#metoo #ustoo Change Starts Now: Stand Against Harassment in the YA/Kidlit Community

Earlier this week brilliant, award-winning author Anne Ursu published an essay about the responses and conclusions from a survey on sexual harassment in the kidlit and YA field she recently conducted, spurred by the #metoo movement. If you haven’t read it yet, go do so immediately. I’ll wait.

Like many, I was not so much surprised by the findings that our community is no different than any other. And, like many, I’ve felt frustrated and angry and helpless. I don’t have all the answers, but last night I found myself asking where our Scalzi is on twitter — referencing my friend John Scalzi’s convention harassment policy pledge *five years ago* when similar issues were being highlighted in the science fiction and fantasy community. As Scalzi pointed out right away:

 

And then this morning, I realized that I’m not comfortable waiting for someone else to take point. I firmly believe that we need male authors and illustrators and publishing professionals to sign on to any effort to combat sexual harassment in our community, and that perhaps it would be taken more seriously if one of them led the charge. I hope they’ll show up, but to wait for that is unacceptable to me. Many people are asking “what can we do without names?” A lot it turns out. We can send a message and we can apply pressure to advocate for change.

No one should have to feel unsafe at an event in the children’s lit world. No one should feel like they can’t speak up or have someone to go to if they are harassed at an event. And no one should be able to get away with harassment, no matter how much of a big deal they’re considered to be.

First, I invite all of us to adopt the same pledge that Scalzi set out several years ago, which I’m stealing whole cloth here and encourage you to post about on your own sites.

1. That the convention has a harassment policy, and that the harassment policy is clear on what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go for help and action.

2. That the convention make this policy obvious by at least one and preferably more than one of the following: posting the policy on their Website, placing it in their written and electronic programs, putting up flyers in the common areas, discussing the policy at opening ceremonies or at other well-attended common events.

3. In cases when I am invited as a Guest of Honor, personal affirmation from the convention chair that a harassment policy exists, that it will be adequately publicized to conventiongoers, and that all harassment complaints will be dealt with promptly and fairly, with no excuses or rationalizations for delaying action when such becomes necessary.

I’d also like to send the letter below to YA and kidlit specific festivals and organizations and to the heads of publishing houses with as many names attached to it as possible. If you would like to sign on, please post your name in the comments below (which I must approve so there might be a slight delay). Here’s the letter, which I know is not perfect, but hopefully it’s a starting point.

Dear conference or festival organizer or publisher,

You may be aware that larger discussions of sexism and sexual harassment have now—finally—turned to the children’s and YA literary community. Recently author Anne Ursu conducted a survey that received ninety responses detailing the unacceptable behavior that far too many women in our sphere have been subjected to over the years. We know that the problem is far wider, and it’s one we all have a responsibility to act to end.

If you have a sexual harassment policy, we would encourage you to make sure it’s strong enough and well publicized enough at your events or work functions to be effective. If you do not have a sexual harassment policy, we encourage you to develop one immediately or you may find many authors will no longer attend your events. This policy should, to borrow from author John Scalzi’s pledge wording, spell out “what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go for help and action.” In keeping with that pledge, we also ask that you promote and publicize this policy as widely as possible: on your website, in your programs and conference materials, through flyers in the event space, and by talking about it at the beginning of conference events.

You may feel this isn’t necessary or will somehow “send the wrong message” about your event. But, in fact, the lack of these things does just that. The lack of a clear harassment policy tells predators they can get away with bad behavior and it tells women and other community members that they will have no one to go to if they experience harassment, they will just have to remain quiet and accept it. Publicizing a message that harassment will receive zero tolerance tells everyone, including our young readership, what behavior they should expect in a professional environment. You can find resources to assist with your policy development and wording at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website.

If you are a publisher, we encourage you to revisit your own harassment policies and to ensure they are observed at public events that you host. We would also ask that publishers communicate to their authors, illustrators, and staff that if harassment by them is reported in a professional setting it may lead to consequences related to employment or invitations to represent the publisher at events or on tour. Again, it may seem unnecessary or ineffective to take this step. But sending a message about what behavior will be tolerated and what will not is the only way change will come.

And this change must come. Time is up.

Sincerely,

Gwenda Bond

and hopefully many, many of you

Edited to add: Thank you THANK YOU all for supporting this effort. If your comment signing doesn’t show up immediately and you don’t get an error message, don’t fret. I just have to approve it and your name will be added. If you do get an error message, just contact me via the contact page or any other format and I’ll note your name and add it manually when I compile the final letter. THANK YOU.

Edited to add again: Comments are open, though the letter is closed for sending. 

1,459 thoughts on “#metoo #ustoo Change Starts Now: Stand Against Harassment in the YA/Kidlit Community”

  1. Love it.

    This is what I wrote down last night:

    I believe that as an author, I should be held to a high standard of professional behavior at sponsored events, just as I would at any place of conventional employment. When I appear at schools, libraries, conferences, conventions, festivals, or other literary events or functions, I am in my workplace and will conduct myself accordingly.

    I pledge that I will conduct myself in a manner that reflects positively upon my publisher(s) and my professional reputation. I pledge to be careful not to make any person (attendee, employee, or guest) feel uncomfortable in my presence or with my behavior, and if I violate this pledge, even inadvertently, I will take immediate, unqualified responsibility.

