There have been some new developments in the discussion about YA fiction with GLBT characters.
In the past few days, there have been several great posts in response to Sherwood Smith’s and Rachel Manija Brown’s original post at Publisher Weekly‘s Genreville blog such as these posts by Scott Tracey and Malinda Lo, who also offers some hard numbers regarding YA novels with GLBT characters. Both Malinda Lo and Scott Tracey have written and published YA novels with GLBT protagonists. There is also a response from an agent (not the agent who asked for the sexual orientation change) who urges people to buy more YA fiction with GLBT characters.
Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown were careful not to name that agent who asked them to change a character’s sexual orientation in their original post. But now agent/editor Colleen Lindsay posts a response from agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe who claims that “No, it didn’t happen that way” and that the issues her agency had with the book in question were not the GLBT content but that there were too many POV characters. There is an unpleasant passive aggressive tone throughout the post and several not so subtle hints that the two authors are lying and that they are exploiting the issue of GLBT fiction for teens for their own ends.
Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown respond in their respective livejournals, while Rose Fox responds at Genreville. A brief look at the usernames cropping up in the comments in Sherwood’s livejournal makes me feel sorry for her for having to moderate that mess, because even a relative fandom outsider like me knows that several of the commenters hate each other’s guts.
Marie Brennan also responds to the response.
In the interest of transparency, I’ve known Sherwood Smith online for quite some time now. I’ve encountered Rachel Manija Brown online, though I never interacted with her in any significant way. I met Colleen Lindsay years ago and sometimes interacted with her on a long defunct messageboard where she used to post on occasion. I doubt she remembers my name. I have never had any interactions with Ms. Stampfel-Volpe at all.
Without having been present during the conversation in question, it is impossible to say what happened and who really said what. However, Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown behaved a lot classier than the agent. But then I find a lot of online behaviour by literary agents (e.g. making fun of easily identifiable queries) not particularly classy or professional.