Speaking of the VIDA Numbers

Steve Haruch looked at the Scene‘s numbers, after thinking that they were doing pretty good. What he found shocked him.

I think the thing is that no one thinks this is happening out of actual malice against women. Or at least, not in general (there may be specific assholes). But I do think that one of the reasons looking at the actual numbers is important is that 35 stories by women can seem like a lot, like you’re doing a great job, until you realize that the number by men is 145. When your default is men, they just become background noise. Easy to ignore the amount of opportunities going to them.

I also think that it does take some kind of outreach. I would never have come to write for Pith if Pete Kotz hadn’t searched me out and asked me. It wouldn’t have even occurred to me that the Scene might want some loudmouth woman to blog for them, or an additional loudmouth woman, since they had Tracy Moore. And then, he made a real effort to meet regularly with me and tell me when I was doing a good job and when he thought I was wrong and so on. A lot of hand-holding. For a blog.

And I love when I get a chance to write for the Scene but I have to tell you, I have no idea how to make that happen more regularly. I wrote the Ben Allen piece because I heard they were working on a Halloween Issue and I was like “Fuck no, they will not do that without me” and told them so. And the other piece, which may appear shortly, just happened because I stopped by the office to pick up a back issue and just happened to run into Jim Ridley, told him about this cool thing, and he was like “you should write that up for us.” And I was like “Hell, yes.”

My deciding to write for the Scene involves a lot of cussing, obviously.

But I’ve never had a class or a mentor or anyone to tell me how to pitch to an editor. I have no idea how to do it. Shoot, I didn’t even publish my first short story until last year and that only happened because Elizabeth McClellan was like “You will send this out and I will show you how and I will ask you a hundred times if you’ve done it because you’re not going to chicken out, missy!” (not her exact words). And thank the gods, you know?

But every time I query an editor or an agent, I swear, I feel like my letter reads, “Hi, I’m a huge dorky dumbass who doesn’t know what she’s doing. Please overlook that and judge me by my writing, which I’m pretty okay at. Love, Betsy.”

I feel like there are obviously rules and procedures. I just don’t know them.

So, I do think that the problem probably goes in both directions–editors do need to reach out to more women and encourage them. But we also need to share knowledge about how to do these things and encourage each other.


I am completely panicking about the impending tornadoes. I’m not so worried about getting hit, but I am all worked up over the idea that NASHVILLE could get hit and I might not be able to get home. I’m going to leave here before 1 p.m.

I Have a Second Rule of Writing!

My first rule was stolen from Bird by Bird, if I’m remembering right, which is just have a shitty first draft. Revel in your first draft’s shittiness. Let it be ridiculous and let stupid things happen and have sentences like “No, wait, that can’t happen, because now she’s dead and we’re only twenty pages into the book. Okay, what if this happens instead?” Like notes to yourself in the body of the text, because it’s just a shitty first draft. The whole goal is just to get the words down and a general shape to the thing.

But last night, I developed a second rule–if you have even a small window of time in which to work on your first draft, even if it’s just twenty minutes, go ahead and put down a few sentences. It’s fine if they suck. This is your shitty first draft. But what if they go someplace interesting? Whoa. Then that’s nice.

So, yes, obviously, I wrote very little last night, but it cleared some things up for me.

I wanted to spend the evening reading Let’s Play White, but I have to tell you that each story is so big, emotionally, even when they’re short, that I had to read a story, stop, take some time to process it, and then read the next. They’re incredibly scary, but what’s weird is that, I realize, when I read, say, Stephen King, the terror is all in my upper body–I feel it physically in my head and shoulders. But with Burke, I’m feeling it all in the pit of my stomach.

As a writer, I’m trying to figure out why it resonates so differently for me–as more lingering dread than outright horror–because it’s really effective. You shut a Stephen King book and you rush past your closet door and then you laugh at yourself for being silly. But I’m going to give this book to the Professor, just because I want someone to talk about it with.

My favorite story so far is “I Make People Do Bad Things,” which is kind of about the dawning horror of realizing that, if someone will do something with you, they’ll do it to you, which is my favorite and least-favorite life lesson. But really nicely done and not about sexual infidelity, though that’s usually how you see that lesson learned.