A Full Stop Mobile is a series of blog posts centered around a particular moment in writing. Over the next week, we will be blogging about the Federal Writers Project.

“If complications arise, that is because they are trying to deal with it not as journalists, sociologists, politicians, entertainers, humanitarians, priests, or artists, but seriously.”                                                      -James Agee*

Wouldn’t that have been nice, if at fifteen after seven last night, President Obama said something really incredible, something that charged the imagination of the average unemployed American writer? Perchance to dream.

So begins a new series of blog posts on Full Stop, focusing on the bygone Federal Writers Project. Borne of past economy and atmosphere, the FWP actually paid (insane, right?) writers to travel the country, interviewing workers, former slaves, immigrants, just about anyone who would talk, and putting their words to paper. As we approach the 75th anniversary of the heyday of the FWP, Full Stop feels compelled to think about a time when wandering seriously was taken seriously. When paying skilled writers to chronicle (and struggle with the idea of) representing other Americans and their country during a time of deep crisis, seemed like a good idea. Maybe it’s a completely obsolete concept now, given the self-selective representations even the most marginalized can conjure through the wonders of the digital age, but we’re skeptical. Given the scarcity of positions for talented writers in cities that aren’t New York, it seems like there’s very little talent on the road, and more and more stuck behind laptops writing copy for Facebook ads.

What’s it going to take to get writers wandering again? We begin next week by looking back to the greatest mobilization of writers in history.

*This is an excerpt from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which, unfortunately, is not the result of the Federal Writers Project. Instead, it was funded by the Farm Security Administration, a different government program that employed artists during the Great Depression.

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