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Writer's Station > Why is it that Women Outnumber Men at Fiction Writing Workshops?

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message 1: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments There's one thing I've noted in all writing workshops I go to (including the one I went to this Saturday): the women outnumber the men by 10:1. But, there seem to be more published male writers than female. Not 10:1, maybe something like 10:6 (Okay, I pulled that last publishing stat out my hat. But seriously, that's what it seems like.)

So where do all these (aspiring) women writers taking workshops disappear? And where do these men who get the stories and novels out there learn their craft from?

Drop me a comment on my blog to help me with the research.


message 2: by Ottilie (new)

Ottilie (ottilie_weber) | 100 comments I wish I went to workshops. I don't know if they really hold them in my area or how much they are. I mostly talk to other authors and pick things up as I go along. Or pick up tips from editors I have worked with or my friends. It might be the genre I tend to read chick lit/something romance and they are mostly female writers, genre probably has some pull.


message 3: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments It isn't a genre thing, Ottilie -- I find the same ratio at all sorts of workshops...women just like to study more, I guess?


message 4: by Steelwhisper (last edited Jun 10, 2013 10:50PM) (new)

Steelwhisper | 73 comments I think many if not most women still sort of need the authorisation, the third-party permission to write and publish. The writer work-shops bolster their self-esteem enough to dare do it. That's why the work-shops.

I wouldn't however say that this is the reason why more men are published. That is still largely due male privilege, and there are still genres where a male pen name sells, while a female author name can mean much less or no sales.


message 5: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments Michael wrote: "As an aspiring male author I must admit that I have never been tempted to attend a writer's workshop. I think it's a bit like not wanting to ask someone for directions, I don't want anyone to tell ..."

While I agree with the approach of opening a vein on the page to bleed, I have found sometimes that good workshops help with the business of craft.

We either have the desire and love for writing, or we don't, that can't be taught. But the grammar of fiction writing, its craft in terms of sentences, and structure, can be taught-- and the process of learning is faster with a little help.

That said, I've met women writers who haven't been to a workshop either, and I'm not sure your viewpoint is entirely a male characteristic.


message 6: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments Steelwhisper wrote: "I think many if not most women still sort of need the authorisation, the third-party permission to write and publish. The writer work-shops bolster their self-esteem enough to dare do it. That's wh..."

You seem to be on to something. Never looked at the writing process quite that way.

I do see more female writers writing with a male pseudonym in order to overcome a gender-bias in certain genres.


message 7: by Ottilie (new)

Ottilie (ottilie_weber) | 100 comments Hm interesting, the gender thing is interesting though.


message 8: by Fritz (new)

Fritz Nordengren I cant find numbers for workshops, but I believe your estimate. The studies suggest traditional publishing is gender biased against women. (For example see http://www.vidaweb.org/the-count-2012 and http://www.examiner.com/article/the-v... )

But D. asks a great question: So where do all these (aspiring) women writers taking workshops disappear?

I think there is a trap (men and women both vulnerable) in *some* workshops -- Some workshops exists for the purpose of convincing you that you need to attend another workshop. And in time, it is easy to be so busy going to workshops that you don't have time left to devote to your own work.


message 9: by Marcy (new)

Marcy Peska | 10 comments Very interesting topic & responses. I wonder if, in addition to other possible factors already noted, there might be an element of interpersonal style. In general, (yes, this is a generalization ;-) ) I think females in our culture are raised to be more group-oriented than most males. Perhaps females seek a certain kind of camaraderie and belonging when they attend workshops. Males may find 1:1 interactions tend to meet their social needs better.


message 10: by Paul (new)

Paul Harry (epawar) | 22 comments Because a few good men are hard to find. Perhaps because they are working???


message 11: by Paul (new)

Paul Harry (epawar) | 22 comments Not to say that women don't work. They just make better use of their time.


message 12: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments Fritz wrote: "I cant find numbers for workshops, but I believe your estimate. The studies suggest traditional publishing is gender biased against women. (For example see http://www.vidaweb.org/the-count-2012 ..."

That Trap sounds scary. But I do see how it could work-- because teaching writing definitely brings in more bucks these days than writing itself.


message 13: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments Marcy wrote: "Very interesting topic & responses. I wonder if, in addition to other possible factors already noted, there might be an element of interpersonal style. In general, (yes, this is a generalization ;-..."

