Friday, 31 December 2010

GIFT NO 16: The Great Outdoors

Today, my holiday present to you consists of these pictures taken in the recent snow in Edinburgh. They are all from my garden and the park behind our garden. Yes, I am very, very lucky to have this on my doorstep.

What's it got to do with inspiring your writing? Well, I think the outdoors does. So, I urge you to get out in it if you possibly can and absorb every detail of weather, smell, sight, feeling. Research suggests that open spaces allow greater creativity and lateral thinking. The same research even suggests that higher ceilings allow greater creativity than low ceilings. I wrote about this here on the Awfully Big Blog Adventure, and there are references to the research, if you're interested.


Our ash tree, like some kind of ghost

Our garden table, like some kind of cupcake

Our dog on the bridge across the ha-ha in the gardens behind our garden
 

Not bad for a picture taken with an iphone, eh?


Snowdog

It certainly inspired me: I got 11,000 words of a novel written in four days of not being able to get out of my front door. I almost (but not quite) wish for more snow. (Since writing this, we did have a load more and I've completely gone off it.)

This is my last post of 2010. I hope you have enjoyed my holiday frivolity? Tomorrow and on Monday, there will be two final inspiring holiday messages before we get back to serious work after that. Meanwhile, I promise to raise a glass or two to you all this evening. Cheers!


Thursday, 16 December 2010

HOLIDAY GIFTS TO YOU

Since the first daughter to come home for Christmas is arriving today, I hereby declare end of term at Crabbit Towers. Hooray! And you need a break anyway. Or, frankly, if you don't, I do. So, for your holidays I would like to offer you some gifts. In the spirit of holidayness, reward yourself each day by coming back here to see what new inspiration or amusement I have for you. There will be no work, I promise, but all the fun will be relevant. Your brain will be zing-fresh by the end of it, as long as you don't overdo it on the mince pies. Most days, I'll have amusing (or painful) videos for you, but today I have something more simple, something refeshing and non-technical.

My first gift to you is:
Permission not to write. A break is important. If you want to write, do, but you now have no deadlines, OK? Chill. Permission not to write is really important. Whether it's one day off or two weeks off, just take it. You'll write better after it.
I've given myself permission not to write, though that's partly because - smugness alert -  yesterday, on schedule precisely, I reached my target word count AND plot point for stopping for a break. I confess that I've a load of other work still to do, redesigning a website etc, but I'm done with writing proper until January.
    EDITED on Jan 2nd - now that the holiday period is over, I've gone and collected all my Christmas gifts and pasted them all below:

    No 2 was How Not to Behave in a Bookshop

    No 3 was Lost in Translation - very funny! 

    No 4 was Harlan Ellison on why authors should always be paid. He goes a bit far but the sentiment is quite right, in my view.

    In No 5 I urges your to reward yourself and count your achievements, and I gave you this video.

    No 6 was Ray Bradbury being inspiring.

    No 7 is me being interviewed and winning.

    I've lost No 8!

    No 9, from Christmas Eve, was the terribly serious message from me and one from Jane Smith.

    On Christmas Day, I gave you a little Christmassy thing, so we'll omit that as being irrelevant now.

    No 11 was Captain Kirk over-reacting to a rejection letter.

    No 12 was Lewis Black on Writing a Book.

    Then we had the bizarre, over-long but thought-provoking video of a self-published author creating a funeral for her dream of becoming published.

    No 14 was a truly excellent and very meaningful (and hilarious) video about how not to approach writing.

    No 15 wasn't a video but a link to a hilarious and spot-on blog post by John Dickinson about living with an authors.

    No 16 was some pictures of snowy scenes in my garden and the link to an article I wrote ages ago about the power of open spaces for creativity.

    And then we had the New Year's Day post about resolutions, but I'll leave that up.

    Finally, with my apologies, I brought you this silly kick-start to the new Crabbit Towers Term...

    Wednesday, 15 December 2010

    FINDING YOUR VOICE - Part the Second

    Following my first Finding Your Voice post on Monday, I had a couple of interesting questions in the comments and I felt I should use a separate post to answer them.

