YOUR MSLEXIA MSLEXIA
Women in Journalism last month published the results of their latest survey, carried out by Echo Research. Echo analysed the top 28 UK newspapers and carried out indepth interviews with journalists. Their conclusion: ‘Newspapers are male-dominated, sexist and – perhaps most worrying, given pension reforms – increasingly ageist,’ says Echo CEO Sandra Macleod. ‘The inflexible nature of the industry makes career progression impossible for [young women] starting new families.’
The survey discovered that 30 per cent of the 2,391 journalists surveyed and 33 per cent of the 1,477 editors were women. Most egalitarian were the Observer and Daily Mail, with 37 per cent women journalists. Least photos woman-friendly were the Independent and Sunday Times (22 and 26 per cent). At editorial level, the red-tops had the highest testosterone count (are we surprised?), the worst being the Daily Mirror and the Sun (only 21 and 24 per cent women editors). The Guardian scored the highest at editorial level, where women now outnumber men – which may explain the welcome new feminist slant to some features.
But what women write about remains as predictable as ever: lifestyle, features, entertainment. ■
Teachers’ fear of poetry
There is a ‘widespread lack of confidence’ among teachers about teaching poetry in schools, which results in a ‘failure to generate positive attitudes towards poetry among young people’. These are among the conclusions of the Poetry and Young People Project Review Group, chaired by former Poet Laureate (and now Knight-of-theRealm) Sir Andrew Motion, whose brief was to investigate the teaching and appreciation of poetry in schools. The conclusions were published in December by Booktrust in The Motion Report: Poetry and Young People.
Commissioned by Arts Council England before the current change of government, the Report makes sobering reading. The Group also criticised the ‘limited range of poems and poets studied in school’ and the sheer lack of data about what’s going on in the classroom.
Recommendations include improving teacher training in poetry appreciation, getting more poets working in schools and putting poetry online, to make it more accessible to young people: all exciting recommendations, but how likely are they to be implemented in this era of cuts in arts funding?
www.booktrust.org.uk/show/ feature/Poetry-and-Young-People ■
what’s new on the web
‘A creeping combination of gender and age preferences prevents older women from advancing’
‘We are producing a lot of teachers who remember being anxious around the reading and writing of poetry’ Sir Andrew Motion
■ www.poetrybookshoponline.com/ online_poetry_reading_group Online poetry reading group hosted by Poetry Book Society. Buy books at a 20 per cent discount, join the online discussion, receive emails with specially commissioned features about the books ■ blog.vandalog.com Winner of Top Arts Blog of the Year award in 2010. Street art from around the world, discussed and debated by genuinely international community. Prize judges say: ‘If you want to set up a blog to promote a specialist art form, use this one as a model’ ■ blog.nathan-bransford.com Agent-turned-novelist Nathan Bransford, lately of uber literary agency Curtis Brown, offers advice from both sides of the slush pile. ‘The Essentials (Please Read Before You Query)’ is – well – essential reading ■ www.mywriterscircle.com Forum of 6,000 writers with an active critique section, job noticeboard, resources. Discuss self-publishing or post your work for feedback. Regular games and challenges ‘give your writing muscles a workout’ ■ noveljourney.blogspot.com Interviews with authors, editors and freelancers, plus resources for writers and links that allow you to question different editors and agents. Updated daily ■ www.writersfm.com/writersfm/ Writers’ FM is the only radio station created for writers by writers. Broadcasts 24 hours a day, with features music, live interviews, podcasts and more ■ bookmooch.com A community for exchanging books: you give away books in exchange for books that excite your interest. The scheme is free to join. You need to give away at least two books for every one you receive
The WashingtonPosthas announced the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, where readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.
Coffee (n.): the person upon whom one coughs Flabbergasted (adj.): appalled over how much weight you have gained Abdicate (v.): to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach Esplanade (v.): to attempt an explanation while drunk Willy-nilly (adj.): impotent Negligent (adj.): describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown
Lymph (v.): to walk with a lisp Gargoyle (n.): olive-flavored mouthwash Flatulence (n.): emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller Balderdash (n.): a rapidly receding hairline Testicle (n.): a humorous question on an exam
6 Apr/May/Jun 2011 HISTORY MEN
Retired people are major buyers of historical fiction in the UK. According to Book Marketing, the so-called ‘grey pound’ accounted for one third of all historical novels purchased last year – compared with one in four three years ago. And elderly men’s reading tastes are partly to blame; they are twice as likely as elderly women to buy historical fiction for themselves. It seems readers of historical fiction are quite a conservative bunch, with 43 per cent seeking out books by authors they already know. Over five million books in this genre were sold last year, worth a cool £30 million.
