Friday, 27 April 2012

NW Fiction

I've just been reading a post made on the Guardian's Book Blog  this week about an apparent dearth of fiction set in the north. The author's possibly disengenuous lack of awareness of so many writers has provoked lots of comment, including one from me, directing him to our very own website.

Sometimes I wonder why I'm so enthusiastic about encouraging our libraries to be aware of and champion writerswho write about our region, but then an article like this one reminds why.  So many books are published that its really difficult for individual titles and writers to stand out from the crowd. Books that are brilliantly written, enjoyable and deserving of a huge reading public can remain under-celebrated, under-reviewed and under-read.  The problem the author of the Guardian article could have acknowledged is not that the books aren't written, its that they don't get enough marketing, publicity and on-going attention. Perhaps it would be a good idea for publishers to co-operate in marketing their writers via  websites according to locality,  as well as genre or theme.

Now I'm really glad that for National Libraries Day this year I funded and co-ordinated 33 library events for NW writers and bought sets of their work for reading groups,  hopefully bringing their books to the attention of readers who will contuinue to talk about them and look out for future titles. In the autumn I'll be running a promotion of some NW poets, a sector that finds it even harder to generate sales and audience.

The author of the Guardian piece was looking for writers who write about their region, not just live in it. Just in case you want a quick reminder of the fiction writers we supported on National Libraries Day, they were Jenn Ashworth, Carol Birch. Gladys Mary Coles, David Gaffney, Robert Graham, MJ Hyland, Zoe Lambert, Qaisra Sharaz, Jane Rogers, Caroline Smailes, Cath Staincliffe, Michael Stewart, Emma Jane Unsworth, Helen Walsh, Paul Wilson. Virtually all of these, though not exclusively, have taken their inspiration for at least some of their work, from the places they have come from or live in now.  The NW region is so diverse in its communities, landscape and environments that it provides ample inspiration for a wide range of high-quality fiction.

Friday, 20 April 2012

World Book NIght

Monday 23rd April 2012 is this year's World Book Night, timed to coincide with Shakespeare's birthday and has long been a date on which literature has been celebrated worldwide. In 2012 World Book Night will be celebrated in the UK, Ireland, Germany and USA on the same day.

When WBN was dreamt up in 2011 some library people known to me were a bit sceptical. "What's in it for libraries?" they said. My view is always that anything promoting books and reading has to be a good thing and opportunities for the whole book industry- writers, publishers, booksellers, libraries, readers - to pull together are very rare. I was prepared to give it a go.

I understand that some writers and booksellers remain dubious about it: it does seem somewhat perverse to give their bread and butter away. However my personal experience as a giver in 2011 was so positive. Many people were delighted to be given a book that they would never, ever have walked into a shop and bought. It provided opportunities for rare and non-intrusive conversations with complete strangers and the added possibility of reminding them to use their library. It gave library staff opportunities to bring people together to talk about a great set of books and to put their creative hats on about how to get them into the hands of the maximum number of people.

This year staff are pleased to see a library message inside the free titles, which we hope will remind some people about using their local service for more free reading. It feels good to be part of something that is getting 1,ooo,ooo books into circulation. Some of them will have direct and personal impact on their readers.

So I am full of enthusiasm for Monday. I am rapidly re-reading the title I asked to give away The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell and loving it again. I plan to walk up to random members of the public in Manchester City Centre and try to give them the chance to love it too.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Has spring sprung?

Well aware its almost a month since I last posted anything here and I haven't been reading much either. I'm half-way through The Old Curiosity Shop and seem to have hit a bit of a wall. It was all progressing very well- I was caught up in the story of Little Nell and her Grandfather versus the odious Mr Quilp. But after her grandfather gambled their money away again, it seemed to go a bit astray with lots of new characters coming in for no obvious reasons. Has anyone else had this problem? Can I skip on a bit?

My blockage with this has coincided with some wonderful spring weather, now sadly over. I spent many hours last week out in the fresh air walking and gardening. Am now impatient to plant some of my seedling veg. out but am very glad I've waited. Maybe next week?

Plans are advanced now for World Book Night on April 23rd. Givers should be told very soon that their books are available for collection. Many libraries are organising activities on the day (& night) so keep an eye out for book-giving events happening where you are.