    [My bold in what follows.]
    Catt said, "You say that one should not look for one's voice. Indeed I agree there is some natural-ness in one's voice, but is it something we have to accept as it is, or is it possible to refine it, or in fact alter it? Like, you say you shapeshift your voice - do you do that consciously (which I think you do as you said 'on purpose') or does it naturally adjust to suit the book you are writing? Sorry to bombard, just wonder if you'd ellaborate a little on that point." [Edited to change reading to writing, as I know that's what Catt meant. She told me!]

    And M Louise Kelly added, "And I'd love to see a post answering Catt's questions. Are there tricks/shortcuts to help refine your voice in a book? (And I know these 'shortcuts' might involve hard graft - i'm not a complete lazer!) It feels like I'm doing it all by instinct at the moment (which maybe how it has to be done) but I have a hunch that there are stylistic tics, (or something) that I could check over to see if they all pointed to the same voice." 
    So, we're looking at how intuitive / uncontrolled / subconscious a book's voice is / should be. Whether it's about technique more than instinct and "inherent / nurtured skill". And, if it's about technique, what are those techniques?

    OK, so, I can't see into the mind of every writer so, to some extent, this is going to be about me and my own truth. However, I think I do also have a sense of what at least some other writers feel about this, from conversations and such like. I've also written a fair few books myself and if I can do a Thomas the Tank Engine voice and a Wasted voice, a Fleshmarket voice and a Chicken Friend voice, I think I probably know what I'm talking about.

    First, let's be clear that here we are talking about the voice of the book, not the overall author voice as sometimes evidenced throughout one's work. If you're not sure of the distinction, please go and read that post from Monday.

    So, some thoughts:

    A. Although I might have some ideas about the voice before I start the actual writing, I will not properly know it until I have started to write. The voice never forms part of any preliminary note-making, though I may have an inkling (or sometimes more) of what I'd like it to sound like. Ish. Essentially, I start to write and it "just happens". So, to that extent, there is a distinct lack of premeditated control and a definite sense of flying by the seat of my pants.

    B. Very quickly - as in within a couple of paragraphs - I know whether I'm getting the voice and whether I like it. Things that I need to feel at this point and over the first page or so are:
    1. Whether this is a voice which is right for the book / theme / atmosphere I had envisaged and planned.
    2. Because I'm usually writing for young people, whether this is a voice which is right for the age of readership, the age of the characters and the type of reader I'm looking for.
    3. Whether this is a voice I can sustain for a whole book - a very distinctive and unusual voice can be hard to sustain and there is a risk of beginning to irritate the reader. Also, if the voice is flippant, for example, how will that acceptably adjust into serious when the drama gets nasty?
    4. What are the distinctive elements of this voice? How would I identify or describe it? (Because that will allow me to make sure it remains consistent.)
    C.  If I feel I have begun to create a voice that fulfills those first three criteria, I will obviously continue, and to do so I will do two things:
    a) Bear in mind the answers to the fourth point above (which I will come to in a moment).
    b) At the beginning of every writing session, read over bits of what I've already written, in order to get back into voice.This is crucial and is a technique I strongly recommend.
     D. If I feel I haven't "got" the voice right at the beginning, I will look to change it. To do that, again I will alter and consider elements of point 4 above, or the elements that should be there and aren't. (To be honest, I do this instinctively but I've tried to delineate mental process for you.)

    So, what are those elements that go to make up voice, those elements of point 4?
    1. Tense - past tense and present tense create, inevitably, very distinctly different voices. Just try turning your present tense first chapter into past tenses, or vice versa, and you'll see what I mean.
    2. Point of View (POV) - because the voice of the book is hugely dependent on the narrator, your choice of POV is enormously important. First person creates a hugely different tone from third person and your choice will affect many subsequent choices throughout the book.
    3. Personality of narrator or person through whose POV the story is told. This personality crucially affects the voice. Sometimes if I haven't got the voice right it's because I haven't nailed the MC's deep personality. Or because I've picked out the wrong bits of personality to convey the voice. A worried / frightened / stressed MC can come over as whiny or too fragile or boringly introspective if not carefully controlled, for example.
    4. Any mannerisms or, as Louise said in her question, "stylistic tics". However, you have to be careful with these as they can become irritating over time if they are too odd, frequent or contrived. Meg Rosoff's narrator in How I Live Now sometimes uses initial capital letters to Make A Point. That's one mannerism but the very special and successful voice that Meg creates in that book is made of far, far more than stylistic tics. Go read.
    If you click that link, you'll see that Mark Haddon wrote of How I Live Now: "That rare, rare thing, a first novel with a sustained, magical and utterly faultless voice. After five pages, I knew she could persuade me to believe anything.” So, it's very much a must-read if you want to understand voice, but it's also important to realise, as I said in the last post, that your book does not have to have a strikingly unusual voice, just a consistent, fitting and true one.

