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.