    When I observe others attending such events behaving in a manner that violates non-harassment policy, I will assist the event staff in any way possible to protect the victim of harassment.

    I will review and abide by every event’s non-harassment policies and procedures.

    I will refuse to attend events that (a) fail to provide an adequately robust non-harassment policy with detailed reporting procedures, or (b) has a history of failing to enforce such policies.

    Gwenda, what do you think?

    1. Signed! And way to go for the people speaking up about Daniel Handler. That kind of discriminatory micro-aggression happens all day long to women everywhere and makes us feel small. It’s one of many things that keeps women down in our society. It’s quite silencing. That took guts, Kate, to be the first one to call it out.

  2. I’m contracted to write three YA novels in the near future. I fully intend to apply the same standard for harassment policies to kidlit as I do to science fiction/fantasy. So: Co-signed (or re-signed, in my case).

  3. Signed–for both Gwenda and Rachel’s pledges.

    I also promise to be a safe space for any attendee who needs someone at their back. I will gladly listen, hand-hold, perform escort duty, or whatever may be needed in a time of crisis or discomfort.

  4. Signed.
    It’s not a surprise that we’re just like everyone else, but I know that I don’t venture out of my cave enough to know anything about this… so while I’m horrified-not-surprised, I’m also baffled… how on earth have we put up with this quietly for so long?
    Here’s to SHOUTING now.

  5. Signed! Thank you for doing this.
    In addition to the letter above, I think this sort of policy should be part of any contract presenters are asked to sign ahead of time as part of an agreement to speak at conferences. When you sign the contract, you agree to follow the sexual harassment policy and if you violate it, the organizers can take back your pay and cancel any remaining speaking sessions you’re signed up to do at the event. I don’t know if I’m articulating this properly but hopefully it makes some sense.

    1. Yes! That should definitely be part of any contract signed when appearing at or participating in such an event.

  6. Signed. And I agree with Jo Knowles there should be consequences for not abiding by the contract. How long did SCBWI cover up for David Diaz? Conference organizers have a responsibility to both other presenters and attendees – who in SCBWI’s case, are paying no small sum to attend the conferences.

    1. I can’t help but suspect that SCBWI is hosting the conferences most often referenced in the survey. It’s where so many of the new writers go and the perfect place for predators — I know they have a policy, but it could be much, much stronger and more prominently discussed at the events. :-/

      1. As you’ll see on Twitter and social media this afternoon, Lin Oliver and SCBWI have confirmed SCBWI is addressing all of this immediately. Her tweet: “@SCBWI is re-defining our code of conduct re sexual harassment at conferences, and detailing our reporting procedures. @anneursu, appreciate your research and input.”

          1. It is wonderful news, but I would also like some explanation of why they covered for David Diaz, who was still on the board until very recently, for so long. And others that I have heard about. THAT is what I find so disturbing about SCBWI. They knew and yet didn’t act. In my book, that’s enabling a serial harasser. And apparently others besides Diaz, who haven’t yet been named, but whose conduct was apparently swept under the rug.

      2. I assure you it is on top of our list. We’ve reached out to Anne and others. Lin is committed to it. Can I share your letter with her? I’m a YA author and work at SCBWI. Thank you for doing this. Signed.

    2. Sara, I’m on the SCBWI board. The facts out there at present are INCOMPLETE, and the statement that SCBWI ‘didn’t act’ is completely untrue. SCBWI acted *immediately* on learning of the complaints but did not go public out of respect for the wishes of some of the *victims*. I’m hoping that a statement will be issued soon to correct and clarify.

      1. Sarah Darer Littman

        Linda-David Diaz was on the board until recently. I know they banned one bestselling author who had previously been a conference favorite, but why keep a known serial harasser on the board for so long? Also it’s Sarah, not Sara.

        1. Aargh, I’m usually so careful about name spellings, sincere apologies, Sarah. And re Diaz, again there’s more to the story, and more info out now. I’m truly hopeful that the new SCBWI policies and procedures will help in this fight for societal change. Thanks for discussing, and all best always.

  7. I’m not a published author, but as someone who attends classes and conferences, etc. this is something I want to be behind 100%. Thank you for spearheading this, Gwenda!

  8. I’m ready to start asking these questions and expecting good answers before signing up for events. And I realize that’s just a start.

  9. Thank you for this, Gwenda. Yes! I sign as well. I also appreciate Jo Knowles’s suggestions above. I’m thinking a lot right now about the roles men have to play in this cultural conversation, how to step up and when, how to amplify the stories women are sharing, how to listen better, and when to take action and organize. I’d love to bounce some ideas by you, if you have time to chat, because while I really do want to act, I don’t want to do so stupidly or blindly, I want to do so thoughtfully and effectively. I do a lot of public speaking and I try to incorporate the discussion of harassment and misogyny in all my public talks, and in fact, I’m trying to organize a tour of locker rooms to speak directly and specifically with young men about the environments and behaviors we encourage (even with our silence) that are harmful and dangerous and that perpetuate misogyny, harassment, and assault. Thanks, again, for this. Eager to sign and support.

    1. Sarah Darer Littman

      Brendan, I love that you are doing the “locker room talks.” I have some examples and ideas for you if you want. I actually gave up political writing because it got so toxic being a woman expressing a political opinion online in the last few years. I got tired of talking to the police and being blown off. I’ve had to take things into my own hands on more than one occasion – thankfully my husband is a computer guy, so with his help I could do what the police were unwilling to bother with. We have to redefine what it means to be a “real man” and just as we are trying to model being strong women who fight for our rights so our daughters don’t have to put up with we did, we need men like yourself to model how to be a man of character and ethics.

