In Which Our Naive Heroine Reconsiders the Definition of the Word “Publish”

Or, Going Meta Rather Early in the Game

Yesterday, I put an essay on this blog called, “I Can’t Believe You’re Throwing Out Books!”

I posted a link to it on Facebook.

A librarian friend shared it with his colleagues at the Newark Public Library.

His sharing it made me guess that perhaps other librarians would like to read it, so I sent out an email on the Infolink listserv, which goes to public, school, academic and special libraries throughout New Jersey.  I expected some “Well done” emails in response, and some disagreement with a few points.

I got that, but I also got over 600 hits on the blog (and counting).


1) I wish to God I’d been selling something.  Alas, I have nothing to sell.

2) What does the word “publish” mean?

Writers write for themselves, but the act of writing is a kind of prayer to connect with another mind, to succeed in one of the most difficult tasks of existence, which is to make oneself known and understood.  Aspiring writers spend postage money and heart’s blood and time polishing and perfecting ideas, then formatting them to precise submissions guidelines, not in the hope of getting paid (which would work out to about 63¢ an hour), but in the hope of making a miraculous connection.  The yes of the Editor is a proxy, a symbol for what the writer hopes publication will lead to: some person the writer does not know, in a place she will never visit,  reading the writer’s words,  letting them mingle with his own thoughts, creating something new.

If you tell someone you are a writer, the first question they will ask is whether you are “published.”  It’s a fair question in a capitalist economy: do you do this just for fun?  Or does someone, actually, you know, pay you?

Well, I didn’t get paid, and I do not care.  Because I got something even The Editor cannot guarantee:  librarians wrote me back and told me what they think about the lonely, vital and misunderstood work of weeding, and how my thoughts had enriched their own.  That’s not publication, technically, but it is bliss.

UPDATE: 2/6/12

Saturday morning, I woke to find that Library Link of the Day had selected “I Can’t Believe  You’re Throwing Out Books!” as its featured story. Since then, thousands of librarians and book-lovers have read, shared and commented on the essay, over 7,000 so far.  If it still isn’t publication, it’s still bliss, and I am very grateful.

About Julie Goldberg

Julie Goldberg has lived a life entirely too entangled with books. She is a school librarian, former English teacher, compulsive reader, occasional jazz singer and the author of Lily in the Light of Halfmoon and In the Meat Department: A Novel, one of which may even be published someday! She is a former candidate for New York State Senate and Rockland County Legislature, and would be only too happy to tell you all about it. You could at one time follow her on Twitter, but she's done with that all that now. Please connect with her on Mastodon instead: Mastodon
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