Perhaps, this is across cultures? As a woman, and an Asian, I can testify to liking group settings a lot, when it comes to teaching or learning something.


message 14: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments Paul wrote: "Not to say that women don't work. They just make better use of their time."

A lot of the workshops I go to happen on weekends, and it is easy for all kinds of folks to attend, those with regular jobs, and without.


message 15: by Ubiquitous (new)

Ubiquitous Bubba (ubiquitousbubba) I have nothing against workshops. I haven't attended one, but that has nothing to do with gender. It's because I'm inherently lazy.

I don't attend workshops because I don't want to do so. I could stand to learn something, I'm sure. If it was pizza delivery that somehow turned into a writing workshop, I wouldn't object. Otherwise, I don't see it happening.


message 16: by Ottilie (new)

Ottilie (ottilie_weber) | 100 comments I like working personally with another person, that's why I have a couple close friends I like to discuss with. I almost mentioned above talking with editors themselves because they see how I write and can give the one on one tips. I did a creative writing class in high school, it is helpful if the right people are in it.


message 17: by Marcy (new)

Marcy Peska | 10 comments Doesn't this sound like a fascinating opportunity for a Master's research project for someone? ;-)


message 18: by Ottilie (new)

Ottilie (ottilie_weber) | 100 comments Haha it does, I just finished one thesis, someone else can call dips on this!


message 19: by Steelwhisper (last edited Jun 11, 2013 10:27PM) (new)

Steelwhisper | 73 comments D. wrote: "Marcy wrote: "Very interesting topic & responses. I wonder if, in addition to other possible factors already noted, there might be an element of interpersonal style. In general, (yes, this is a gen..."

Not here (yet that much), I am female, but you can chase me with group settings. I prefer working alone, and goal-oriented discussions 1:1.

I found the US culture to be extremely peer-oriented (for women), though ours has begun to evolve into that direction. Unfortunately I have to state, it's a trap for women and it's synonymous with peer-pressure, tall-poppy-sydrome and bully-culture. I've heard similar tendencies from Asian cultures, but that is hearsay only on my part, so I take your word on it.

The article about the gender bias of reviews doesn't really surprise me, I have to say.


message 20: by Jason (new)

Jason Reeser | 3 comments Michael wrote: "As an aspiring male author I must admit that I have never been tempted to attend a writer's workshop. I think it's a bit like not wanting to ask someone for directions, I don't want anyone to tell ..."

I'm going to get in trouble for saying this, but since the question was asked, I'll say it, and take the heat, though there is no insult meant. Men are less social than women. And workshops are a very social engagement. Men don't tend to get together for much. And yes, I think Michael is also correct. We don't like to ask for help.

As for publishing, if we are talking about self-publishing, the notion that men get preferential treatment makes no sense. Anyone can sign in to Kindle and publish. Gender means nothing in that respect.

As for workshops, I think there is much truth in the saying "there are those who want to do something, and those who just do it." The workshops may be helpful, but writers write. It eventually comes down to hard work. Lonely, time-consuming hard work.


message 21: by Marcy (new)

Marcy Peska | 10 comments Does anyone else follow Chuck Wendig's blog terribleminds.com? Although not specifically touching on workshops, nor ratio of male:female indies, his last 3 posts have been about sexism in the book industry.


message 22: by Fritz (new)

Fritz Nordengren This is a really great thread and Marcy, I read/loved Wendig's posts. I have two thoughts, I'll combine them to save space (hope that is okay).

First (disclosure) I co-teach a Gender Roles in Leadership course at a small medical school with a brilliant co-faculty Ann York. We're stunned every time to hear a generation of young leaders, 25 - 35 years old who honestly believe gender equality exists so we dont need to talk about it any more (Wendig makes a similar point).

Second, and related to D's question, "where do all these women... disappear?" While not related to gender, I think many people want to write and write better but do not want to publish. Akin to going to a cooking school: They want to cook better, but dont want to open a restaurant.


message 23: by Marcy (new)

Marcy Peska | 10 comments Aha! Great suggestion about workshops & I suspect you're a terrific resource for data, studies, trends & more! :-)
Do you follow Scalzi, as well? Also a talented author who's been known to write powerful posts about this topic.


message 24: by Fritz (new)

Fritz Nordengren Scalzi is new to me, thanks for the suggestion. I can share what I know and what we share with our students. It is a huge area for discussion and research. I wish I could tempt more of my students to take it on in their final projects.


message 25: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments Marcy wrote: "Does anyone else follow Chuck Wendig's blog terribleminds.com? Although not specifically touching on workshops, nor ratio of male:female indies, his last 3 posts have been about sexism in the book ..."

