Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Confederacy Of Women Creating Dunces

Boys don't like to read. Why is that? How can we reach them? How can we make them want to read?

So many questions. So few answers. Children's author Jonathan Emmett has taken on these mysteries of the universe and come up with an intriguing theory.

He says there are too many women in publishing, and they are skewing the product to favor their own sex.

Hence, men are not readers.

In essence, all the problems of the publishing industry can be laid at the feet of the women who dominate the industry.

An author must first approach a literary agent to gain a representative who will open the gate to the publishing house. The literary agent has to fall in love with the book to take it on, but the majority of literary agents are women. They don't see the world through a boy's eyes. They don't like what boys like, and so, the agents fall in love with books that are aimed at girls like them.

From the start, boys are pushed aside because there simply are not enough men acting as gatekeepers. And it gets no better as a manuscript heads up the ladder towards publication. Women dominate the editorial positions, and it is women making most of the decisions as to which books will make it and which will be rejected.

From top to bottom, it is women making the choices, and those choices are heavily dosed with estrogen.

What's a boy to do?

He goes and plays video games where his interests in action are met. He engages in make-believe in a totally non-feminine sphere, awash in violence and physicality.

When it comes to purchasing books, it's the women again who thumb through the offerings and select things that they find suitable for their children or grandchildren. None of that silly swashbuckling or gunplay or attacks from space aliens. What boys want, they do not get, and so they do not bother to read.

Boys are, in a way, trained to not like reading because their early experiences teach them that books are for girls. The boys grow up to be men and they don't seek out books because they never learned to like reading. As children, the content was not intriguing. They don't expect to find anything different as they mature.

Mr. Emmett is blaming all those women for the current crisis in education, where boys are left behind because their reading skills are weak. The weakness is not some genetic mutation or faulty gene on the Y chromosome, but the actions of an industry that does not have enough of a male influence.

Women control access to publication, and women control what gets published. After that, it's women controlling who wins the book awards that boost marketing. Everywhere he looks, it's women, and they can't see beyond their own preferences to imagine what an active boy would relate to in a work of fiction or a picture book.

He believes that more men need to be involved in manuscript acquisition, to balance the over-feminization of children's books. Men who were once boys have a better idea of what boys like, and would boost young male readership by giving the customer what he wants in reading material. More men are needed, especially in children's publishing, to provide content that the target audience will actually read.

Build it and they will come, someone once said about a sports field. Print it and they will read. When they read, they will learn, and the skills gap will shrink. But only if the ladies step aside and let a man take charge.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Write Something Else

How many novels will you have to write before you write one well enough to get published?

You work hard on that first manuscript. You write. You edit. You polish and edit again. You get shot down by one literary agent after another without the time to edit your work into a publication-ready form because these aren't the 1920s when editors brought along talented writers who just needed a little guidance.

Frustrating, to be sure. But you persist. You think of another story idea and write another novel which you edit, polish, edit. revise, re-write and polish yet again. You get shot down by literary agents who are not impressed with what you thought was lovely prose.

But you're stubborn and you don't give up so you write another novel and go through the whole process all over again, and with the same results.

How many novels do you have to write before you learn how to write something marketable?

Brandon Sanderson wrote twelve books before his novels caught the attention of a reading public that generated buzz and sent his novel to the top of the charts.

His hard work and stubborn refusal to quit paid off with the publication of Words of Radiance, part of a long and involved series that saw his name leading the New York Times bestsellers list.

Can you keep slogging away, putting in the time and effort to create that many books, before you decide it's impossible?

His sixth book found a publisher, but he didn't explode on the scene or become a household name. Instead, he kept honing his craft while promoting himself at book signings and whatever else he could do to get his name in front of the fantasy reading public.

Maybe it helped that he hit the scene around the same time that the Tolkien books were growing in popularity thanks to a series of popular films. If he was writing literary fiction, he might not be published even now, seeing as he lacks the requisite MFA and string of literary journal publications as credentials.

Yet fantasy is a tough sell because it is a small market. Breaking in is no easy task, and if Mr. Sanderson had chosen to give up after trying mightily, no one would fault him.

But he did not give up.

He kept writing. After one failure, he wrote something else. Then he wrote something else again.

There are no guarantees that not giving up will eventually pay off. Even a talented writer could fail if timing is off or luck goes missing. Quitting will guarantee that you'll never get published, however. And what else would you do with all those words tumbling around in your head, demanding to be set down on paper? Isn't it better to write them down so they'll leave you in peace?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An Agent Speaks To The Slushpile

While a face-to-face meeting with a literary agent is more likely to get your foot in the agency door, Susan Golomb believes in the merits of the slushpile.