      1. Sarah, I’m with you, absolutely. I’d love to talk. Want to reach out to me an twitter, and then we can switch to email? I’m @KielyBrendan on twitter. Thanks, and I look forward to speaking!

  10. Michelle Falkoff

    Signed, and sorry if this comes up a whole bunch of times…internet is being a little cranky. Thanks so much for doing this.

  11. Signed. I already informally adopted this policy with SF/F conventions after Scalzi’s post but much better of course to apply it more widely and to be public about it. Thank you, Gwenda, Anne and everyone.

    1. Hi, Daniel – I’m glad you’re here and I appreciate that you’ve signed this pledge. It’s so important, for all of us. What I’m about to write is a lot less comfortable, but because this kind of pledge usually means people care if they’ve crossed lines, I feel like you’d want to know about how your behavior made me uncomfortable at a book festival several years ago.

      It was the Rhode Island Children’s Book Festival – one of the first times I’d been invited to something as a featured author. I was nervous for a pile of reasons. I was a relatively new author. There weren’t many women on the lineup at all. And the other names were all big ones –people whose work I’d admired for a long time. I was also nervous because you’d recently reviewed my first picture book in the New York Times. It wasn’t a positive review – that was fine (my daughter had put it all in perspective by saying “But Mom! This means Lemony Snicket actually READ your book!) – but I was still worried that you’d make a joke about it in front of everyone at this festival.

      You didn’t end up joking about that. But on the festival bus that transported the authors, you made another joke that shut me up for the rest of the morning. 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?!” you shouted from several seats away. It was the first thing you’d spoken to me all weekend. I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t say anything. But I felt smaller and like maybe I shouldn’t be talking with any of these big-name authors at all.

      Later that night, a large group of authors & a few spouses were waiting in the lobby to go to dinner. Many of us were just being introduced to one another when you made another joke. “These children’s book events always turn into orgies!” It probably didn’t occur to that you some of the women in that lobby were likely survivors of sexual assault. A few people laughed awkwardly. I just stood there. And hoped that I wouldn’t be seated near you at dinner.

      This is, of course, minor stuff in the grand scheme of things and pales in comparison to many of the truly horrific reports we’re hearing from the children’s book world right now. We’ve heard stories of serial predators, and I have never heard anyone suggest that you are among them. But as someone who’s signed on to this pledge, you should know that this stuff matters, too. It all matters.

      This festival was an amazing event, organized by fantastic people, and there were wonderful moments throughout that weekend. But when I think back to that event, what I remember most is how small I felt that day, how on-edge about what you might say next.

      Later, when you made the watermelon joke at the National Book Awards, I hated myself for not having said something to you about your comments at the time. If I had, I wondered, might you have thought twice about making that joke? I realize what ridiculous thinking that is, but it bothered me for a long time. I talked with a group of women friends about it, and learned that two other ladies had similar uncomfortable memories of feeling humiliated by your “jokes” at children’s book events. We’ve had conversations about it. Is it possible that he has no idea the impact these loud uncomfortable jokes have on women? I’ve thought about writing to you since then, but worried too much about what the fallout might be.

      But here you are today, signing Gwenda’s pledge. To me, this says, “I care about this. I want to be part of the solution.” So I’m taking a deep breath and taking you at your word. I’m glad you’re here. And I’m writing to request that your commitment involve not just signing this and making public statements in support of #metoo, but also rethinking some of your jokes. I understand that being edgy in this way has long been a part of your public persona. But you are talented and funny in so many other ways. You can still be big without making others feel small, and I’d love to know that your commitment includes a pledge to leave behind this sort of humor.

      Best,
      ~Kate

        1. R.M.Rivera a.k.a. Roberta M. Rivera

          Thank you, Kate! Thank you for sharing you account and holding Daniel Handler accountable. I agree with you, there is nothing funny about those jokes. I think, Mr. Daniel Handler owes you a public apology. If he is going to sign this, with, “Yes,” and wants to be part of the solution, then it starts with an apology.

      1. Kate, what you’ve said here rings true, all of it.

        Daniel, a few years ago when you visited my school, a child in the audience asked “why do you write under the pen name Lemony Snicket?”

        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.”

        This was to a room full of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders. I was onstage with you, and had no idea what to do in that moment. I ended the event as quickly as possible.

        A few minutes later you were out of the building, leaving me to clean up.

        It wasn’t sexual harassment, but it was way over the line, and made me feel smaller. You paid no mind to the labor I’d done to facilitate your visit, or the extra labor this joke of yours would cause me. Of course I was there to serve you and your way-too-cool image. Why else would I be there?

        Like Kate, after the NBAs, I went into a spiral of “what if I’d said something?” I wondered if the incomparable Jackie Woodson might have been spared a lot of pain. I talked with other women, who told similar stories of jokes from you that should have been out of bounds. Kate, thank you for sharing–I am breathing a little easier knowing I wasn’t the only one.

        A few years after that, I felt sick when I read your essay in the Times about how what teenage boys really need is more books with “filthy” and “juicy” sexual content. You congratulated yourself on being a “better feminist” for having read so widely, while claiming that the “guardians of young people’s literature get so easily riled up about sex.” I am here to call bullshit on all of that. I hope my reasons are obvious. Let me know if they are not.

