ETA:All the discussion for this post is happening on my LJ. People are saying smart things over here.
I used to say that each time I sent a story out on submission, or queried an agent, and even when my agent was shopping the first book around. It was a kind of sad, hopeful thing to say, the plea of the beginning writer hoping someone–an editor–will like your work enough to buy it.
Writer’s spend a lot of time hoping someone will love the stories they tell. And when (oh joy of joys) an editor does buy your work, you shift the hope, the worry, the dreams, over to being noticed and to being read.
Four months ago my first book hit the shelves. Being noticed and being read is at the very very top of my things to worry about list. I dream about failure and the consequences of blowing my chance. I dream about never getting another contract, never being allowed to publish another book. I wander through crowds of people in these dreams, in strange buildings and unknown cities, trying to find someone I know–someone who will notice I’m there.
Stress dreams, each and every one. I’m not a fan.
Want to know what makes the dreams worse? Reading all the end of the year, best of 2013 lists.
Let me state right up front, I never expected Delia’s Shadow to make any best of the year lists. Delia got starred reviews from Library Journal, Romantic Times, a wonderful review from PW, and Kirkus didn’t rip me a new one, but the book straddles too many genres in a lot of people’s minds.
Which is a whole other blog post (for another day) about marketing and preconceived notions.
A couple of bloggers put Delia on their YB lists, which seriously thrilled me, and is a lot more than I expected. I can’t thank them enough for that.
But, it’s a first novel, a debut. Then there’s the romance (another blog post) and the violence, and all those women characters, who apparently aren’t the “right kind” of women,(two more blog posts) and well, you get the idea.
But as I said, I never expected to make any lists. I knew that going in.
What kills me is that so many women who should be on these lists? They aren’t there.
As in, taken strictly by appearances in year’s best lists–women didn’t publish much of anything last year.
Nada. Zero, zip. Nothing.
Which, as you know Roberta, is total bullshit. Women published some amazing novels last year.
Yet I’ve read list after list where five out of five best of the year books were written by men, or eight out of ten, or on a good list, seven out of ten were written by men. Thousands of books published by women every year, and list makers can’t find any for a YB list?
After the first dozen or so lists like that, I’ll be honest, I stopped looking at book titles. I was too busy counting male vs female authors, or googling authors with initials trying to figure out where they fit. Some of them turned out to be women, making the balance more positive. Just as often they turned out to be men, maintaining the status quo.
And then I stopped looking at YB lists completely. It was pissing me off and depressing the hell out of me, both at the same time.
The deck is so very stacked. I mean, I knew that going in. But until you really start looking and counting, I don’t think it really sinks in.
Other than the obvious answer, deeply embedded, institutional sexism, why are these lists so heavily biased toward men? One answer I can think of is that the people putting these lists together only read books written by men. If you never crack the cover of a book authored by a woman, it’s not going to make your YB list.
But is it really that simple and self-selecting? I don’t know. I’d like to know. I’d like to change it.
It’s one of those mysteries of the universe, like why does buzz appear to generate spontaneously around male authors, even debut authors, but not women? Or why do men writing about sexism in any form get praised to the stars, while women writing about the same subjects are greeted with the sound of crickets?
Or, you know, death threats.
Yeah, I know. Hard questions. Answers and turning the tide are harder.
So…where do we start?