Update: I met with the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America and they are cataloging the #MeToo movement as part of their archives collection. I alerted the manager of special projects for the #MeToo movement to include what is happening in children’s book publishing. So while the School Library Journal has chosen to delete the comments that detailed specific accusations of sexual misconduct against authors, illustrators, editors and publishers in the children’s book publishing industry, these comments (below) are now on their way to being permanently archived and accessible to the public to anyone interested for posterity.
#MeToo has reached children’s book publishing. The YA Kitty has compiled a list of everyone accused. Because I don’t cover YA on my blog, I am not covering the YA authors accused here but you can find them on her list.
Does it surprise anyone that there is rampant sexual misconduct in children’s and YA book publishing? Not really, right? For an industry that is 90% women, the men hold the highest positions of power. Social functions with alcohol are part of necessary networking. Authors, illustrators, and those trying to break in have no Human Resources to turn to for complaints. Worse, registering even indignation risks entree into this coveted field.
Everyone is watching what the repercussions of the accusations. While a few high profile authors have been scrutinized publicly, their book sales haven’t taken much of a hit. Those who haven’t received this same spotlight treatment are laying low, hoping all will blow over.
True, behind the scenes, everyone is talking and there are subtle repercussions. I sat on a small children’s book award committee where Drew Daywalt’s book was on the short list but removed after he was accused.
That’s not enough. Today, I am going to pair the books with the accused. I feel like the readers and gatekeepers haven’t gotten word so I hope this helps. I think we need to:
- Confront these authors and illustrators on social media and ask them, “What is your response to the accusations of sexual misconduct?”
- Believe the women. If you do too, don’t support the accused authors and illustrators. I’m not supporting them on my blog moving forward on my blog. Past book reviews will also be linked to this post.
- Please support Anne Ursu and other authors and illustrators who have been brave enough to come forward. Follow them on social media, send messages of support, and buy their books if you are able to!
If we want real change to happen, we must take it upon ourselves to ask the tough questions, and shine the light into this darkness.
And then this will happen more …
Georgia waitress Emelia Holden is seen on camera being sexually violated by 31-year-old Ryan Cherwinksi. Holden slammed him into a chair. She said, “I just did what I felt was best. I took the guy down and had my co-workers call the police.” Cherwinksi was charged with sexual battery.
Instead of this…
Louis Walsh Caught GRABBING And GROPING MEL B On Live TV. He gets away with it.
p.s. Related articles:
Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry by Anne Ursu
p.p.s. Please note that books are included where the illustrator is accused of sexual misconduct BUT NOT THE AUTHOR. Jacqueline Woodson and Monica Brown are not accussed of sexual misconduct but the illustrators for one or more of their books are (E. B. Lewis and David Diaz). Please read below.
Sexual Misconduct in Children’s Book Publishing
Matt de la Peña
Accusation 1: “I wonder if any of Matt de la Pena’s students have weighed in. A friend took a writing class with him and recounted several tales of transactional sexual relationships with his students and creepy behavior.”
Accusation 2: “I didn’t respond to Anne’s survey but Matt de la Pena is someone to steer clear of.”
Accusation 3: “Matt de la Peña. You are powerful and respected in this industry, you should be ashamed of the way you speak to and treat female students. Your business is how we write, not how we look. Among several inappropriate comments, you minimized me down to my appearance in a moment of my education that I worked hard for, that should have been one of my proudest. You made me feel small and objectified. I resent it. I am not shocked to see that I am not the only student you abused your power over.”
Matt de la Pena, hasn’t had time to offer an apology in between all of his speaking engagements, but he somehow found time to change his bio. He no longer considers himself a “love doctor.”
Accusation 1: “I have experienced predatory behavior from Tim Federle. I am a male. This was also at the SBCWI conference some years ago. He expressed interest in my book and invited me to his room to go over my query letter. I was 18 and starry eyed because he was a respected author for kids. When I arrived at his room and got out my laptop, he closed it and began kissing me. I was shocked at first. I was not assaulted, but it was all under false pretenses. He preyed on me in a very disturbing manner.