    Actually, several people have said that another book you should read to understand voice - especially how to manage an unusual one - is my own Wasted. Do, please!

    There's one word that kept coming back to me as I wrote this post: personality. And I think this is the key to understanding and creating voice: think of it as personality. Your book's voice is its character and personality.  That's why voice is so important, why without it your book is nothing, anodyne, unmemorable. That's why every bit of it must be consistent and believable so that the reader comes to believe in your book and its voice as much as she believes in your characters.

    As I suggested earlier, most of this should come naturally. It's part of being a writer, wanting to create voices, make them sing, make them live. There's very little mechanical about it, except in the tweaking and editing; it's almost all inspiration and skill borne of years of reading, listening and practising. To me it feels as though voice is something that comes (or not) as I start each book - all I can do is feel whether I like it and want to nurture it or whether I need to refine the narrating personality until it sings with the perfect voice.

    So, to answer Catt's question in a nutshell, I think it's a delicate mixture of conscious and instinctive. Yes, I can refine it, but only if it's there. And the most damned horrible feeling is when you just can't get that voice from the start. But if you know what you're looking for, you'll find it. And what you're looking for is personality.

    Tomorrow begins your Crabbit Towers holiday and I have a gift for you every day until the New Year. Hooray!

    Monday, 13 December 2010

    FINDING YOUR VOICE

    Two people recently asked me similar questions about voice. One was, "How do you recognize your 'voice'? How do you know when you've found it?" The other one asked me to say something "that discusses/explains that every writer should have his or her style, and aim to define that, opposed to aiming to be like someone else or write like them? ... a new writer with a new style is always better, isn't it?" Then, just as I was about to write this post, the organiser of an event I'm doing for the Edinburgh Writers' Club on January 10th asked if voice could be the topic of my talk. Yes!

    I have blogged about voice before, mostly in this post here. Please go there if you're not sure what voice is.

    But to answer the two writers of the questions at the top of this post, I need to say something a bit different from that post. I admit to being a little concerned by the implication behind them: that your voice is something you ceate in some kind of deliberate and contrived way. I don't think you can or should. Let me explain, briefly. I'll say more about it in my EWC talk and in my first Write to be Published workshop on March 22nd.

    There are two sorts of voice: the voice of the book and the voice of the writer. (There's also the voice of each character, certainly when you write dialogue. But that's obvious, no?)

    The voice of the book is what I was talking about in that earlier post. Lynn Price has a post about it here, but she's talking about both the voice of the book and the voice of the author at the same time. She actually means the voice of the book. (Obviously it's the author what writted it... but it's still the voice for that book.)And the voice of the book is what's important, as you'll see in a minute.

    The voice of the writer - your voice - is the thing which might allow a reader to pick up one of your books and say, "Ah, that's a Nicola Morgan." This seems to be the thing that both my questioners mean. They believe, because they've heard it said, that every author must have a distinctive voice.

    Nope. If you write different sorts of books, you will need different voices. Do I have the same voice in all my books? No. Granted, you'll find some similarities, but that's not enough to be my voice, just mannerisms, accents. I shapeshift with my voice and I do it on purpose. The voice you get from me in any of my books is the voice for that book, distinctive for that book; yes, perhaps with elements that you might find in my other books, but only tiny elements and I defy you to pick one of my books that you haven't read and judge it as a Nicola Morgan.

    Some writers do have a voice that shines throughout their otherwise disconnected books. Kate Atkinson is an example. Bernice Rubens is another. Ali Smith is probably another. But they are not published because they have a voice that links all their books: they are published partly because each book has a great voice, quite regardless of whether it's the same voice as their other books. Me, I prefer the variety and freedom of being able to shapeshift and make myself sound different. And I'm sure you'll agree that any of those writers would be perfectly capable of writing something very different. Except Bernice Rubens, who is, sadly, dead.


