Showing posts with label Wendy Meddour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wendy Meddour. Show all posts

Saturday, 29 March 2014

TIME TO MAN-UP! – Anna Wilson

A couple of things have happened this week which have made me think about how I promote myself as a writer who also happens to be a woman. I would like to share these things to get your opinions, which I know will be many and varied!

On Wednesday 26th March I went to an event organized by the wonderful Bristol Librarians. It was, as much as anything, to say a fond farewell to Margaret Pemberton and to thank her for her inspirational and tireless work in the Library Services over the years.

It was also a fantastic opportunity for authors to network, as it was advertised as ‘Speed-dating with Librarians and School Teachers’ – every bit as scary as it sounds, but not quite as dubious.

We children’s authors were invited to bring along samples of our work and be prepared to talk about our books and what we can offer for events. Every five minutes or so, a bell would be rung and the teachers and librarians would move on to another author. Clearly the idea was for us to sell ourselves convincingly in a succinct and engaging manner in order that the teachers and librarians would remember us, buy our books for their establishments and hire our services for events.

I was on a table with Che Golden, whose Mulberry pony books are hilarious, action-packed tales about (in her own words) ‘evil’ ponies - definitely ‘not your average pony books’. She has also written a series about ‘homicidal’ fairies, the first title of which The Feral Child, has sold in the US and already has a large fan base. Sitting with us was Rachel Carter: her debut novel for 9-12s, Ethan’s Voice, has been extremely well received. Rachel is a Bath Spa graduate from the MA course, Writing for Young People. She is a talented writer with more stories in the pipeline.

So, of course, the three of us sat there telling the teachers and librarians how marvellous we were, blowing our own trumpets and generally setting out to impress . . .

Did we, hell. (I know Che and Rachel will agree, because we discussed it afterwards!) We were bashful and self-deprecating, we had brought no books to sell and we shared each other’s business cards as we had not thought to bring much in the way of promotional material.

Then there was John Dougherty: he had a stack of books to sell and a pile of beautifully put-together, carefully thought-through leaflets which helpfully and concisely laid out what he does, how much he charges, what a school can hope to get from a day with him and how good he is at doing it. He had added selected quotes from happy readers, teachers and librarians who could testify to how good he was and what benefits his visits had brought to their schools. It was brilliant! And it gave a very professional impression. (I have since showed his leaflet to friends and family who have said, ‘Why don’t you do this?’ Why, indeed?)

Che and I also discussed events and festivals with Wendy Meddour (author of the wildly funny Wendy Quill books). Wendy said at one festival she was on after two well-known, hilarious male authors, and that it made her anxious as it was ‘like following two stand-up artists’.

I went home thinking, ‘Why is it that women writers do not put themselves out there as confidently as men?’

The next morning the headline below featured in the Guardian. It provoked some heated debate on Facebook amongst a few female authors I know:

Discover the Booktrust 2014 Best Books awards shortlist!
David Walliams, Jeff Kinney and Jonathan Green [sic] make the shortlist for the Booktrust's Best Book awards – which children's books do you think should win?

Apart from the glaringly obvious mistake that it is in fact John Green’s name on the list, not the mysterious Jonathan, the thing that riled me and more than a few of my friends was the lack of women’s names in the headline. If you scroll down through the shortlist, you will see many prominent women writers included on the list, some of whom (Lucy Cousins, Joanna Nadin, Sarah McIntyre, for example) are well-known, well-loved writers who have already won or been nominated for prestigious awards, and so are hardly also-rans who deserve to be tacked on after the men.

Both the article in the Guardian and the ‘speed-dating’ event made me wonder about how we women promote ourselves. I know that in an ideal world it would be great if there was an entirely level playing field to start with, and it would also be lovely if publishers did not leave the lion’s share of promotion to us authors who really only want to get on and write rather than be cajoled into the role of performing monkeys . . . But with John Dougherty’s leaflet sitting on my desk and Wendy’s words about men’s events being ‘like stand-up’ ringing in my ears, I did wonder what I could do to change things for myself.  

My husband works in the food industry: I asked him if women were as backwards at coming forwards in business as I felt I was in the book world. His reply:

‘Oh yes, the women I work with admit that if they have only 20% knowledge on a certain subject, they will hold back until they feel they know about 80% before they voice an opinion, whereas I would say that men are happy to chip in confidently with their views when they know only 20% of what they are talking about.’

This would certainly back up what teachers have said to me about the differences in male and female behaviour in the classroom, too. Girls will tend to sit quietly and wait until they are sure they know the answer, whereas boys will have a go even if they are not 100% (or even 80%) confident.

So, I have made a decision. If I want people to take my writing seriously, pay me what I charge for events and (maybe one day) put my name in a newspaper headline, I shall have to take a leaf out of the men’s book and talk myself up a bit.

As Caitlin Moran says in her marvellous book, How to Be A Woman:

The boys are not being told they have to be a certain way, they are just getting on with stuff.

Now, where is that excellent leaflet of John Dougherty’s? I feel a copy-cat session coming on . . .

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Saturday, 9 July 2011

On Not Being a Famous Actress - Wendy Meddour

I’ve been thinking a lot about school lately. My Nanny used to say they were “the best days of your life.” Even as a child, that depressed me. “You mean, this is it?!” I thought. To be fair, I didn’t get off to a great start. Mum took on the wrong day and the classroom was completely empty. The following morning, I had to lock myself in the bathroom all over again.