In a bid to discover new voices, top publishers – including Random House, Orion, Little Brown and Hodder and Stoughton, are inviting aspiring novelists to send their opening chapters to the Arts Council Funded YouWriteOn. com. The competition is supported by some of the world’s most famous authors including Dan Brown, Terry Pratchett and Stephenie Meyer. Starting in May, five winners each month will receive a free professional critique from the participating publishers. If you’re one of them, let us know how you got on – then submit the finished novel to our competition (p 20). www.TheNextBigAuthor.com
▶ Top 3 ‘It makes every rejection letter I’ve received entirely worth it’ Lauren St John
To enter, please push
P H O T O S
VIDA, the US-based ‘organization for women in the literary arts’, has just published figures on book reviewing in 14 leading literary mags – including a few familiar to us (Granta, TLS, London Review of Books). The results confirm that the gender imbalance we first reported on in 2000 is just as pervasive across the pond. According to VIDA (vidaweb.org/ the-count-2010), male reviewers in the US outnumber female reviewers by seven to three, and men’s books are three times more likely to be reviewed than books by women.
Meanwhile back in the UK, in the run up to the Orange Prize, as the media reprises its annual whinge about the ‘need for a special prize for women writers’, the Independent’s Katy Guest has done her own survey of 10 newspapers. And has discovered – yet again – that men wrote 68 per cent of the reviews and 71 per cent of the books covered. Guest suggests it comes down to sheer pushiness. ‘Men send me neat, chronological lists of forthcoming books for review, complete with publisher, publication date and brief notes about why they’d like to review them. There are no women who do the same.’ Could it really be as simple as that? If so, what are we waiting for? ■
‘Finding female reviewers seemed to take an extra effort – why?’ Suzi Feay, former literary editor
MSLEXIA YOUR MSLEXIA
WINNERS OF THE BLUE PETER BOOK AWARD
‘Favourite story’ DeadMan’sCove(ALaura MarlinMystery)by Lauren St John (Orion Children’s Books) First in a new series, the novel follows the adventures of Laura Marlin, an 11-year-old amateur sleuth, as she leaves her children’s home and embarks on a new life with her mysterious uncle in St Ives
‘Best book with facts’ DoIgloosHaveLoos?by Mitchell Symons (Doubleday) Seventh crazy collection of trivia from the author of WhyEatingBogeysIs GoodForYou. Answers questions such as: How do you get out of quicksand? and Why does your skin get wrinkly in the bath?
‘Most fun story with pictures’ LunaticsandLuck(TheRaven Mysteries)by Marcus Sedgwick, illustrated by Pete Williamson (Orion Children’s Books) Castle Otherhand is a murky, shadowy place at the best of times, but it becomes even scarier with the arrival of a horrible new school master. Solstice and brother Cudweed are pitted against a new foe
A woman who was brought up on a game reserve in then Rhodesia has won the Blue Peter Children Book of the Year Award. Lauren St John’s novel DeadMan’sCovetriumphed in the ‘Favourite story’ category, before going on to scoop the overall prize for best book. The Blue Peter Award is unusual in having children judge the shortlisted books.
Win one of three eye-catching bags from the newly launched range at www. forbookssake.net. Featuring erudite quips from literary giants such as Virginia Woolf; perfect for carrying your writing arsenal.
For more information, and a chance to win, visit www.mslexia. co.uk before 30 April.
Poets Ros Barber and Jackie Will are looking into the feasibility of compiling a comprehensive register of contemporary women poets in the UK for a dedicated website. The register will include all poets who have published a pamphlet or full-length collection. They are especially interested in lesser-known poets who have not been included in major anthologies. If that sounds like you, and you support the idea, please send the title, date and publisher of your publication/s, along with a one-paragraph biog, to wills.jackie@ googlemail.com.
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the reserve price for the Bournemouth Literary Festival, which is being sold by founder
Lillian Avon along with website and associated publishing imprint Debut Books info@ bournemouthliterary festival.co.uk
Apr/May/Jun 2011 7