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|Monday, August 5th, 2013|
|Why Extremities Matters to Me And Why It Should Matter to You
Why Extremities Matters to Me
And Why It Should Matter to You
Through a combination of luck, hard work, and talent (listed in descending order of importance), I have the good fortune of making a fair portion of my living doing something I love very much -- writing short stories. Before you feel even a twinge of envy, let me add that I earn an equivalent portion speaking in steamy gymnasiums crammed with seventh graders. I have more than 200 stories out there, including many contained in the six Weenies collections for middle graders. I should be happy. I am happy. But I wanted more. Specifically, I wanted to share my older, darker stories with the world. Some of them were written intentionally. (Years ago, I was asked to contribute a story to a Christopher Pike anthology. At one point, he decided to write all the stories himself.) Others just sort of came out that way, which is fine with me. I'm always delighted when my work horrifies me.
So, there I was, with a passion for short stories that had been nurtured during a childhood reading science fiction magazines, story collections from the great SF writers, and anthologies from the great SF anthologists. I knew with certainty that the world would devour these stories if they were available. (Writing requires a certain degree of certainty about uncertain things.) Several of them appeared in anthologies, and two were featured on that excellent site, iPulpfiction.
By the early part of this century, I was well known enough that I could comfortably pitch an idea to any editor I encountered. I repeatedly had the following experience.
Me: Can I pitch something to you?
Them: Sure. We'd love to put you on our list.
Me: It's a young adult
Them: (eyes widen hungrily)
Them: (eyes wider, lips licked)
Me: story collection
Them: (POOF -- leaving Wiley Coyote staring at a dust cloud.)
This happened over and over. Nobody wanted the collection, because STORIES DON'T SELL. I think this is one of the most brutal self-fulfilling prophesies in publishing. There are exceptions, including my own Weenies collections. But stories are a hard sell. On top of the industry resistance, there's a second problem. Students are fed a lot of literary fiction in school. And much of that fiction is plotless.
Finally, around 2002, I found an editor who liked nine of the stories. He told me that as soon as I wrote a tenth story that he liked, he'd give me a contract. For two years, I sent him stories, none of which did the trick. Finally, I confronted him with the possibility that he really didn't want to do this book, and was just stringing me along. He admitted that this was the case.
The collection sat dormant for a while. (When one bangs one's head repeatedly against a brick wall, an occasional break is called for.) Then, I had a minor brain storm. I'd envisioned the book as a traditional horror collection. But some of the darker stories on my hard drive weren't supernatural. A title hit me: Extremities: Stories of Death, Murder, and Revenge. I pitched it to an editor I knew. She was eager to see the manuscript. She promised a reply by a certain date. When the deadline passed, I showed it to another editor who happened to contact me about another matter. A week later, I received offers from both editors at the same time.
After a bit of panic, I went with the first house, Marshall Cavendish. The book was scheduled for 2013. In early 2012, Amazon bought Marshall Cavendish. I am not a fan of Amazon. I bought the book back, and begged Tor, who publishes the Weenies collections, to think about publishing it. (They already had a large list of my books in the works, and originally passed on this one.) To my relief, they agreed. Not only did they take over the book, they threw all their expertise into making it look as amazing as possible, including a gorgeous cover and thirteen stunning illustrations. I am, indeed, a lucky guy.
So, this is why I care so much about the book. I fought, battled, cajoled, begged, and maneuvered. It is finally coming to market. Early reviews, especially from teens, have been great. But there is still a lot of resistance to story collections. I need this book to do well to show the publishing industry that there is a place for short stories (and to validate my decision to walk away from the marketing power of Amazon and place my trust with the real-world book sellers). I love stories. I'll keep fighting for them. I will be an evangelist. If you love stories, please think about picking up a copy of the book for yourself, your favorite teen, or your local high school or public library.