Accusation 1: “My story was also mentioned in Anne’s article, and Drew Daywalt was the one that made me never want to return to Los Angeles. This is really tough for me to post, even anonymously, because I’ve always tried to be such a peacemaker, but honestly, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this goes beyond me. I felt confused and hurt over the entire interaction for a long while, and after reading Anne’s response in her article, she truly helped me understand why I felt the way I did. Thank you, Anne! And to those also speaking up, I’m glad we’re all having this conversation, and my hope is that those being called out will truly reach out for help and want to change. ”
Accusation 2 (via Twitter DM to me): “Hello, I was recently told about your blog post featuring comments about men in the kid lit community who are accused of sexually harassing women. When I read Anne Ursu’s article, I knew exactly who one of the men were. Drew Daywalt. He used the same lines with me and more. I am forever traumatized by that man. I wish to remain anonymous.”
Accusation 1: “A dear friend of mine asked me to post this for her as she doesn’t feel comfortable adding it herself. ”My story was in Anne’s article. The man was Stephan Pastis.””
Accusation 2: “Stephan Pastis has sexually harassed me too.”
Accusation 1: “I was quoted in Ann’s article my predator was Mo Willems.”
Accusation 1: “I was in Anne’s survey as well. Mine was Sherman Alexie.”
Accusation 2: “I saw Alexie speak at a library conference several years ago, and I saw the way he interacted with the (mostly female) attendees before and after his talk. That he has sexually harassed people is not at all surprising to me. I believe you and I’m sorry you had to deal with that.”
Accusation 3: “Another raised hand for Sherman Alexie.”
Accusation 4: “Yes, me too with Alexie.”
Accusation 5: “Sherman Alexie. #Me too. I know of several others. I think there’s a very good reason (or many very good reasons) he stopped all appearances and disappeared from social media almost immediately after Weinstein.”
Accusation 6: “I dined with Sherman Alexie several years ago with a group of librarians and, throughout dinner he talked pretty continuously about sex, told us that he loved all types of women (age, body type, level of attractiveness, HINT HINT) and showed us his hotel room number. He also said that at author conferences no one slept in their own rooms. Maybe not harassment per se, but definitely gross. I don’t doubt he’s done worse.”
Accusation 7: “Sherman Alexie: me too. Looking forward to the end of him getting to do whatever he wants to young women with the full knowledge of the people in power.”
Earl Lewis/E.B. Lewis
Please note that Jacqueline Woodson is not accused of sexual misconduct, but the illustrator to Coming On Home Soon, E. B. Lewis, IS. This is not the only book E. B. Lewis has illustrated.
Accusation 1: “Add the opportunistic Earl Lewis [or E.B. Lewis as he likes to refer to himself as] to the list. He took advantage of me on two different fronts and I did report him. Thankfully he isn’t on the board anymore.”
Please note that author Monica Brown is not accused of sexual misconduct, but the illustrator to Maya’s Blanket, David Diaz IS. David Diaz has illustrated other picture books besides this one.
“I do think his response was the appropriate response, and I appreciated that,” Ms. Mercurio-Wentworth said, citing “his honesty and humility.”
“As for Mr. Diaz, he temporarily left the Society of Children’s Book Writers a few years ago after a woman complained to the leadership that he had made her feel uncomfortable. He completed a training course about sexual harassment and was put on a yearlong probation.
Mr. Diaz said the training had taught him that what he had considered innocent flirtation was perceived much differently.
“Don’t call anyone ‘honey,’ don’t touch anyone, don’t engage in any kind of flirtatious manner,” he said in an interview. “And after training I understood my only purpose is to talk about books and the craft of making books.”