You can read an interview with the storied literary agent here, and find hope that if your writing happens to land on her desk at the right time, you just might get your little toe wedged in before the door shuts in your face.

Study carefully and you might get a hint as to what Ms. Golomb is after these days. You would only be disappointed if you submitted something she is not looking for because it would be a rejection outright, no matter how your prose sparkles.

Pay attention to her stories of discovering writers now popular, because those same writers were unknown at one time. Just like you. There might be a suggestion or a phrase that will inspire you to try a new approach.

After you've read all that, you'll want to recall that this is Easter weekend, with the anniversary of Ireland's Easter Rising of 1916 looming. What does it mean, you wonder. What happened and how did things go that far, to see hundreds of people take to the streets and start shooting? You can read all about it here, in a fictional form that avoids the dry dullness of the average history tome. A TERRIBLE BEAUTY is historically accurate but eminently readable.

Enjoy it with a box of Cadbury chocolate eggs on a quiet Easter Sunday night, and fall into a world of espionage, intrigue and double-dealing. You won't be able to put it down once you start, so be sure to lay in plenty of tea before you're wrapped up in the tale of one family and their generation-spanning quest for liberty.

Still hungry for more stories about rebels against the Crown? Katie Hanrahan's third novel, THE LIBERTY FLOWER, is also available for an instant download and an evening of reading pleasure that will keep you turning the pages until you reach the end.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crippling Economic Sanctions

Go back to the first colonists in North America meeting up with the natives. They established a relationship based on trade. Someone had something that someone else wanted, and the two parties managed to exchange goods in what they felt was an equitable manner.

Now hold a gun to the head of your potential trade partner and suddenly the equitability shifts very much in your favor.
Economic sanctions lead to hardship which leads to reaction. Tea, anyone?

Trade sanctions have long been used to coerce a government to do something it doesn't want to do. It did not just start in the Twenty-first Century, either.

At the moment, there is talk of the United States, a global economic power, using its strength in the marketplace to force Russia to stop doing what it has been doing, which is attempting to take over Ukraine before the European Union gets in there, with all its free markets and liberties and other dangerous notions. Russia is struggling economically due to the usual problems with cronyism and corruption, so the economy is ripe for toppling.

The gun that the U.S. could hold to Russia's head is a figurative one, of course. It is the weapon of economic sanctions that could do just enough damage to Russia before sending the world's economy into a tailspin.

England once did it to the United States when England was a global power and the United States was a collection of former colonies trying to find a way to get along.

How to get the Americans to go along with the plan back in the mid-1700s? Regulate commerce, of course, and control the purse strings. The colonists suffered financially, with businesses hurting due to a lack of free markets to take their goods in exchange for other goods or cash money. As England learned, the locals did not then toe the line scribed by royal decree, but rebelled.

So if the Russian people are made to suffer due to economic sanctions that cripple their personal wealth and ability to feed families, might they then rebel against their leaders and drive them out?

History has shown that it can happen. Wise leaders know it, and so they bend to the demands of the more powerful applying those crippling economic sanctions, but only enough to keep the peons slightly disgruntled. Hold off long enough to make others in the global economy squirm and it's like taking a few bullets out of the economic gun being held to your head.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Writer's Retreat, With Birds

Your company for the summer
Bird Watch Ireland is selling a pair of summer jobs in the wrong way.

They're almost apologetic about the opportunity to go off to an isolated island, uninhabited by humans, to monitor the roseate tern population. No other people but the two selected for the job. No Internet access. No distractions. Just keep an eye on the birds from time to time and don't get into a holy row with your bird-watching partner because that person is the only other person around to talk to.

This, Bird Watch Ireland, is the perfect writer's retreat.

How long can it take in a day to slap a few rings on bird legs, count a few nests and look for bird eggs? Once you've handled these simple chores, you have nothing but time, and what writer doesn't need time like this to work on a manuscript. The distractions are few, and if you're on this island with another writer, the two of you could be each other's beta readers and really get something accomplished.

While you go about your work, you can mull over sentences in your head and then commit them to paper after the birds have gone to bed. In essence, you would be writing all day, without some boss interfering by giving you a new project or clients ringing you up asking after something you were supposed to get to them ASAP.

