Welcome to the first of our new monthly blogs from Society staff and invited guests. I look forward to hearing your feedback. A lawyer by training, I can’t resist a list, so here are ten highlights of my first five months as General Secretary:
1. The all-singing, all-dancing investiture of member Julia Donaldson* as Children’s Laureate. She’ll be a great advocate for bringing music and drama into children’s literature and promoting libraries.
2. A fantastic speech from member Patrick Ness*at the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards celebrating libraries and excoriating the Government’s record on their closures. The Society will be supporting a number of library initiatives including a proposed Love Libraries day to be held on 4 February 2012. Well done to member Alan Gibbons for spearheading this campaign.
3. Our Awards Ceremony when the charming Joanna Trollope (also a member) presented £76,000 to twenty-one winning writers. What differentiates our awards is the celebration of writing by writers, the warm atmosphere and the lack of tension because we don’t disclose the shortlists.
4. Talking to the Publishers Association and the Association of Authors Agents about epublishing, royalty rates and piracy. We’re campaigning on many fronts and will be publishing a dedicated paper on ebooks in the autumn.
5. Attending the press night of Pygmalion at the Garrick Theatre because we represent the Shaw estate. Kara Tointon was an excellent Eliza Doolittle; her “not bloody likely” was truly electrifying and Michael Feast, a last minute substitute for the role of Alfred Doolittle, gave absolute conviction to his description of his occupation as one of the “undeserving poor” . It’s showing until 3 September, so book your tickets while you can!
6. Dealing with questions from our members on an extraordinarily varied range of issues from tax and contracts through to defamation - the latest being a question about the rule that the name of the printer must be published in all printed material, which necessitated me tracking down the Newspapers, Printers, and Reading Rooms Repeal Act 1869 - I love a challenge!
7. Meeting our members and seeing the huge range of work carried out by the voluntary Management Committee and our various subsidiary groups - we so appreciate the time they put in and the level of thoughtful debate and action on all the issues affecting authors.
8. Negotiating with the BBC on new payments for radio writers for the digital use of their works - watch this space! We're also campaigning against the BBC Radio 4 cuts to short story broadcasts. We urge you to sign the online petition here.
9. Speaking passionately at the Book Industry Conference 2011 on the need to support independent bookshops - and for the need for authors to be paid, whenever possible, for appearances (see our report on author appearances here).
10. And finally... I’m grateful every day to be working with a staff team who are enthusiastic, flexible and absolutely dedicated to the aims of the Society of Authors.
*Both Julia Donaldson and Patrick Ness are booked for the Children's Writers & Illustrators Group Conference in 2012, details of which will be announced soon.
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