“The Count” Confirms Publishing’s Gender Bias

What would you think if I told you that in 2010 magazines like Harper’s, The New Republic, Poetry Magazine, Granta, The New Yorker, and most of the other big names, published more work written by men than by women?

Would it shock you?  Surprise you?  Raise an eyebrow?

What if I told you that those magazines didn’t publish just three or four more articles by men than by women, they published three or four times more.  It calculates like this:

  • The Atlantic published 154 pieces written by men, 53 by women.
  • The New Yorker: 449 by men, 163 by women.
  • The New York Review of Books: 462 by men, 79 by women.

That raises more than eyebrows, it raises questions and VIDA is doing the asking.

VIDA, a literary group formed last year in response to gender inequality in print, has just published The Count.  I might have called it “The Countess,” but that’s probably too cutesy.  The Count is literally that, a count of male to female writers in the country’s most prestigious magazines, and it is proof positive of just how skewed the ratio is.

As a woman writer, the survey could be depressing.  I could throw up my hands and say, “Why bother, there’s no breaking into the old-boy’s club.”  If it was just a survey, it would be depressing, but it’s not just a survey, it’s the beginning of a conversation and VIDA is leading the way.

“Our count is by no means a blame-game,” says Cate Marvin, VIDA co-founder. “It was time to stop speculating that things didn’t seem entirely fair and find out if we did in fact have reason to be concerned.  The conversation only begins with the numbers.”

More data on submissions and books published by gender is needed for a true picture, but what is included in “The Count” makes it clear that there is a startling imbalance and something needs to be done.  Yes, the conversation has started.  As a woman who writes, it’s now my responsibility to be a part of it.

For more details, read the study by VIDA: “Numbers don’t lie. What counts is the bottom line.”

For an analysis of the numbers, read A new tally by VIDA shows how few female writers appear in magazines from slate.com.

Resources: VIDA, The Daily Post

Monday Motivator: Gertrude Stein

Stein Gertrude 1935
Gertrude Stein via Wikipedia

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“To write is
to write is
to write is
to write is
to write is
to write is
to write.”

– Gertrude Stein

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Today’s Monday Motivator is from Gertrude Stein, whose birthday is this week on February 3, 1874.  Much of Ms. Stein’s work, like the quote above, can be mistaken for silly or senseless.  Some critics called her work elitist and arrogant, but Stein played with words the way another artist would play with her medium.

Friend and patron Mabel Dodge Luhan described it like this:

“In Gertrude Stein’s writing every word lives and, apart from concept, it is so exquisitely rhythmical and cadenced that if we read it aloud and receive it as pure sound, it is like a kind of sensuous music.  Just as one may stop, for once, in a way, before a canvas of Picasso, and, letting one’s reason sleep for an instant, may exclaim: ‘It is a fine pattern!’ so, listening to Gertrude Steins’ words and forgetting to try to understand what they mean, one submits to their gradual charm.”

The Monday Motivator is a quote posted each week to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers of all skill levels and across genres.  If you have a favorite quote to share, I’d love to include it.  Click here to see past Monday Motivators.

Resources: The World of Gertrude Stein, The Daily Post

New Hope Comes in a Literary Package

There’s something very exciting about the debut of a literary journal.

All the tension and turmoil bubbling around the publishing world these days can leave those of us who are in love with words feeling sad, worried, and a little bit hopeless.  Enter a new lit mag and our hope is renewed … The word lives.  The word thrives.  Hooray for the word!

And three cheers for the debut of The Literarian, an online journal from The Center for Fiction.

We’re here to celebrate and support the extraordinary breadth of literary fiction in the U.S. and around the world,” writes editor Dawn Raffel in the welcome letter.

The first issue includes six short stories, interviews with Cynthia Ozick, Yiyun Li, a video of Sam Lipsyte reading from his novel “The Ask,” and an essay by Martha McPhee about her five favorite novels with women behaving badly.  Each issue takes a world view, too, by publishing highlights from international literary magazines.  This issue showcases Wet Ink from Australia and the St. Petersburg Review. Future issues promise a venue for emerging writers.

It’s not all storm and stress in the world of words.  At least I don’t think so, and neither does The Center for Fiction.  That’s good news for writers, readers, and everyone else in love with words.

PS:  I would be remiss in my devotion to Philip Roth if I missed this opportunity to mention his upcoming visit to The Center for Fiction on February 24 at 7 pm. Oh, to live in New York again!!

