In Ask a Freelancer, Melissa Chadburn fields questions about writing, the blogosphere, platform building, and all things scary.
I’ve read your column and appreciate what you have to say about the slush pile and all the different venues that are available for us to read online now—but I have to tell you, I love books. I love the feel and smell of them. In fact I’m writing to you from a library right now. Except the library is going to close soon, because the hours were cut, due to furloughs. I am scared that there will be no more books. And where does that leave me? Also I’m a writer and a woman, and according to the most recent VIDA count, there’s a great disparity in the amount of women getting published versus men so that makes it extra hard for me to get published. Got wisdom?
Dear Old School,
I feel you! I mean really I’m into smelling books too. I have two e-readers and a computer and still there’s a cherished pile of actual tactilatious books by my bed. I have an outrageous addiction to the pages and the words. Sometimes to the extent that I feel overwhelmed—that there are so many to read and there’s so little time—but also just a pure love for them that they exist and it makes me happy but like too too happy. I am never sated when it comes to books.
Which is why I think the Internet is a great thing and why e-publishing is fantastic. It makes this addiction more affordable at times, and makes books that I want and need like RIGHT NOW YESTERDAY available at the touch of a button, and now I can also subscribe to Audible and have people read to me when I am stuck in traffic, which is for approximately 85 percent of my life. But none of this is going to make the actual love and joy of the real-life deals extinct. In fact, I’d say I spend more time on literature with all these different modes than I did with the pure analog version. Also, not to mention that as long as writers I admire read their books at bookstores you can count on me going to the store and listening to them read the book live and purchasing the hardcopy and getting a signature. Because at the end of the day it’s all about the human connection for me anyhow.
Now about the gender disparity. Let’s look at some things that are available as a result of technology that are helping with that. First off there’s VIDA, which you pointed to. They are working hard to limit that gap. There’s also some really great sites like shewrites, which is a social media site that allows women writers to interface with one another all over the country. And there’s this neat project I heard about called emilybooks. This is a project of Emily Gould’s where she curates women-centric novels and e-publishes them, then makes them available to subscribers. So for a specific yearly subscription you can get all sorts of really amazing out of print books available to you on your reading device. I think that she started off with the amazing Pheobe Gloeckner’s Diary of a Teenage Girl.
For publishing opportunities, I also recently heard of this neat project called shebooks, founded by Peggy Northrop, Laura Fraser, and Rachel Greenfield. Basically they publish short e-reads by and for women. They are actively seeking submissions; they pay contributors well for their good work; and they respect women’s busy lives by putting together great-yet-shorter-than-novel-length pieces.
I’m sure there are plenty more online sites here that I am not familiar with, but it also seems that a lot less women submit their work than men. And an even greater amount resubmit— meaning, once rejected, a greater amount of women than men don’t submit again to the same journal. So, some friends and I got together and committed to meeting once a month and dedicate that time to submitting work. We support each other by email and those that aren’t local sometimes Skype in and we will email each other our goals and stats as a form of accountability. We call ourselves Women Who Submit.
In addition to this, I will go ahead and be dorky and share that my graduating class checks in with each other every Sunday by email and we have for the last four years. And it works as a great source of support and motivation.
And finally, giving always seems to be the best way of getting back for me—so there’s this amazing organization here in L.A. called Writegirl that empowers young girls through writing by pairing them up with a mentor. Oh and not to forget the amazing afterschool tutoring program called 826 throughout the country. So yes it sounds uber-altruistic, but honestly, for me if I’m ever feeling blah I hate me or why am I still such a failure, hanging out with adolescents is the perfect cure for that.
Melissa Chadburn is a lover and a fighter, a union rep, a social arsonist, a writer, of color, smart, edgy and fun. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Salon, and the Rumpus, among others. Reach her at fictiongrrrl(at)gmail.com or follow her on Twitter.
Photo by Hash Milhan/Flickr