I just noticed something strange on Wikipedia. It appears that gradually, over time, editors have begun the process of moving women, one by one, alphabetically, from the “American Novelists” category to the “American Women Novelists” subcategory. So far, female authors whose last names begin with A or B have been most affected, although many others have, too.
The intention appears to be to create a list of “American Novelists” on Wikipedia that is made up almost entirely of men. The category lists 3,837 authors, and the first few hundred of them are mainly men. The explanation at the top of the page is that the list of “American Novelists” is too long, and therefore the novelists have to be put in subcategories whenever possible.
Too bad there isn’t a subcategory for “American Men Novelists.”
IMPORTANT UPDATE the author, Amanda Filipacchi, from Sunday:
“In an Op-Ed article I wrote, published on The New York Times’s Web site on Wednesday, I suggested it was too bad that there wasn’t a subcategory for “American Men Novelists.” And what do you know; shortly after, a new subcategory called exactly that appeared.
But there was more. Much more. As soon as the Op-Ed article appeared, unhappy Wikipedia editors pounced on my Wikipedia page and started making alterations to it, erasing as much as they possibly could without (I assume) technically breaking the rules. They removed the links to outside sources, like interviews of me and reviews of my novels. Not surprisingly, they also removed the link to the Op-Ed article. At the same time, they put up a banner at the top of my page saying the page needed “additional citations for verifications.” Too bad they’d just taken out the useful sources.
In 24 hours, there were 22 changes to my page. Before that, there had been 22 changes in four years. Thursday night, a kind soul went in there and put back the deleted sources. The Wiki editors instantly took them out again.”
Yup, this change popped up on my Google Alerts when they finally hit the Br- names. You can guess how I felt about it.
(Source: , via alookinglassgirl)
Inter-racial couples in YA
I’m really liking The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken but…
I’m guessing Ruby and Liam are going to be the romantic couple of the book. And I just wonder why Ruby wasn’t paired up with Chubs? Why does the white girl have to fall for the white boy or vice versa?
Am I just picking up the wrong books? Are there inter-racial romantic relationships in YA books that I’ve missed?
I hope you don’t mind me jumping in here to answer your question and explain a bit about how I make these kinds of narrative decisions. I also want to open this up for others to chime in with reading suggestions. I don’t want you guys to feel like I’m constantly peering over your shoulder, but this is a topic that I’ve been thinking about quite a lot over the past few years, so I hope it’s okay that I’m joining the conversation. I think this is a really valid question and one that needs to be raised over and over again.
The reason Ruby and Chubs aren’t together is because their characterizations just aren’t compatible in that sense. Really, that’s it. One of the reasons why they become such close friends is that they have very similar dispositions and goals. Whereas, what attracts Ruby to Liam is the fact that he has the complete opposite outlook on their future (aka hopeful versus their Team Reality brand of pessimism) and he’s warm and open when she’s been denied that for so long. It’s my feeling that in relationships, partners should complete each other, rather than reflect one another. Chubs is lovely once you get him on your side, but his grouchy, closed-off protectiveness is one of his defining traits (he’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to writing a tsundere character), and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that aspect of him to make him more romantically compatible with Ruby. These characters are real people to me, with fully fleshed out lives, and it’s very, very, very difficult for me to change their core traits once they’ve popped up in my head and start talking. Ruby and Chubs’ friendship is one of my favorite elements of the whole series, and is just as important as her relationship with Liam. My goal was to portray a true male-female friendship without any sort of romantic entanglements, which I think there’s also a lack of in YA novels.
I try really hard to be sensitive and all-inclusive when it comes to portraying different ethnicities, not to mark them off an imaginary checklist, but because it’s natural and realistic and important to acknowledge that the population of this country is not one enormous blanket of white. There’s no arguing around the fact that Liam could have been another ethnicity, but the decision to make him caucasian came from the fact he was actually born in (spoiler!) West Virginia, which is something insane like 96% white. I couldn’t really change his place of birth, either, because he needed to be from WV to complete what is arguably the most important thematic arc in book 3 that I really can’t get into without S-P-O-I-L-E-R-S. I like to think I’m fully in control of my story development, but some things like this really do shake out through coincidence.
It’s actually sort of strange that this popped up on Tumblr when it did, since I’m drafting book 3 and finally delving into Liam’s backstory. You may have noticed he doesn’t like talking about it, largely because of the memories he has of his biological father who really, truly, was an abusive asshole. He never specifies this in TDM (for a number of reasons, mostly because it would have felt incredibly unnatural for him to qualify it), but his much-beloved stepfather/personal hero, Harry, is African American, meaning, yes, his sister was biracial. And actually, the romance between Harry and Liam’s mom is so damn wonderful and swoony I want to tell you every detail about it right this second instead of making you wait until Fall 2014.
More than ever, I think the YA community is recognizing the need for diversity, especially in main characters—it’s something I think about all the time as I work through and identify my privileges and those racial default settings that many people aren’t even aware of when they sit down to write. I wish I could say I was perfect on that front, but I know I’m not and I’m always willing to have it pointed out to me so I can learn from it. I hope you guys are never afraid to engage in dialogue with me or other authors about this. We should all be asking these kinds of questions.
