Thursday, September 15, 2011

essential update on the Rachel Brown and Sherwood Smith story

The Swivet [Colleen Lindsay]: Guest blogger Joanna Stampfel-Volpe responds to a recent PW article on LGBTQ YA

All worth reading, but if you're feeling lazy, read this:
Because this piece was printed in PW, I felt safe in assuming that the facts of the story had been checked. In the spirit of righteous indignation, I retweeted the story. Almost immediately I was contacted by several well-respected agents - a couple of whom had already read and rejected the manuscript in question, based on the same editorial concerns - who called into question the facts behind the blog post. I later discovered that not only did I know the agent in question, but that this person was actually a dear friend of mine, someone who most certainly wasn't homophobic. The more I learned about this incident, the angrier I became at myself for reposting it and inadvertently hurting someone whom I respect and admire as a colleague, and whom I care about personally as a friend. This story has now moved beyond the book community online into the mainstream press; every new media outlet that picks up the story is a further insult to this agent's reputation; for that, each and every one of us who helped spread this story should be ashamed.

As a queer woman and a former agent who has happily repped - and sold! - YA with LGBT themes, I think we need to step back, take a deep breath and look at an important fact, one that hasn't yet been discussed.

FACT: Both these writers already have their own agents. At least one of those agents reps YA books. So what does it say when the respective agents for both these well-established writers advise them to find a different agent for the book in question because neither of them wanted to rep it themselves?

It tells me that homophobia was most likely not the reason that this book has thus far not found representation.

Any agent looking at this manuscript - knowing full well that these two writers already had their own respective agents who did not want to rep the project - would see this as a giant red flag and approach the book with a very critical editorial eye.

Does there need to be a conversation about lack of diversity in YA? Yes. Is this the incident to hang it on. I don't think so.
ETA: Two more good pieces (of, I'm sure, many):

How hard is it to sell an LGBT YA novel?

De-gaying YA | Dystel & Goderich Literary Management \

ETA 2: I made another post about this: cult logic at #yesgayYA: Rose Fox, Rachel Manija Brown, K. Tempest Bradford.