And best of all, this is not a retreat where you pay to attend. No indeed. The State will give you money, like a regular employee, a weekly paycheck. Can you imagine getting paid to write? It's like a dream.

There is little time to waste if you're to take advantage of this incredible opportunity. Don't forget to bring lots of paper and plenty of pencils, or pens with an abundance of bottled ink. Night after night, nothing to do but work on a novel, one that might involve the isolation in which we all live despite a crowd of people (or birds) hovering around us. You could find out you're a literary fiction genius before August rolls around and it's time to go back to the madding crowd.

Surrounded by screeching sea birds, you could wax most philosophical. The makings of a great work of literary fiction are to be found here, if you act now to secure your position as tern minder by day, writer by night.

And when you return to civilization and write to a literary agent seeking representation, what could pique more interest than a mention that the manuscript was written on an uninhabited island off the coast of North Dublin? You'd get a few requests for manuscripts with that kind of unique feature, and getting a publishing contract is all about standing out from the mob.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Publication Day For THE LIBERTY FLOWER

Congratulations to Katie Hanrahan on the release of her latest novel, THE LIBERTY FLOWER.

You can buy a copy at Amazon, BN.com, Powell's, Waterstones, and just about any other shop that sells books. If it isn't on the shelf, please ask your bookseller to order a copy for you.

And of course you can download a digital edition for any of your electronic devices and be reading this intriguing page turner.

Opening in the tumultuous era of the American Revolution in the prosperous port of Charles Town (later Charleston), South Carolina, THE LIBERTY FLOWER follows the blossoming relationship between an American partisan spy and the British naval officer who sets out to win her heart.

Sarah Mahon and Jack Ashford are torn apart by politics and behind-the-scenes manipulations intended to keep them separated. Life and stubbornness have a way of intruding, however, and as the long war winds down and another begins in France, Sarah and Jack struggle to maintain a tenuous link that binds them together, even if circumstances seem to divide them forever.

A work of historical fiction with a strong romantic element, THE LIBERTY FLOWER is an exciting look at the world in a time of international conflict, when the United States was a weak collection of squabbling states and England ruled the waves, along with commerce and international trade.

On this day when you're paying your Federal taxes, it might ease the sting a bit to read about those who were there when this grand experiment that is American democracy was first born.


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Ongoing War For Independence

Look how civilized we all are. Inviting the Queen to come and celebrate the 1916 Easter Rising with us. No hard feelings, we're all one big happy family here in Ireland.

Except for those less than happy with the 1922 treaty that kept the six northern counties under British rule. There are many residing there who don't see the rebellion as anywhere near finished.

Is This Fighting Necessary?
 What has Professor Diarmaid Ferriter upset about the invitation extended to the Queen is the fact that the government did not consult the committee that is charged with developing a proper and fitting memorial for the centennial of the uprising. This hundred-year remembrance only comes around once, and you wouldn't want to get it wrong. The history happened already, but it's up to the history professors to frame incidents in a context, to study the nuance and put the rebellion into the frame of its era.

What would happen to all that if the Queen of England shows up with some wreath to lay at the tomb of the rebel leaders who were shot down under the orders of her ancestor's government? No hard feelings, Ireland, and can't we all just get along?

Professor Ferriter is particularly concerned that the Queen's presence might give people the idea that the whole thing was totally unnecessary. England was about to grant Ireland some freedom and allow Home Rule, which was the driving issue behind the rebellion. It was coming, some might say, so all those people lost their lives for nothing. A lot of bloodshed, and then the civil war after that, and it was all a waste of human life.

From there, then, would come the belief that those who sacrificed themselves on Easter Monday, 1916, did so to no purpose. They died for nothing.

And what kind of a centennial celebration would it be, to commemorate a complete waste?

Unfortunately, the State cannot very well un-invite the Queen, who has given every indication that she's delighted to attend the upcoming celebration. That leaves damage control to the historians, who very much want to present the past in a way that does not denigrate those who genuinely believed that the British were all talk and no action when it came to Home Rule.

There is a history there as well, a history of Home Rule bills that passed Commons and were killed in Lords, or Home Rule bills postponed for one reason or another.

That's the context in which the historians wish the rising to be seen. Just because the Queen is coming doesn't mean that context has no significance to the events that followed. It just means that what happened in the past should be remembered, but not used as a weapon to keep a feud going far beyond its natural lifespan.

But then again, there is that whole issue of a united Ireland and the counties of the north that still call Elizabeth II their monarch....