Read the first story here: http://us.macmillan.com/extremities/DavidLubar
|Thursday, July 18th, 2013|
|Maya Unangelic -- a response to false cries of racism
Debbie Reese, who appears to make a profession out of getting offended, recently posted a blog attacking Jon Scieszka for having the kids in his Timewarp book, Oh Me Oh Maya, think of Mayan ruler Kakapupahed as Cacapoopoohead. That's fine, in and of itself. We are free to complain about anything. But the way she did is is not fine, for many reasons. She recently made a blog post, linking Jon's actions with those of the hoaxers who made fun of the Asian pilots' names in the Asiana crash, and shared the link on YALSA-bk. Here's that post: http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2013/07/dear-jon-scieszka-ive-got-bone-to-pick.html
The first problem is that she made the same basic post seven years ago, likening Jon's very same single-word joke to Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2006/12/scieszkas-me-oh-maya-and-gibsons.html
This is not socially-conscious criticism. This is an obsessive vendetta over a ridiculous complaint. Jon makes fun of a ruler in every single Time Warp book. (E.g., Hatsnat in ancient Egypt, Owattabutt in feudal Japan, Boog in the Stone Age,) There are no Mayans around. And, from what we know, that might be a good thing. They performed mass sacrifices of children for religious purposes. Now, that I find offensive.
Ms. Reese complains that the book teaches readers that "Mayan's are fools who can be easily tricked." But, in the very same posts, she says that the evil priest is tricked "with the help of one of his relatives and her son." Which is it? Are they stupid. Or are they clever. They can't be both. Wait -- yes. They CAN be both. Just like any other people. Some are smart, some are stupid. And some have funny names.
As someone who has been called Jewbar, and who grew up experiencing real racism, I don't see "Cacapoopoohead" as racist. I see it as funny bathroom humor. When I see Chichen Itza, I instinctively think "Itza Chicken!" Does that make me a racist? Hell no. It makes me a punster. I will make fun of names from any culture, including my own. Just ask Joe Lieberschmuck.
This twice-told attack on Jon Scieszka is so misguided, I had to speak out. Yes, may of us had people make fun of our names as we were growing up. But this Maya example is not the same thing. And it sure as hell isn't like a Mel Gibson movie or an Asian-name hoax. The whole think reeks of an attempt to get attention by going after a large target. I'm not gong to sit by in silence when a friend and fellow author gets attacked in such a shameless way.
|Monday, April 8th, 2013|
I have a very small extended family. I might have had more, but Hitler's supporters killed my grandmother's two sisters. At least, that's pretty much what she thinks happened, since they were taken to camps and she never saw them again. She was lucky enough to escape. My wife's Belgian Catholic mother was almost sent to a work camp, but she managed to get a letter from her doctor that somehow spared her. Twelve million people were killed by the Nazis. Six million of those killed were Jews. And, of course, anyone who cares says, "Never forget." But here's the sad thing. Many people have already forgotten Newtown, which happened less than four months ago. The death camps were liberated about 820 months ago. We, as a people, do forget. On this day of remembrance, no matter what your nationality or faith, take a moment to imagine yourself rounded up and packed into a cattle car. Imagine your children take away. Imagine your home looted. If you are reading this, you are probably living in a place where such atrocities will never happen to you. But you are probably also living in a place where you can make a difference. If you save one child from a bully, if you help educate one person who is hungry for knowledge, if you raise one voice against tyranny elsewhere in the world, if you help one racist move away from hatred, you are doing more than remembering the past, you are changing the future.
|Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013|
|Sometimes, a dying snake is just a dying snake
For those who celebrate National poetry Month, I hope you enjoy this relevant excerpt from Sleeping Freshman Never Lie:
Mr. Franka started out class the next day by saying, "How many of you don't like poetry?"
Many hands went up. Including mine.
He passed an open book to a kid in the front row. "Read that out loud."
The kid started reading this poem about a guy freezing to death up in the Yukon. It was pretty cool. Mr. Franca grabbed another book and handed it to a girl. She read a short, funny poem about a pelican. Then I got to read one called "On the Naming of Cats." I liked it.
