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Opinion: We Need Greater Social Diversity In Publishing

Opinion: We Need Greater Social Diversity in Publishing

Dan Holloway head and shoulders photo

Dan Holloway, poet and author extraordinaire

At last week's IndieReCon conference, author, poet and campaigner Dan Holloway performed his new poem calling for social diversity in publishing. With his kind permission, we're reproducing it in the Opinion slot here today to share his moving and important message further afield. A recording of the performance will be available on this website a little later this month.



Because every day a little girl, let’s call her Sarah,

Hears the world condensed into words

And falls in love with a possibility.

That she might fold her life into a gift of syllables and sentences

And hold it out

For all the sisters, misfits, lonely souls and drifters

To open and unfold towards a beautiful horizon they’d always thought hopelessly distant.


Because her parents see the way she looks and sigh

And go to bed and cry because they know

Tomorrow they take Sarah to a place every other child she knows believes is magic –

A bookshop.


Because they know when she reaches her beautiful black hands to the mirror of the shelf

Instead of herself

She sees my white hands reflected back


Because tomorrow’s books are written by the choices we make today

Their pages penned by voices we invite to stay

And voices that we cast away.


Because when we set your sights on our own freedom

The light you see at the end of the tunnel is just a metaphor

Systemically generated by the literary hegemony

To strengthen the advantages of an already charmed existence

To keep others at arm’s length and their chances at a manageable distance


Because what we call quality others call colony

Whose overlords behead the aspirations of others

With ceremonial swords

Of approving badges, nodding column inches, blogging and awards.


Because when we pick and choose the facts of writing right,

Dictate the tropes and tools of narrative exactitude

So Sarah loses if she enacts her life

Maybe the syntax we use is wrong.


Because if we want to uncage every song

Be fibres of a fabric where every thread belongs

It is our duty to take this microphone

And these tweets

And empty them of middle-aged white guys like me.

To hold the door as I withdraw

And Sarah takes the floor,

And unrolls a carpet woven with the warp of her words and the weft of her dreams

And waits with open pages

For all the sisters, misfits, lonely souls and drifters

As their lives unfold towards the heart-lifting, dream-shifting, gloriously glittering stage.

A moving appeal for greater social #diversity in #publishing by @agnieszkasshoes #IndieReCon Click To Tweet

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. More elderly people need to be encouraged to tell their stories before they’re lost forever.

    Publishers constantly feature works by young white women above all others…

  2. It’s good, Dan, but it leaves out others who are also under-represented – the problem of what’s trending in the Market besides stuff by white guys – e.g. the small minority of novelists who are promoted by publishers, and prizes, and the vast number of us who are never heard of not only because we belong to obvious minority groups but because,maybe, our minority group isn’t ‘sexy’ – we aren’t ‘edgy’ … there’s a lot of inequality out there …
    btw, can you explain the popularity of, say, HilaryMantel’s books? (I can’t …)

    1. Of course it’s infinitely more complex! But after saying thank you and hello I had about 3 minutes, so it was a choice of being very broad and saying nothing of substance or being very specific and leaving a whole load out. I always prefer the latter approach because I think it’s much easier to build a meaningful picture by expanding out from a concrete nugget than to build a picture that’s real in any way when you start from a generalisation. I’d happily fill as much time as someone gives me – on this occasion I was given three minutes and filled it the best I could. Best of all, a panel, a session, a whole string of sessions to address diversity, with representatives from each group involved.
      The only other point I’d make is that I did consciously choose to address the socio-political rather than the artistic aspect of diversity. I think personally that’s the more pressing issue even though I represent two if not three of the most invisible genres. Besides, Rohan had so eloquently addressed that aspect of the question in his talk and I wanted our talks to complement not reiterate.

      Hilary Mantel, nope, sorry. I understand that historical fiction is a massive market, and I gather she does it very well, but even though I studied the period at school and University her books do absolutely nothing for me.

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