    As for the other question - "How do you know when you've found your voice?" - well, I don't think you should be looking for your voice. It's not something you have to find. Absolutely you must find the voice for THIS book, but it could be quite a different voice for your next book. So, yes, search for the voice for your book, but don't bother about whether it's going to be "your" voice in the sense that it will be in your next book, too. If that happens, great; but it's not important enough. I think "finding our voice" simply means finding what we're good at and what we're comfortable with. And it could be voices, not just one voice. Don't fret about it in terms of some elusive and abstract voice - just look for what sorting of writing works for you and suits you.

    Yes, you'll hear that agents and editors are looking for a "fresh new voice". What they mean is a book written in a "fresh new voice". Your second book can either be written in that same voice or another one, depending on what suits the book. Everything depends on the book. Nothing is more important. If you're too consciously thinking about "your voice", you're thinking about the next book. The reader and your publisher only care about this book. (Unless it's part of a series, which is different.)

    I have a voice for this blog. Then I wrote a book of the blog - Write to be Published - and its voice is slightly different, with big echoes of this one but different nevertheless. I wrote Thomas the Tank Engine books and I write home learning books; I wrote Chicken Friend and Wasted, all hugely different voices; I wrote the two Highwayman books, in the same voice because they are meant to be together; and Fleshmarket and Deathwatch, which are different. I'm writing another YA novel at the moment, and it's different from them all. I have many voices and there's only one thing that matters: that this book's voice is perfect for this book.

    OK? So, please, stop being hung up on "finding your voice"? Just believe in your writing. Just tell the damned story, yes?

    PS: Booking for What's Wrong With My Manuscript? workshop on March 22nd is open. Don't delay!

    PPS: Thursday this week will be end of term at Crabbit Towers and I have presents for you - one each day from then till Jan 1st. God, I'm good to you. Try to deserve me, yes?

    Thursday, 9 December 2010

    WHEN A CONTRACT IS CANCELLED

    I see it as one of my missions to open the eyes of the unwary author, telling it how it is, even if how it is sucks. So, I bring you a post from editor (and writer and margarita-drinker) Lynn Price, who talks here about the reasons why a contract might sometimes be cancelled.

    She's absolutely right. It's never happened to me but on the several occasions when I've been writing a book after nabbing the contract, it's something that has scared me. What if the book goes wrong in the middle and I can't rectify it? What if what the editor thought she was going to get is not what I deliver? What if I am struck down by illness or other disaster before I've finished? What if the editor leaves?

    So, go read Lynn's words, please, just so's you're warned. There are some things you can't control, but others you can. And if it does happen to you, yes, it's a kick in the guts, but you can survive and your book could easily - well, not easily, but likelily - transmogrify into another project another time.

    There's one other lesson to take from this: do not have all your eggs in one basket - you should always have another idea bubbling away, or another book in progress. The book you are writing now is not the end of the story.

    The novel I'm writing now has no contract because my agent and I haven't asked for one yet. When it's finished, we'll go for it. And I'm feeling so freed by this situation. It means I can write the book I believe in, not the one I think someone else believes I'm going to write.

    Wednesday, 8 December 2010

    VULNERABLE CHILDREN WISH FOR BOOKS

    Sarah Brown and Julie Gamble in Blackwells
    I visited the children's department of Blackwells in Edinburgh today to buy a couple of books for looked-after and other vulnerable children in the Children's Book Tree scheme. (I'd blogged about this excellent idea here.) It wasn't easy to get there, I have to say: I slipped and slid on treacherous ice, finally falling over completely. And embarrassingly. Luckily a wino was on hand to offer to help me up, as I realised when I saw a pair of pink eyes looming dangerously above me.

    But it was worth it. Also found a big pile of my books there to sign, including Wasted in the 3 for 2 selection. Mmmm.

    BUT that's not what I'm blogging for today. What I want to say is yes, it's not easy getting about at the moment and there are lots of people who can't get to Blackwells or who are understandably waiting till the ice thaws. Also, fabulously, because the scheme is so popular, there are more book wishes from kids this year - great that they're interested, yes? This means that there are lots of wishes as yet unanswered - and they need to be answered by the end of next week or there won't be time to deliver them. I cringe at the thought that one of these children might ask for a book and not get one. So, can I remind you that if you'd like to support this wonderful scheme by buying a wanted book for a child or teenager who will really, really appreciate it, you don't have to fall over embarrassingly in the street as I did. You only have to phone:

    0131 6228225

    Please phone! The lovely staff will take a book order and you can help a vulnerable child have a book this Christmas.

