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I'll be at the AASL Conference


I'll be attending this year's American Association of School Librarians conference in Hartford, Connecticut, which takes place this weekend, November 14-17.

You can catch me Friday evening at 9 p.m. at the Author & Librarian Tweet Up, an informal get-together at the Marriott Hotel Crush Bar/Starbucks. On Saturday at 10:15 a.m., I'll be a panelist for Head in the Clouds, Feet on the Ground: The Role of Fantasy in the Real World with other fabulous middle grade and YA authors. After the panel, I'll be signing books at AASL's Authors Alley from 11:30 a.m. until 12:15 p.m.

If you're around, stop by and say hello!
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17 percent

This weekend I listened to a fascinating piece on NPR about women in cinema. Essentially, although women are half the movie-goers in the U.S., they have only 17% of the onscreen roles—including crowd scenes. Off screen isn’t much better: women represent 7 percent of directors, 13 percent of writers, and 20 percent of producers.

Geena Davis, known for her role as Thelma in “Thelma and Louise” and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, commissioned a dozen studies on women in media from the Annenberg School at University of Southern California. Perhaps the most disturbing result to me was from a study where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups.

[T]hey found that if there's 17 percent women, the men in the group think it's 50-50. And if there's 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.

Which perhaps explains another disturbing finding, that this ratio is similar to the ones found in many professions where women are traditionally underrepresented—like cardiac surgeons (somewhere in the single digits) and tenured professors (around 20 to 25%), and many, many more. Davis asks, “is it possible that 17 percent women has become so comfortable and so normal that that's just sort of unconsciously expected?”

This misrepresentation of women onscreen exists not only in cinema but in TV as well, and, particularly disturbing, also exists in children’s programming. Davis notes:

What we're in effect doing is training children to see that women and girls are less important than men and boys. We're training them to perceive that women take up only 17 percent of the space in the world. And if you add on top of that that so many female characters are sexualized, even in things that are aimed at little kids, that's having an enormous impact as well.

The piece explores some of the economic reasons that this may be happening, particularly the sea change studios have seen in profits from abroad where there is a preference for movies with lots of explosions and little dialogue. As a result it has been harder and harder to fund movies with women in lead roles. Which begs the question, why should women be underrepresented in non-speaking roles? And why would the foreign movie market matter in children’s television programming?

The entire report is interesting and can be heard here. For those who prefer to read a transcript, it can be found here.
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Understanding why publishing advice isn't always useful

This piece by Tobias Buckell talks about how a whole lot of advice given to aspiring authors is not really useful.

The quote worth remembering (which Buckell gets from a Smashwords guide): “most books, both traditionally published and self-published, don’t sell well." That's not to say you should give up, to the contrary. But in most cases, the advice you get from successful authors does not work to solve this problem, whatever form of publishing you chose. Buckell's piece does a good job explaining why.

The takeaway for me was that there's really no substitute for hard work, though that's no guarantee of success, not by a long shot. Most books just don't sell well. There's too much other stuff around competing for attention.
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I'll be in Albany and Hudson

I will be at book fairs the next two Saturdays.

On April 27 I'll be at the Albany Children's Book Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Albany Academies, 140 Academy Road, Albany, New York.

Hudson Chidren's Book Festival 2013
Then on May 4 I'll be at the Hudson Children's Book Festival, also from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Hudson Junior and Senior High School, 215 Harry Howard Avenue, Hudson, New York.

If you are around either day, drop by and say hello!
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E.L. Konigsburg RIP

It's with great sadness that I learned that E.L. Konigsburg has died. She was one of my heroes.

I wrote about her on Write Up Our Alley a few months ago. What I said then still holds true today: E. L. Konigsburg’s work has always been an inspiration to me. She was not afraid to take risks. She wrote for all age groups; focused on multiple genres; and was a true craftsman, willing to bend forms and try something new. Even if one of her stories did not grab me entirely, I still knew that what I was reading was well written and worth my time. Her brilliance and work inspired me to become a novelist.

Rest in peace.
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The point at which I decided I had had my fill

So the novel is long, full of intrigue, action, and lots of characters, almost none female. The few that are female arrive late and play stereotypical roles. And then, I'm almost three quarters of the way through when the young, likeable protagonist has a conversation with an older, likeable mentor. They are talking about the protagonist's love interest.

"Women hate [her]," he said plainly, as if repeating something we both already knew.
"Hate her?" The thought baffled me. "Why?"
[. . .] "Think of it. She's pretty and charming. Men crowd round her like a stag in rut." He made a flippant gesture. "Women are bound to resent it."

Because you know, beautiful, sexually attractive women can't possibly be friends with other women. Wouldn't do.

Let's just say, I gave up soon after.
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First draft!!

The first draft of the novel that I've been working on for, gosh, ages (and for which I put 60,000 words down during for NaNoWriMo back in November) is complete! [Confetti!!] It weighs in at over 160,000 words... I predict major cutting ahead.