I totally agree with you that there’s a shortage of YA novels portraying main interracial couples at the heart of the story. I’m hoping others will chime in with a few more suggestions for you, but here are the big ones I came up with off the top of my head. I know there are more, but it’s super late and I have major conference brain (TLA starts tomorrow—woooo):
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis
DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth (someone correct me if I’m wrong, but
Simone Elkeles’ books
LEGEND by Marie Lu
NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL by Justina Chen
ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell
Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series
Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy
Matt Haig: 30 things that every writer should know
- Choose battles wisely.
- Choose agents even more wisely.
- Literary fiction is a genre that pretends it is not a genre.
- Editors are essential.
- If an editor is talking about culling their list in the first meeting, this is a bad sign.
- You have to be good. And keep getting better. For every writer taken on, another is dropped. A paradox: you have to rise to stay level.
- There are two types of friends. Actual friends, and the other kind.
- When I was little I didn’t believe anyone really said “hurrah” but there are plenty of people who do.
- Ninety per cent of people in the publishing industry are twenty-six years old.
- If you sell the film rights to your book it doesn’t mean there will be a film. I have sold the rights to five books, and had zero films made. Take the money and be thankful.
- Having my name on a book never makes me more confident.
- Most things that go on with a writer’s career the writer doesn’t know about.
- Foreign rights = free money.
- There is no modernist stream-of-consciousness novel harder to get through than a ‘Publisher-Author Agreement’.
- People like your book more if other people like it.
- Authors shouldn’t go to book fairs any more than chickens should go to Nando’s.
- Being published doesn’t make you happy. It just swaps your old neuroses for new ones. (I should have gone to Oxbridge! Why wasn’t I invited to Hay? Am I not Granta enough? I wish I was Jonathan Franzen!)
- It is easy to be consumed by “if onlys”. If only I wore glasses/flannel blazers/ran my own literary salon/lived in Paris/had died in 1922/had written a book about jazz/had finished my Boer War novel/was called Tobias then I’d be taken more seriously!
- You’d be more likely to work out your sales by staring at tea leaves than an Amazon ranking.
- It is not about the advance. My debut got £5000 and sold a respectable 60,000 copies in the UK. My third got an advance ten times that and had zero promotion. It struggled to shift 2,000 copies. Sometimes, for longevity, it is better to sneak in under the radar and prove your worth.
- Humans get excited about new things. With a debut, you are the new thing. With every other book you write the new thing must come from elsewhere.
- Success depends on great words, and passionate people. The words are up to you. The people you have to pray for, and stand by them once you find them.
- Beauty breeds beauty, truth triggers truth. The cure for writer’s block is therefore to read.
- The writer is now as much a commodity as a book.
- The gatekeepers still have the power, but there are a lot more gates than there used to be.
- There are as many versions of a book as there are readers.
- People always want the book you have just written. But if you give it to them you will lose their respect. (People are weird.)
- Everyone is worried about the future of the book. But that is because people hate uncertainty. On the other hand, if you hate uncertainty you shouldn’t be a writer in the first place.
- The joy of writing never changes, however many books you have published. It is not always a joy. It is only a joy for a fraction of the time, but it is worth it, just for that fraction. And much of that joy comes from being that misfit kid grown up, leading readers and yourself to the wildest parts of your imagination.
- None of the associated pain can ever outweigh that sweet unbeatable pleasure of being read.
My first Ask Alex is up at PubCrawl and it’s centered on something that I think a lot of you are interested in: publishing internships. Check out and leave me a comment if you have any questions you want me to cover about the industry next month!
Benjamin Dreyer is the VP Executive Managing Editor & Copy Chief of Random House Publishing Group. Below is his list of the common stumbling blocks for authors, from A to X.
- One buys antiques in an antiques store from an antiques dealer; an antique store is a very old store.
- He stayed awhile; he stayed for a while.
- Besides is other than; beside is next to.
- The singular of biceps is biceps; the singular of triceps is triceps. There’s no such thing as a bicep; there’s no such thing as a tricep.
- A blond man, a blond woman; he’s a blond, she’s a blonde.
- A capital is a city (or a letter, or part of a column); a capitol is a building.
- Something centres on something else, not around it.
- If you’re talking about a thrilling plot point, the word is climactic; if you’re discussing the weather, the word is climatic.
- A cornet is an instrument; a coronet is a crown.
- One emigrates from a place; one immigrates to a place.
- The word is enmity, not emnity.
- One goes to work every day, or nearly, but eating lunch is an everyday occurrence.
- A flair is a talent; a flare is an emergency signal.
- A flier is someone who flies planes; a flyer is a piece of paper.
- Flower bed, not flowerbed.
- Free rein, not free reign.
- To garner is to accumulate, as a waiter garners tips; to garnish (in the non-parsley meaning) is to take away, as the government garnishes one’s wages; a garnishee is a person served with a garnishment; to garnishee is also to serve with a garnishment (that is, it’s a synonym for “to garnish”).
