The October blog is written by Jo McCrum, Secretary of the Children's Writers & Illustrators Group and the Broadcasting Group of the Society of Authors.
Short Story Campaign
The short story campaign, eloquently described by Susie Maguire in the September blog, is drawing to a close. We are deeply grateful to Bill Nighy, Brenda Blethyn, Hugh Bonneville and Pip Torrens who gamely recorded our - what would you call them? - Haiku stories for the SoA website as part of the campaign finale. I recommend, for Halloween, Brenda's spine-chilling reading of the ghost story from Sarah Waters' opening line.
As well as receiving good coverage in the UK press we trended in the UK Twitter Top Ten on the day we launched with the Ian Rankin line (credit to the tweeting Scottish contingent of the Society). We were astounded to receive global interest with submissions from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the US and Germany, and responses in French, German, Farsi, Urdu and Dutch.
The tweetathon generated just under 5,000 tweets, all of which can be viewed in the campaign tweet archive here. Some of our 2,853 followers led the tweetathon elsewhere, taking our first lines and rules away to use at everything from creative writing classes to family dinners. Click here to visit the tweetathon page to access the stories and podcasts.
8,160 people have now signed the petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/noshortstorycuts/, and we hope to reach the 10,000 mark before we close the campaign at the end of National Short Story Week (7-13 November).
BBC Director-General Mark Thompson has not replied to the appeal we sent in September, so now he has delivered his Delivering Quality First report we will, armed with proof of the nation’s love of short stories, press for a response. Prominent will be this passionate defence from Bill Nighy:
'The idea that we need more news on Radio 4 is bewildering... I can’t move for news. What I don’t see all around me is the opportunity to listen to new writing, or indeed old writing, in short story form. I love to be told stories. The world loves to be told stories. Radio 4 is a time-honoured outlet for such stories. It’s a famous part of our nation’s tradition. It’s an opportunity for writers to express themselves in a very important form on a regular basis and it reaches a comparatively large audience. I personally treasure that and I can get my news from just about anywhere.'
Radio Drama Awards
Normally when autumn comes around, rather than scuffling through leaves in the park, I’m staying late at the office scuffling through papers during final frantic preparations for our radio awards: the Imison and Tinniswood, which we jointly present with the Writers’ Guild (with support from the ALCS and the Peggy Ramsay Foundation).
At the same time I’m worrying about what could possibly go wrong on the evening: what I am never concerned about is the quality of the selected scripts. It’s a pleasure to witness the judges intelligently and incisively taking each one apart and arguing its merits. The shortlists are now decided and can be found by clicking here.
We’ve asked Lee Hall to present the awards and he has commented:
‘It was very important to me to win the Imison. Believe me I made that "modest" money stretch a long way, and the fact that writing for radio seemed to matter to people was a huge tonic, as you don't really come face to face with your audience like in theatre, and it's largely ignored in the press’.
We hope there will be even more interest this time as the awards are being presented at an inaugural BBC event at the Radio Theatre on 29 January 2012.
New categories include best actor, actress, newcomer, production, online drama, sound design, adaptation, and production. There will be a Front Row broadcast, and the shortlisted Imison and Tinniswood plays will be repeated on R3, 4 and 4 Extra. Radio achieves so much creatively with such scant resources, it will be wonderful to see actors, producers and musicians from this often unsung medium given the recognition they deserve.
It does seem paradoxical that even as our radio awards (and the plays they celebrate) are being given this makeover, our friends at the Beeb are cutting back so drastically on the weekly output of short stories – from six and a repeat each week two years ago to a mere two a week next year. We can only hope that our campaign, backed by so many prominent creative spirits, prompts a change of heart. Now that would be some news I’d like to hear.
The CWIG Conference
The highlight of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group calendar is almost upon us: the CWIG conference Joined-Up Reading, 14-16 September 2012. Sarah McIntyre’s lively logo for the event has adorned the SoA home-page for some time; we are now ready to take bookings.
With Enid Stephenson and the CWIG committee we have developed a fabulous schedule including the following speakers: Allan Ahlberg, Ros Asquith, Terence Blacker and Derek Hewitson as Taboo-De-Do!, Gillian Cross, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Philippa Dickinson, John Dougherty, Nicola Davies, Julia Eccleshare, Alan Gibbons, Joe Goodwin, Director, Children’s BBC, Meredith Hooper, John McLay, Michaela Morgan, Geraldine McCaughrean, Sarah McIntyre, Robert McCrum, Patrick Ness, Helena Pielichaty, Bali Rai, Jane Ray, Celia Rees, Nicola Smee and Nicola Solomon.
Full details are at www.cwigconference.com, where you can also see photos, biographies and the full programme, as well as pictures of the newly refurbished Reading University, where the conference is to be held.
CWIG members have contributed enthusiastic validations of previous conferences on our website. Delegates have left feeling inspired, creatively invigorated, and with new friends and contacts. This is a priceless experience and all for the equivalent of putting aside earnings from one or two school visits. Book soon - there won’t be another one for three years!
As I wrote this blog Philip Pullman joined Kensal Rise library protesters in a vigil to persuade Brent Council to reverse their decision to close their library. Children's authors, like many authors, care passionately about libraries and at Joined-Up Reading we will address the decline of school and national libraries with two sessions - keynote speaker, Kevin Crossley-Holland will discuss his plans as incoming President of the School Library Association (from June 2012) and staunch libraries defender/agitator Alan Gibbons will update us on national lobbying.
As you can read in the Society's submission to the Independent Review of Cultural Education studies have demonstrated that UK school children have inexcusably low levels of literacy and enjoyment of reading. To help reverse this we will continue to lobby the government to make the provision of a trained school librarian and school library statutory (n.b. libraries are a statutory provision in prisons).
However, you do not have to move from your desk to help. Please sign, if you have not done so already, the WI libraries petition (which is open to all). 100,000 signatures will automatically trigger a debate at which the government will be forced to address the issue of libraries and their obligations.
Member, Ian Mortimer reporting from the Institute of Historical Research winter conference: Novel approaches: from academic history to historical fiction 17-18 November 2011
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