After we'd heard three or four more poems, Mr. Franka said, "There are as many types of poems as there are types of food. As many flavors, you might say. To claim you don't like poetry because you hate 'mushy stuff' or things you don't immediately understand is like saying you hate food because you don't like asparagus."
He looked around the room again. "So, who can at least tolerate poetry?"
All the hands went up.
"Let's visit Xanadu." He gave us a page number in our textbooks. "Read 'Kublah Kahn' to yourself. Listen to the music. Let Coleridge speak to you."
I started reading, and was hooked by the fourth line.
Mr. Franka read us another poem, called "To Augusta." This one was sort of mushy, but even so the words sounded pretty cool. They flowed, like good music.
"Byron," Mr. Franka said, closing the book. "You've all heard his work, whether you realize it or not. She walks in beauty like the night. You can't tell me that line doesn't kick butt. Byron even wrote a poem filled with ghosts and vampires."
That caught my attention. Before I could ask about the poem, he said, "I won't tell you the name. If you really want to find it, you'll have to hunt it down. Or should I say, haunt it down?"
From there, he skipped around to some of his other favorite poets. Not once during the whole class did Mr. Franka utter those deadly words, "Now, what does this line mean?" He actually let us enjoy the poems without analyzing them to death. As he told us, sometimes a dying snake is just a dying snake. Sometimes a leafless tree is just a tree.
Here's a link to the book: http://davidlubar.com/bpsfnl.html
|Saturday, February 2nd, 2013|
|I thought I'd be listless
The nicest thing about knowing I wouldn't get any sort of listing or honor from the 2013 ALA awards is finding out I was wrong. I just got an email from Don Gallo, letting me know that First Crossings, which contains my short story, "Pulling up Stakes," was picked for the Popular Paperbacks list. The list contains 90 books in four categories, but the book was also selected as one of the top ten for the year. (I'm pleased that Dian Curtis Regan also has a story in it.) My story is about a young man from Transylvania who immigrates, by mistake, to Alaska during the dark period, and then has to convince the local geeks that he is not a vampire. (Hush. It was written in 2004. I did not get the idea from you know what.) If you're interested (or know a teen who loves fiction), and have $2.99, I've collected all my best anthology stories into an ebook. The collection contains eleven stories, including "War Is Swell," which I think is my best short work, and "Words of Faith," which addresses the connections between faith and creativity. (If you need a read-aloud for high school, try "The Heroic Quest of Douglas McGawain," about a boy who is sent by his girl friend to buy tampons.) If you are only familiar with my Weenies stories, these will surprise you
To save you the effort of clicking a link, here's how it is displayed on my web site:
A Sharp Collection
Many things can pierce – sharpened stakes, fencing swords, cat's claws, short stories, ideas, earrings, and love, to name just a few. This collection of eleven penetrating stories, gathered from my contributions to YA anthologies, contains some of my favorite pieces, including a slapstick account of a young man sent on a mortifying mission by the girl he loves, a tale about the mysteries of faith and belief, and a comedy of errors where a Transylvanian immigrant arouses suspicion in the darkness of the Alaskan winter. I've had the pleasure of writing short stories for the best anthologists in the YA world. Now, I have the pleasure of sharing those stories with my readers in one sharp collection.
