What You Missed at Muse and the Marketplace: Amanda Palmer’s Keynote Speech

The world's going digital, and Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace conference offered tips on how to take advantage of the change.

amanda palmer muse and the marketplace

Amanda Palmer was the keynote speaker at Grub Street’s Muse and the Marketplace conference held this past weekend. (Photos by Margaret Burdge)

For writers who remained cooped up in their garrets this weekend, secluding themselves from the world for artistic creation, here’s what the resounding message was from Grub Street’s Muse and the Marketplace conference: open your doors and let the world in. At the annual event, Boston’s writers flocked to the Park Plaza to learn how to become a successful, published writer. Grappling with the future of authorship was the running concern of the conference.

Leaders from every niche in the publishing industry led 110 workshops, panel discussions, and lectures on the facets most important to excelling in the field. “With the landscape of publishing changing, a lot of writers get nervous,” said Eve Bridburg about the Publish It Forward series, a cornerstone of Muse and the Marketplace. Bridburg, the founder and executive director of Grub Street, said, “We want to show them these people who have done it, and are successful.” Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Publish It Forward is designed to bring the most “risk-taking, troublemaking” individuals in the industry, according to Bridburg, to speak about their strides within a drastically new marketplace.

“We’ve brought in two authors, a publisher, and an editor, but we’ve never before brought in a rock star,” said Bridburg of keynote speaker, musician, and social media maven Amanda Palmer.

Steve Almond, an acclaimed author about all things music, who introduced Palmer, noted her ability to “bridge the worlds of words and music” through her highly visible presence on social media.

One topic she addressed was A Poem for Dzhokhar, a piece she wrote after the marathon bombing that received harsh criticisms and generated a lot of online discussion. Palmer explained that she was able to instantaneously publish an idea that hundreds of thousands of people ended up seeing. This could have been a poem, a song, or a book, but the format increasingly does not matter. “An idea that resonates, resonates, no matter the format,” in Palmer’s words, a factor that may intimidate some but opens pathways for others who embrace the change.

She took her planning for the talk to Twitter, asking followers what made them feel like an “actual writer,” to which she received hundreds of replies. The resounding response? The moment their art resonated with another human being. And the primary goal of Grub Street, to get writers in a community to support and learn from each other, supported this feeling. “In Boston, we support each other,” Bridburg explained. “And you can really see that in the writing community.”

With a speech surrounding the metaphor of the writer cooped up in his garret, Palmer introduced an idea fundamental to the conference itself: to be successful in an increasingly digital age, the writer must open the door to his attic, step beyond his muse, and enter the marketplace, where the people are. With critics who are just as likely to enter the market as supporters, Palmer encouraged, “People may enter without knocking. They may crash your party and drink your wine. Let them enter and let them drink.”

amanda palmer muse and the marketplace

Palmer played two songs, one being an ode to the ukulele, along with her speech.