Monday, April 24, 2006

Hybrids - what the judges said

The judges were: Gillie Russell, Fiction Publishing Director of HarperCollins Children’s Books, Emma Soames, Editor of Saga Magazine, and author Helen Dunmore, winner of the first Orange Prize for Fiction.

They said:

For me the clear champion is Hybrids by David Thorpe. His wonderfully original and compelling story is told in the alternating voices of the two young teenage protagonists in a totally fresh and exciting way.

The reader is instantly drawn into a world which is current but not quite; which is real but only just; which is horribly close to our fears of what is happening and may happen in future. Exciting, page-turning, vivid and unputdownable, Hybrids and David Thorpe will I am sure be a real winner.

The alternating voices of the two protagonists will draw children in immediately with their fresh contemporary and compelling teenage voices.

The author writes so that one is immediately drawn in -- shown rather than told the story, which is key and critical for success and isn't always the case with new writers.

It questions our human dependency on technology and the loneliness of children and teenagers who may well have a stronger relationship with their computer, iPod and their mobile than with their own families and is a powerful and interesting way of dealing with an ever present difficulty in writing children's books, that is the way of "removing the parents" from the main thrust of the plot, in an original way.

It shows the reader our world in a different light and, like all the good, seminal writers of sci-fi, it takes the new technology and pushes it further and faster than is actually happening -- thereby tapping into our fears that things are changing faster than we can really cope with -- just as the great writers like John Wyndham did with Day of the Triffids and HG Wells with the War of the worlds etc.

The narrative is vivid and the imagery is strong -- I believe children will get a real buzz from Hybrids -- it will snatch the imagination and change the world a little bit each reader, which is what good fiction does. If strong imager stay in the mind, e.g. the Gene Police chasing the boy who had bonded with a scooter and forcing him to crash.

I believe we can take Hybrids into the marketplace in a way which is fresh and exciting and that it will attract good reviews and publicity on the strength of its writing and originality.

Friday, April 21, 2006

"The new J K Rowling"

It began with a copy of Saga magazine falling gratuitously through my letterbox.

When you're 100 you get a telegram from the Queen but when you're 50 you get, through the dubious machinations of database and personal information management, a copy of Saga magazine.

Oh no, I thought. This is it. I really have joined the ranks of the oldies. From here on it's downhill. Pension funds and bus passes here I come. Zimmer frames can't be far behind. It's over.

[Which makes me think, now that more and more people are living longer, perhaps Saga should launch a new mag for Centenarians - called Gaga perhaps. I didn't say that.]

Anyway as I thumbed despondently through the pages of adverts for cut-price cruises and vitamin supplements and creams to fight aging next to pics of Cliff Richards, I came across a competition announcing in big letters "Could you be the next J K Rowling"?

Sure, I thought. Why not.

Actually, no, as I'm male and not particularly good looking.

But anyway I like literary competitions since at least it means someone is going to read what you write. And with entry restricted to over-50s, that would increase the odds.

So I started writing, in the odd hour I could snatch here and there. This work was made possible and speeded up thanks to voice dictation technology.

Yet, one year later, as the pixels coalesced on the final draft, I firmly believed that what I'd written - for myself - not calculated to aim for any market - was too 'old' for the competition's stated target readership - 8-14. But what the hell, the competition had spurred me to write it and I could always send it somewhere else. So I sent it in anyway.

Two months later, I'm phoned by Sally Gritten, MD of the Childrens Books Division of HarperCollins, to say I've won.

'Hybrids' will be published in April 2007.

Thank you to everyone who read and commented on earlier drafts, including my sons Dion and Nemos, and their friends Tudor, his girlfriend (sorry forgotten your name), Izzy Rabey, Malachy Doyle, Richard Collins, Zoe Savvidou, Lucinda Beatty, Cheryl Huntbach, Frank Jackson, Betty Jackson, and anyone else I've forgotten.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

How to be an adept

I'm dubious myself, since trying to put this stuff into words literally either sounds weak or pretentious. But here is an attempt...

We are all novices. It takes years to become an adept.

An adept at what? Ho ho.

Being an adept is about managing change. To manage change you need to understand change. All change is relative, so your terms of reference and your scale are important. You want to exert change relative to what? By how much?

These terms and scale can change for each project or operation you undertake.

For each project you must know the territory inside out. This requires substantial research, the necessary resources to be gathered, and a calm mind.

The terms of reference which you employ must coincide with the real and the potential worlds.

The potential contains the real like a bowl contains suspended solids. If you work in a nearly saturated environment, in other words one where the potential events nearly precipitate into real events, then success is more likely.

We assume that the universe operates according to natural laws and that randomness also exists.

You must be rooted in the Creative and operate in the Receptive. These exist in a reciprocal relationship, and roughly correspond to the potential and the real.

If things are in their proper place relative to each other then harmony occurs. If things are not fulfilling their function where they are then disorder results.

The role of the adept is usually to restore order. But first she must attend to this in her own life. Then more powerful actions are possible.

Harmony brings good fortune. This is called preparing the base or HQ. It follows that brute strength or surface charms are not sufficient to bring results although they may have temporary success. For example Blair!

Identification with deep structure (the laws of the universe) is important for it yields understanding of consequences, the key to managing change.

Of course it is not just about strategy but judgement too. How good is yours?

Some people rely a lot on symbols. These are useful tools but one must not be seduced into believing they are real. They are arbitrary and to be discarded by the true adept, who only needs to be guided by his or her intuition as if instinctively.

The adept's consciousness is like a membrane. On one side is the mind, the creative. On the other: the real, 'out there'. Sensations pass through it each way. It does not hold on to or judge what comes up to or onto its surface but lets it pass through, while noticing it.

The adept's centre is protected at all times, fed and nurtured by constant practice. What form the practice takes is important only in that it does not have disharmonious consequences anywhere. Otherwise it can be anything, since all is arbitrary.

Only belief and persistence are important. While belief is fundamental, you must know it is only belief -- a metaphor, a symbol, a tool. Not a thing in itself.

Powers fade. Nothing lasts. Balance is always temporary. It reforms elsewhere.