Saturday, 1 January 2011

And a new one just begun. . .

Another year begins. . .

I am particularly looking forward to getting Mister Creecher honed to perfection (or as close it as is humanly possible) before that gets published in the summer. I have already pitched a new idea for the next book to Sarah Odedina, but only verbally and I will need to get that written down in a more coherent synopsis and sample chapters. But the good news is that she liked it and so did the meeting she took it too. More about that book later. . .

March is going to be very busy. I have my World Book Day flipbook coming out, shared with the wonderful Philip Reeve and I also have the rejacketed Tales of Terror books coming out, each with an additional story.

I have been asked to attend the Edinburgh Book Festival in August, which is very exciting. I went a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Edinburgh is such a great city and the festival is so well organised. I'm also hoping to see Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart up there is we can manage to synch our visits.

I have also had an enquiry from the Hay Literary Festival. I have never been to Hay and was beginning to feel like I'd been barred for some reason, so that is also good news.

But whilst I am anticipating an exciting year for me personally, I am less excited about what is happening all around me. Like many countries in the world, we are in the grip of a financial crisis, brought about, to a large degree by the reckless greed of a small group of bank employees.

The people resposible seem to have not only escaped without any kind of punishment, but continue to be grotesquely rewarded for their errors. Meanwhile we are told that we will have to face cuts to all manner of services.

Much of this cost-cutting is politically motivated. If the previous administration came up with a scheme, it must be wrong and therefore should be axed. The poor and the young seem to be disproportionately paying for the sins of the already over-paid.

There has already been a campaign by well-known sports people following the decision to axe the excellent scheme to bring local sports experts into schools to promote excellence. The government has already backtracked under this pressure.

Now it is the turn of authors to step up. The author Alan Gibbons has been coordinating a response to cutbacks in the library services and the continuing erosion of the principle reading for pleasure in schools with his Campaign for the Book.

Authors have objected strongly to the pre-Christmas attack on Booktrust. The plans to axe Booktrust's £13m grant make me and many other people absolutely furious. It is actually a relatively small amount of money and fades into insignificance when set against the continuing financial incontinence of the banks. Bob Diamond, the head of Barclay's Bank, declined his bonus for 2009, but still trousered £63m from his basic (sic) wage plus sales of stocks and shares.

Booktrust is an organisation that should be cherished and encouraged for its book-gifting scheme alone, but it does far more than that. The government have backtracked (again) under the barrage of criticism, but it may simply be waiting for the fuss to die down. Certainly the governments stated desire to make sure that if books are gifted they reach the children who need them most misses the point.

Yes, there are many children from disadvantaged background who do not have books as part of their home lives, but there are many children from relatively wealthy background about which the same could be said. There are many adults who do not read for pleasure and when they have children, see no need to read to them or to buy them books. Sadly, this phenomenon is not restricted to one social class or income bracket.

Authors also quite rightly objected to the attack on PLR, the scheme whereby authors receive a small amount every time one of their books is borrowed from a library. The body that administers the scheme does an excellent job, but the government had decided it was going to cut back on the number of quangos (quasi non-governmental organisation), so it had to go.

When writers objected, the government said it wasn't getting rid of PLR, just the administering body - that job would be transferred to another body that would be semi-independent of government. A quango, in other words.


To be continued. . .

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