A collection of essays from some of today’s most acclaimed authors—from Cheryl Strayed to Roxane Gay to Jennifer Weiner, Alexander Chee, Nick Hornby, and Jonathan Franzen—on the realities of making a living in the writing world.
...[an] impressive anthology ... Authors like Roxanne Gay and Cheryl Strayed offer up figures with no hedging or obfuscation and it is exhilarating ... The promise of Scratch isn’t that the featured writers will divulge every work-related figure of their careers...But even the loveliest selection about staying true to a financially ruinous inner compass (Sarah Smarsh’s 'The Jump') fades against pieces that bolt practical information to the specificities of circumstance ... One ugly reality Scratch never denies is that luck, and racism, have a tremendous amount to do with the trajectory of a writer’s career ... We’re unlikely to garner much sympathy from society at large, since it’s a society that likes having art around yet believes creation of the same should be labor for love instead of labor for profit. But other writers get it, and one of Scratch’s many gifts is this sense of candid communion.
...as Scratch repeatedly demonstrates, the nitty-gritty on this stuff is in short supply in the wider writerly imagination, while fantasy, evasion, and envious brooding runneth over. Strayed is among the few prospering contributors to this collection of essays and interviews who speaks so explicitly. ('We’re only hurting ourselves as writers by being so secretive about money,' she told Martin.) Another is Roxane Gay ... Like most anthologies, Scratch is uneven; not every contributor is equally talented and none is able to drill very deeply into the relationship between work and money in writers’ lives ... But if the mission statement of this anthology is to demystify 'how, exactly, literature and the people who make it are valued,' many of the pieces here seem to deflect away from transparency as if repelled by a magnetic field. If their authors set out to write about money, they end up spinning their wheels on the more formulaic and far less interesting subjects of self-discovery, dream-following, and 'career' ... as none of the contributors has quite the nerve to state baldly, in order to support themselves, they train others to do the work that isn’t providing them with a viable living.
This first section of the book is called 'Early Days.' Kiese Laymon’s piece is written with a short story’s flow and interpersonal conflict (between a writer and an editor). I’m excited to read Alexander Chee’s description of his writing career because I admire the way he’s created a platform via his non-fiction. But in each piece, there seems to be little generalizable advice ... Caille Millner’s conversation with Richard Rodriguez offers the kinds of nuggets that keep a writer going ... with Leslie Jamison’s article, I hit the inspiration I’d been seeking. Like Lennon and Martin, Jamison challenges that glass wall, albeit with a different metaphor: 'What if we stopped thinking of money as the dirty secret of creative pursuit and instead recognized money as one of its constituent threads?' ... There is a lot of honesty in this middle section, a lot of details we don’t request in polite company ... The final section is called 'Someday.' This section is a bit of an amalgamation, as if the anthology did not quite know what 'someday' might look like, now that we’ve acknowledged that commerce is part of art.