A note to people who don’t get it

Utopia Uncategorized

Utopia (2010), by Steve Lambert

Utopia (2010), by Steve Lambert

I am going to respond to this one more time (as I’ve addressed it in the past), and hope that I don’t ever have to explain myself or the utopYA mission again. Honestly, even if I do, I probably won’t because it’s energy better spent making utopYA the best conference it can be to help writers achieve more success, and to help fans have the time of their lives, not feeling herded through meet and greets and signings.

I have recently received a letter from a woman who is also part of a publishing group (neither of which will be mentioned by name, as it’s unnecessary to make my points) who attacked utopYA for our “offensive” “discrimination” toward men.

Here is her letter:

I’m writing to ask you to please reconsider your con’s policy regarding equal representation and involvement for male YA writers.  It came to my attention this morning when discussing the possibility of attending the con with my publisher and other authors in our publishing group, when our male author said he “didn’t qualify”.

Not only was I instantly angry on his behalf – he is the publisher’s best-selling author and he earned it – but it really struck me as unfair because one life decision has made me “eligible” for your con.  I was born a woman, and have seriously considered gender reassignment surgery in the past.  I only decided not to because I don’t like the end result. Because of your policy of the con being geared toward women, I am still completely allowed to take place, because, to be blunt, I still have the necessary parts.  But I’d still be an unwelcome man attending, advertising, and being a full part of it, and you said I’m not welcome like the women are.

Sexism and discrimination based on opinions of what makes a “man’s world” or a “woman’s world” are perpetuated by groups that make these stereotypes a reality.  Your group is doing just that.  I will not be attending until this offensive policy is shown the door and forgotten.

Here is my response to her and anyone else who thinks we are discriminating against male authors:

  • Anger is good. It let’s me know we are making an impact, and that you care. Good. But, please, do your homework first. Anyone who has been to utopYA or has talked to the attendees OR their husbands, can attest to the fact that there is no hate-mongering or exclusion going on. In fact, I’m working hard to include men more next year if I get my sponsorship ducks in a row.
  • It isn’t my job to take on a political platform. That isn’t the mission of utopYA. To make this about sexism or discrimination sounds more like a projection of something going on in your life than the reality of utopYA. I have never said men are unwelcome. Never. Again, do your homework.
  • While we cater heavily to women, men are allowed.
    • Adam Kunz, Mike  Turner and Dave Robison have been fixtures at utopYA since year one, either on panels or in the audience, actively participating.
    • My team member, Jamie Anderson, is integral in making the con a success.
    • Husbands, such as Jonathan Miller, Indiana Jones, Bo Loftis, Keith Glines, Jim Wallace and others (as well as boyfriends) have contributed music, warmth, support, panel ideas and MUCH more every. single. year. I know that utopYA wouldn’t exist without the support of my husband, and I venture to guess that many of the wives who attend with or without their husbands would say something similar when it comes to having a writing career or being able to attend utopYA.
  • It isn’t about “body parts.” It’s about mindset. We wanted a place where tackle hugs, swooning over book boyfriends and cover models, attendee attire, SQUEEES, EEEEEPS and more, were not only allowed without judgment, but encouraged. A place of release and shared passion for cheesy movies, steamy kissing scenes or pajama parties are embraced alongside collaborative networking, shared educational information about publishing, craft and the industry and helping each other get ahead. To this point, we have found in our collective experience, that the atmosphere of sharing and comfort rises when the pace is controlled and set by the women in the room. It becomes easier to share honestly when they feel they have been empowered to do so. Women feel more confident asking questions they really need the answers to when they aren’t worried about feeling like a fool. When you’re with like-minded other women, that is a bit easier to do. It isn’t ideal, but it is a fact of the current world we live in today.
  • I’m not opposed to inviting more men. I am opposed to doing it too quickly and potentially changing the dynamic of the event too soon. The team and I really only invite authors whose books at least one of us has read, and, it just so happened that women were ruling the Amazon Marketplace when utopYA started, and we invited them first. However, we already have a few men we are adding to the invitation list next year. One of whom, Madison Daniel, listened when I expressed my concerns, and, who instead of ramrodding us, supported fiercely, all year long, every woman — author and fan — who was coming to utopYA 2013. This guy earned his way in…not because he’s a best-selling author, but because he “gets” what we are trying to do with this community. The “lift as you climb” mentality is not  gender-biased. It is community-driven. Show me you get that, and you’re way closer to getting an invite.
  • It isn’t about being a best-seller. To the above point — I have invited authors who maybe haven’t made more than the .99 cents I paid for their book because that book MOVED me. The goal has always been to have both traditionally-published authors sitting side-by-side with indie- and self-published authors. WHY? Because we all have a LOT to learn from each other. Because there isn’t going to be one-publishing-model-fits-all anymore. Because this is a chance for us to bridge the gap between the paths, and help all of us make more money, gain more fans and share the wealth of info floating around out there. I haven’t heard “I only read indie authors” or “I only read traditionally-published authors.” Maybe people have said those two things. I dunno. And, honestly, I don’t care. Every successful author out there was unpublished with a dream at some point in their lives. And, I don’t care what anyone says, there is PLENTY of room at the top. I have not met an avid reader yet who has said, “No more books for me. I’m full.” Readers read. We crave more…always. So bring it.
  • There are plenty of other cons out there. You’re not going to hurt my feelings if you go to another con over ours. I’m fiercely protective and loyal over the community we have built, and I won’t be bullied into inviting men, or anyone, because you don’t “get” utopYA, because you haven’t done your due diligence, haven’t attended, or haven’t spoken to attendees. This is another reason we are also attempting to control the growth of utopYA. We want to be big and successful, sure, but not if it means we don’t know the names of as many people as possible, not if it means we sacrifice intimacy for profit. I am confident that we will make money. But I’ll be damned if we’re going to do it by selling out because someone said we need to do it “their” way.
  • utopYA will always stand for women first. I’m a woman. My thoughts, feelings and actions come from my feminine viewpoint and upbringing. I value highly the mission of empowering women in business and in life. I always have. And, because it’s ultimately my baby, I happily take the weight of any flack on my smooth alabaster shoulders. I make no apologies. I do want to make myself clear, though. And I hope that through this rambling tangent of a  blog post, that I have in some small way.

And…Just know that women are entitled to change their minds…often. 😉

Thank you for listening to my response, which changes from first to third person, passive to active tense and back again. Grammar took a back seat. I just needed to get it out. Edit all you want. Thank you for reading books. Thank you for supporting a passionate community of writers. I hope I see you at a future utopYA event.

Feel free to comment below. If you’re gonna bash, go for it, but please try and be constructive and positive when you do so 😉

~ Janet Wallace, founder