decolonizing writer representation – the agent challenge!

You guys. You are amazing. Thank you. I can’t believe this is maybe becoming a thing, and so I really want to make it A Thing now. And I was asked to maybe make it for editors, too, so that’s A Thing now as well!

Lost? Read the Storify. Then come back. Also, don’t be scared by the troll below. #sorrynotsorry by my responses. People like that are part of the problem.

Still lost? Here is some background (more links to come):

So here’s what I’m asking you to do. Publicly commit to spending a decent period of time (I would think three months seems enough to make a dent but also not change your worklife forever, since slush piles are also important) closing down your slush pile and using your existing contacts and Twitter followees to find people who #amwriting and are tweeting about diversity, marginalization, multiculturalism, and intersectionality.

If you cannot find those people naturally, you’re not following enough people. You are maybe new to Twitter, which is fine, but you will have to work to get better at it fast. Follow more people, and follow who they are following and retweeting. Twitter will also give you suggestions, and sometimes they are clearly sponsored to say that you should follow Donald Trump, but other times their algorithm is decent.

However, these are some of my favorite people, organizations, and websites to follow who have already made a point of promoting equity and social justice and retweet the voices of the people. These links are all to their Twitters. That’s because Twitter is Really Fucking Important. It’s where kidlit and YA people gather and socialize, for one, and it’s a platform that really does a lot better at welcoming and amplifying the voices of marginalized folks, so it’s important that you use it.

Some DOs and DON’Ts of this challenge:

Do

  • Be willing to be listed here and thus accept that writers from marginalized backgrounds may solicit YOU, and if they mention this challenge, you should accept their submission during this period. Rules. This is my thing I made up, so this is a rule now.
  • Cut it the fuck out with “diverse” or “multicultural” and start using the term “marginalized” to describe people and “social justice” or “equity” to describe what it is we’re trying to change. Also, learn what hegemony means. Also, recall that “diverse” when used as shorthand for “marginalized” includes race, ethnicity, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and religion, among others, and you’re either cool with all of those things or you’re not welcome here.
  • Make sure that your website, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc note prominently that you are specifically doing this challenge so that people don’t worry that you’re an illegitimate agent for soliciting authors directly. I’m not trying to ruin your reputation here, really. You could even say I’m trying to make you a hero, really.
  • Ask the marginalized people you’re following, especially if they are already represented and published, if they have referrals for you. Published writers have unpublished friends, all of them. And then you can avoid the whole “this agent is soliciting me out of nowhere, so they must be illegitimate” thing.
  • Consider working with people with partials? That’s something you have to decide for yourself, and I’ve never worked in publishing (wanted to intern, never got the opportunity) so I have no idea just how overworked you are (but like teachers, I can make the assumption you are overworked and underpaid unless you represent Stephenie Meyer), but I would think that if you’re into nurturing voices that have been marginalized, you maybe want to consider mentoring them, not just taking on a fully developed manuscript, though that’s based on your time and your interests and stuff. But at the very least I would hope that you’d also work with the people you solicit submissions from and help them find opportunities for MFAs, online courses, mentorship programs, or whatever. You have connections, and there are additional ways to utilize them for good beyond offering representation.

DON’T

  • Say you’re going to do it and then back out. Say exactly when you’re going to do it. I’ll post that along with your information.
  • Pat yourself on the back too much. This is a #nocookies zone. I will pat you on the back and say thanks for participating, and I will mean it 100% sincerely, and then you will sit back and just do your job. This is your job.

Here is where you can sign up: http://goo.gl/forms/NhalP4TKlR

If you’re an editor, please make the applicable slight changes to the DOs and DON’Ts to make them apply to your work, and then sign up here: http://goo.gl/forms/8T9QSf5OxM

Participating Agents:

Lydia Moed, the Rights Factory (the emerita! The original signup!). Closing her slush pile from June to September. lydia @ therightsfactory . com

