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The Author

The SoA's quarterly journal

Writers are nothing if not a multifarious lot, it seems to me, and that is to be celebrated. (I wonder if our collective noun might not be a ‘diversity’ of writers, in fact – though I quite fancy an ‘advance’, too, and maybe a ‘recalcitrance’.) All too often, however, some voices are not heard.
James McConnachie, Editor

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I am watching my daughters learning to read. It’s as if they’re trying to drive some large and venerable car. Their feet can hardly reach the pedals, there are constant clashes and misses of gear – but every now and again some cog clunks into place deep in the gearbox and the whole thing lurches forward with thirsty power.

My elder daughter, in particular, has suddenly found that she can read books, whole books, on her own and because she wants to. She has smashed through the back of the wardrobe into a world of pleasure, knowledge and startling autonomy, which I hope will last her a lifetime. As C. S. Lewis put it – and I’m pretty sure he was talking about books, for once, not religion – ‘once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia’.

Authors should draw strength and resolve from Lewis’s wonderful assertion. But not every child has two writer-parents thrusting books into their hands at every opportunity. One of the Society’s major concerns, accordingly, is to ‘promote and support reading for pleasure’. We are calling for school libraries to be mandatory, and to have trained librarians; for teachers to be trained and supported so as to inspire a love of reading in their pupils, not just functional literacy; for author visits and residencies to be accredited by Ofsted.

We are calling, too, for non-fiction not to be forgotten. Reading press coverage of this issue, or indeed educational studies, you might think that novelists, or at least readers of novels, had all the fun. (Last month was National Non-fiction November; did you know about it?) But reading non-fiction is not about the mere absorption of information any more than reading is just literacy.

The Society is fighting many other campaigns for fair contract terms; against the manifold threats to copyright law and libraries; against the 20% VAT rate notoriously imposed on ebooks. But underlying it all is this deeper campaign, which authors will support for selfish as well as altruistic reasons. Without reading for pleasure, after all, we are riding to hell in a handcart.

This winter issue, with its festive cover by the leading book designer Jamie Keenan, asks us to consider some of the deeper issues relating to our craft and profession. In particular, it asks questions about who we are. Damian Horner, who is Brand Development Director for Hachette UK, dissects what it means to be a brand, and urges authors to embrace the thinking. Jenny Alexander suggests we sometimes do the opposite – leap out of our professional groove to work on the book that makes our heart sing. (Hector Breeze’s cartoon on this subject is, I think, superb – but then Hector is one of the giants of the cartoon world.)

We return to the issue of authors’ voices, which I raised in my last editorial. Writers are nothing if not a multifarious lot, it seems to me, and that is to be celebrated. (I wonder if our collective noun might not be a ‘diversity’ of writers, in fact – though I quite fancy an ‘advance’, too, and maybe a ‘recalcitrance’. As always, The Author welcomes correspondence.) All too often, however, some voices are not heard.

Liz Berry, the poet who has recently won a fistful of prizes for her first collection, Black Country, delves into her use of the vernacular. (You can hear her reading her article here.) Jonathan Fryer describes his attempt to honour the voice of the abused child. Katharine Quarmby offers a model of how writers can work collaboratively with those whose voices are not normally heard. Adam Feinstein, an international authority on autism, surveys how the condition has been portrayed in fiction and non-fiction.

Other articles, as always, focus on the practicalities of our profession. Bonnie Greer and Kristin Harrison embrace Twitter. Ann Morgan tries reading her own audiobook. And Francesca Simon, creator of the infamous child star Horrid Henry, draws on her own chequered career to offer 12 punchy, funny and, in one case, profoundly shocking tips.


James McConnachie

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Twelve things I wish I'd known Francesca Simon - Read now (Members only)

What's good about Amazon David Brawn


Questions of Identity

The author brand Damian Horner

Finding the right voice Jonathan Fryer

Autism in the imagination Adam Feinstein

Black Country vernacular Liz Berry - listen to Liz Berry reading her article 

No more voiceless people Katharine Quarmby

The child-of-the-heart book Jenny Alexander


Writers at Work

Embracing Twitter Bonnie Greer

Twitter tips for authors Kristen Harrison

Reading your own audiobook Ann Morgan


As an Aside

London's literary statues Imogen Lycett Green

Churchillian drifting Nigel Rees

What editors say Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

In the bunker Lucy Mangan



Quarterly news

Grub Street Andrew Taylor

To the Editor

Booktrade news



About The Author

The Author is an invaluable source of information, news and opinion for authors as well as for publishers, literary agents and other professionals working in the book industry. It has a circulation of approximately 9,500. Members receive The Author free of charge.


If you are not a member and you wish to subscribe, please download the appropriate form: UK Subscriber or Overseas Subscriber and return it to the Membership Department.

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