        Daniel, I read–and loved–WHY WE BROKE UP. It told me that on some level, you get it. If you meant that “yes”, which you signed above, acknowledge what Kate and I have said, and please, apologize for what you did to us, and for that Times piece.

        If you don’t, you will stand firm as someone who collects the benefits of publicly declaring yourself an ally, while privately reinforcing the culture that empowers men at the expense of women. In other words, you will continue to capitalize on our pain.

        Sincerely,
        Allie

        1. Thank you, Allie. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this on a day that should have been about kids and celebrating reading.

        2. Allie,
          Thank you for sharing this. It is appalling and disgusting that Handler would joke this way, and in front of children no less. I am personally grateful for this comment thread and others on the SLJ post and social media recently. There are a number of would-be podcast guests that will not be supported by my platform and I will make sure that friends and colleagues consider this information before considering these men for theirs as well.
          _Matthew

          1. Thank you, Matthew – I really appreciate your comment & your voice. Men have so much more power to stop this behavior in other men than women so but are often silent when it happens as well as when people speak up.

      2. Kate–it took a lot of courage to say that and a bottomless amount of class to still hold the door open. Thank you for always being so brave and kind. It’s an incredible combination.

      3. Dear Kate and Allie,
        Thank you for sharing these stories. I hope they are widely read, if not responded to by Mr. Handler. These are examples of how powerful words are. These kinds of jokes wound and weaken us, and when they come from people of power, they risk inspiring others to join in. We authors and teachers are role models. People, and especially kids, are watching and listening and learning from us. Nothing should entitle us to a pass when it comes to being decent, thoughtful and kind. This responsibility comes with the job we’ve been extremely fortunate to acquire. And it’s a hell of a lot more rewarding than a cheap laugh.

        1. Oof. I just want everyone to know that I emailed Daniel Handler over the weekend, because I thought if he was signing this he’d want to know about the few stories I had of him making women uncomfortable or small (including one of my own) and knock off that type of humor. He responded graciously to me, but it now seems I may have been too charitable. Because for every comment here I’ve received many similar private stories.

          ETA on Thursday, Feb. 15: I have emailed links to these comments to him and encouraged him to respond, but I am just so grateful and proud to all of you speaking up here and telling your stories. This is UNACCEPTABLE. It must end or there is NO allyship. I’ve let Daniel know that I’ll have no choice but to remove his name from the final letter if he can’t make a public apology and commit to doing better in the future. Comments like these would certainly violate any decent harassment policy.

        2. Thank you, Lisa, and thank you again (and again and again), Gwenda.

          I agree–unacceptable.

          And yes, I think we can agree at this point, that Daniel has decided to bury his head in the sand rather than take responsibility for his actions. He stands firm as someone who wants to collect the benefits of publicly declaring himself an ally, while privately reinforcing the culture that empowers men at the expense of women.

          I wish I were surprised or disappointed. Nope–just angry.

      4. Part of what is so concerning about all this is the SO UPSET/COULDN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT versus NO BIG DEAL/TOUGHEN UP, BUTTERCUP. Thank you to Kate and Allie for coming forward with their specific details and concerns about their experiences with Daniel Handler.

        Sexual assault is wrong, sexual harassment is wrong, sexual/suggestive talk in a professional setting is wrong. Different degrees, but all wrong.

        Those of us with #METOO experiences whether in the kidlit field or elsewhere have for years questioned ourselves–What did I do wrong? Did I trigger this? How could I have avoided this? How can I avoid this in the future? What can I say? What can I do? Who can I tell? Who will believe me (I’m not powerful)? We have played what happened over and over in our minds and even more of a replay with our emotions. We remember every sleazy, dirty detail. It made us sick to our stomachs then. It still makes us sick to our stomachs years later.

        My guess is that the “locker room” talk type may actually blow this off as “no big deal.” It’s funny to them. Other guys laugh. It couldn’t be such a big deal since they don’t remember it the same way, all those details. “Don’t be so sensitive.” “No harm meant.”

        Harm DEALT. Harm DEALT BIG TIME! Women have suffered silently for years. Have resigned ourselves to “It’s part of being a woman.” “There’s nothing we can do about it.”

        Time’s up! Times have changed. There’s lots we can do and we’ve only just begun. We won’t be passive anymore. We will call out sexual harassers and sexual talkers. The excuses of “I didn’t know.” “No harm meant.” won’t cut it anymore. You’ve been warned. It’s your choice, harassers. Change your behavior. Respect is a two-way street. It’s your career–if you want to blow up your career with bad behavior, YOU are making that choice. We aren’t. We’re standing up for ourselves, for each other, for what’s right. We choose to live in a world that’s harassment-free and bully-free. Join us or get out of the way!

      5. Kate and Allie Jane, thank you for speaking up. I had a similar experience with Mr. Handler.

        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.
        I don’t think you’re a monster, Mr. Handler. I think you’re a person who is socially ill at ease who has chosen to cope by using the belittling humor and sarcasm that serves you well on the page but poorly in life. The time for that humor is up. I’m not equating this experience with sexual predation, but I do believe that tolerating crass and belittling behavior creates a climate where more egregious predation is possible.

