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The Horse Lover's Blog

Trouble in our "Sport"?

I've been following and admiring the Facebook posts of Olympian (and fellow-Vermonter) Denny Emerson, as he tries to get his sport, eventing, to stop killing horses. Not my circus, though, as a sedate backyard rider. Not my monkeys.
But I'm starting to wonder if something similar is happening in my circus. Wondering today as a friend, a brilliant subtle unpublished writer, absorbs yet another rejection. Remembering a brilliant friend who died four years ago, published only once. Thinking of all my unpublished colleagues who have had so many good stories turned down, and how deeply disheartening it is.

In eventing, the problem is that horses have gotten very good, so the course designers build more challenging courses to weed them out. The long form of the sport, that rewarded gallopers and stayers, has been eliminated, so the emphasis is on jumps, which have become lethally challenging. Horses fall at them, and almost every week lately, horses die.

The children's publishing industry is doing much the same thing. The young writer (of whatever age) can no longer get into the game with "merely" a good novel, can't gallop and develop wind and stamina, and build an audience and her skills over time. Each book has to be a mortgage lifter, a blockbuster. But they can't, and they shouldn't. Some books will always sell more than others. And there needs to be room in the field for the weird, the small, the graceful, the "merely" good.

But those books are being killed as surely as the event horses. The young writers quit. The novels die. They are being asked to do too much, too soon.

Denny Emerson is asking the question in eventing. Top riders, officials, what are you going to do about this? When are you going to stand up for the horses? And I wonder; what is the children's publishing industry going to do about the good writers it is discouraging, (and editors too, I imagine) and about the good books it is killing?

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