Get it for the NOOK at Barnes & Noble
Get if for the Kindle at Amazon.com
Get it in ePub, mobi, pdf, and other formats at Smashwords. com
|Wednesday, November 7th, 2012|
You know, I spent the entire election tolerating the comments from the other side on my Facebook acount. Sometimes we argued. Sometimes, we reasoned. I accepted some of your points, and tried to see your position. I have had several excellent debates with young men of middle-school age, and gained a great deal of admiration for several adult Romney supporters. I only unfriended one person, and that was because he w
as being a troll with one of my friends. (I had no issue with trolls attacking me. I was happy to spar.) But now, I'm starting to see a handful of folks on the losing side talk about guns and disaster, and all sorts of batshit crazy stuff. Yeah, your guy lost. And, yeah, my guy won. But if you want to spout wacko survivalist, seditionist militia bullshit, I don't want to hear it. Sour grapes are fine. Sour grenades are not. If this country has further problems, it won't be because Barack Obama was reelected. It will be because some people are so entrenched in their position, and so bitter and filled with hate, and, I hate to say it, so ignorant of the actual messages in the Bibles they clutch, that they refuse to consider the wisdom of working together. Spout away. I'm not listening.
|Wednesday, October 24th, 2012|
|Pregnancy by Rape is Not a Gift from God
Most people are disturbed when they see Tea Party and other far-right Republicans speak against the abortion rights of a rape victim by using the argument, "A life created by rape is still a gift from God." There has been much debate about when life begins, and there are strong feelings on both sides about abortion. But there's another aspect of this argument that disturbs me nearly as much as the thought of some withered fundamentalist trying to tell a twelve-year-old girl that she must carry to term the pregnancy forced upon her by her drunk uncle. If you claim that a rape-induced pregnancy is God's will, you deny that the rapist has exercised free will. This is not a minor issue. Rape is a violent, heinous, hideous crime. We, as a society, condemn the act and punish the perpetrator. If God made it happen, the rapist bears no responsibility for his act. The rapist had no choice. He was a puppet. He wasn't tempted, like Eve, into making a bad choice. He was forced to carry out God's will. Free will is a slippery concept to contemplate, and doesn't lend itself to simple discussions. (To give just one example, there are philosophers who feel that the illusion of free will is equivalent to free will itself. In their view, we can be trapped in a deterministic universe, and yet still be free because our acts appear to happen by choice.) It's worth repeating: If you claim any act is God's will, you strip the actor of all responsibility. In a larger sense, we've become a society where people can fling dogma at issues without giving serious thought to the implications and logical consequences of their statements. A rape induced pregnancy is not a gift from God. Logic is a gift from God. Compassion is a gift from God. An open mind is a gift from God. I wish more people would open their presents.
|Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012|
The Ban-Proof Bookshelf
Don't you just hate having your day interrupted to deal with a book challenge? Whether it's in the form of a shouting parent, a sign-waving picket line, or a smoldering pile of burning books setting off the sprinklers in the YA section, there's nothing like a protest to put a crimp in a peaceful afternoon spent monitoring Internet surfing or helping ninety-six eighth graders find information about some obscure prehistoric trilobite that nobody except their teacher has ever heard of. It might seem as if every book is going to offend some group. But that's not the case. There are some books that nobody could possibly object to. They are ban proof. It is our pleasure to provide the following list.
Mommy Has Two Heathers — a touching story about a woman who is so startled to give birth to twins that she completely fails to come up with a second name and ends up calling them both “Heather.”
The Handmaid's Towel — a servant works hard to ensure there are no chapped fingers in her household.
Where the Mild Things Are — To help his parents cope with the stresses of life, a teen crosses the country in search of the blandest food, tamest tourist spots, and least-threatening people. He stays in the right lane throughout the book.
The Bluest Pie — Hijinks abound at the state fair bake-off when a young girl whose family has always made apple pies finds herself envying her neighbor's berries.
Flowers for Algebra — a young math prodigy decides to brighten the classroom of his favorite subject with a bouquet of daffodils.
Huckleberry Fawn — an oddly colored deer takes a walk through the forest. Nobody shoots at her.
Private Ports — Howard Stern discusses secluded places to dock a yacht.
Lady Chatterley’s Liver — a genteel cookbook, emphasizing the use of organ meats and fresh produce from the garden.
The Story of O. Henry — coming in at a terse three pages, this is probably one of the shortest novels ever published (not counting those written in verse). Readers will love the twist ending.
