Friday, September 05, 2008

A gathering of authors

I don't know if there is a collective noun for a gathering of authors, but last weekend I went to the Society of Authors conference for children's writers and illustrators in Cambridge. There were certainly a lot of them.

I enjoyed meeting a lot of people I had only either read or chatted to online, as well as some old friends.

Highlights were:

- William Nicholson's extremely funny account of his life and writing career -- how he started off wanting to be Proust, and ended up writing Gladiators and Shadowlands

- Philip Pullman's tub thumping, a barnstorming speech against age banding in which he said that if we allow it to go ahead all of civilisation will grind to a halt and the earth will turn to a desert. This won riotous applause. We all then felt terribly sorry for the publisher from Scholastic who had to get up and follow him and speak in defence of age banding. At the end of it most of us were still against age banding, and the publisher apologised that they never consulted all the writers before going ahead with it, and promised that no writers will have to suffer age banding on their book covers without consultation. Of course this does not necessarily mean that it will not go ahead....

- Alan Gibbons launched his campaign in support of reading, as lots of libraries are being closed by local authorities and schools seeking cutbacks, and they are also not appointing qualified chartered librarians to fill vacancies. Writers who sign up to the campaign -- and I will post the website later -- as well as teachers, local authority staff, librarians themselves, and anybody else, will be asked to sign petitions against specific closures that we find out about, and perhaps speak at a public meetings.

- Michael Rosen, who lamented the fact that kids nowadays can go through the whole of their school years without reading a whole book, just extracts, and are not taught to enjoy reading for pleasure merely reading functionally and to help them fit into the job-centred world.

- Malorie Blackman, who is lovely and immensely approachable.

- David Almond, ditto. He spoke with Polly Dunbar about his collaboration with her on My Dad's a Birdman

Thank you to everybody who organised it, in particular Enid Stephenson.

1 comment:

Sue Hyams said...

Sounds good, David. I went to the last one and found it immensely enjoyable. I must admit it was a bit daunting though. Sounds as if they had some excellent speakers this year and I think Philip Pullman's speech is already legendary.