Resources: The Center for Fiction, The Daily Post

Depth and Focus Straighten Tangled Plots

At The Book Deal, publishing veteran Alan Rinzler offers an insider’s look at the new world of publishing.  With more than 40 years experience at some of the top houses, his insights and opinions are an incredible resource for writers trying to break into the business.

His latest post, Ask the editor:  How to untangle a plot, gives specific and directed advice on:

  • Pruning overcomplicated plots
  • Best practices for storytelling
  • DIY Plot Pruning
  • Developing your rhythm

Mr. Rinzler ends the post with an invitation to send questions.

After spending the better part of the morning (and probably most of the coming afternoon) clicking and reading through this blog, I knew I had to share it here.

Enjoy!

Resources: The Book Deal, The Daily Post

Monday Motivator: Virginia Woolf’s Wild Horses

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“Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us.”
— Virginia Woolf
from “Jacob’s Room”

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I chose this quote in honor of Virginia Woolf’s 129th birthday, tomorrow, January 25.  What do the words evoke in you?

The Monday Motivator is a weekly quote posted to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers of all skill levels and across genres. If you have a favorite quote to share, I’d love to include it.  Click here to see past Monday Motivators.

Resources:  The International Virginia Woolf Society, The Daily Post

Publisher Not Doing It For You? Self-Promote!

Scholarship donations, iPads, twofers, and an endless assortment of junk drawer schwag.  Authors are turning to non-traditional marketing to boost sales and pick up the slack left by publishers who no longer have the budget.

In How Authors Move Their Own Merchandise on WSJ.com, reporter by Joanne Kaufman looks at a few novel (and successful) approaches.

Resources: wsj.com, Post A Day

Robert Frost Does it Right at JFK’s Inauguration

John F. Kennedy and Robert Frost blowing in the wind at JFK's Inauguration. Photo by Life

Fifty years ago today, Robert Frost made literary history by being the first poet to read at a Presidential Inauguration.

John F. Kennedy asked Mr. Frost to read a piece of his work.  As the Inauguration Ceremony approached, the poet understood the importance of the moment and decided to recite “Dedication,” a poem he wrote specifically for the occasion.

A full-fledged blizzard the night before, left the city frozen in a blanket of white.  Although the sun was shining on Inauguration Day, sub-zero temperatures and whipping winds stayed on, causing delay after delay.

When it was finally time to recite his poems, Mr. Frost took the podium.  Bundled in a long wool coat and thick scarf,  the wind blew his hair in every direction.  He began reciting “Dedication” but stumbled and stopped.  The sun’s glare reflecting off the snow made it impossible to read his new poem.

Rather than falter through a botched recitation, Mr. Frost changed direction.  He put his plan and his poetry aside, and recited “The Gift Outright” from memory.

Reading the words of “The Gift Outright,” I’m excited and astonished, again, at the inherent genius of art.  How appropos those words are for the occasion.  I’m also inspired by Mr. Frost’s action.  He knew what was most important. He put his ego and his poetry aside and did what should have been done for the occasion.

I’m sure I would have done the same on the spot.  It’s afterward that I wonder about.  Would I have pouted, whined? “Waaaa, I put a lot of work into that poem.  Stupid snow ruined everything.  My life suuuuuckkkkks!”

Past experience tells me I would be whining.  It’s a character flaw I need to work on.  A lot of artists and writers I know would whine; we’re a needy neurotic bunch. (Kanye West keeps coming to mind.)  Robert Frost didn’t whine though.  He took the road not taken and that made all the difference.

Resources: John F. Kennedy Inaugural Ceremony, Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken,” The Daily Post

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe

“Words have no power to impress the mind
without the exquisite horror of their reality.”
— Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death
Image by ProfessorMortis via Flickr

Mention his name and goth girls swoon, black cats hiss, and the timid turn away.  Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19, 1809.  More than 200 years after his birth, cities still fight for ownership of the dead writer’s corpse, whose tortured life and mysterious death were as strange as the tales he told.  Tales like “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death” still have the power to shock and enthrall readers all these years later.

In pop culture, Mr. Poe is most often revered as the master of the macabre, but his pen and his influence reach far beyond that.  He and Nathaniel Hawthorne are credited as the fathers of the American short story.  “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was the first detective story and created the genre.  “The Balloon Hoax” was an early form of science fiction and was an inspiration for Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days.”  His poem, “The Raven” is still one of the most famous poems ever written.