One Flue Over the Couscous Nest
— A pair of hard-working students spend the summer repairing the ventilation system of a Mediterranean restaurant in this multicultural romp.
You can read the full list, along with scads of other humor pieces for readers, writers, and home brewers, in It Seemed Funny at the Time: A Large Collection of Short Humor.
|Wednesday, September 26th, 2012|
Today's special word is "Mittiotic." Pretty much anything Mitt Romney says is stupid, but on occasion, he rises to special heights of Mittiocy. The thing is, as simple as his mind is, his Mittiocies tend to have layers of complexity. For example, everyone is jumping on his statement, ""You can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open." People rightly point out that his wish for roll-down windows on a plane, in case of a fire, is moronic (or MorRomnic). But fewer folks have seized on the alarming idea that, when there's a fire, you want to find oxygen. I suspect Mitt was napping in science class the day they showed what happens when you feed oxygen to a fire. (Or, perhaps, his school didn't believe in atoms and molecules.) Some might give him a pass on this, saying he obviously meant "air," and since we do require oxygen. But politics is a game of nuance, and of exact language. I shudder to think what a man who spews such Mittiocies would do if put in charge.
|Thursday, July 26th, 2012|
|Genesis of a one liner
Twitter is currently down, so I can't post the one liner I just came up with. Instead, I figured I'd use this space to show the thoughts that led to the joke. It started when I saw, on Facebook, that Mick Jagger just turned 69. The post included a picture. Skipping over the first glimmer of the sort of tasteless response that generally rises into immature minds (such as mine) in connection with that number, my first solid thought was, "He doesn't look a day over 80." Granted, that's fairly funny, but it is also fairly obvious. There will be countless variants offered by countless tweeters throughout the day (assumign Twitter comes back on line). My next though, as is often the case when years are involved, was to think about dog years. Again, a decent source of one-liners, but also fairly common. Then, it hit me that "stones" refers both to Mick Jagger's band and to a British unit of measurement. Eureka! (I wasn't sure how to spell "voila" or how to find that stupid accent character.) It all fell together around "stones." Double meanings are a rich mine for humor. Part of the laugh comes from the listener seeing the connections. My initial phrasing was "Mick Jagger turned 69 today, which is 97 when measured in British stones." This could definitely be tweaked for timing and rhythm. (Perhaps "..turned 69 years old today...") But you get the general idea.
|Thursday, May 3rd, 2012|
|The most expensive book I ever bought
On December 7th (no symbolism there) of 2011, Marshall Cavenidsh Children's Books announced that they had been sold to Amazon. This announcement would have meant nothing to me, except that on March of that year, I sold a young-adult short-story collection to them. Extremities: Stories of Death, Murder, and Revenge
is a book I had been trying to sell, in various forms, for at least ten years. (Along the way, it sat for two years with an editor who'd promised to publish it, and then broken his word.) The great irony is that, when I sold it to Cavendish, I was weighing a second offer. Had I accepted that one, the book would be on the shelves now. But that's a side issue. The crucial thing is that, on December 7th, anyone who had a book with Marshall Cavendish became a pawn in a larger game with several powerful players and far too many victims. I've been following the game closely, since I'm on the board. (Though I'm not a king's pawn.)
Soon after the news hit, I decided I needed to buy back my contract. (One of my hobbies is performing grand and meaningless gestures.) I didn't like the idea that my book wouldn't be available in stores. (I know that Barnes and Noble recently decided to stock those books that had been published or contracted by Marshall Cavendish before the announcment. But I suspect there are many independent stores that won't do this.) Book stores are crucial for both readers and writers. I love watching young readers browsing the shelves. That's a magic I hope we never lose. It's a thrill seeing their excitement as they spy a favorite author's name on a spine, or grab a book whose title intrigues them. I didn't want to lose my browsers. And, really, I didn't want to be part of this game. I'm happy to have my books on Amazon. I want my books available in all formats and for sale at all venues. But when I sold the book to Marshall Cavendish, they were a traditional publisher, well loved by both the chains and the indies. (And by their authors.) That's the deal I signed up for, and that's the deal I wanted for this book.