        Gwenda, I am very happy to see the final paragraph in your remarks above addressed to publishers. They are in the best position to take action with authors who are predators and also with the ones who are socially clueless. In addition to writing books, I am a bookseller at an indie bookshop. When we have trouble with an author’s behavior at an event, we contact the publicist. It happens very rarely. 99% of our authors, including the men, are lovely and gracious people. But the few who aren’t do real harm. Like Kate I can’t help thinking that if I and many others had spoken to Mr. Handler’s publisher about the inappropriate remarks he’d been making for years, they would have chosen someone else to represent children’s literature at the National Book Awards.

        Thank you for pulling these resources together. Sign me up as one who is already working on clearer policies at my local SCBWI and other writer’s organizations in town.

        1. Thank you for sharing your story. I am still hoping that Daniel will show up here and apologize to everyone who’s been caused hurt by thoughtless and inappropriate comments (which I’ve communicated to him). It IS time for this not-funny humor to end.

      6. Dear Kate and Allie,

        Thank you for sharing, for being brave, for speaking up in a kind, respectful, but honest way. I hope the response is just as respectful. HUGS! xoxo

      7. Another thought on this that just hit me and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it this way before and maybe this makes clearer what’s so problematic about this in terms of “why wouldn’t I behave this way?” (I mean, lots of reasons, but) — when you make sexualized jokes with women (and girls, for that matter) you don’t know or just met, you have NO IDEA whether they are assault or abuse or rape survivors and it’s a fair bet at least some of them are. No matter what setting it’s in.

    2. Mr. Handler: at the 2011 ALA Conference in NOLA at the Printz reception I was with a group of fellow librarians who were all too intimidated to talk to you. After all, you’re Lemony Snicket. I wasn’t intimidated. 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.”

      I have NEVER EVER forgotten this. It was clear you thought this was quite the clever riposte – but I was a stranger to you, a woman, and someone with ostensibly much less power than you. I was, it was obvious, a fan. And, in front of a large group of ALL of our peers (they’re just as much my peers as yours) you decided to open with a sexual implication about what I should do with my body. (with a total stranger. And those are the kind of decisions I like to make on my own, thanks.) It wasn’t funny. And it didn’t intimidate or belittle or humiliate me, though it felt like that was your goal. It just made me so sad for all the time I’d spent admiring your wit and your style. And it made me angry for the other women of all ages I knew you’d reduce and try to belittle.

      You can keep ignoring these comments, but they won’t go away. Think on that.

      1. Thank you for sharing this story, Angie, and for naming that “never forget” quality. Daniel, every time a kid asks me for help finding your books, my chest tightens a bit. Every time I see an ad on Netflix for your series, my gut clenches. I will never, ever forget.

      2. Angie, thank you for posting this. I can also add that for every comment here, I’ve had at least two come in privately (or more). This behavior has to stop.

      3. Angie, thank you for posting this. Like Gwenda, in addition to what’s posted here, I’ve gotten private notes with similar stories from people who didn’t want to speak up publicly. It needs to stop.

      4. Yep. Yep yep yep. 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.
        And then Daniel closed the book and said “Oh I’m sorry, I thought we were talking about what boys want to read.”
        Not respectful to the (majority female) audience and not respectful to boys either.
        And then afterwards, when my husband was introduced to him, he made an icky comment implying/denying a physical relationship between us. I do sincerely believe that these “jokes” are a symptom of a vast social discomfort especially with women, but it’s been years now. Do some work. Fix that.

    3. I’ve hesitated before responding to this thread about Daniel Handler because I am aware of how it might be received, but then not speaking up out of fear of retribution feels both wrong and ironic.
      So here goes. I do hope a reasonable discussion can follow. Or at least a fair hearing of what I’m trying to say.
      I am a lifelong feminist who has watched the recent turning of tides with pride and exhilaration, however, as many other smarter women have written, there are dangers and pitfalls to this powerful movement and I fear that what I’m seeing happen on this thread to Daniel Handler is a perfect example. To be clear: I am not discounting or undercutting anyone’s truth. I am willing to take every single story told here at face value. In other words: I believe the women who have come forward. But in all these cases, at least the stories I’ve read here, the ones made public, Handler is telling a joke that the listener did not think was funny. Or maybe thought was inappropriate. This is not sexual assault and it is not sexual harassment and to equate the stories here with assault and harassment both undercuts the seriousness of these problems and unfairly tarnishes a decent human being who happens to be a famous man. In none of these cases was Handler someone’s boss. In none of these instances did he inappropriately touch anyone. He made a joke (or in one accusation, he read aloud a scene from a Pulitzer prize winning novel) and sure, maybe you didn’t think the jokes were funny, or maybe they even offended you, but does it really seem just to excoriate him like this in a public forum and then shame him for not wading in to defend himself and/or apologize? Because it doesn’t seem right to me.

      1. That would perhaps be true if these were private conversations — but they occurred in professional settings and *that* is sexual harassment. You don’t find it all unusual that the stories — going all the way back to the watermelon joke — manage to belittle women or put women in an awkward position? I believe Daniel can be funny without making women the butt of his jokes IN THEIR WORKPLACE.

        And obviously there will be no ‘retribution.’ Everyone is welcome to their opinion. That said, I’m curious… if this were any workplace besides a creative one, would you think these types of jokes were appropriate? If it was a meeting in a school principal’s office and the principal made these jokes to a teacher would that be just bad jokes? Or would it create a hostile work environment? I know you say he’s no one’s boss and that’s true — but he is at the top of the power hierarchy. I’m just asking to consider it from that POV.

