Quick question…

I don’t have much to say (actually I have loads though i’m attempting to be good and upset as few people as I can this year as last year was such a disaster for anyone under 50).

It surely can’t only be me who is baffled by the idea that “diversity” seems only to be tackled by the middle-aged, middle-class (or worse, Tory) white (typically males) out there. This seems to particularly be the case in the publishing industry (though I have seen it elsewhere and welcome your observations where you have too).

I am often baffled – in fact so much so that I consider it worthy of a Phd – by the idea of diversity in publishing. Now that it has been acknowledged as a public problem every Tom, Dick and Harry of a publishing company has started an award, started an internship or started blogging about the many changes their company is making to enhance diversity in publishing but why is it that the majority of the people inititating these ideas seem to be white, middle-aged, middle-class, males?

I genuinely beleive that in order to show true “diversity”, or inclusivity as I prefer to see it, it shouldn’t be led by this majority with some ploys to make a few people happy. Sure, they are usually the folk in power who have the final say, but surely it requires going to the under-represented crowds themselves (be it due to race, class, religion or creed) and asking them “what changes do we need to implement to make our industry a more inclusive one?”, “what would it take for you to feel accepted and heard?”.

I come from a rather priveleged background – white, middle-class, educated – but my parents come from working-class backgrounds with no contacts in the industry, people out there still ask me to slow down “because your accent is too hard to follow” (an East-Midlands accent after ten years in London – not a challange for most) and stared at with shock when I say my BA is in the arts rather than Engljsh Literature. 

If I, a priveleged person, still feel under-represented within the industry I so want to be a part of, then I find it hard to beleive that others out there, less priveleged than I in some ways, don’t certainly feel under or unrepresented. How do we fix this lack of representation? Not from the industry as it is, telling us how to fix it i’m sure, but by embracing fully those who represent these under-represented voices. By asking them “What changes do we need to make?”. By asking them to create the change they want to see and supporting it fully as fellow publishers – that’s how I see true inclusivity within the industry finally being achieved.
By realising that inclusivity goes further than just making the right size hole for someone to fit through in that moment, by exploring avenues to make inclusivity the normaliry rather than a novelty, by publishing voices that truly represent our greater society – that, I think, is far more importamt than another award, another open call for manuscripts, targeting a particular community at a particular time.

I call out for those who feel under-represented within their industry to do the research, fight and scream and shout for more than you are given. You are the people I would hire if I were to start a publishing company. You are the voices we need to hear in 2017 and beyond – yours, mine and thousands of others out there currently left screaming into the void.

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This is the year….

I’ve been thinking, or rather, stewing. I’m good at that, i’m one of life’s over-thinkers, but boy was 2016 a year for it. I found myself swallowed by probably the worst bout of depression i’ve had in at least ten years. Everywhere I turned, there seemed more reason to be horrified by the world and my part in it. The bleak political outlook, the seemingly endless deaths of celebrities, politicians and strangers alike, the shift in society and a thick, visceral tension that could be felt everywhere – it was all too much and my place in it all seemed hopeless, powerless and without direction.

You see, I realised through my stewing that I had wasted most of my 20’s. Instead of doing all the things that those around me were doing (travelling, working towards the dream job, buying houses, living) I had committed to being ‘a wage slave’ (a term I’m not comfortable with, but for want of a better one it shall do). I had left uni, moved to London, taken the first job I could get and unwittingly dedicated my life to just doing what had to be done to get by, to pay the exhorbitant and ever-increasing rents of London. It started with a dream of course, a “this is just a bridge to get to where I really want to be” mindset, but before I knew it I was working 6 days a week for just enough to get buy and no idea, energy or time to push ahead. Every now and then I pushed back a little, I took courses to take me further but then, when 8p noodles and months of unpaid internships got stale, I would always get swept back in.

It’s kind of funny – I remember as a small child hearing some of my family around me moaning about their jobs and the need to sell your soul to do the things you want to do.  I swore I would never do that, never be one of them, I didn’t want to be rich so as far as I was concerned that was the end of it. Poor naive me, I didn’t realise then that more often than not you aren’t selling your soul to be rich, you’re selling your soul to get by. Principles and dreams don’t very often keep a roof over your head and food on your table. So almost without realising it, I had left many of my principles and much of my fight by the roadside, and my soul…well that’s still to be seen.

I reached 2017, I survived it, and with my one final year of my twenties left ahead of me I vowed to fight, to fight for the me I really want to be. This year I committed to learning more, to enjoying more, to choosingand appreciating people and places and beauty above money, to respecting my own and other people’s time and to following my dreams. I promised myself the use of my voice and my actions, my privelege and mind to change even some tiny piece of the world, to make it a place I want to live in.

It came to me that I may just happen to want some children in the next few years (not particularly likely as, until now and even now, I have been thoroughly against the idea) but if that was to happen, it wouldn’t be into this world as it is. Even if I don’t, I have neices and nephews and godchildren who I adore, who in my darkest times I am paralysed with fear for. This isn’t the world I signed up for, the future as I see it, it isn’t the one I want to see them swamping through, and though I am only one small person amongst billions, I have found my fight again.

If I acheive nothing, well, at least in ten years I won’t look back and say I wasted another decade of my life being someone i’m not, being another ‘like it or lump it’ person. If no change comes, at least I can say I enjoyed my time, followed my heart and my principles. But I am a beleiver, a cynical optimist, and perhaps one small person really can make a difference. Maybe, then, I will be able to say that my twenties were the time that I reclaimed my soul.