Last month, I sent a check to Amazon to repay the part of the advance I'd received. I've waited eagerly for news that the check was deposited. It finally happened. The book is mine. A weight has been lifted from my spirit. Tor/Starscape agreed to publish the book next year. I'm excited about the collection. The stories are dark and horrifying. There will be illustrations, which I suspect will also be dark and horrifying. I know I'll be missing out on the powerful promotion Amazon could put behind the book, and I admit the decision was not based on career considerations, but I had to follow my heart. The book is right where it belongs.
I feel badly for the writers who have all their books with Marhsall Cavendish Children's Books. They weren't given a choice. Some of them have been unable to get their books delivered for signings at conferences or school visits. But I don't think of Marshall Cavendish Children's Books or Amazon as villains in this. The only real villain is the parent company, Marshall Cavendish Corporation. They didn't care whether they were escorting writers onto a cruise ship or tossing them under a bus. This is disgraceful behavior for a publishing company. I now understand why, when I was introduced to the president of the company (or the CEO, or some high-up mucky-muck wearing lifeless eyes and a gray suit) last year at the Public Library Association conference, he seemed disinterested in meeting me. He already knew I'd been sold. Dear sir -- you suck. Some day, I hope you learn that books are not commodities and that authors are not expendable.
As I said, I am a very small player in all of this. And a YA short-story collection is hardly the sort of book that will earn as much as one of my novels (though it's really a sweet little volume). But, ultimately, I wanted a voice in the fate of my book. After ten years of trying to get it on the shelves, that's not a lot to ask. I might turn out to be a fool or a genius, but I won't be a pawn. And, when the book gets releases, I'm planning to throw one heck of a party. I suspect it won't be hard to find a willing book store to host it.
|Wednesday, April 11th, 2012|
|Sunday, March 11th, 2012|
| There's a place for bad behavior...
A boy gets an alien death ray from his uncle. A gamer gets hooked on casino gambling. A bully steals steroids from an enormous athlete. What could possibly go wrong? Once in a while, I'll write a story that contains an item, a scene, or an action that might be considered inappropriate for classroom reading. So that story can't go into one of my Weenies collections. But that doesn't mean it isn't a good story. I've gathered a selection of inappropriate stories, tossed in some other tales my fans might enjoy, and priced the whole thing as low as possible. Do the appropirate thing -- get a copy for yourself, or for your favorite young reader.
Only $.99 -- yes 99 cents.
Get it for the NOOK at Barnes & Noble
Get if for the Kindle at Amazon.com
Get it in ePub, mobi, pdf, and other formats at Smashwords. com
|Thursday, March 1st, 2012|
Or Weendex, or even Windex. Call it what you will, I've created a topical index to all the Weenies short stories, along with a separate language-arts related index. If you are a teacher or librarian, you might find it useful. Check it out.
Tell your peers.
|Tuesday, February 14th, 2012|
|A brief Valentine's scene
From Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie:
"Happy artificial holiday with strong commercial overtones." Lee handed me a wrinkled white paper bag. She was wearing a shirt with a heart on it. I guess in honor of Valentine's day. Except it was a real heart.
"Happy that to you, too." I looked inside the bag and shook it a bit. Jelly beans. All black. "I don't have anything for you."
"Reciprocity is not mandatory," she said.
"Now that would make a good t-shirt."
|Friday, February 10th, 2012|
|Can we combat ignorance?
I suspect many people will be discussing the latest Santorum quote: "I think that could be a very compromising situation, where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved. It already happens, of course, with the camaraderie of men in combat, but I think it would be even more unique if women were in combat.”
