Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In Case You Missed It...

...there's been a bit of a firestorm recently revolving around the subject of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender characters in YA fiction. What started this particular, um... discussion... off was that two authors, Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith wrote a piece for the Genreville blog of Publishers Weekly, claiming that they had been told by a perspective agent that they should straighten a character's sexual orientation - or at least not disclose it. (Here's that post.)

This took off pretty fast on the internet, and shot into mainstream media quickly, as in this article in the UK's Guardian newspaper.

The two authors hadn't mentioned the agent by name, but she came out herself - Joanna Volpe - with a strongly worded denial of the claims, posted here at The Swivet.

Opinions and counter opinions have been flying ever since.

Occupation: Girl has a terrific summation of the whole situation, with lots of quotes from lots of voices. YA Highway also tackles it with a summation.

Just mentioning it...

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Blogger Ronald L. Smith said...

I followed this very closely as YA is the genre I write in. It seems like there are a lot of differing views on what went down.

I tend to take the side of the agent in this case, only from what I've read about the situation and the writers.

I don't know. It all seems fishy.

But hey, with all the fallout, now's the best time for an agent to consider a book with a LGBT character!

10:32 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


Honestly, I don't have the slightest idea who to believe on this. I imagine that means that both sides are right and wrong about aspects of it, and that blame may be a bit of a wash when it all comes down to it.

I will say that I was privy to the authors discussing some of this with other writers before they went public. They certainly seemed very sincere at the time, and didn't give any hint that they knew what they were going to stir up by mentioning it.

Also - and this is not an opinion on this agent, but just a general observation - I've found that agents and editors never admit when they've screwed up. Never. I'd love to read about the dozens of editors that rejected Dune, or The Hunt for Red October, or James Lee Burke, or... the list goes on. Have you ever heard one editor or agent say "Yep, I read that first Harry Potter book and could have bought it for a couple thousand pounds, but, you know, I didn't like it that much..."

No, they never admit mistakes. Because of that, I can see absolutely no other reaction from the agent than to say the author's are crazy and mistaken. They have to be, because agents and editors never are. (Okay, yes, there's a gripe in that, but it's not personally about this agent - just a general observation.)

On the other hand, Colleen Lindsey is awesomeness. She was my publicist for the launch of Acacia, and I value her opinion highly. If she's behind the agent that means a lot to me.

All of which is to say I don't plant myself on either side of this. I'm just an observer who is interested in the topic - and a writer that believes inclusion isn't just better for those being newly included.

It's better for us all.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Ronald L. Smith said...

Very interesting, David.

Cool that Coleen Lindsay was repping you for a while. Yeah, I followed her pov on her blog about the whole thing.

And you're right. I don't think we'll be hearing from agents that have passed over what ended up being great books.

But what do I know? I'm still looking for an agent. (Four full manuscripts out with agents right now.)


5:17 PM  

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