He was born in Boston, was orphaned at age three, and taken in by the Allen family of Richmond, Virginia.  His older brother Henry died young and his sister Rosalie went insane.  He lived in Philadelphia with his wife and mother-in-law, before moving with them to the Bronx, New York.  He was married only once, to his 13-year old cousin Virginia Clemm, who died at age 24 of tuberculosis.  He was an alcoholic and a drug addict and was labeled paranoid and perverse.  The day before he died, he was found on a Baltimore street, delirious, incoherent and wearing clothes that weren’t his.

All five cities have landmarks or museums dedicated to him and the Poe Wars over who gets his corpse (Baltimore has it now) aren’t cold yet.

edgar-allan-poeIn honor of his birthday, I’m happy to share this fantastic party favor, a make-your-own Edgar Allan Poe doll, courtesy of the Toy-A-Day blog. (Caveat: Lots of pop-ups, but definitely worth it.) Mr. Poe might roll his eyes at the frivolity of the gesture, but I like to think it would make him crack a smile.

Resources: Post A Day, Edgar Allan Poe Museum/Richmond, Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Sity/Philadelphia, Edgar Allen Poe Cottage/The Bronx, Edgar Allan Poe Society/Baltimore.

Time Machine Visits #FridayFlash Intro

Time machine to late September 2009 …

Spinning Optical IllusionIt’s a quiet Friday afternoon, and I’m trying to learn my way around Twitter.  A steady stream of tweets with the odd looking designation of “#FridayFlash” keeps catching my eye.  Easily distracted and always looking for an excuse to put off my writing, I’m drawn in.

“What could zees be?” I ask out loud.  (My alter ego always has a French accent.)

Curiosity gets the best of me.  I click one of the tweets and enter into a world I never knew existed.  It’s a world of horror and humor, intrigue and romance. Action, adventure, heartbreak and suspense.  I’ve entered the surrealistic wonder world of #FridayFlash.

What is this wonder world, you ask?  According to creator Jon Strother, #FridayFlash is an Internet meme designed to increase your visibility as a fiction writer.   According to me and most of the writers who participate each week, it is so much more than that.

Since entering that world over a year ago, I’ve met some wonderfully supportive and encouraging people, I’ve read some remarkable stories, and my writing has come a long way.  Finding #FridayFlash was like falling through a trapdoor into a hidden fantasy land, and it’s a land open to all; writers and readers, alike.

Icy Sedgwick offers more insight in this Fuel Your Writing interview posted this week:  #FridayFlash — Interview with Jon Strother.

There’s so much more to say about #FridayFlash, but the important information is covered in the interview and in the links I’ve included.  Now I need to hurry and publish this post, because that time-machine-depicting optical illusion up there is freaking me out.  It really is not moving.  Is it?

Resources: Post A Day, Flash Fiction by Olivia Tejeda

“Suspicious” Quotation Marks: Funny? Mostly!

I’ve never really told anyone this, but I’m kind of a jerk when it comes to grammar and punctuation.  I usually don’t correct grammatical mistakes, I try not to be too critical of people who say “yous” instead of  “you,” and I don’t walk around with a Sharpie correcting improperly placed apostrophes (even though I want to).  Sometimes these mistakes bother me, and sometimes they just make me laugh.

Take suspicious quotation marks, I don’t know where the The Employees Must “Wash Hands” picture originated, but it’s all over the internet, and when I saw it I laughed out loud.  Then I cringed a little bit, hoping the sign wasn’t posted in a “restaurant.” (<–Deliberate misuse.)

Excessive use of quotation marks AND sarcasm.

The first pair of suspicious quote marks  I remember was on an insurance company sign on the street where I grew up.  The sign read:

“Insurance That’s “Affordable”

Even as a kid I used to roll my eyes at that.

Bethany Keeley has built a mini media empire around the offending punctuation.  The “Blog” of Unnecessary Quotation Marks is a collection of pictures submitted by readers, accompanied by Keeley’s hilarious comments.

With a disclaimer like that, no wonder the jar's empty!

She compiled the best of the unnecessary into “The Book of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks,” which publisher Chronicle Books calls, “a smarty-pants guide, “perfect” for desperate grammarians, habitual air quoters, and anyone who appreciates a good laugh.”

If you can’t wait to pick up the book, visit the Facebook group, Quotation Mark Hunters, which is where I found these pictures, and spent far too much time surfing and laughing.

I hope you’ll have a good laugh too, and maybe it will make you think twice before using quotation marks “willy-nilly.”

For clarification on the proper use and single vs. double quotation marks, and just about any other grammar question, visit Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips.

Grammar Watch is an occasional series about grammar peeves, abuses, giggles, and rants.  Email me with any topics you’d like to see included here.

Resources:  The Daily Post.