        I contacted Daniel privately because I was willing to have that conversation with him in private, but not everyone can do that. The first time I met Daniel at a conference reception he referred to me in front of other people as a “hot blonde.” This is necessarily an uncomfortable conversation but it’s an essential one. Sexual harassment exists on a scale. I firmly believe this is on it.

        1. I would add, Gwenda, that while it may be technically true that Daniel Handler’s comments would not, perhaps, be technically categorized as sexual harassment, these stories show a consistent pattern of DH introducing sexual content in situations where it DOES NOT BELONG. Whether he does this out of social discomfort or misplaced ideas about humor or any other intention is not my concern. My concern is that he is exposing children and women to uncomfortable, inappropriate implications that are just not acceptable at school visits, book festivals, conferences, or any professional context. He needs to examine that and make a decision about what matters more: his public image or his impact on other.

          1. Thank you, Hannah. Well said.

            I know I point to SFWA’s policy a lot, but this is one that I know is being used as a model by a lot of the types of events we’re talking about now. Note that “unwanted jokes” is included.

            “Sexual harassment proscribed by this Policy includes (1) unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical, verbal or written conduct of a sexual nature, and (2) creating an intimidating, hostile, or sexually offensive environment by severe or pervasive conduct. Written conduct includes postings or similar conduct in online or electronic venues. Sexual harassment may occur in hierarchical relationships or between peers, and between persons of the same sex or opposite sex. A hostile environment can be created by, among other things, unwanted jokes, gestures, and unwelcome comments and repartee; touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching, rubbing, or patting a person’s back, backside, or chest, grabbing another person around the waist, or deliberately interfering with a person’s ability to move, or written conduct referring to same; repeated requests for dates or sex that are turned down, or other unwanted flirting, and transmitting or posting emails or pictures of a sexual or other harassment-related nature.”

      2. Hi, Dana – Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As I noted quite clearly in my comment, we’re talking about a whole spectrum of behaviors, all of which contribute to the bigger problem. As I also noted above, I’ve never heard anyone suggest that Daniel Handler is some kind of sexual predator. But his patterns of behavior would indeed violate many companies’ policies on sexual harassment.

        It is difficult for me to imagine anyone reading the comment I wrote above and using the word “excorciate” to describe it. I think it’s important to remember that individual people have the right to share their stories in situations like this. When there are many such stories (the ones shared publicly here are a fraction of what Gwenda and I have received in our inboxes) the effect of people speaking up can feel like a pile-on. I get that. But just because someone has exhibited a behavior with a large number of women doesn’t mean those women are required to be silent about it to avoid that effect.

        I don’t wish Mr. Handler harm. My wish is still exactly what I asked for in my original comment that he’s ignored for nearly a week now – that he’ll read these stories, reflect, and change so that other women aren’t made to feel this way when they’re trying to do their jobs.

        1. Agreed, Lisa. If nobody else had noted their discomfort I would put it down to a personal response (and that of my husband, who is not a participant in our industry and whose response was not colored by any “rockstar” preconceptions). It just seems to be a pattern of emphasizing difference: the watermelon thing, you have boobs so that’s what I’m going to talk about, pointing out height, hair color, hotness … and that emphasis, regardless of intent, reduces its object.
          Similarly, picking out ‘the dirty part’ from an acclaimed novel as the part that boys would be most interested in reduces them.
          I wish this didn’t have to all get worked out in a public forum, but it’s only in the aggregate that this behavior appears notable. And I think it’s worth it for all of us, not just men, to see what a pattern looks like. God knows I am one of the rudest people I know, and this conversation has prompted a lot of reflection.

          1. Some great points here, Paula. I don’t think anyone here wants to shame Daniel Handler — I think we are all engaging from a place of honestly hoping he wants to not go around carelessly hurting people with comments like these. And, for my own part, now that this conversation IS happening in public (and had to, for people to be heard and see what others have experienced) I hope it can also be something that causes other people to reflect about what type of humor is okay when and where and it sounds like that’s already the case.

        2. Kate,
          Your comments did not excoriate, and the incidents that you and others have brought up were all in professional settings. Before I was an author, I was an attorney, and the persistent culture of men in that field toward me where I was belittled-sometimes openly and sometimes veiled in a joke-was something I thought I just had to accept. Because people are speaking out, we no longer have to accept these persistent, targeted microagrressions. Thank you for speaking out because it is in the aggregate that these kinds of microagrrssions matter and do harm to women and other marginalized groups. Individually, these microaggressions seem small, but their aggregate impact is to lessen, demean, and sometimes ultimately silence those targeted. Anyone can make a badly judged joke. But when there is a pattern of behavior-over time and across events-and we all remain silent because we don’t know what has been done to others and we feel that our experience is (again) “too little” to “make a federal case” out of it, then we are demeaned and lessened and silenced. And these men who are constantly operating in this way are validated that their behavior is somehow okay, when it is anything but okay. So thank you, because it takes, in my opinion, authors (or celebreries in any industry) who have name recognition and sucess to have the power to call out these men and not to be dismissed as unequal women seeking attention. Thank you for risking the possible (and now effective) backlash to speak up for others who have felt powerless, and thank you to everyone who has exposed this pattern of microaggression. Only when we stand together can these changes be made. I don’t want my daughter to have to “deal with it.” I want her to wonder that it ever happened to the women before her at all.

