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Prince Philip and Me - CBC Book Club

28 July 2010 in | Comments (0)

I recorded this video when I was in Toronto at Book Summit 2010.  It’s less than a minute long and in it I talk about when I met Prince Phillip recently.  It was recorded by Rosie Fernandez for the CBC Book Club, which this month features the short story. 

Connecting Readers to Writers:  the ONLY POSSIBLE future of publishing

21 July 2010 in Future of Publishing | Comments (3)

messy desk

Two photos for my blog today:

my desk before I spent an entire day and a half clearing it

tidy desk

and my desk after I spent an entire day and a half clearing it. 

So now I have a desk like the people in movies and on tv!  Yay!

If a publisher or journalism outlet ever again deems me worthy of a commissioned author’s photo, I will foreswear the book-lined library backdrop in favour of a mobile phone mast or wifi hub, I swear. 

Two conversations have got me thinking, yet again, about the future of publishing, even though of late I’ve been trying to tell myself to stop thinking about the future of publishing:  one with Anna Lewis of completelynovel.com via e-mail, the other with Antonia Byatt of Arts Council England.  Publishing, as we know it today, will surely collapse due to multiple factors too complex to go into here.  The only important question left, really, is HOW TO CONNECT READERS TO WRITERS.  In a world where writers may have to become their own brands, forms of curation – whether that is prizes, or book clubs and reading groups, or the websites and blogs that we rely for personal recommendations – will be of huge importance.  The traditional role of publishers - gate-keeping - will become more akin to curation. 

In my bad-tempered way I do wonder what will happen to the big conglomerates with their huge overheads.  But, to tell the truth, I don’t really care what happens to them, and I am certain that readers don’t care about publishers either.  Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely thrilled to be published by them, that’s not what I’m saying.  What I care about, on a highly personal level, is being able to write what I want to write, being able to publish that writing in some way, and for that work to be able to find its way to readers other than my siblings.  These three things – write, publish, be read – matter more than anything else to me as a writer. 

I do want to be able to make an income from this activity as well though like most writers I will never expect to be able to live by writing alone. 

As a reader, what I want is access to good writing, to long-form sustained prose narratives as well as work that experiments with form, content, and media.  At the end of the day I don’t really care how that good writing is delivered to me, whether it is via the printed page or via digital files on a screen of some kind.  But I want to be able to find the writers I want to read, even if I’ve never heard of them before.  Which leads me back to my original upper case statement a few paragraphs back:  the only important question left, really, is HOW TO CONNECT WRITERS TO READERS.

Any publisher who isn’t addressing this directly and urgently will be in trouble soon.  And I don’t mean in trouble with me. 

And that’s my prediction for today.  I’ll go back to admiring my tv-lawyer style desk now.

Toronto - Ipswich - Bratislava - Vienna

5 July 2010 in | Comments (0)

I’ve been away a fair amount of late. 

I attended Book Summit 10 in Toronto a couple of weeks ago; it was a great day full of interesting conversations.  It was great to meet Dominique Raccah from Source Books - we shared a panel at the end of the day.  I was surprised to hear writer Robert J. Sawyer claim that writers won’t be able to make a living from writing ‘within a decade’; maybe he’s seen the future, but if he has, I intend to look the other way.  I do think that the it is important for the industry to be thinking creatively, and optimistically, about the potential for new forms of storytelling - and ways to make a living from said forms. 

I did a couple of events for Ip-Art, the Ipswich Arts Festival; I’d been the judge of their short story competition, and I read my commissioned short story as well.  I spent the following day working with students and teachers on talking about a big digital storytelling project I’ll be doing with 5 Ipswich schools in the forthcoming academic school year. 

Then I went off to Bratislava to work with Lubica Cekovska on our opera of ‘Dorian Gray’.

Las Meninas

Whenever I go to Bratislava, the National Theatre flies me in and out of Vienna, but I’ve never actually been to Vienna, so this time I left Bratislava a day early and spent twenty-four hours in Vienna.  My student Leo Thompson lives there, and he took me on a tour of the city on the back of his motorcycle, which was great fun.  I managed to cram in two art galleries and a walk around the city centre; I found Rachel Whiteread’s Holocaust memorial sculpture in Judenplatz hugely moving.  It is ugly and squat and very very affecting. 

But a highlight for me was the Kunsthistorische Museum; this museum has a number of Velazquez paintings.  Not Las Meninas, of course, which is in the Prado, but it does have a series of three paintings of the Infanta Margarita Theresa, the little princess at the centre of Velazquez’s great painting.  The portraits of Margarita Theresa depict her aged 3, aged 5 as she is in Las Meninas (wearing the same dress, but with a much more solemn expression), and then aged around 8; once painted, these pictures were sent out to tour the royal families of Europe as a way of showing off the Infanta’s potential as a future wife.  This series of portraits astounded me. 

And now I’m home again.