Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Week at Hogwarts - er, Seton Hill

Last week I went to Greensburg, PA with my pals Juliet and Rachael, at the invitation with another dear friend, Nicole Peeler - or "Dr. Peeler," as we got into the habit of calling her last week, since she is a professor in the MFA Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University.

Seton Hill is housed in a series of beautiful old hilltop castle-like buildings. We *may* have done a little secret exploring. There may have been tunnels. And dungeons. And dusty treasures... Just saying.

Rachael, me and Julie holding forth

with Julie and Dr. Peeler outside the hallowed halls

The three of us gave a talk on revision techniques, followed by breakout sessions where we got into the nitty-gritty. We were all impressed by the students' determination to improve their craft. This is something of a hot button for me in this age of "just get it out there"-ism, the apparent belief that quality just doesn't matter like it used to - or editing, for that matter. No such attitudes were on display in this crowd. I'm sure some of those students will publish through alternative paths - on their own or with independent publishers - but the books they are writing will be the best they can create. I say "Bravo" to that.

We also had a lively discussion on Gender in Publishing. While preparing to moderate that one, I did a fair amount of research and discovered some startling things, which I summarized in my MurderSheWrites post last week. Here's just a few more: men in publishing make an average of $40,000 more than women (though they do have more experience, an average of 17 years to women's 11) . Dispiritingly enough, both Oprah's now-defunct book club and Terry Gross's occasional author interviews on NPR's fresh air skew madly to men. All of this despite the fact that the sisterhood of women readers trundles gamely along, still reading more than men in every category but history and biography, and in 2010 surpassing men in e-book reading, a day some predicted would never come.

I think all my friends are ready for me to stop beating this poor horse for a while, but before I do, I'll leave you with a final two quotes from industry professionals. I think they are even more interesting when considered together - in fact, I wish I could have these two over for dinner:

George Gibson, president of Bloomsbury USA:
"Women and men see the world differently and therefore I think it would be healthier to have more men in the business" (responding to figures showing that women outnumber men in publishing)

Tracy Bowling, writer, editor, blogger:
"Unexamined assumptions about what makes good writing can potentially block out forms of writing that emerge from the real experiences and contexts of being in a marginalized group."

A last note: several audience members, in the course of our discussion, admitted that in examining their own reading habits, they saw potential for bias, and pledged to be aware in their future reading choices.


Mysti said...

Wish I could have been there! I think a lot about whether or not the answer to Hammett's question, what does it mean to be a moral man in an immoral universe, is answered differently than what it means to be a moral woman in an immoral universe. Sometimes it seems the answer must be quite different, other times, exactly the same.

Thanks for this post!

Sophie Littlefield said...

mysti, *exactly*! i'm not ashamed to admit that this issue confuses me mightily. i don't have the answers - but i think we need to keep digging.

Juliet Blackwell said...

I think it will all become clearer over a glass of scotch. Or two.
Sophie -- thanks for writing this up! It was such fun exploring with you -- and Mysti, you would have loved it!!!

Nicole Peeler said...

It was SO MUCH FUN! I miss you guys already. OAKLAND 2013! ;-)