    Here are some examples of the wishes I saw:
    "A 12 year old boy would like any book you choose."
    "A 7 year old girl would like a book about fairies."
    "A 15 year old boy would like the Guinness Book of Records."
    "A 10 year old girl would like an exciting book."

    How can you refuse?

    There was also, "14 year old boy would like Katie Price's biography."  I'll pass on that.

    Ouch, my bruised hip.

    Monday, 6 December 2010

    SOAP-BOX: ELIZABETH BAINES & A DIFFICULT BIRTH

    My blog tries to make sense of the publishing industry, tries to shine a torch on the pitted path to publication, tries to show sensible paths through the madness. Usually, I believe the whole writing world makes a kind of sense. Sometimes, it utterly defeats me.

    I recently came upon the story of the re-publication of a book called The Birth Machine, by blogger and writer, Elizabeth Baines. Elizabeth writes the blog Fiction Bitch, which is well worth following. The Birth Machine, which was originally published by the Women's Press but has been out of print for some time, is re-published in November 2010 by Salt Modern Fiction, champion of quality writing. I have just read it, loved it and plan to re-read it - I only do that rarely, when I've loved a book but feel that there was more to it than I found, that I didn't read it closely enough, that re-reading will be worthwhile.

    Now, the story of is original publication is interesting and very, very complicated. As Elizabeth says, "The Birth Machine has a complicated, even scandalous, publishing history. When it was first published, it sold out of its 3,000 first print run and ended up being studied on university courses and dramatised for radio, but it was not reprinted, and in fact, it nearly didn't get published in the first place - all because the publishers decided that they had maybe made a mistake in agreeing to publish, as I - yes, little old me! - was too scandalous, indeed wicked, a person!"

    I'd love you to go and read the full story because it's too complicated for me to précis. And it puts the novel in context, as a feminist novel written at a time when women could take nothing for granted.

    Amazing story, eh? So, I was going to interview Elizabeth and I told her I'd get back to her with some questions but I decided that between her two blogs she gives a fantastic amount of information and insight, so instead, I've asked her to be my second Soap-Box Guest. Elizabeth has chosen a topic close to my heart: the myth that "talent will out". What she says also sheds new and piercing light on the ugly, almost unbelievable, story of the original publication of The Birth Machine

    TALENT ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH by Elizabeth Baines

    One thing that's always got me steamed up is the statement: ‘Talent will out.'

    I guess if you've been a teacher in sink schools, as I have, and have witnessed first-hand the sorry situation of bright young talents doomed to waste through poverty and lack of parental expectation, you're bound to have my reaction. But nothing could have confirmed me in my view better than my experience over the first publication of The Birth Machine (The Women’s Press), when attempts were made to silence me as a writer, and which, as a friend said to me in wonder recently over coffee, could have destroyed me. (NM adds - I put the link above and hope everyone's now read it. Here if you need it again.)

    Well, let me tell you, it did nearly destroy me - or it could have done if I'd let it. And, if I do say it myself, I hadn't been doing too badly before that, published in the top literary mags and anthologies of the time, alongside Angela Carter and JG Ballard and co.  For one thing, I felt really ill, and frightened, and you don't write much when you're in that sort of state, do you?  I actually felt physically frightened (there were the poison-pen letters, and one ‘feminist’ accidentally-on-purpose trod on my foot with her high heel, and I'd walk into feminist readings and the whole room would go horribly quiet, and no one would sit or stand by me). But really I think my physical fright was a manifestation of the fear of the very real possibility that I'd had it as a writer. Clearly, I was excommunicated from the feminist publishing world – and as I say there had been ‘feminist’ attempts to silence me - but I was afraid that having once been published by a feminist press, I’d be thus typecast and find it hard to get back into mainstream publishing. Indeed, when I did manage to write again, one of the things I was impassioned to write was a fairytale satire about what had happened, but mainstream publishers were clearly puzzled that I had sent it to them – a novel about the ins and outs of feminism - and suggested that since I was already published by a feminist press, I send it there! You can guess where that manuscript ended up (well, I don't have a drawer, I have a high shelf)...

