If you haven't already visited Moorishgirl this morning and read her announcement of the sale of her short story collection, please stop everything and go check it out. Once you've done that, then come on back here and read on. Really. We meant it. Go.
I could not be more deeply and genuinely pleased for Laila. She's a deeply serious reader and writer, someone who has worked long and hard thinking about what does and doesn't work in fiction (as evinced by her frequent, thoughtful reviews at Moorishgirl) and worked equally hard honing her own fiction, applying these lessons learned along the way. For as long as I have known her, she has retained a serious focus on her writing, and clearly that effort has paid off for her. Forgetting the fact that she's also a lovely and generous human being, she clearly deserves this reward on myriad levels.
I also think It also presents all of us – readers, writers, journalists, editors alike – an opportunity to think about the evolving ecology of the blogosphere as more of us take to print, and to reassess some of the unimaginative narratives that are cropping up around all this, most notably the "bloggers with book deals" school of thought.
I think Laila's book deal occupies a notably different place than a number of the other high-profile book deals that have obsessed the media of late and must be considered in that light. I believe it's a worthy and important distinction to make that she's the first literary blogger to sell a book, and that sets a decidedly different bar. This is not to denigrate all of the early recipients of publishing industry largesse. But I feel entirely comfortable suggesting that Laila's book will be of a markedly higher level of quality, and with a commensurately longer staying power, than the salacious cash-in of Jessica Cutler. It's the difference between The Serious Book and The Disposable Read.
But to go even more to the point, Laila was a writer before she was a blogger. As was Maud. As was Lizzie. As was I. It's an important distinction to cling to, to understand that many literary blogs are an outgrowth of people who think seriously about fiction - they're almost an adjunct in some ways to our core pursuit of writing, a way of deepening and amplifying our ideas about fiction, and sharing them with an interested audience (who, with their thoughtful feedback, further influences our thinking).
Laila's book would have found a publisher even if she'd never launched a copy of Movable Type in her life. And I think it's just the beginning - other litbloggers will follow. Maud's recently mentioned our tag-team plan to complete our respective manuscripts (though she neglected to mention that we plan to exchange finished drafts at BEA in June – there's a handshake on that one), and I have similarly high hopes for our own efforts, not because we're bloggers, but because first and foremost we're writers. The fact is that the irritating hype of "bloggers cashing in" – the clichéd and un-nuanced narrative of unimaginative journalists – will eventually run its course as the inevitable disappointments hit the book stores. Then it will be up to a book's own merit to snag a deal. And that's when litbloggers will be in the pole position.
Until that day, I have trust in smart readers to draw their own conclusions. I hope you'll all join me in congratulating Laila on this fantastic and exciting development.