Sunday, August 22, 2010

Duaration 0:00 - How Long is that? And Other Thoughts

Can anyone else with sitemeter, tell me how long 0:00 is? I see Duration 0:00 a lot when I check my stats. That can't possibly be right. Even if someone visits a blog by accident, that's still at least 2 seconds.

I am seriously considering starting to write critical reviews. As it is now, if I don't like something I won't review it. I've always believed different opinions is a very good thing and necessary. I've avoided critical reviews because I don't want to be one of those bloggers who writes ugly critics. Part of the reasons my reviews work is because of the emotion behind them. Which is fine if I like the book. When its something I don't like, I need to learn how to detach myself from it. Stick to the points and write a review that doesn't reek of eye rolling.

This next part will be a little smoking gun -ish. Meaning no names will be given.

I am at a point now when I can tell the different between various publishers. Some I like more than others. I don't like everything any one house puts out ( that would be impossible). When I read a book I feel strongly about I will look to see who the publisher is.

On more then one occasion MG or YA books with kids of color published by one house have not worked for me. Its makes me question who is editing these stories. Some of them have been written by White authors but not all.

In the case of authors writing as outsiders, publishing houses should think really hard about letting another outsider edit the novel.

I don't know for sure when a story written by White authors with kids of color is edited by someone White but since there aren't that many editors of color in publishing, its an easy assumption to make.

Sometimes its the only conclusions I can come to, when an author writing as an outsider misses much of the culture and nuances of their character(s).

Last year when I asked debut* author Bobbie Pyron if I could look have a review copy of her YA novel The Ring, I jumped the gun a bit. Pyron was kind enough to send me it right off her printer. She was also very open to feedback.

In The Ring, 15 yr old Mardie starts boxing when life is not going as it should. Mardie's coach Kitty, has posters of the movies Million Dollar Baby and Girlfight hanging in the gym. When I finished the book, I wondered where was the poster of Laila Ali? There had to be one for two reasons. 1, Laila Ali is the most famous professional female boxer, 2. Kitty was Black.

If posters weren't mentioned I wouldn't have thought twice about it. However, if a Black female trainer is going to have posters in her gym, one of them is going to be of Laila Ali. When I mentioned this to the author she listened and added a Laila Ali poster

Now as a thanks to the author for letting me share that story, a quick break to plug her upcoming release. A Dog's Way Home will be released March 2011 . Blurbed by three Newbery winners who don't so all willy nilly, Pyron's middle grade novel is one to look out for.

I shared that story, to hopefully convey on a very very tiny scale how easy it is for small details to be missed, depending on who is doing the reading. Who we are is the biggest influenced on how we see a story. Editors are no different. An editor working from an outsiders perspective might have a difficult time making suggestions to improve a novel, simply because they can't see what's missing. When the author and editor are both outsiders this can be a problem. Its as if there's no checks and balances. This is the case with this one particular house. I've pretty much given up on books featuring kids of color written by White authors.

I haven't had much luck with the authors of color, this house publishes either. I don't know what's going on here. I can only make guesses. Maybe their standards are lower for authors of color. Maybe , White editors fear they don't know enough about the characters or their world to make suggestions. I will continue to read the authors of color this house publishes and hope for the best. However,I don't care who wrote the book or how diverse it is, if the writing isn't there, its not there.

*I've only contacted one other author directly to ask for an arc. Kekla Magoon for The Rock and the River I know asking authors for arcs is a tad uncouth. But one story featured a female boxer the other the Black Panthers, so I am not sorry I did it.


Charlotte said...

I get lots of 0:00s too--and you're right, it's strange....

I agree that when one has a body of knowledge and experience that the writer and editors seem to lack, it's very easy to be bothered by the small details. I'm quite often bothered when archaeology is included in a book, and things are not quite right, which is a minor issue compared to the larger questions of culture.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I know a couple of authors, and they too have problems with editors, many of whom are young people out of college who are clueless. I don't know if it is a race issue so much as it is a wanting-not-to-pay-a-big-salary-to-someone-more-qualified issue. Nevertheless, I am inclined to agree that an editor from a diverse background at least has a chance of having some of the knowledge necessary to be a good editor for a writer of the same background.

Personally, I see a lot of bloggers who would make way better editors than some of the ones out there! We pay attention and are probably more widely read. If I were a publisher I would definitely offer you a job! :--)

Doret said...

Charlotte - glad to see its not just me, with the zeros.

Sometimes its the small detail that stand out the most.

Jill - I agree being widely read is very important.

Race will always be an issue here, as long as the publishing industry continue to shy away from diveristy hiring.

Jodie said...

Really interesting thoughts and I agree with you that what might seem like tiny things can be real trippers when it comes to feeling like a character is real. All authors should research and take note of feedback, but relevant feedback isn't there on culture from editors things that detract from the realness of a situation will slip through.

Sarah Rettger said...

I've always assumed the 0:00 visits were some kind of bot, not a person actually visiting the page. But I have absolutely no actual information on that.

(I think I need to break myself of that habit - making assertions with no real knowledge. Otherwise, grad school's going to be interesting.)

And I love the story you shared - both because of the knowledge gap it points out (I mean, I don't love the knowledge gap; it's just a great example) *and* the fact that the author was willing to make the change once it was pointed out.