    So what did I do? What do you do when your writing career hits a wall, when you find that, contrary to the myth, talent alone simply isn't enough? You also need a certain amount of luck, and sometimes real bad luck can come your way instead, which I guess is happening to more and more writers as the publishers drop them from their lists for commercial reasons. Well, the other things that come in handy for a writer in such circumstances are perseverance and adaptability, which I'd say have to go hand in hand, as Nicola has already made clear in two great posts here and here.

    I must say that for a long time I felt despairing. But I didn't give up. I looked around to see how I could still keep writing and get my work out into the world. I began writing radio plays, and ended up with a successful (and far better paying) radio career. Then a bit of good luck kicked in: because of my radio work, I was invited to write several novelizations of a popular TV series (which I did under a different name), something which at one time, I admit, I'd have thought beneath my higher literary concerns, but which, I'm telling you, taught me some of my most valuable lessons in plotting and economy and clarity. But also I went back to my first love, short stories, and since the market for short stories was shrinking at the time gave myself the mission of helping to keep it going by founding with my friend Ailsa Cox the short story magazine Metropolitan.  And as soon as could I got back the rights to The Birth Machine, and published a short run of my own under my own imprint Starling Editions (with my original structure reinstated). The thing about starlings, you see, they're pests: you can't get rid of them.

    And if I hadn't persisted with my stories, I'd never have had a collection to offer when a few years ago the publisher Salt began a list dedicated to short stories. Then - luck leaping up to my aid again - Salt decided to start publishing novels, and a year ago they published my novella, Too Many Magpies. And to my utter delight and sense of vindication, they asked me if they could reissue The Birth Machine...

    So don't tell me talent will out, unless you add 'with a good dollop of luck and/or plenty of nimble footwork and sheer bloody-mindedness'. 
     __________________________________

    Interesting story, isn't it? On the subject of luck, though, while I agree that luck plays an enormous and crucial part in all our lives, you can help luck along by doing all the right things, persevering, adapting, getting "out there". And Elizabeth did all those. Right place at right time doesn't happen if you don't get up in the morning.

    I urge you to buy The Birth Machine. It's fascinating because it's of its time in style and content, but it's immensely readable, gripping, clever, important, and fascinating. Salt Modern Fiction are to be praised for bringing it back into publication.

    Sunday, 5 December 2010

    OPEN LETTER FROM THE CAMPAIGN FOR THE BOOK

    I know this blog is about how to get published but if there are fewer libraries and librarians there will be fewer readers for your books when they are published. Therefore, campaigning for libraries is what I will continue to do. I blogged the other day about my anger. Now, I am copying below the Open Letter to Members of Parliament, Jeremy Hunt  and Ed Vaizey, Ministers at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. This letter was organised by Alan Gibbons, author and founder of the Campaign for the Book. The letter is signed by hundreds of authors and authors and Alan has only been able to include a proportion of the names. He has given me permission to broadcast it here, too.

    Please do what you can to spread this message as widely as possible.


    Open letter to Jeremy Hunt MP and Ed Vaizey MP, Ministers at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport

    Dear Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey,

    Library users and staff across the country are increasingly concerned at the implications of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Over 250 library closures have been announced. Some, for example those in Oxfordshire and Lewisham, are in areas involved in the pilot of the Future Libraries Programme which promised: “A strong library service, based around the needs of local people, can play a key role in our ambitions to build the Big Society by providing safe and inclusive spaces for people to read, learn and access a range of community services.”

    When the then Secretary of State Andy Burnham hesitated over halting Wirral’s attempted closure of half its libraries just over a year ago, Ed Vaizey said: "If Andy Burnham is not prepared to intervene when library provision is slashed in a local authority such as the Wirral, it is clear that he is ignoring his responsibilities as secretary of state.” Andy Burnham did, of course, change his mind under pressure after several months.

    Now cuts approaching the scale of those in the Wirral are being repeated across the country, not only in Oxfordshire and Lewisham, but in Buckinghamshire, Nottinghamshire, Leeds, Brent, Gloucestershire and many, many more. Ed Vaizey has written to councils reminding them of their duty under the 1964 Libraries and Museums Act to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service.

