By Jenn Director Knudsen | For The Oregonian/OregonLive
The Willamette Valley town of Independence is home to a small book-publishing company whose mindset reflects its town’s name.
Not a Pipe Publishing, founded in 2013 and co-owned by spouses Benjamin and Paige Gorman, appears to be the sole U.S. publisher that accepted a challenge to publish only women authors this year.
In 2015, the British Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie formulated a challenge to publishing houses. According to the website SheKnows.com, she wrote, “I’m going to assume that the only people who really doubt that there is a gender bias going on are those who stick with the idea that men are better writers and better critics. Enough … Why not have a year of publishing women: 2018, the centenary of women over the age of 30 getting the vote in the UK, seems appropriate.” Shamsie did not respond to requests for comment.
A few British publishing houses took up the challenge. And so did Not a Pipe.
“Publishers, reviewers and prize committees are not intentionally shutting women out, but the financial incentives support male authors,” said Benjamin Gorman. “Who would be foolish enough to buck that system? I am.”
Taking on the challenge is “consistent with our values and it’s actually helped us find some incredibly talented authors who wouldn’t have noticed us otherwise,” he said.
First up of Not a Pipe’s nine women-authored books in 2018 is Mikko Azul’s “The Staff of Fire and Bone,” a work of fantasy with metaphysical elements that hit shelves in late January. The book’s main character, Cedron, a privileged 16-year-old, is thrust into war and the challenge of making tough choices about when and how he should use his magic powers, all while fighting demons and deities.
Azul, 50, is a previously published author and social worker. “It’s surprising that only one (publishing) house took on the challenge to publish only women,” she said from her Grapeview, Washington, home. “But this is Not a Pipe’s values: Let’s lift up the people that are underrepresented.”
Gorman, who teaches high school English in Independence, said that in his classroom, he wants the boys to “read books by women to see women’s words are more powerful than fists and bullets. And I want my female students to see the names of lots and lots of women (authors) so they can learn their opinions matter just as much as any man’s.”
Such as Heather S. Ransom, 46, of Grants Pass, who teaches seventh-grade life and earth science.
This summer Not a Pipe is publishing “Greener,” her second dystopian novel inspired by her 165 students.
“Students at these ages are still full of those ‘What if’ questions,” she explained recently from her classroom while grading assignments on the spreading of the seafloor.
“Greener” and her first book, “Going Green,” feature an 18-year-old female protagonist and take place in a world where people can choose to become literally green, fed solely by sunlight, just like plants. The change is permanent and expensive, so not everyone gets to go Green.
“What if you’ve made a choice that’s permanent and then it’s the wrong choice for you?” she asks rhetorically, citing an oft-discussed question she poses to teens.
Not a Pipe is also publishing Portlander LeeAnn McLennan’s “Supernormal Legacy” trilogy, about a 14-year-old girl coming to terms with her supernatural powers. A server engineer, McLennan is aware women are gaining ground and finding their voices in her field and in others. Books like hers help, she says. “Women’s voices now are surging, like the sea,” said McLennan.
McLennan also expressed concern that publishing only women could lead to a backlash. But she added, “If there is a backlash, it won’t silence the voices; they’ll be louder than when first the voices surged, like a natural ebb and flow.”
Not a Pipe also has male authors on its docket; two agreed to have their books postponed to make way for the Year of Publishing Women.
“I was happy to support my publisher in this, especially in the current climate when so much is coming to light about harassment and abuses of power,” said Kurt Clopton, of Marshfield, Wisconsin, author of 2017’s “SuperGuy,” about a city government intern who accidentally becomes a superhero. “Sometimes it can be hard to find useful ways to show support,” added Clopton, “so this was an easy decision.” His second “SuperGuy” is slated for 2019.
Portland’s Jason Brick, author of the 2019 time-traveling urban fantasy adventure “Changing Streams,” said, “Taking a year to help balance the scales in an industry that has favored men for centuries … that seemed a small sacrifice.”
Until the author playing field is level, Brick said, “the art won’t be as authentic as it should be.”
Also in the works for Not a Pipe’s 2019 plans is a focus on authors of color and from the LGBTQ community.
Not a Pipe Publishing
What: Independence-based publisher that is publishing only women authors in 2018
- January: “The Staff of Fire and Bone,” an epic fantasy by Mikko Azul (Grapeview, Washington)
- February: “The Supernormal Legacy: Dormant,” a young adult superhero adventure by LeeAnn McLennan (Portland)
- February: “Shadow Girl,” a young adult Irish folklore fantasy by Kate Ristau (Portland)
- March: “Djinn: The Book of the Concealed,” a young adult fantasy romance by Sang Kromah (Sykesville, Maryland)
- April: “Survivors’ Club,” a sci fi/action adventure by M.K. Martin (Raleigh, North Carolina)
- May: “Daughter of Magic,” a young adult high fantasy by Karen Eisenbrey (Seattle)
- June: “The Supernormal Legacy: Root,” a young adult superhero adventure by LeeAnn McLennan
- July: “Greener,” a young adult sci-fi dystopia by Heather S. Ransom (Medford)
- November: “The Supernormal Legacy: Emerge,” a young adult superhero adventure by LeeAnn McLennan
Event: Not a Pipe is celebrating female and female-identified writers with readings, love letters and book signings from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, at TaborSpace, 5441 S.E. Belmont St.