      3. Dana, nothing is “happening to” Daniel Handler on this thread. Comments he made are being discussed. If your elementary-age child was in the room where he referred to Uniball as a male medical condition, would you laugh about his little “joke”? If your child was attending a Children’s literature festival and heard him yell “Are you a virgin too?” Would you think it was funny? These are absolutely examples of sexual harassment and they are not isolated incidents – he has made many women uncomfortable with his crude remarks. His position of power within the publishing industry means that women are reluctant to speak out when he does this. For authors book festivals, school visits and conferences are their workplaces. This unacceptable behavior equates to sexual harassment at work. Daniel Handler is responsible for his own actions and his silence on this speaks volumes.

  12. Signed. We must advocate for clear, strict, and non-negotiable zero tolerance sexual harassment policies at all kid-lit events.

  13. Thank you so much for doing this. The kidlit community is truly incredible and it pains me to think it’s been at all tainted by such wrong, inappropriate, unacceptable and harmful behavior. Hopefully, this conversation will lead to changes that will result in everyone in the community feeling and being safe and respected. Kudos to you for being a vital part of the change, and for helping all of us participate in that effort.

  14. Signed. Thank you so much for doing this. The kidlit community is truly incredible and it pains me to think it’s been at all tainted by such wrong, inappropriate, unacceptable and harmful behavior. Hopefully, this conversation will lead to changes that will result in everyone in the community feeling and being safe and respected. Kudos to you for being a vital part of the change, and for helping all of us participate in that effort.

    1. Returning to this post again to read all the new comments and thinking about how Gwenda is just the right person to spearhead this project—informed, energetic, and immensely well spoken. Just sayin’ thanks, Gwenda.

  15. I’m not an author – but I’m signing as a reader, as a teacher, as a fan of kidlit. I see the names listed here, and I thank you all.

    1. Yes, Maria has a great point. I am a reader who buys books and a retired librarian. If I still worked, I would be reluctant to recommend David Diaz’s work. Of course, if specifically asked, I would immediately find it for the person. I would be interested in knowing that my dollars are not going to men and women who do not respect other’s humanity. Apparently David Diaz (my system has a bench painted by him which I’ll never sit on again!) was known in the industry. We readers deserve to know such things as well. Please reach out to readers and let us be aware of what sort of person we are supporting with our money.

  16. Signing as a teacher, a reader, and mother of an aspiring author…that when she joins your ranks, none of this issue will remain.

  17. Signed. As someone who hopes to join this community after my MFA, I’m thankful for all the authors fighting for transparency for this issue and hopeful that change will happen soon!

  18. Gwenda, I love this. Hell yes they need to sign on with this, and add in Jo’s addendum as well. Cosigned with a signature you can see from freaking space.

  19. Signed.
    I’m a former conference organizer for my local SCBWI chapter and am sickened to think women may have felt unsafe at those conferences. Thank you for this, Gwenda.

  20. Signed and thank you.
    I would like to thank you extra for stressing that having a policy listing resources to contact if one is harassed at a conference/festival is a good idea. I had a world-shattering situation a few years ago and we could not report it. And the woman at my publishing house who was in charge of my being at that event did nothing about it. Every organization who runs professional conferences or festivals should have a contact in place–someone who is NOT in charge, but who is there to field complaints.

  21. I am neither author nor illustrator, but I’m a parent, a high school science teacher, and a devoted fan of several people who have already signed this.

    I tend to frequent SFF/gaming conventions, and aside from one commitment I don’t feel I can ethically break (folks counting on me to help teach a couple games to tweens), I promise to actively pay attention to the existence and content of harassment policies. So consider me signed, with the added promise to be an available third party for anybody who needs an ear, a shoulder, a rock.

    Could I suggest that you & Mr Scalzi maintain, or find someone to maintain, a list of SFF/kidlit/gaming conventions whose policies meet the tests above?

      1. Duh! I knew this and have tweeted it but haven’t had a chance to look! I will add it to the follow-up post when I compile and post the final letter with everyone’s names. THANK YOU!

  22. Signed!

    Thank you so much for putting this together, Gwenda. As a new author, reading Anne’s article was eye-opening and scary, but I truly believe there are more good people in this industry than bad ones, and this letter is an excellent way to make it harder for the bad ones to thrive.

  23. Signed and *in solidarity. I also think that it is crucial that organizations and conferences do some work to collect data themselves. In K-12 schools, there are climate surveys to gauge how safe and inclusive students, staff, teachers, parents, etc. feel schools are and how responsive they are when dealing with issues. This is what we need. I’m grateful that @AnneUrsu took it upon herself to collect research, but this should be a new and formal commitment to collect post-conference anonymous data.

    1. This is an excellent idea! It’s sad that we need some kind of accountability, but clearly we do.

  24. Signed.

    I don’t know who it happened to and I don’t know who was the abuser, but that doesn’t matter in the slightest. It shouldn’t happen in any line of work.

  25. Signed. As I said on Twitter in a jillion-word thread, we need to end this “you’ll never eat lunch in this town again!” culture where even having a dissenting opinion on a bestselling novel can land you in social pariah jail. It’s not okay, it keeps women/nonbinary people silent, and it keeps abusers in power. Thank you for doing this, Gwenda.