Then, after the #MeToo movement caught fire, the writer Ishta Mercurio-Wentworth told Ms. Oliver of an incident that occurred six years earlier, when Mr. Diaz had touched her hair, said, “You’re kinky, aren’t you,” and then walked away. Mr. Diaz then sent her an apology.” from NYTimes
Ishta Mercurio came forward to identified David Diaz wrote this: Thoughts From the Front Lines of the MeToo Movement
There are the long conversations I had with people (so many people!) in which I tried to explain that, yes, what had happened to me was inappropriate and horrifying in the moment that it happened, and no, it was not at all okay, and yes, I thought this person deserved to be believed when he said that he was trying to do better. There is a world of difference between someone who wrongs you and admits it and apologizes and promises to do better, and someone who denies that he did anything wrong at all. I think it’s important that we recognize that. I don’t think he deserves any rewards or special praise for apologizing, because apologizing and trying to do better are basic levels of human decency. Nobody gets a cookie for meeting the basic requirements. But I hope his friends don’t all alienate him. I hope he has people around him who will help him meet this standard of behavior, who will expect it of him and who will hold him to it.
Even so, I never want to see him again.
Then there was the moment when I learned that even though he had been prohibited from attending any more SCBWI conferences, he had arranged to meet people just outside the venue, and I wondered why he would push against the boundaries of his banishment in this way. If he had really meant his apology. If he understood that rules should be respected with their spirit, and not only their letter, in mind. I wonder if he has friends who will remind him that New York City is a big place, and all the women he has hurt have a right to attend a conference without the fear of running into him just outside the venue. I hope he does. But his apology seems less genuine to me now.
Ishta Mercurio: So, You’ve Decided to Speak
Know that if you have made a formal complaint about your harasser through the appropriate channels — the organizers of whatever conference you met them at, the publisher that sent them on that marketing tour, the HR department if you’ve been harassed at work, the producer of their movie or show, wherever – it will add weight to anything published in the press. You don’t have to do this – you don’t have to speak up at all – but it is a good idea to do this.
When the article about your harasser is published, there is one rule: Don’t read the comments. Have friends who will pass the supportive ones on to you, and who will respond in a clear and rational manner to those comments that are less supportive. You have done enough by sharing your story; you are not obliged to educate the rest of the world on how to be an ally to a harassment or abuse survivor.
Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler
The comments in which his victims talk about how he treated them are very long and unlikely to disappear, so I’m simply linking them and quote an exceptionally relevant piece of said comment.
Accusation 1: “I was talking with another author who was sitting in the seat in front of me. He asked where I lived and said he’d thought I was from the Midwest. “It’s probably the cardigan,” I joked. “Are you a virgin, too?!” [Handler] shouted from several seats away.”
You answered, “Lemony Snicket is not a pen name, he is a person. My pen has a name. See? Uniball. It’s named after an obscure medical condition.” […]It wasn’t sexual harassment, but it was way over the line, and made me feel smaller.”
Accusation 3: “Years ago we were both guests of Oregon Literary Arts, and you made a crass and belittling joke to me. Before I could even respond to you a 16 year old girl stepped between us, gave you a hard stare and said–Dude, you have to stop talking to women like that. And in response you said something crass to a child, someone half your size and not old enough to vote. This teenager again said–Dude, I have a blackbelt and I’m telling you, you, have to stop talking like that to women. At which point you sauntered off without acknowledgement or apology.”
Accusation 4: “When I approached you, I opened with this: “My friends were too afraid to come talk to you, but I’m not afraid.” You were surrounded by fellow publishing big names, I was a solo female librarian, a nobody and a stranger to you. You looked right at me and said, “If you’re not afraid, go knock on the door of (some random room number) and make out with whoever answers.” ”
Accusation 5: “I will never forget the Guys Read panel at ALA in Anaheim during which Daniel decided it was appropriate to read a lengthy – lengthy- explicit makeout passage from Oscar Hijuelos’ Mambo Kings, at the culmination of which the male character had his whole fist in.
Richard Paul Evans
I want to briefly explain, especially to non-Utah friends, why I and many of us are spreading so fiercely the accusations against author Richard Paul Evans.
