Going boldly into the unknown...a weekly roundup of writing tips and trends from a NZ children's writer.
Comments always welcome. (Image is of two galaxies colliding. Images Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.)
Say Bologna to anyone interested in
children’s writing and the response back is a dreamy far away look that goes
with the heart felt phrase “wouldn’t it be heaven to be there.”
I was seriously jealous reading my twitter
stream this week as agents were heading to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and
talking all about it.
New Zealand has always been known as a
country that ‘punches above its weight’ in the global political scene.We were in on forming the League of
Nations and the UN and for any Americans that believe Argo is fact...um
actually NZ was hiding Americans but we don’t talk about it....
Yesterday at Bologna to celebrate 50 years
of the fair...everyone voted on the Best Children’s Publisher In The World by
region. Six regions. Six winners. Our little Gecko Press from Wellington won
their region. To stand acknowledged by your peers at the biggest children’s
book fair in the world as one of the best publishers in the world...after only
eight years of existence...is mind boggling.
Congratulations Julia Marshall!
So what else is happening at Bologna?
This year in the Tools of Change conference,
that starts the day before the fair at Bologna, Bowker had an extraordinary
presentation. Porter Anderson discusses the data from the slideshow which
Bowker have made available and it does turn perceptions about children’s
publishing upside down... for instance the biggest buyers of YA are...adults for
themselves! If you are involved in children’s publishing take some time to go
through the slides...food for thought all over them.
Joe Wikert, also at Bologna, is looking at the rise of children’s e-publishing. He profiles the winners in the interactive e-book awards. There is a video that is a must watch so that you can see why
these books won! Great to see Michael Morpurgo’s book in there...and what a
fascinating non fiction winner that is!
Courtney Milan looks at the New US Supreme
Court ruling about First Sale Rights and the death of geographic rights...and
checks out what it will mean for fiction writers...This is for all those
writers who have ever wondered why their book is priced differently in
different countries and whether they can order cheap copies from one country
and onsell them...
Around the world governments are pulling in
their belts and trying to budget better to cope with the depression following
the banking crisis. Sadly Educational publishing, which provides resources into
schools, has taken a hit with money shaved off here and there or dropped altogether.
Children learn to read on specially designed books and discover an amazing
world of knowledge, adventure and dreams that enthuse, delight and challenge
them. The best days as a teacher are when you can see the light bulbs switch on
over kid’s heads. They can make sense of the squiggles on the page. They can
The people who produce these books are
often paid peanuts and still turn out top quality work because they have a
passion to create life long learners, to start a child on the road to finding
out knowledge for themselves. It is a great gift to give and children’s writers
and illustrators know they are privileged to do it. They demand the best of
themselves, to give the best to their young readers.
For some reason writing for children is
seen as easy...by adults not directly involved in it. Simple words on a
page... anyone can do it. In fact it is a very specialised skill...the smaller the
book the more specialised.
When I first sat down to write for children, I
brought home 20 readers from my school and analyzed them. On average they had
50 words. They told a funny story with a pay off at the end. The funniest one I
analyzed had 47 words. There were only 11 different words used in the story.
Margaret Many, the genius, became my benchmark. My ambition to write a funny 50-word
reader (and boy was it hard,) became by default my writing school. There was
huge jubilation when my work was accepted two years later on the 30th
submission to the School Journal. I felt like the child in my classroom... the
squiggles finally made sense! I was flying. I could do anything. Of course after
that it got harder.
This week the NZ children’s writing
community has been standing up and asking what is happening with the School
Journal? Is it going to be a victim of a budget cut?
This iconic part of NZ
school life provides the major resource of our literacy teaching. It is provided
free to schools, four times a year, at four levels throughout the school and is
the envy of many countries. New Zealand children’s writers earn a good portion
of their income from the Journal, which with its 105 years of history is the
longest serial publication for children in the world. The illustrators, many of
whom work exclusively for the journal and related resources are world famous in
the NZ classroom and unknown outside of it. Our best and brightest talents have
started with the School Journal, often continuing to contribute work long after
they ‘made it big’ in trade.
We are pleased to say it is still here with
us after the uncertainty of the last week. The loud voices, letters to
ministers and media attention have hopefully shown the government that even the
rumour of a threat to the School Journal will bring a swift response.
Educational publishing should not be a victim of a short sighted budget cut.
The children will lose out. New Zealand writers, illustrators, designers and
editors will lose out and the Government will lose out.
No government will want
to be known as the One That Cut The Journal. It would be like banning Pineapple
Lumps or Jaffas.
It has been a busy week in the publishing
blogosphere. Following on from the emphatic statement (in last weeks blog post)
by the Science Fiction and Fantasy writers association over the shonky nature
of the new eBook imprints from Random House. Random House protested, got
laughed at and backed down.
*Late addition. Dave Gaughran has put the new contracts under the microscope...and it still is not pretty. If the ebook is selected for print...the author will bear all the costs. Check out his very comprehensive post on this and other Big 4 vanity press ideas being slid past unsuspecting authors.
Melinda Szymanik had an interesting blog
post this week on how we as writers have changed. Along with our interest in
publishing digitally we have become adept at finding our writing friendships
How far we have come from the writer in the garret struggling over a
typewriter. Today information on writing and publishing is at the end of the
modem cable. The writer needs to go out and hunt it down like a stray comma. I
do my bit by providing a weekly roundup of good things I’ve come across but
sometimes attending a writing conference fills in the gaps and reminds you that
you are not alone.
Hugh Howey has written a tell all article
that has been bouncing around the blogosphere all week on how he got that
publishing deal for Wool. In a surprise move his print publishers are releasing
AT THE SAME TIME hardcover and softcover editions of Wool.
The issue of writing for free got a workout in the blogosphere last week after a journalist had his material for a publisher repurposed and wasn't paid for it...here is Ernie Smith from the Future of Publishing blog on owning your work.
Autumn... and the summer weather goes on
and on...and so do the list of provinces now officially drought stricken. As I
write this half the North Island has been declared officially in drought. The
flow on effects of a drought are not obvious now but will come back to haunt us
later in the year, with a shortage of food as crops dependent on water won’t be
sown. There is an extreme fire
In the publishing blogosphere, this week, a
similar disquiet is being felt with the news of class actions and shonkey
contracts from reputable publishing houses.
For those authors in the lucky position to
have a self published book picked up by a trad 6...5...4... publishing house.
It is not all a bed of roses as this cautionary tale illustrates...Amazon
contacted the readers who had bought the Indie published book and said they
were withdrawing it and if the customer wanted a refund they could get it and a
new copy of the book. But who is paying for this? The Author...who didn’t know
anything about it. OUCH.