There’s been a lot of discussion lately about women writing science fiction and fantasy, and how they can sometimes be treated like interlopers. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read story after story of dismissive, sexist, misogynistic and abusive behavior at conventions, books signings, and online forums. It’s been pretty depressing.
Scratch that: It’s been infuriating.
If you want to see what I’m talking about, you could start with this piece in the Guardian, which links to many of the relevant articles. You might also check out this post by SF author Ann Aguirre detailing her experiences at genre conventions and on panels. In that post, there’s a comment by Jaye Wells describing similar treatment. And if you’ve already read it, check back and read Ms. Aguirre’s update, in which she shares some of the hate mail (yes, hate mail) she received for speaking out. Then, if your blood pressure isn’t dangerously high, you could check out this post by our own Suzanne Johnson describing her experience with a sexist bookstore owner.
I’m glad these posts were written, because it’s important to talk about these things, to shove them into the light.
This isn’t going to be one of those posts.
It could be. Goodness knows I’ve got material. But today, I thought it might be…let’s say… soothing… to discuss the ways women have helped each other out, lifted each other up, and generally persevered despite the staggering amount of difficult, belittling bullshit we encounter.
Dear readers, I don’t want to minimize the bad stuff. Not at all. But today, let’s talk about some of the good stuff. Today’s “Conversations” post is a conversation with all of you. I invite you to share in the comments a story of how you were helped along the way by a brave mentor. Maybe it’s as simple as someone observing a sexist attack and calling it out (please, I need to hear about this one). Maybe someone took you under her wing, guided your writing, helped you find readers, helped you find a job. Let’s celebrate the ways we can be strong together.
This isn’t an earth-shattering anecdote, but it meant a lot to me at the time, and it still means a lot to me. About three years ago, I went to my very first RWA meeting in an attempt to break out of my shell and find critique partners. I was terrified. I’d never told another soul (except The Enabler, who was and still is 100% supportive) that I was writing novels, much less novels with sex (!) in them, and I was afraid I’d be ridiculed.
When I got there, I was welcomed. Everyone wanted to know what I was writing, everyone wanted to cheer me on. One established author in particular (a very talented woman who writes contemporary romance) went out of her way to make me feel welcome and comfortable. I went to her book signing a few nights later, and she personally took me around and introduced me to her writer friends. She was gracious, generous, and kind, and she did it with no expectation of anything in return.
This writer is now one of my most trusted critique partners. She has helped me take my work to the next level on every single book. I try hard to pay this kind of thing forward, because I know how much it means.
What about you? Have you had a phenomenal female mentor who’s helped you out in ways large or small? A male mentor who’s been an ally against sexism? Tell me all about it. I want to know.