Why New Novelists Are Kinda Old -- I pretty much agree with everything John says here. I know I published several books long before his median age, but for a lot of that time, I actually was writing full-time (and either on a miniscule budget and/or in grad school). Those many-hours-of-work really do factor into learning how to write something decent. (Also, please note, despite fifteen years of being a writer, and ten published books (some as editor) to my name, I have not yet published an actual novel.)
I'm reminded of my music/dance lessons as a kid. Because I have Insane Asian Parents (TM), by the time I was in 8th grade, I was doing two hours of piano practice, one hour of flute, and one hour of Indian dance practice every single day. (On top of homework, of course.) My piano teacher asked me somewhere around then if I had any interest in trying to go professional -- and noted that I'd need to up my piano practice from two hours a day to more like 6-8. I asked him to please not tell my mother that this was even an option. I can only imagine what my writing would be like if I had started writing stories that young, and had actually put in 6-8 hours a day on it for several years. Or even 2 hours a day. Or even half an hour a day. Or hell, if I managed to do that now. Sigh.
On another note, Jed pointed me to this piece on Theatre and Gender Bias, which has a few interesting/surprising results:
For the second study, Ms. Sands sent identical scripts to artistic directors and literary managers around the country. The only difference was that half named a man as the writer (for example, Michael Walker), while half named a woman (i.e., Mary Walker). It turned out that Marys scripts received significantly worse ratings in terms of quality, economic prospects and audience response than Michaels. The biggest surprise? These results are driven exclusively by the responses of female artistic directors and literary managers, Ms. Sands said.In other words, where there is discrimination against women authors in this field -- it's coming from women directors and literary managers, not from the men. One might be tempted to parallel this to how women tend to be the ones policing other women in society in other ways -- clothes and makeup and hairstyle and the pressures for hair dye, botox, plastic surgery, etc. In my experience, men barely notice most of these things -- it's other women that we dress up for (and spend much money and time doing so). I was particularly struck by this quote from the article: "Kathryn Walat, a playwright who attended, said, 'Most startling was the reaction to women writing and I think of my own work about female protagonists and the unlikability of those characters.'" Which, of course, reminds me of why my own novel was eventually pulled from HarperCollins, despite being under contract -- in large part because my (female) editor found my female protagonist fundamentally unlikable.
Amid the gasps from the audience, an incredulous voice called out, Say that again?
Ms. Sands put it another way: Men rate men and women playwrights exactly the same.
Why Marjorie found Shefali unlikable is a huge topic and a discussion for another time -- in part because of course I only have most of this from remembered phone conversations, and I don't want to unfairly represent Marjorie's position. But at least some of it I think I can fairly put down to her disapproval (and consequent policing) of the character's sexual mores. It was an issue we fundamentally disagreed on, and which, despite several revision attempts from me, we couldn't manage to resolve.
Which, taken in conjunction with this article, really makes me wonder if things would have gone differently at HarperCollins if I'd had a male editor.