I'll leave it to others to attack the main issue. For me, the glaring part was "even more unique." As anyone who works with words could tell you, it is bad form to modify a superlative. True, we have fallen into the habit of using phrases such as "very best," but "unique" is special, not just because it is a superlative, but because it is the superlative that most grammar weenies wait to pounce upon when modified. It is, in essence, one of the "gotchas." Or, to go meta and describe in by way of another pet term of grammar lovers, it is a shibboleth. Even the more-permissive grammarians, who might allow "more unique," would probably blanch at "even more unique."
By the way, I'm fully aware that any post about grammar will have at least one glaring error. Say lah vee.
|Sunday, February 5th, 2012|
|Rick Santorum fails to hit a Homer
I know there's a big game on, but I need to talk about something else. (And it's pretty obvious to me who will win. It's going to be the Denver Brocnos, proving once and for all the miraculous powers contained in the prayers of a devout athlete.) But to the matter at hand...
Rick Santorum, in a recent doomsday speech at a university, said, "Go back and read what the sirens did once you arrived on that island. They devour you. They destroy you. They consume you."
Any fifth grader, any college student who halfway paid attention while reading Homer, and (I'd like to hope) many of the folks who read this blog, would blink or frown in puzzlement at this statement. Devour? No way. The Sirens lured sailors to their island. Depending on which source you go to, the sailors either stayed on the island for the rest of their lives or perished in the attempt to get there. Where the heck did Santorum get the idea they devoured anyone? I especially love that he began with, "Go back and read..." Good advice, twit. Oh, and here's another tricky little thought that might contain too much logic for Santorum and his ilk. If you believe in any form of the Apocalypse as described in Revelation, then you can't also believe that man will destroy the world. You can't end something twice. But that's another matter.
Now, as much as it's pleasant to make fun of him and his ridiculous ideas, there's a deeper problem here. The media should have been all over it. It has all the elements for a perfect story. (Especially given the "go back and read" part and the fact that he said it at a university and nobody corrected him.) But the story of this error received almost no coverage, as far as I can see. I'm just hoping this doesn't mean we have a generation of underschooled reporters following around a generation of badly educated candidates. Let's hope it just means all the smartest reporters have already stopped listening to Santorum. (Guess what, Rick? You're candidacy is living in the end times.)
Okay -- back to the nachos.
|Thursday, February 2nd, 2012|
|The fresh air was nice
So, for those who followed along, we had an interesting discussion during the past several days, exploring whether men have an advantage in kidlit. A blog's comment section isn't the ideal place for an extended dialogue, so I suspect the conversation will die out soon, if it hasn't already. But I need to do a bit of wrap-up. First, I want to thank everyone who participated. It was great to hear from authors, librarians, and award judges. (Thank you for keeping it civil, too.) Second, just to sum the it all up, several things seem to have been established, or at least well argued. First, we shouldn't mistake public discussions for what happens in award meetings. Second, many of the writers are not concerned about intentional bias, but about subconscious bias. Some fairly good arguments were given to bolster the belief that women face biases in many areas. (Confidential to ANON#2 -- you made some excellent points. I hope you disclose your secret identity to me, via email, so I know who I'm praising. I can keep a secret.) I have to say it's pretty obvious to anyone who functions in the real world that women have to deal with far more types of subtle and subconscious bias than men do. But one cure for that is revelation and discussion.
Thanks again, all who played the game. I'll get back to funny stuff in my next post.
Oh -- one more thing. If you feel badly about not getting a Newbery, a Printz, or some other award or honor, think about this -- just being eligible means you had a book published. That's a pretty awesome achievement. You rock.
|Tuesday, January 31st, 2012|
|And the winner is -- the Y chromosome
I recently posted a question on a listserve for librarians, asking whether there is a bias toward males in kidlit awards and promotion. Some interesting and informative responses resulted, as did some interesting replies to those responses in various private message boards. In the interest of generating a more-public discussion, and allowing everyone to talk in the same place, I'm posting my original question here (with slight modifications to remove the library-specific aspects). ANother interesting blog post, focusing on the Caldecott, can be found here.
