I hadn't asked myself the question before I started working on the Ensign Locker. Fortunately, I found a critique group that would have me. I brought in a short story I was working on. It was about being in the Navy for eleven years and never having been anything but a newbie. The story began in a bar. After I read my allowed five pages, a woman said, "It's just a story about stupid men drinking in a stupid bar. I'm not interested in it."
Spilled the wind out of my sails it did, but it got me to thinking too. I went home and looked at all the books in my personal library. About 2% written by women. Heretofore, not too many women write about wars and the branches of the service, which is the great majority of my library. But I also looked around in Barnes and Noble and Books a Million. More women than men in there, like by two to one. In my critique group, too, mostly women. So I took to heart what the woman said, and I paid attention to the women, how they wrote, how they treated violent acts and vicious behavior and compared to how I did it. I figured I learned something from that input. So in answer to the question, I try to put something for women in what I write, which is an answer to the question to about the 33 and a third percent level. The other two thirds answer I am still working on.
Best writing advice/criticism I ever got: see above.
John Zerr is the author of four novels, The Ensign Locker, Sundown Town Duty Station, Noble Deeds, and The Happy Life of Preston Katt.
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