I used to follow him. Time I looked him up again.


message 26: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments Fritz wrote: "This is a really great thread and Marcy, I read/loved Wendig's posts. I have two thoughts, I'll combine them to save space (hope that is okay).

First (disclosure) I co-teach a Gender Roles in Lead..."


They want to cook better, but don't want to open a restaurant--- sounds like you've got a point there.

But all the women I meet at these workshops seem more interested in publication than writing. I'm the opposite. (though I do send stuff out for pubbing, with mixed success so far.)


message 27: by Marcy (new)

Marcy Peska | 10 comments Hmmm. Now I'm curious about this topic all over again! ;-) More interested in publishing because they feel they've mastered writing but not publishing/marketing skills or because they are uninterested in writing quality?
I certainly can imagine a market for a workshop focused entirely on indie publishing. Something that teaches skills & tenets of platform, formatting, cover design, press releases, interviews, marketing, etc.


message 28: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments I'm not sure how to answer your question without sounding terribly snooty.

Most of the workshop-goers *seem* to have a lot of work to do on their writing, whereas they only ask questions about publication and agents and so on.

If you go to a workshop on Plotting or Characters, why would you ask those questions and none on technique? Unless you were only interested in publishing? It is all a bit puzzling, and I'm leaning towards no more workshops unless we have a teacher who Really has something to offer.


message 29: by Marcy (new)

Marcy Peska | 10 comments Well, in the context of this conversation you don't strike me as being snooty.
I confess that, aside from college workshop classes (ahem...a significant period of time before e-readers & the indie gold rush) I haven't attended workshops. I got my fill of "peer" feedback in college. Now I feel a bit snooty, but honest. ;-)
Sounds like some of these professional level workshops may be experiencing a lack of classroom management and be attracting a number of attendees who are simply hoping to "strike it rich".
Have you had any success hand-picking critique partners and/or mentors? That might yield more reliable results. :-)


message 30: by Ron (new)

Ron Heimbecher (RonHeimbecher) | 42 comments It's not only workshops, but every organization I belong to, and my critique partners are 75%. I don't think there is a specific reason, but many which play into it.

Perhaps it's because the women are smarter and more realistic than we guys... they know they have to learn how to something if they want it to be good, while the "other" gender (us men) just charge into it like torreadors into bloody sand... then find out four manuscripts later that they didn't have a clue how to do it right.

B^)


message 31: by Ubiquitous (new)

Ubiquitous Bubba (ubiquitousbubba) Excellent! I've got another couple of manuscripts to go before I realize that.


message 32: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments Marcy wrote: "Well, in the context of this conversation you don't strike me as being snooty.
I confess that, aside from college workshop classes (ahem...a significant period of time before e-readers & the indie ..."

I've tried hand-picking crit partners, again, with mixed success. I do have a mentor, and she teaches MFA at one of the best known writing schools, so there's that. But it is a paid mentorship for this year.


message 33: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments Ron wrote: "It's not only workshops, but every organization I belong to, and my critique partners are 75%. I don't think there is a specific reason, but many which play into it.

Perhaps it's because the women..."


I agree, there isn't one reason, but many.


message 34: by Damyanti (new)

Damyanti Biswas | 46 comments Ubiquitous wrote: "Excellent! I've got another couple of manuscripts to go before I realize that."

:) Men are just more self-sufficient at whatever they do, I guess!


message 35: by Steelwhisper (new)

Steelwhisper | 73 comments Possibly it also is, that mainly women believe writing is something that can be taught.


message 36: by Marcy (new)

Marcy Peska | 10 comments Good for you for getting yourself a formal mentor! So few people realize that these things rarely happen by accident. I'm impressed.


message 37: by Alys (new)

Alys Marchand (alysmarchand) | 11 comments You may not realize this, but a lot of male writers are women using pen names. A critically acclaimed novel published a few months ago was written by a man, or so the world thought. Turned out it was JK Rowling.

Ask any man who his favorite female writer is, and he'll likely either say JK Rowling, or pause and try to think of any name. Ask a woman who who favorite male is, and she'll rattle one off. Women are more likely to read books by either a nam or a woman, but men are more likely to read books by men only.

I think women are more likely to "stop and ask for directions," so to speak, and go to conventions, whereas men are more likely to charge straight ahead without testing the water. In publishing, more male names will be on covers than there are male writers.


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