It’s been an incredible few months.I’ve been slowly and steadily heading back to doing books full-time and it hasn’t been easy at all.
The plan was to return to the days when there were only books and book ideas on my work list. I have a couple of titles to try as ebooks and started planning for the Bologna Book Fair 2014.
But the idea of becoming a book publisher and a micro sized book publisher at that, worried me. That hasn’t gone away. It may be my vocation, but it’s still business, right? All that lies before me is an incredible schedule of trying to get the titles noticed, paying for a print run and then worrying about when (if) it will make the invested money back. It ooh several more weeks looking at numbers trying to find another way to minimise the risk. With th sol school publishing knowledge I have, it feels like the path gets narrower the further down it one travels. And its great like that; you might brush against a revolutionary new idea and succeed. But you might also brush against something disastrous.
The past few years I have started to value community. These are the people that we can all count on, in however small way. Your neighbourhood, your family, your friends around the world are all incredibly important. I struggled to tell these stories in book form for children. Its better when they are experienced in a different way, somehow. I’ve also been designing and editing newspapers and magazines so have been aware of the many ways to tell a story.
All this preamble is a fitting introduction to the subject of this post. I think I’ve cracked it; the other way to tell stories and still get everything I want!
It won’t be available everywhere. It starts in my neighbourhood early next year. It’s a quarterly. It involves its audience and their grown ups. It brings children’s content to the fore, not just children’s books and I think it’s the closes thing to a physical blog that have ever worked on. If it works, then it will grow and spread. Time will tell.
The Carnegie Greenaway award winners were announced on the same morning I was doing a workshop in front of around 100 children, where they showed what their picks were for the Winner. This took place at Platform in North London which is quite near where I live. The event was well organised by Islington Library Services. A full list of winners, including this year’s can be seen here. The Greenaway winner can be seen here, along with a list of previous winners. Teams of children stepped up and made presentations about their favourite books in what was a very enjoyable morning. Before we started, Sylvia Cohen warmed the children up with a few exercises to sharpen the mind and build confidence. She’s good at that.
I had to comment on each team’s work, and then run a workshop on creativity. During the workshop we discussed where ideas come from and how to hold onto and then make something of them before setting them free. I read an unfinished text for a book idea as an example (the Bear above is part of that).
At the end we handed out One page books on the creativity workshop which the children could take away. That part of the event was made possible by the sponsoring of the print run, something I hadn’t considered doing until recently. It worked fantastically well; the children went away with something they could use later, the sponsors, Singer Financial Trust and Spot On Print were able to play their parts in giving schools a little more than usual and of course for us, it marks the beginning of a collaboration that will bring literature and drama in new and enjoyable ways.
I am working on a digital version of the one page book which can be downloaded from this site
I’m still waiting for some images of the event that I can post.
Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.'” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.
I spent time in book shops over the festive season. I realised it is still a better experience than being online.
I also noticed the lack of contemporary stories for children about other cultures. Most, if not all publishers have an anthology of folk tales from ‘the world’. Then, most publishers have the obligatory ‘multicultural’ collections, or a series about a character from somewhere else. But there aren’t many of these and they are so similar that they can be mistaken for being the same.
Children that don’t have access to cultural stories will grow up to be adults that don’t have access to cultural stories. What will they pass on to their children? Flights of fantasy for young children don’t have to all be dragons and giants and talking animals that are candy coloured, or warm and fuzzy. In this age where more respect is being given to a person’s background celebrating cultures could go a long way.
Youth culture is current and ever-changing and really quite exciting. We cannot look at it like a sub culture. It has its own language and code of behaviour which comes out of the your person’s experience as a child.
African culture is all but forgotten by publishers. Traditional culture is crammed in to the one volume I mentioned earlier and modern African culture is simply not present. 54 countries and the cradle of human life is not seen as interesting enough…
If you ever have the opportunity to sit with a book seller our buyer you will hear that these stories simply don’t sell, it’s a sales and marketing issue. I believe it is one of misunderstanding and slight fear. As the world looks to Africa and the East it is only a matter of time before that will change.
So, this year, I will be focusing on cultures of all kinds: How to make them fun, how to turn them into stories. What’s more, I’ll let you know how the year progresses.
Complete with spelling mistakes, here is the solution for the Ring a ring o’ roses rhyme. I decided at the beginning of the project to show everything, or as close to everything as possible. Painting will start on Thursday. It would be great to get this one right because I know from seeing them that children love to sing this rhyme and play the game.