DiggyPOD Writing Scholarship First Place Winner

This year, we at DiggyPOD were so excited to be offering a Writing Scholarship to college students studying English or Creative Writing. At DiggyPOD, we’re all about helping writers, whether up and coming or established, and this Writing Scholarship allows creative college students some financial support to continue their education.

DiggyPOD’s Writing Scholarship

Scholarship applicants were asked to write a 500 word essay about the state of the self-publishing industry. Below, we’re happy to feature the winning essay of the Writing Scholarship by Rabab Jafri. Ms. Jafri has been awarded $1,500 toward tuition, and DiggyPOD is so very pleased to have read her writing.

Self-publishing: Lifting the Barriers Between Writers and Their Readers

As self-publishing becomes a more popular option for authors, the barriers between writers and their readers are lifted. This is especially important for diversifying the types of writing that is being published and the backgrounds of the authors that write. Not only is this beneficial for authors that want to find a market for their writing, it is also beneficial for the culture as a whole, as writers can continue to push for innovative writing and fresh stories.

Showing writing to a publisher can be daunting because writers pride themselves in the integrity of their work. Authors sometimes spend years writing and rewriting their book or piece of writing to get it to a place that makes them satisfied, and a good writer is their own biggest critic. To take this work—this piece of art—and hand it to someone else and give them rights over what you created is often the hardest step for a writer trying to get published. The work is not longer solely their own, but in the past this was the only way for people to get their work to a large readership.

And although there are publishers that work well with their authors and try to honor the integrity of the writer’s work, some publishers try to work the author into a piece that they know will sell. Thus, instead of the focus being the integrity of the writing, the focus becomes the brand, and the desire to sell keeps writers from being able to make individualized choices about how they want to book to look and read. This can create books that follow similar formats for the sake of marketability, and the creativity of the author is stifled.

This also encourages the narrative of the single story, as African author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke about in her TED Talk “The danger of a single story.” Adichie spoke about how people that read her book told her it did not seem very “African” because the characters were not “poor” as they had imagined. Publishers also promote single story writing as they sometimes tell authors that they already published their “Muslim book” or “Indian book” for the year, rejecting authors for their backgrounds instead of for their writing.

Now, more than ever, the authors of stories that stray away from traditional stereotypes and single story narratives can have a voice through self-publishing. Their stories can be read the way that they imagined them and they no longer have to be subject to the mercy of the publisher.

Rabab Jafri is a senior at the University of Michigan majoring in English and completing her secondary teaching certification. She writes for The Michigan Daily and the U of M Arts and Culture Communications Department. She writes articles on topics and poetry about arts, campus climate, police brutality, and Islamophobia. She also recently edited and published a book of curated poetry and art, which you can find here.