  26. Signed. As someone coordinating school visits for a new and growing book festival, your linked resources helped me draft our first Code of Conduct and it will be going to our board for approval and use in our 2018 festival. Thank you.

  27. Signed, and thank you. Having been put into too many uncomfortable positions by trusted “friends” in my life, I never thought the day would come where this conversation would be happening on such a broad scale. I’m beyond happy that it’s happening, and, again, thank you for your part in it, Gwenda.

  28. Signed as a writer, reviewer, editor, student, and of course as a rational human being. I believe our community should be safe.

  29. I never attended even a single conference precisely because I heard about how they are and have already been injured enough by #MeToo sorts of things in my life. I wanted to keep my writing safe and separate from those memories. In choosing this, I have isolated myself from a great community, but I just never wanted to take a chance that my writing, which has saved my life, might be muddled with crap. But this is a wonderful, brave, REQUIRED effort, and if signing can help, I sign! Let’s hope it’s beginning to truly change.

  30. This may be the second time I’ve signed–wasn’t sure it went through the first time. Thank you, Gwenda!

  31. Signed. And we are working on a policy here at The Writing Barn and will add it to our website soon as well as make sure all faculty and attendees have printed copies at events.

  32. Signed for myself as an author and presenter, and as an editor, I will have a conversation with people in my house about publicizing our policies. Thank you.

  33. Tried to sign before, but it looks like it didn’t go through. So–signing again! 🙂 Thank you, Gwenda.

  34. This is a perfect and necessary starting point, and a no-brainer for these entities to have such clear and visible policies in place.

    Signed.

    Gae Polisner

  35. Signed. Thank you for doing this, and for proposing concrete steps to improve the industry and culture. Onward and upward.

  36. R.M.Rivera a.k.a. Roberta M. Rivera

    Signed. Sealed and delivered. Thank you, Gwenda. I’m unpublished illustrator in the traditional kidlit publishing. I’m a SCBWI member and I support this. Again, thank you, Gwenda!

  37. I’m wholly in favor of having public, enforced, anti-harassment policies of the Scalzi-style. Thank you.

  38. SIGNED! A couple years ago I spoke at a conference and was emailed by an attendee who wrote the following:
    [You were speaking of your early successes and said, “and then I sold a piece, and then I sold a piece, and then I sold a piece.” You are an attractive woman and can only get away with saying that once. After that you lose context and all the men in the audience are reaching for their wallets.]
    The conference chairs immediately dealt with him when I told them, but ALL conferences/festivals/conventions should make this plain to attendees. And this should never be acceptable human behavior to begin with.

  39. Signed, as someone who writes about books and runs book events. Thanks for doing this, Gwenda!

  40. Signed. (Tech difficulties might make me double-signed but I’m OK with that!) Thank you for this. <3

  41. Susan Rankin-Pollard

    Please add my name and note that I am the illustrator coordinator for San Francisco South.

  42. I’m not yet published, but I am agented, and this seems like the right way to start my career. Signed!

  43. I’m not a published writer (yet, anyway). But I’m committing to this. Harassment has no place in our society. Lit conventions/conferences need to do what they can to prevent it. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for all who’ve experienced such behavior. I’ve pledged to have the hard conversations with male friends, coworkers and family.

  44. Signed

    I’m no where near being invited or asked to go to a conference or festival, but I think it’s important to support this and the victims, both anonymous and not, that have come forward.

  45. Signed! Thanks, Gwenda.
    As a member of the programming committee of a book festival, I cannot thank you enough for this– I’ve been anticipating this conversation with dread, but now, with the tools and voices here, I’m excited for us to take this up. Thanks to you all, every brave person whose has contributed here.

  46. Signed. That I had to scroll and scroll to be able to was heartening. Thank you Gwenda and everyone for lighting the way.

  47. Consider this signed. I wish I was a bigger fish in this pond and could be an even greater influence… make an even greater difference. I definitely need to get writing more. But whether I forever remain on the outside fringe looking in or I become a national bestseller, my pledge will always be with me, close to my heart.

  48. Shannon Messenger

    Been offline for deadlines and just saw this, so I’m a little late but–signed and thank you!

  49. Signed.
    Thank you, Gwenda. The pledge is important, as is having this space where people can see how much support there is behind this effort to change things.

  50. Gabrielle Carolina Nash

    Signed. Thank you, Gwenda!

    (Do you think this is the time to also advocate for requirements for panels, meaning the ratio of gender is a little more even at these events?)

    1. Hi there! I believe there is something separate already in the works to address that issue that will be announced soon. But in short yes! It is time.

  51. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, writing kidlit has been my way to give a voice to the child who had no voice. If I’d been approached by one of these sexual predators, or even had sexually-loaded comments directed towards me, I’d have crumpled up and fled. To me, sexual predators in the kidlit field are akin to the Boy Scout leader who is a secret pedaphile. It is a double betrayal, because we are supposed to be the caretakers of childhood innocence, the ones who show the rest of the world that childhood, empowerment, innocence, are to be treasured. As women we have taken enough. Our work, our opinions, and our bodies have been taken for granted, and often either exploited or discounted. I, for one, and I know I am not alone, am done. I’m done with being complicit by not calling people out for stupid jokes that are not only not funny, but demeaning. I’m done measuring my success by my book sales, knowing that the system has been rigged. The blinders are off. I will not be silent anymore.

  52. Penelope Burns