May 4, 2005

Imprint for women over 45 angers a lot of women over 45 . . .


Transita, a new UK imprint dedicated to publishing fiction by women 45 and older, is receiving some harsh criticism in the British press. According to a Guardian dispatch by Michelle Pauli, on BBC Radio 4‘s popular Open Book program, for example, host Mariella Frostrup and author Philippa Gregory, doubted that “such a diverse group of already voracious readers needed a publisher devoted to their cause.” Writers interviewed for the Guardian piece also questioned the imprint’s focus. Author Julie Myerson noted that “We read fiction because we are curious about life and the world and other people and other ages.” She also observed there were plenty of popular women writers over 45, citing Penelope Lively, Barbara Trapido, Nina Bawden, Margaret Atwood, Pat Barker, Margaret Drabble, and AS Byatt. Others, apparently feeling that the imprint smelled of market research, called the plan “a waste of time.” But Nikki Read, founder and director of Transita, insists that “despite the fact that 40% of the UK’s female population is over the age of 45, there isn’t an identifiable body of fiction that mirrors the experiences of this group.” What’s more, she hopes to inspire neglected writers. “There is a whole market of potentially great fiction that is possibly being ignored because the publishing industry is not open to women of 45 and over,” she says.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.