Participating Editors:

tk

a few more thoughts on rage to add to the conversation

https://www.flickr.com/photos/artiseverywhere/3987414509/in/photolist-75mxq2-5jDMoE-4YfvfD-3NKVUy-rgb3Rc-cqciB-fyKqcv-siyFa-bjSbAC-nL4uxP-8RyCtC-e66oh9-8JTEWm-zK46Y-7vdgsa-e66Qef-e66LdA-2pnDt7-6ErWFm-cCGw1y-fFDos-4oqb6T-izauZ4-cCGBpS-e66n5b-3eL7UH-ivMs4-2adoKR-nT8YE2-5CPJMd-e66Z3y-e66EqL-5bf4H-i1aZ3Z-qbNebS-pcfm14-7vdvW6-8SruQz-DRoR-5UbtRx-cCGyC3-4wJkBp-pY9kq9-MZ3bY-8BgnrM-56ck4w-9DFVkF-M3XLY-7vdv8D-8SuzW3

by Flickr user artiseverywhere

You might have heard about this Andrew Smith thing. It sucks. It sucks because it’s just another moment in the daily lives of women being otherized, mocked, shamed, or disregarded. It sucks when I think about how I’m treated like a less-than-human all the time, like last Wednesday when I was walking down the street to go to a yoga class and had a man start following me in his car, yell at me, ask me “Can I be your friend?” and then when I shook my head and kept walking, pulled into the next parking space and got out and shouted that he wanted my number. I hate that I had to be glad that he only did that and didn’t keep following me. I hate that I should be grateful that it didn’t get physical. No one should feel grateful that someone only somewhat harassed them. And, in this Andrew Smith situation, no one should feel grateful that Andrew Smith thinks of women as more of a mysterious, Other Thing than gigantic grasshoppers just because he’s “trying” to be better. Of course he was being facetious when he said his daughter was the first woman in his life – that being nitpicked over is absurd, annoying, and a way of excusing what he actually meant – “I don’t really care about women because I don’t get them and I don’t find them valid” – instead of engaging with it.

No, Andrew Smith is not the biggest jerk in the world or the only person who thinks this way. But he said it, and it’s a chance to engage with sexism, and anyone who says that criticism is the same thing as bullying (see the Stop the Goodreads Bullies movement of a couple years ago for other misinformed idiots who decided that attacking and threatening book critics was somehow righteous) is not helping.

It is an outrage that women are consistently referred to as if they are foreign and invalid. And it is more of an outrage that this has sparked the ridiculous #KeepYAKind movement, and even further that this hashtag seems to be spearheaded by women YA authors. Don’t get me wrong: EVERYONE should be offended by sexism. But to see women working in the very field where we are trying to have a productive conversation about imbalance, about prejudice, about otherizing, about criticism saying, “Hey guys, we think you’re being mean by pointing out that we are treated badly,” makes me really sad. It’s unsurprising – women are socialized to keep things kind and friendly and to accept sexism. But this is a chance to stand up, not to turn fair and warranted criticism into accusations of meanness. This is not the time for kindness. Kindness has nothing to do with sexism or literary criticism. Kindness has to do with playground politics and human decency on a day-to-day level, not societal change. Kindness here is derailing. Continue reading

new adult isn’t so much what we wanted, but acknowledging your original fans is

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Sadly, I think the discussion on New Adult has been laid to rest. What it has decided it is is contemporary urban romance. It is not YA but with characters navigating college and first relationships and finding jobs in a bad economy, as originally proposed. There is a little of college happening in YA now, and that’s great, but I just don’t think New Adult is going to be anything but what it is now, and that’s that, I guess. I’m a little sad, but whatever. If YA and adult fiction both start to recognize that growing up and navigating first experiences happens well beyond prom, we’ll be fine.

Anyway, I’m actually really liking a new thing that authors are doing. That is, acknowledging their original legions of fans from the late 90s and early 00s, fans of YA and adultish series like the Jessica Darling books (IndieBound), The Princess Diaries (IB), Sweet Valley High (IB) (okay, that one is way earlier than the others), The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (IB). Quick backtrack: The fans of these books who are around my age are the main reason New Adult became a conversation at all – because we are technically too old for YA, but we are also too educated and too social justice-aware to give a shit about White Guys Writing Serious Literary Fiction, and we are too stuck in this damn recession to be fully fledged grownups in any financial or career sense (thanks, unpaid internships), and we were raised by a generation of parents who instilled a You Are Special value that is ruining our ability to be humble. So yeah, we Millennials may have “invented” New Adult out of our inability to grow up, but the forces that keep us from joining the club called “adulthood” was not made wholly by us, so shut up – we are staying diehard fans of whatever makes us wax nostalgic, and authors are responding with things like Jessica Darling’s It List (IB), Sisterhood Everlasting (IB), Sweet Valley Confidential (IB), The Summer Before (IB), Royal Wedding (IB), and From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess (IB). (Jessica Darling, Traveling Pants, Baby-sitters Club, and Princess Diaries, respectively) Post-series followups with characters and prequels with teen characters as tweens are total candy for the True Fangirl, not real books that stand alone, and that’s awesome. Continue reading