START OF ORIGINAL POST
There's been a passionate discussion among authors about whether (or why) there seems to be a disparity between the ratio of male to female authors and the ration of male to female award and honors recipients. Many of the female authors I know would love to see the issue discussed in public, but most feel it would seem whiny for the affected side to raise the issue. (I can testify that none of the parties in the discussion is in any way whiny.) Anyhow, I figured it would make for a good discussion (and might shed some light on aspects the authors hadn't considered), so here's the basic issue. Based on various unscientific methods, there seem to be far more women than men writing YA. (All that follows holds true for books for younger readers, and for illustrators, too, but I'll stick with YA since it
takes less time to type.) The ratio could be as high as 7 or 8 to 1. (While scanning a Goodreads list of all YA from 2011, I ran into such a high female-to-male ratio that I had to take a break and get a testosterone shot.) The ratio of male to female award and honors winner for the major awards, over the years, is about 1 to 1. (Interestingly, BFYA -- Best Fiction for Young Adults -- ran 2 to 1 female this year, and 4 to 1 for top 10.)
So, we have the fact of the award ratio, and the probable fact of the writer ratio. Now, we get to the discussion issues. It boils down to two questions. 1. Is there a bias toward males when it comes to industry recognition? 2. If there is a bias, where does it come from? If the answer to #1 is "no," then #2 is moot. Note that there seem to be two ways to disprove bias. You could show that the ratio is actually closer to 1 to 1. Or you could show that the ratio of books which might reasonably be considered for awards and honors is closer to 1 to 1. (This is one of the areas where the expertise of librarians would come in handy.)
Those who believe there is a bias have offered various explanations. The most common claim is that publishers tend to promote male authors more than female authors. Again, librarians, being on the target end of much of the promotion, should be able to offer some insights. Those of you who receive boxes of books should be able to share some thoughts. Another issue is the ratio of female to male librarians. Some writers wonder whether this has any affect on awards. (Don't shoot the messenger.)
There are a lot of people out there who would love to hear your thoughts on this. I hope some of them will slip into the discussion with their own insights. And, just to make sure I'm not the target of any cranky responses, I have to emphasize that I'm interested in the issue, but not involved or invested. For me, this is purely an academic question.
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One issue I neglected to mention was that of physical appearance. Many feel that there are vastly different standards in the publishing world when it comes to what is acceptable or desirable in male and female authors. Some feel that more men than women are sent on book tours. Some feel that men have an advantage when conferences book speakers. Obviously, many of these issues aren't restricted to publishing. (There's been a similar discussion on SUMO-bk, for example.)
I look forward to a spirited discussion. I hope some of you who posted in the listserve will copy your posts here.
|Friday, January 6th, 2012|
|The Daily News Myers Itself
I posted this on YALSA-bk, where there's been a bit of discussion about the Daily News piece that trashed Walter Dean Myers, but I figured I'd share it with a larger audience. (That means both of you, my two loyal readers.)
The hot-issue quote seems to be "The purpose of literature is to elevate." Honestly, I can't argue with this. I know, more than once, when I needed to grab something that was just out of reach, I stood on a book. It really works. I was elevated. Though all literature isn't equal. The later Harry Potters do a much better job of elevating than those really thin books like The Dubliners.
Seriously, the whole thesis of this article, as stated in the headline, is spurious. You can't dumb down literature. Literature comprises a spectrum of depths. You certainly can't ascribe a universal purpose to it. Homer was probably writing to preserve history, and to show off his mad rapping skills. I doubt he saw himself as an elevator. I know that when I write, my main goal is to entertain. I'd like to think some of my output counts as literature. Alas, I'll be dead and cold before the final vote is tallied. Writers don't make literature. Time does.
Really, the bottom line to all of this requires me to use a slight bit profanity. For anyone to write this sort of article right after Mr. Myers was named kidlit ambassador is basically just a self indulgent and shitty thing. It is the opposite of elevation.