    It is becoming commonplace for councils to close up to half their library branch networks. It would be inconsistent if the DCMS did not superintend councils acting as unjustifiably as Wirral, preventing the slashing of services.

    We call on the DCMS not to ignore its responsibilities. We ask you to act in the spirit of the 1964 Act and prevent councils inflicting cuts which amount to cultural vandalism.

    Yours sincerely,

    Alan Gibbons

    Organiser, the Campaign for the Book

    The following authors, illustrators, poets, publishers, librarians, teachers, journalists, agents, screenwriters, translators, film producers and general readers have signed the petition:
    Philip Pullman
    Kate Mosse
    Michael Holroyd
    Peter Dickinson OBE
    Barry Cryer, comedian and writer
    Robin McKinlay
    Carol Ann Duffy
    Bonnie Greer
    Gillian Slovo
    Maureen Freely
    Kathy Lette “Closing our libraries will make us a nation of numbskulls – the Illiterati.” Kathy Lette.
    Julia Donaldson
    Frank Cottrell-Boyce
    Michael Rosen
    Barrie Cunningham OBE
    Jackie Kay
    Kwei Armah
    Malorie Blackman
    Beverley Naidoo
    Darren Shan
    Geraldine McCaughrean
    Joan Bakewell
    Terry Jones
    Lisa Appignanesi, President English PEN
    Susan Barry and Marlene Johnson, Hachette Children’s Books
    Danuta Kean, Deputy Director, Creative Enterprise Centre, School of Arts, Brunel University
    Mark Le Fanu, Society of Authors
    Professor Stuart Hall
    Simon Brett
    Howard Schuman
    Anne Chisholm, Chair, Royal Society of Literature
    Tricia Adams, Director, School Library Association
    Biddy Fisher, Cilip President
    Hannah Plom, Hon Secretary, Cilip YLG
    Rebecca Hemming, Chair, Cilip SLG
    Duncan Wright, School Librarian of the Year, 2010
    Moris Farhi MBE
    Leonie Flynn
    Ruth Goldsmith
    Gillian Cross
    Matt Whyman
    Joanna Briscoe
    Caroline Rance
    Christine Athey
    Melanie Worsfold
    Anne Anderson
    Mavis Cheek
    Zoe Allinson
    Dr Jessie Hey
    Pie Corbett
    Melvin Burgess
    Kevin Crossley-Holland
    Nicola Morgan
    Tim Bowler
    Adele Geras
    Christine Blower, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
    Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary, NUT
    Robert Swindells
    Brenda Swindells
    Jamila Gavin
    Tony Bradman
    David Nicholls
    James Carter
    Celia Rees
    Susan Shaper, Cilip’s SLG committee
    Anne Cassidy
    Nick Arnold
    Meg Rosoff
    Catherine Johnson
    Chrissie Gittins
    Philip Ardagh
    Sridhar Gowda
    Geraldin Rose.
    Jeremy Strong
    Korky Paul
    Elizabeth Kay
    Tommy Donbavand
    Sue Eves
    Penny Dolan
    Sally Nicholls
    Linda Newbery
    M G Harris
    David Bedford
    Rhiannon Lassiter
    Bali Rai
    Gwen Grant
    Kathryn Evans
    Julie Wilkie
    Emma Slack
    Jane Ray
    Chris Priestley
    Anne Rooney
    Lindsey Fraser
    Celia Rees
    Anna Perera
    Sally Prue
    Lynn Breeze
    Bernard Ashley
    Steve Weatherill
    Helena Pielichaty
    Julia Jarman
    Berlie Doherty
    Andrew Fusek Peters
    Steve Skidmore
    David Belbin
    Saviour Pirotta
    John Foster
    Prue Goodwin
    Kay Green, Earlyworks Press
    Mary Hoffman
    Alec Williams
    Peter Cox, Litopia
    Sue Barrow
    Ian Bland
    Vanessa Harbour, Editor, Write4Children
    Sally Kincaid, Divisional Secretary, Wakefield and District NUT
    John Illingworth, former president NUT
    Barry Conway, Secretary, Bolton NUT
    Ian Harris, Secretary Wirral NUT
    Mick Wattam, Doncaster UCATT treasurer
    Jim Board, Secretary, Doncaster Unison
    Ian Leaver, Secretary NUT Leicester
    Jenny Day, President NUT Leicester
    Peter Flack, Assistant Secretary NUT Leicester
    Andy Reeve, Secretary Leicestershire NUT
    Bernard Harper, President, Leicester and District Trades Council
    Caroline Horn, Director, Reading Zone
    Nikki Gamble, Write Away
    Michael Thorn, ACHUKA
    Jane Hunt
    Lynn Huggins-Cooper
    Tony Mitton
    AND MANY HUNDREDS MORE

