Oh my god: Josip Novakovich is a finalist for The Booker Prize. Josip is a Sunday Rumpus alum, and an Other Voices Books and Dzanc Books author. He’s also on the faculty of Other Voices Queretaro, the ridiculously kick-ass writing program I’m launching out of Mexico this summer. That’s right, at the cheapest international writing program on the market, you can study with a Booker Prize finalist. In a sublime colonial mini-mansion. And Stacy Bierlein and I will serve you wine and pastries. Did I mention that Pam Houston and Rob Roberge will be teaching too? Wow. Was this thing really my idea? I hit the nail on the head sometimes. I think I’ll open some champagne.
Stephen has a new website–check it out.
American poet Margo Berdeshevsky writes about guns from Paris.
The real life sex surrogate played by Helen Hunt in The Sessions speaks with StyleSubstanceSoul.
This is important. Fellow Rumpus editor, Brian Spears, received a letter from a friend that read:
“The Opinion Page editor at Al Jazeera English, Mr. Nasir Khan, is upset about the fact that the ratio of male to female writers at his publication is typically 80/20. (Actually the average statistic for major media outlets is 90/10). Mr. Khan has committed, for the months of February and March, to flip-flopping this ratio: to 80% women writers.”
Women writers, you can pitch ideas here.
Like I said, this feels important. Everyone, irrespective of gender, please encourage other editors and venues to take notice of this, and perhaps some will be interested in following suit. You might want to point out that…well, nobody’s really looking for an 80/20 flip here. Just a handful of influential publications actually making any effort whatsoever to help shephard these stats closer to 50/50 would be…pretty revolutionary, it seems. When I interviewed Margaret Atwood, she brought up the very real possibility that a lot of women are also declining the opportunity to contribute journalism, reviews, etc., when invited, because they have other commitments or priorities. And while I don’t think that can account entirely for a 90/10 breakdown in favor of men, I do think it plays a part. Women writers, are you pitching your ideas enough? Are you submitting to the venues you want to be published in? Are you willing to pay your dues and write for free, as most writers have to do at least initially in this brave new online media that would like to see writers standing in soup lines? Do you put yourselves out there as relentlessly, in the face of frequent rejection, as your male counterparts, until you get your break? I’m curious about these answers. In some ways I’ve had it easy. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I grew up poor in the Midwest and had no “connections” or anything. I have 3 kids, and no childcare. My kids are all in school part of the day, but my husband goes to work before they wake up in the morning, and gets home about an hour before our youngest goes to bed, so I’ve been a primary caregiver from the onset. Nobody else does our laundry or takes my kids to school or picks them up or makes their food. I’ve done that–and also helped take care of my elderly parents, who live with us–while writing and editing and teaching. But what I mean–the really important caveat here–is that my husband has a good paying job. Sure, I bust my ass time-wise, and work round the clock. I have virtually no “down time.” But I’m also not responsible for putting food on the table, or paying a rent/mortgage, or providing my family with health insurance, or worrying about whether my kids will ever be able to afford to go to college. My husband takes care of all that. How much of what I’ve done professionally in the literary world over the past 12 years I’ve been a mom would I have done if the financial burden of the family was also on my shoulders? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I know it’s “not as much unpaid work as I’ve done.” And my unpaid work has been where I’ve been able to make the most impact, interestingly. It’s where I’ve been able to edit and publish the most writers, and champion bigger causes than just Myself. A financial cushion isn’t what let me write my books; I’d have written those anyway; I’d have slept less, had no social life, probably even parented less well if I had to–I’d have written because it was essential. But my work at Other Voices, at The Nervous Breakdown, at The Rumpus…even some of my teaching that’s been poorly paid adjunct work…how much of that might have felt impossible? I’ve been thinking that somewhere at the intersection of the way childcare still falls primarily to women, yet in a bad economy or facing single parenthood or just out of a belief in financial autonomy, most women also have to make a living…somewhere in there lies a very difficult-to-untangle knot about the role of gender in the arts. You can have a full time job to earn money, and still be an artist and do all kinds of shit for free, working round the clock, sure. People of both genders do that, and always have, for their art. And you can be a devoted parent and raise healthy, functional kids, and still take the time to prioritize your art too. It seems like 30 years ago, most successful women writers and artists didn’t have children, but that’s very different now. Most of the women writers I know are also moms. But when you have to worry about money, kids, taking care of extended family, health insurance in a world where those who work part-time don’t get covered and more and more companies are pushing all employees towards part-time…when you’re a woman and the division of presence on the page is already a discouraging 90/10 and you’re facing all these additional life pressures combined, maybe the hill just seems too steep to climb. Maybe for a lot of people it feels too steep to even begin the ascent. Maybe if you want to write a book, you can’t always also write reviews, or edit at a magazine that can’t pay your bills but that helps other writers like you get their voices out. Nobody has an endless supply of energy. And yet, if women aren’t making enough pitches, nobody’s going to knock on their doors and beg them to come out and play, and if editors think being gender-blind is the answer, they may just be averting their eyes. We’re not done navigating this labyrinth. I’m not sure we can even see the way out from here yet.
The phenomenal Kate Zambreno on Listi’s Other People.
I’ve been compelled by Peter Gajdics writing on The Nervous Breakdown for a long time. Here, what really happens in ex-gay therapy.
My edits on A Life in Men are in from Algonquin. I was told they were very light. “Benign,” I believe, is the word Chuck, my editor, used. So help me god if there’s one page in the 440 page manuscript that doesn’t have at least 10 incidences of Chuck’s unnervingly neat and precise handwritten edits, I’ll eat the damn thing. It’s daunting and absolutely thrilling. I think I’m not in Kansas anymore.