Here’s the thing. I’ve recently been invited to speak at a couple of different places; I’ve accepted one invitation and I’ve turned down the other. On the positive tip, the invitation I’ve accepted is to speak at UCSB in an Asian American Studies class, in which 200+ students are anticipated to enroll for Spring Quarter. They will be required to read my book. 200+ guaranteed booksales in one pop is always a strong determining factor for my accepting an invitation.
The professor has invited me to either guest lecture or participate in an interview or dialogue with her during lecture. She has also invited me to participate in more informal discussions with professors and students in smaller settings. She’s also made sure to tell me they would be covering my travel and accommodations, as well as offering me an honorarium. These are also strong determining factors. Time off work and travel are expensive. And all this guest lecturing in academic institutions is Work.
Another invitation I recently accepted for this season was to read at UCSC. Once again, the organizer has stressed that the campus bookstore will be selling my book at the event, that a professor (Mackey!) has recently taught my work in the English Department, that I will be reading with a couple of Flip poets I greatly respect (Ancheta, Tagami). That our reading will be highly publicized for both the Creative Writing Department’s Living Writers Series and a Filipino American student organized conference. That gas money, food, and accommodations will be covered, that honorarium will be given.
A local API poet/educator invited me to speak in his Asian American literature class a while back, and he and I had a good conversation about being paid. One thing this poet/educator told me, as he spoke from experience, is that there is this interesting expectation, from community groups, from various institutions, that artists shoulder the burden of being educational and artistic institutions’ unpaid labor. That is, we are generally expected to be unconditionally philanthropic, to donate our talents. Alternately, there are institutions who believe their “payment” back to us will be publicity opportunities or opportunities to sell books, chapbooks, or other product. Then there are the softer reasons for non-payment, reasons of “good karma,” and for the “good of the community.”
This oftentimes does not take into account transportation expenses/gas money, time off work for many of us have day jobs not related to poetry, travel time, and then the work itself of public speaking and performance.
So I think it’s worth revisiting this theme as needed.