In my Wednesday post, Links for Everyone, I mentioned the discussion at the PW blog on gay characters in young adult literature and the experiences of two writers who were attempting to get their novel–with a diverse cast of characters–published. As is typical of internet discussions of this magnitude, there has been reply and rebuttal, and so I offer you a new link: Riposte and Counter-riposte. There has been a response from the literary agency (previously unnamed) that was involved in this discussion, as well as more commentary from the authors and plenty more chat from the every corner.
I’m not going to comment on who is in the right in this situation as far as declaring one party more or less honest than the other. I respect the agency in question, but I also respect the two authors (and have a casual acquaintance with one of them), so I don’t feel that it is my place to make pronouncements based on the internet jabbering. I agree that the focus should remain on the broader issue–which is that all literature, including that for teenagers, should represent readers of all sizes, shapes, colors, interests, beliefs, desires, and so on. Readers who are interested in a particular demographic of work should seek it out and support it; writers should endeavor to portray humanity honestly; and those of us who work in publishing must remain sensitive to the need for this diversity and help it to thrive.
As an agent, I will say that it is not actually uncommon for a writing team to select a new agent to represent them as a pair, even if each has their own representation elsewhere. It’s like two single people moving in together choosing to find a new apartment rather than transferring to either one of their existing homes. Neutral territory. No previous claims on space. And if something goes wrong with the relationship, neither partner feels as if they’re the only one left out in the cold. Agents feel the same way. If you represent a team and also one of those team members individually, it can be difficult to be impartial if you’re called to mediate on something between the pair. Better to send them off to a new agent entirely for their joint efforts.