- A gel is a jelly; it’s also a transparent sheet used in stage lighting. When Jell-O sets, or when one’s master plan takes final form, it either jells or gels (though I think the former is preferable).
- Bears are grizzly; crimes are grisly. Cheap meat, of course, is gristly.
- Coats go on hangers; planes go in hangars.
- One’s sweetheart is “hon,” not “hun,” unless one’s sweetheart is Attila (not, by the way, Atilla) or perhaps Winnie-the-Pooh (note hyphens).
- One insures cars; one ensures success; one assures people.
- Lawn mower, not lawnmower.
- The past tense of lead is led, not lead.
- One loathes someone else but is loath to admit one’s distaste.
- If you’re leeching, you’re either bleeding a patient with a leech or otherwise sucking someone’s or something’s lifeblood. If you’re leaching, you’re removing one substance from another by means of a percolating liquid (I have virtually no idea what that means; I trust that you do).
- You wear a mantle; your fireplace has a mantel.
- Masseurs are men; masseuses are women. Many otherwise extremely well educated people don’t seem to know this; I have no idea why. (These days they’re all called massage therapists anyway.)
- The short version of microphone is still, so far as RH is concerned, mike. Not, ick, “mic.” [2009 update: I seem to be losing this battle. Badly. 2010 update: I’ve lost. Follow the author’s lead.]
- There’s no such word as moreso.
- Mucus is a noun; mucous is an adjective.
- Nerve-racking, not -wracking; racked with guilt, not wracked with guilt.
- One buys a newspaper at a newsstand, not a newstand.
- An ordinance is a law; ordnance is ammo.
- Palette has to do with colour; palate has to do with taste; a pallet is, among other things, something you sleep on. Eugene Pallette was a character actor; he’s particularly good in the 1943 film Heaven Can Wait.
- Noun wise, a premier is a diplomat; a premiere is something one attends. “Premier” is also, of course, an adjective denoting quality.
- That which the English call paraffin (as in “paraffin stove”), we Americans call kerosene. Copy editors should keep an eye open for this in mss. by British authors and query it. The term paraffin should generally be reserved for the waxy, oily stuff we associate with candles.
- Prophecy is a noun; prophesy is a verb.
- Per Web 11, it’s restroom.
- The Sibyl is a seeress; Sybil is Basil Fawlty’s wife.
- Please don’t mix somewhat and something into one murky modifier. A thing is somewhat rare, or it’s something of a rarity.
- A tick bites; a tic is a twitch.
- Tortuous is twisty, circuitous, or tricky; torturous is painful, or painfully slow.
- Transsexual, not transexual.
- Troops are military; troupes are theatrical.
- A vice is depraved; a vise squeezes.
- Vocal cords; strikes a chord.
- A smart aleck is a wise guy; a mobster is a wiseguy.
- X ray is a noun; X-ray is a verb or adjective.
Anonymous said: Any advice for a struggling teenage writer? I've got the beginnings down but don't know where to go from there. :( Also, when did you start writing?
Here’s my full writer timeline: I started writing for fun when I was in middle school—mostly really bad fanfiction and super angsty poetry, which seem to be the gateway drugs for most writers. :) I wrote all through high school, both fanfiction and short original pieces. My first attempt at writing a novel for publication was my freshman year of college, when I was 18. That book, thankfully, will never see the light of day. I started BW when I was 19 and finished when I was 20, and actually signed with an agent on my 21st birthday. BW didn’t come out until I was 23. I’ll be 26 next week (ahhhh).
I totally feel your pain on promising beginnings ultimately not panning out. This happens to me a lot—it happens to all writers, and it’s nothing to stress about or feel ashamed of. Sometimes an idea sounds amazing and you sit down and write the first ten chapters feeling like you’ve been kissed by a muse… only to totally hit a mental block on chapter eleven. The idea is still great, it just needs to go back in the oven for a while. Sometimes it’s your gut telling you something doesn’t quite work in the story and it might be time to move on to something else. You can usually tell if it’s the latter pretty easily—are you thinking about the story all the time? Or the characters? Can you not get a scene out of your mind? That’s a good sign it’s a story that’s worth your time.
Have you ever tried outlining the story before you sit down to write a word of it? Really, truly figured out what happens in the beginning, middle, and end? Usually when this happens to me, it means I didn’t take the time to fully sit down and work through the plot—beginning, rising action, climax, denouement, finale—to see if there’s actually enough of it to become a story.
Try writing out a loose outline, and give yourself some freedom on how to get from point A to point B to point C. By that I mean, write something like, “Character XX escapes from prisoner and goes on the run.” You’ll decide exactly how that character escapes when you hit that scene and you’re in the groove.
Another trick I like to do is to sketch out a life history of the main character(s). Interesting, weird little tidbits, things they love and hate, quotes they’ll say or quotes you think describe or apply to them.
I hope that helps! Let me know how it goes! xx
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me … is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.
It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
(Source: , via explore-blog)
A little post I wrote for Kirkus about working in publishing and also being a published author.