Houston, We’ve Got a Problem (RWA, Please Fix This!)

Hey everyone,

So yesterday I received the following email from the Romance Writers of America:

Dear Marni Bates,

Due to the failure to obtain the minimum number of entries (5 percent of total contest entries) required by the contest entry deadline, the Young Adult Romance category of the 2014 RITA® Contest has been canceled.

I’m not going to lie, I’m really disappointed.

Awards are important. And I’ve spent the past hour staring at my screen trying to figure out how to discuss them without coming across as narcissistic. Here’s a sad truth: It requires bravery for a female author to say that she believes her work to be worthy of consideration. It’s a whole new level of scary. It’s the kind of statement that you instantly want to take back before somebody says, “You aren’t a real writer! Your stories are light fluffy things of absolutely no consequence!” because that would make you want to crawl up into a very tight ball in the back of your closet.

Which is why I still feel obligated to preface this post with something self-depreciating.

Not that I expected to be nominated…

Not that I had a shot at reaching the finals…

I’m mostly disappointed that so many of my peers won’t get the recognition they deserve…

And yes, I absolutely believe that gender plays a large role in this. If you want to read an amazing article on what it’s like to be a female YA author, I highly recommend this piece by Sarah Rees Brennan. It’s spot on.

Here’s a small excerpt from her article:

Common Responses To Female Authors Promoting Themselves I Have Seen, Over and Over Again.

“Why do you think you are so great? You are not so great.” (By promoting yourself/talking about yourself or your work, you indicate that you do think you, and/or your work, has some value, and there is so much pushback, conscious and unconscious, to that.)

“Don’t reblog fan graphics/talk about your characters/talk about your MALE characters (what do you think you are, some sort of harlot?)/be so smug about your books as if you think they might be any good. It makes it seem like you think you’re so great!”

“Do you expect PRAISE?” (I don’t! I never do. Most ladies I know don’t, being accustomed to expecting constant negativity. But it would be nice if people didn’t talk about praise as if it is some incredible, celestial prize that a women should never even dare to dream of getting, and the very idea of them getting it is to be scorned.)

“She’s writing romance and that’s girly and it sucks./She’s writing YA and that’s girly and it sucks./She’s writing literature and men write it better and she sucks./She’s writing about a girl and girls are annoying/shallow/not literature.”

So I repeat: Awards are important. Why? It’s a source of validation. And for a whole bunch of us, it means that we will feel valued instead of dismissed. Especially if you write books that end with a happily ever after.
Now I will always love the Romance Writers of America. I’ve met so many unbelievably talented people through that organization. My life is a hundred thousand times more awesome because of the friendships that have formed, too!
But they have made a huge mistake.
The Young Adult community within the RWA first began to feel alienated last year when the organization decided that all books in that category must “focus primarily on the romantic relationship between two adolescents.”
Here’s the problem: YA is all about coming of age. It’s about figuring out your own identity at a time in life where everyone has an opinion about your future. And yes, YA protagonists often navigate complicated romantic relationships, but the happily ever after is usually built on the character’s ability to know what they believe in. Young Adult fiction can also mean just about anything. Historical. Suspense. Horror. Sci-fi. Contemporary. Humor. Drama. There are YA books that include all of those elements…and have a romance too!
So here is the position that most YA writers found themselves in. Do I really want to spend fifty bucks when I’m pretty sure my book is going to be instantly disqualified? Do I want to feel guilty about focusing more on the growth of a primary character instead of an overarching romance?
And for a bunch of people the answer to that was a resounding, “Oh, hell no!” Some of my friends are going to leave the organization because they feel so frustrated/alienated by these policy changes.
Now that whole category has been eliminated.
I know you might be sick of hearing this, but…AWARDS ARE IMPORTANT!
This community is important! This is our refuge when the rest of the world tells us that we are girly and that we suck. So I hope the RWA will remove the problematic language and consider opening the category to late submissions.
I’d love to hear your opinions!
~Marni
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The Truth About The Las Vegas Book Fest… (Bum. Bum. BUUUUUUMMM!)

Hey everyone,

Being an author can be pretty lonely. We spend most of our time staring at our laptop screens, trying to listen to the little voices in our heads. And that’s on a good day. On a bad day, the voices aren’t there and we stare aimlessly at the wall before trying to eat the entire contents of our fridge.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Regardless, I think the solitary nature of the job is part of what makes our conferences so much fun.

Sure, we might occasionally wonder this…

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And we definitely think this…tumblr_inline_mu982h5YZy1rhignx

But that’s okay!

In fact, I think that’s a huge part of the fun! When I am surrounded by other writers I don’t worry quite as much about saying the right thing. I can debate the virtue of maiming versus killing teenagers without clarifying after every sentence that it’s for a novel. We trade embarrassing stories and bust a move to, well…Bust A Move by Young MC.

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(You’re welcome, Tracy Deebs!)

Because when we all get together…well…

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I have so many highlights from the Vegas Valley Book Festival. One of which was getting Vivi Barnes to say, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.”

Priceless.

I loved wearing a sparkly dress to our prom!

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Here I am with Veronica Wolff and Stacey Kade! (Pssst….you should totally buy their books!)

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Stacey Jay is hugging the floofy part of my dress! Oh, and she is ridiculously good at dancing. Just in case you were wondering.

And that’s not all…

I had a blast speaking on the Choosing the Real Me panel with a whole bunch of crazy talented people. (Lisa Burstein, Ann Stampler, Varian Johnson, Nicole McInnes, Carrie Mesrobian, Daria Snadowsky, and the delightfully wicked Kasie West.)

I’m going to use the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” excuse here. Let’s just say that as we were leaving the stage, Carrie called me the Ron Weasley of the panel.

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It went something like that.

Part of me is tempted to end the post here with a quick thank you to Crystal Perkins for putting all of this amazingness together. Because truthfully, I don’t know how to describe the overwhelming amount of heart I see in these authors. But I’m going to try.

When Katie McGarry spoke about foster kids aging out of the system, you could feel it. You could see both her frustration and her steely determination to write those stories. To stand on their behalf.

I want you guys to be able to see it for yourselves though. So you should check out Dear Teen Me and read the advice that these authors want to give their teenage selves.

I should warn you: I felt emotionally sucker-punched by what my friends have gone through. I am awed by their strength and their kindness. And by the passion that goes into their work.

I’m going to link Lisa Burstein’s post here with a trigger warning for rape.

You should read what she has to say. Because it’s amazing.

So here are the spectacular authors I met at the Las Vegas Book Festival.

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You know how people say that it gets better after high school? I think everyone in this photo can personally vouch for that!

And now I should get back to writing…

Happy Reading,

Marni

P.S. I am obligated to remind you that NOTABLE is now out in stores and that you should totally buy it. And then you should give copies to all your friends. Maybe post some glowing reviews online…

Or not.

Whatever.

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