America’s next great author (a reality show for writers)

This news has been making the rounds: a new reality show for writers called “America’s Next Great Author.” Casting calls are in San Francisco, on October 22, 2022.

So far from my author friends, it’s been panned as exploitive: a cash grab for great IP or creative content (the fine print on the deal isn’t great for the authors, and the cash prize of $2500 isn’t that big of a reward given that you’d have to fly to San Francisco to appear in the pilot.

But I still think it’s a fun idea, for the following reasons…

Why a reality show for writers?

Writing is one of those quiet, solitary crafts that nobody can really see or understand. Nothing is really being produced other than words on the screen. Every day looks the same. The routine might involve making tea and sitting still for an hour staring at the screen. In other words, it’s kind of boring.

That said, any author knows that this fruitful creative time is rewarding and satisfying in a way that only makes sense to themselves; and frustratingly difficult to share with friends because nobody else gets it. That’s why I love writing retreats and writing conferences, because actually – authors are usually colorful, interesting people. Even if we are introverts. That means we’re bottled up and a conference can be like dropping a crate of sodas and having them all fizz and explode together.

There’s also a ton of controversy involved in the best way to write a book; most advice is well meaning but wrong; and people are ridiculously sensitive about their own beliefs about their art or writing.

Which means, drama.

I’m worried they’ll pick train-wrecks who look good on camera but have never actually written a book before, and give them no guidance or helping planning the thing, and just have everybody get demoralized and frustrated together until they start shouting at each other defensively.

Which would show only that writers are crazy and books are hard to write.

But the opposite, a bunch of nerdy experienced authors who are emotionally stable because even though they’re freaking out they’ve been through this process a dozen times and know what to expect… one where everybody just gave each other solid advice, well that would be boring to watch and this is TV after all. I don’t expect them to properly educate the million of would-be authors.

But I do love that it’s happening.

Writing is a weird bubble, where everybody wants to do it but nobody really knows how it’s done; so most of us struggle alone. It’s rarely covered by the media at all, except to interview famous authors who got big deals and think that means they know what they’re doing.

And it’s sensationalized in movies (usually creepy and thriller), cementing the link that writers are unstable. But everybody wants to do it! So having a TV show that’s part of the public arena brings awareness to a larger audience. It might show a messy and ugly process of book writing (but hopefully also, some joyful celebrations after a tricky bit is worked out again).

It’ll show writing as something that can be done in a community, and the benefits of having a focused amount of time and energy to really DO the thing. It’ll legitimize social discourse and make it easier for people to say they’re working on a book with confidence. And it’ll humanize the process, by giving us a personal glimpse of the behind the scenes stuff.

According to the organizers,

the demographic for those who want to write books is “staggeringly, freakishly large, from 10-year-old kids to 85-year-old World War II veterans, pierced punks to soccer moms. Retired judges to people living out of their cars. All ages, sizes, sexes, races, religions, philosophies, politics, socioeconomic realities.”

America’s Next Great Author

I for one am almost kind of tempted to get involved, though I’d be a very boring candidate: or I might offer to make free book covers for all their contestants which would bring a cool visual vibe and the art/production side of book cover design onto the screen – which I think would really help the show teach writers about genre conventions and making sure your book is commercially viable.

Sign up for info on casting calls, show updates, and how YOU can become America’s Next Great Author.