author?” the inquirer asked.  “I realized,” writes Tan in the The Opposite of Fate:  Memories of a Writing Life, “that if I were not contemporary I would be the alternative, which is, of course, dead.”

Since then, despite her rise to prominence in the North American literary scene, she has insisted on calling herself a writer:

A writer writes-she writes in the present progressive tense. Whereas an author, unless she is clearly said to be "contemporary," is in the past tense, someone who once wrote, someone who no longer has to sharpen her pencil, so to speak.

And if as brilliant a luminary as Amy Tan – a kids’ author herself, by the way! – can call herself a writer… so can I.

What do you call yourself as you dive headlong into this writing adventure?  Remember, even if you haven’t published a word, if you write… you’re a writer!!!


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