This isn’t my M.O. My personal online policy is to only point fingers at culture and institutions, not individuals (I carve out exceptions for Jonathan Franzen, just cuz, and John Grisham, b/c child pornography apologists should have no safe haven)
The piece many of you may be missing is that Richard Paul Evans is HUGE in Utah. If you’ve never heard of him, you won’t get the enormous name recognition and impact he has here.
So while I’ve heard dozens of stories of his behavior (fondling, stroking women, grabbing a feel from behind, stalking women to their hotel rooms and banging on their doors, bullying and general harassing) he’s largely protected by fame.
When a man does something to one woman that makes her feel like trash, it’s easy for the woman, alone in her head, to feel like she somehow brought that on herself.
But when we can put out in the light of day that this is this man’s pattern of behavior, that he does this crap to A LOT of women, then it’s easier for victims to see, it’s not me. It’s him.
I want this all out in the light, so women know. If people still love his brand of “playful touch” and seek him out, at least they will know in advance.
Additionally, I have heard that he has started many money-making ventures charging writers astronomical fees with promises that they’ll have self-publishing success like his. Again, I want these people to have all the info before losing their cash.
Not to be missed: RPE has also started a “fraternity for men” called “Tribe of Kyngs.” Here’s one little quote about that from the HuffPost:
Not to be missed: RPE has also started a “fraternity for men” called “Tribe of Kyngs.” Here’s one little quote about that from the HuffPost:
So Richard Paul Evans is a wealthy man with an enormous amount of influence, support, and name recognition in Utah who is using that to (allegedly!) harass women, bilk hopeful writers, and make himself a king leader to a group of middle aged married men.
For the record, I’ve met him but don’t know him. He’s never harassed me. I have no ax to grind. I’m not jealous of his success (guess what–I’m wildly successful in Utah too!) I have nothing to gain from speaking up. Just want to protect people.
As a grad student, I invited Junot Diaz to speak to a workshop on issues of representation in literature. I was an unknown wide-eyed 26 yo, and he used it as an opportunity to corner and forcibly kiss me. I’m far from the only one he’s done this 2, I refuse to be silent anymore.
And one more for poor behavior though not of a sexual nature …
Here’s a little story I’ve told often in private but never in public. Several years ago I was the emcee of a high profile author event.
Whenever I do this, I prepare a lot, reading books by the authors I’m introducing, interviews and bios, writing up intros that are both informative and funny. I love funny.
One of the authors was a guy who wrote middle grade books with sports themes. I thought it would be funny if beforehand we worked out a several-step, silly handshake we’d do when I introduced him.
So my editor and I found him and his editor at the book conference beforehand and I told him I was going to intro him that night and asked him if he’d be willing to do a bit with me.
He said, “No, I don’t do that,” but in such a curt manor I assumed he was kidding. Everyone in kid lit is supposed to be nice, after all! So I kidded back and said, “Yeah, I heard you were a diva.”
I hadn’t heard that. Again, I thought we were joking with each other. But apparently I’d hit too close to home, because he turned his back to me, the back of his head literally an inch from my face,
His editor turned to my editor (they knew each other) and he said, “Sorry, I can edit him on the page but not in public.”
Later the publicist from my publisher told me publicists from his publisher were asking to know, who had told me he was a diva? Because he was on a witch hunt and someone was going to be in trouble.
Um…no one told me! For years I’ve felt so bad that what I said caused alarm and perhaps harm to anyone from his publisher, but now I’m like, why am I taking this blame? Why isn’t he feeling bad?
Anyway. That night I took the page of carefully crafted and researched introduction I’d written for him and crossed out 2 paragraphs. Also, can we not send these tools out in public anymore? Thanks.
By contrast, one time I had the honor of introducing Katherine Paterson. I had never met her, so I sought her out beforehand. There was one line I’d written that I thought was funny but I wanted to make sure she wouldn’t be offended.
It was, “And now, our grande dame. Or as her grandchildren call her, our damn Gran.” I read it too her, she laughed and said, “yes, please say that.”