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

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that thing that happened with meg rosoff today

First, my friend Edi Campbell posted this, which made me ask where this was on Facebook, and she tagged me so that I could participate.

I’ll wait a moment while you read her post.

So then we were all talking about it on Facebook. I got involved because this is my area of activism and because I hate whitesplaining.

Then Kaye wrote this and Debbie wrote this and KT wrote this and lots of people wrote things, which you can find linked on Debbie’s blog (I’m linking directly to the three people who are personal friends or close colleagues, as well as fellow members of marginalized groups of various sorts, but that’s not to say I don’t value the other pieces I read, nor do I know everything about the authors of said pieces except that they are clearly intelligent and good people doing the right thing).

So then I wrote this.

And I hope we’re all still writing about things.

since you asked…

Now they will retreat into a cloud of smoke and congratulate themselves on being masters of the universe.

How I imagine this committee’s meetings to look like

I don’t hate CBC Diversity. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I have explained this to people in smaller clips, like on Twitter, but given the strength of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, and given the rude, snarky tweet I received from an editor whom I will mention again, who went from engaging in polite conversation (which she dropped into – I did not tag her; rather, she inserted herself into an interaction I had going with someone else) to being condescending and belittling, it seemed prudent to write this post.

I wish I could find a YouTube clip of this, but you know in Titanic where Rose explains to Jack what the first class men do when they go for brandy? “Now they will retreat into a cloud of smoke and congratulate each other on being masters of the universe.” That is how I imagine the members of the CBC Diversity team. They’ve said they like diversity, so now they praise each other for having such progressive feelings and leave no room for growth or criticism. I have reasons for this – from personal experience, anecdotal evidence from friends and colleagues, and general observations. Continue reading