12.01.2004

Today's special feature is a guest column by Dan Wickett, the mastermind behind the Emerging Writers Network. As Dan would say, Enjoy:
AN EVEN SHOT?

"Writers, especially, and the decision makers who can make a difference in the level of success that women writers attain in both the literary canon and the marketplace: editors, agents, and, most of all, readers." - Lauren Cerand

"...the struggles of many writers (including myself) to get published, get tenure-track jobs, win awards, etc." - Elizabeth Merrick

The above quotes come from responses to questions I posed to both Lauren and Elizabeth (among others) about their literary blog and who they hope to have an effect on with it. When emailing with these two, or reading their passionate words and thoughts posted at this very site, it becomes very clear that they want nothing more than to find an even keel within the publishing industry. A place, if you will, where they, as women, will have the same opportunities as any man.

When you get this passionate about something, anything really, it becomes easy to get in one mode and really focus. I'm not completely sure that this has been the case, but the postings at the Cupcake blog have been great in terms of finding fault with various aspects of the industry. Based on their posts, it's become clearer all the time that they don't have to look all that far to find such problems. In some cases, they are so blatant that it's difficult to believe there aren't more people out there clamoring. In other cases, it is only after reading many of the posts that you begin to see the subtle nuances that these women have uncovered.

I think it's time, however, to look at a brighter side of things. While the negative aspects of this search for evenhandedness are so overwhelming, I think those that are doing what they can to keep things sensible should be commended. In this case, I'd like to point towards the work of the publishing/editing team of Fred Ramey and Greg Michalson.

Fred and Greg first teamed up (professionally) at MacMurray & Beck. Fred was in charge of the publisher and brought Greg on board as his executive editor. They published numerous award-winning books. I don't have specific data in terms of numbers, but I do know that while they were there, they helped launch the careers of Patricia Henley (Hummingbird House, a finalist for both the National Book Award and The New Yorker Fiction Prize in 1999) and Susan Vreeland (Girl in Hyacinth Blue) and published the first two memoirs of Candida Lawrence, who as been described as "a powerful voice of womanhood..." by Marion Woodman, and "...a contemporary American heroine" by Alison Lurie.

They next took their talents to Penguin Putnam, with the fact that they would be working with Phyllis Grann as a main factor in their decision process, starting up the literary imprint, BlueHen Books. In the year and a half or so BlueHen was around (before Penguin Putnam foolishly disbanded them), Fred and Greg acquired, edited and published sixteen titles -- all novels. Among these sixteen were debut novels by authors such as Susan Cokal, Masha Hamilton, Lise Haines, Debra Magpie Earling, Nancy Zafris, and Elyse Singleton. All in all, ten of the sixteen, or 62.5%, of their books were penned by women writers.

After kicking around for nearly a year, Fred and Greg started up another independent press in late 2004, Unbridled Books. Their first catalogue contained two novels and a memoir. M. Allen Cunningham, a man, wrote won of the novels. The other two titles were penned by women. Of the four titles that Unbridled Books has planned for Spring 2005, two are by men, and two by women.

Over the span of these publishing efforts, Fred and Greg have utilized Caitlin Hamilton as their publicist. Their current sales manager is Beverly Fisher.

While I am absolutely sure that both Fred and Greg will be at least a little surprised to hear of the breakdown, and deny any political correctness in their selection process, they have certainly shown that they are not affected at all by the gender of the individual who will see his or her name on the cover of the published book. Nor by the gender of those they entrust great responsibilities that will effect not only many a fantastic writer, but also their own livelihoods. Isn't that all anybody could ask for?

Dan Wickett is the founder and chief reviewer of the Emerging Writers Network, where he tries to review and interview as many deserving yet under-read authors as possible. He notes that while he doesn't quite have the track record of Fred and Greg, he's not doing too badly in that department.

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