Friday, October 18, 2013

Taiwan #1: Local writers vs. International stars

One thing that surprises me as I travel for work is the fact that the struggle for writers today is the same all over the world. Sitting in a cafe in a small Taiwanese city, discussing the work and writing lives of some local writers, I am struck with the fact that none of them can make a living writing from their work. They all have full-time jobs.

This has been a problem for writers for many many generations, but it seems to be getting worse. When I look at the best-sellers in Taiwan, what is it that's selling here? Harry Potter, 50 Shades of Grey, Dan Brown.

Why do I see these books on the best-seller lists in nearly every country I visit? Is there really something in these books which has captured the imagination of the entire world? Or does it have to do more with marketing and how these authors are sold to us?

Confucius Temple, Tainan
I've said it before, but why is it that we can't spread out money and reading out? Why can't we support more of our own local writers?

I think the situation is solid in Canada and in Quebec. Yes, writers struggle but there are Canadian writers that do well, that can make a living on local readers only. Not a lot of these writers, but some. Whereas, I think in Taiwan (population 25 million) it's extremely rare.

The government and private companies willing to spend money promoting Canadian writing and culture is having enormous benefits. Most of the literary prizes in Taiwan are newish so the rewards are not out there yet. If they can keep at it, I have little doubt that Taiwan writers will start to get better known, both inside and outside the country.

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