    Saturday, 4 December 2010

    THE CHILDREN'S BOOK TREE

    On Thursday, I blogged about this over at the Awfully Big Blog Adventure. In case you didn't read it, I'd like you to see it because it's for a great cause, so I've put it here, too.

    The lovely people at Blackwell's Bookshop in Edinburgh invited me to the launch of a fabulous event but I couldn't go because I was in London, hobnobbing with Brian May, Roger Daltrey, Roger Taylor and a load of other stars. (Ouch, the name-dropping! Actually, there were a lot more I could have dropped but I held myself back.) Anyway, although the launch has happened, the event is still going on, and it's SUCH a wonderful cause and idea that I wanted to be able to say something about it here.

    So, here's a message from Julie Gamble at Blackwell's:
    "The Children's Book Tree at Blackwell's Bookshop in Edinburgh is a scheme that lets customers donate a book to a vulnerable child in the city who is living in care or in difficult circumstances. We are working together with Edinburgh Women's Aid, Edinburgh Young Carers, Barnardo's, many support units run by The City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh Foster Care to find out what each child would like. We then attach their requests to tags and hang them from our 'Book Tree'. From 25th Nov until 19th Dec customers can drop into the Children's Dept. at Blackwell's on South Bridge, choose a tag from the tree and buy a book to go with it. We'll then wrap and send the books in time for Christmas.

    If you'd like to gift a book but can't make it in person you can get in touch with us on 0131 6228225. If you would like to buy a book on behalf of someone else we can also provide a lovely gift certificate!

    Thanks for making Christmas a little brighter for these kids."

    If we believe that books are important and enriching and wonderful, how can we deny them to vulnerable children who have had such a bad start in life?

    Hooray!! Fab idea. I'm going there very very soon. There's the tree, all ready and waiting for wishes to be fulfilled. And there's Julie, dressed as an elf, standing beside the tree AND Sarah Brown, wife of our recent Prime Minister...

    Friday, 3 December 2010

    SOAP-BOX: ME ON DISGRACEFUL POLITICIANS

    I don't see why I should allow other people to have a soap-box spot on my blog if I can't do it myself. So, here goes. And beware: I'm angry.

    Got my Oxfam gift catalogue recently. Bought a few things for some people I know who don't need anything bought for them and are delighted to have something bought on their behalf for people in places where they really do need things.

    One of the more expensive things in the Oxfam catalogue is a library, which you can buy to help lift people in developing countries out of poverty. Because libraries are the mark of development, of self-esteem, of open minds, of growth, of strength and of humanity.

    Which makes it all the more sickening, grotesque and ignorant that our politicians, in our so-called developed country, are closing libraries. They call it economic. It's not economic. We can afford libraries. We must afford libraries. No, this is not economic; it's political. It's stupid, too.

    Only someone with a closed mind closes libraries. Or, perhaps, someone so ignorant, so arrogant, that he thinks that everyone can buy books. Or that "it's all on the internet, innit?"

    No, it's not all on the internet. It's all in books. And minds. And without books, minds are empty.

    So, Mr Cameron, Mr Vaizey, and all you other foolish, empty-minded, treacherous politicos: don't rob us of our libraries, because in doing so you show nothing but your own ignorance.
    ______________________________


    Please, everyone, don't let this happen. Blog and rant about libraries and cuts. Write to politicians. I did last night. And if you know people who have already blogged, please put links to them in the comments below. I'll then transfer them into this post.

    Here we go:

    Join Alan Gibbons' Campaign for the Book Facebook page
    Notes From the Slush-Pile
    KM Lockwood- an open letter
    Philip Ardagh writing on FB
    Lucy Coats at Scribble City Central
    Keren David on Almost True
    A librarian here
    See if you have a local campaign group here
    Jo Cannon here