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pg 8 literary agent andrew lownie predicts some of the major changes in store for the publishing industry in the new year.

pg 30 self published author graham wood tells us about his inspiration for writing his novel and the path he took to get it in print.

pg 33 want to give the gift of reading this year? these charities bring literacy to communities most in need of support.




Literary EVENTS

CALE NDAR A Look Ahead

2014 at the Year’s

Most Anticipated



This Month


Your brave new year.


Vanity 21

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Events 16 Writers Welcome 23


25 Never Too Old 36


Welcome to the latest issue of New Edition! This issue is jam-packed with tricks and tips for writers – from New Year’s resolutions, to how to deal with writer’s block, finding writers’ groups and picking the publishing option that’s right for you and your book. If you’re both a literature lover and a movie buff, we’ve found some films based on books that don’t disappoint. Literary agent Andrew Lownie makes his predictions as to what 2014 will bring for the publishing industry, and we look forward to some of the events that promise to be this year’s industry highlights. If you’re looking to give back this year, we’ve found some literacy charities in need of support. We also interview author Graham Wood and review Susan Higginbotham’s The Woodvilles, as well as bringing you some of the childhood books that still move us today.



Your Brave New Year There’s no better time for redefining how you write than January with its sleigh-load of good intentions. Hayley Radford offers her ten, somewhat unconventional, resolutions for 2014.

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Take a step back. If you’ve written a novel, a work of non-fiction or, frankly, anything creative and intelligent that required thought, concentration, effort and probably to some degree a dash of social sacrifice, give yourself a hearty pat on the back. The completion of a book, a short story, a poem or anything longer than a Tweet, is a tour de force in these distracting times. Many of us would like to think we have a book in us, but far fewer have the skill and the dedication to actually get it out. Having to sustain a good idea over 100,000 words sounds as ominous to me as being a bed-bound Paul Sheldon faced with a twitchy looking Annie Wilkes, a plank of wood and a mallet. Respect and admiration are due to anyone with the tenacity to tell a story. You are already a literary cut above!

Accentuate the positives. When you’re a creative sort, other people with treat you with suspicion. This is a fact. Whether it’s born out of innate jealousy, self consciousness in the face of brilliance, or just total ambivalence towards the special interests of others, it can feel hurtful to the sensitive writer who wants to talk about their work. I’ve lost count of the number of authors who’ve explained, with a heavy sigh, that their wife thinks their book is daft, or that their friends have stopped answering the phone for fear the author will automatically start reading them an excerpt. I also know a lot of writers whose nearest and dearest have artfully avoided reading their books, in an oddly cruel attempt to spoil things for them. Ignore them all, for in the words of Shakespeare’s Othello, “It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on”.


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But do check in on the negatives. Equally, there are those writers who may believe so whole-heartedly in their own genius that they fail completely to remain open to constructive, insightful comment. Learning to know your own value, to objectively identify your strengths and your weakness, is key, both in improving as a writer, and in tackling all of the extracurricular elements demanded of the 21st century author. You’re not Margaret Atwood – not yet at least – but you might just get there if you resist falling too much in love with your own writing.

Learn who to listen to. Learning how to distinguish between voices of authority, influence and insight, and those just talking for talking’s sake is crucial. Does it matter if your dad, a man of no particular design skills, doesn’t like your book cover? Do Uncle Jim’s views on the author–editor relationship resound when he admits only to reading the sports section? Should you instead reconsider the advice on your final chapter, given by a friend of a friend who’s a voracious reader of the genre in which you write? Whose words matter? I’d be a rich woman if I’d claimed a pound for every time someone overruled my own expertise in favour of complete rubbish they’d been told by their next-door neighbour, over the fence so to speak. Marion says getting a science fiction novel with absolutely no news currency in the Daily Mail is a doddle? Oh, well then, it must be. Silly me for working for fifteen years in journalism and PR when Marion’s got it all figured out. People will always try to give you their opinion, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth listening to. Except sometimes it is. Take on board the positive and the negative and weigh it up for yourself, in earnest. Because as Ernest wrote in The Garden of Eden, “When you start to live outside yourself, it’s all dangerous.”



When I was a little girl my grandmother used to roll her eyes at me if I launched into one of my signature long-winded stories. In the middle of my waffle-on, she’d put a pointed finger in the air and say, “Dear, précis please, I don’t know how long I’ve got left.” This demonstration of intolerance towards my childish whimsy could have done lasting damage to my ego; instead, it encouraged me to perfect the art of condensing detail unless more was needed. This may be why I write press releases for a living. If you’re an author, especially one looking for a literary agent or pitching their book to retailers or journalists, never underestimate the power of a punchy overview. A lack of clarity, direction and impact can make it much harder for those who don’t know your story intimately to connect with it. Recalling its essence should feel like the most natural thing in the world; if you come across as awkward or laboured you may lose people’s interest. Even with the novel itself that’s important. Do people really want five pages of flimflam about how a particular mountain range looks charming in the sunlight? I think not.


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Get things into perspective. Authors give themselves such a hard time. Stop thinking that everyone else is selling 100,000 eBooks a month and jumping into vats of cash on the weekends, like some sort of literary Scrooge McDuck. Keep an eye out for what other writers are doing as a motivator of sorts, but remember that those who are really visible are a tiny minority. The vast majority of authors working today are labouring for the love of it. The new digital dawn has been both a wonderful opportunity and a great leveller. Keep at it, and don’t let others distract you from the job at hand; writing because you have to and striving to connect your story with others who will be changed for the better by reading it should be your purpose.

Write for yourself. Not for the market. Not for the money. And not for your mother. Don’t write a book just to make a million. Financial reward must be the icing on the cake of a creative endeavour that was just so important to you that you couldn’t not do it. And authors rarely factor in all the time it took them to write their book in the first instance. You’re usually talking hundreds of unpaid hours, so if you’re only after guaranteed profit – and there are no guarantees in publishing – you’d be better off working in one of those monster Amazon warehouses, stacking other people’s books in boxes. Writing because you’ve spotted a trend in the market feels like a joyless expedition into the half-known if ever there was one. And as for your mother, well, writing for her will only either artificially curb your creativity or leave you wounded when she doesn’t like it quite as much as you’d hoped. Write the book you most want to read. The rest will take care of itself.

Read everything you write out loud.

This is one of my favourite tips and not nearly enough people do it. Books should be written to be read out loud and if you do this, not only will you pick up more rogue errors, but you’ll immediately become much more conscious about language, elegance and phrasing. If you can’t read a sentence you’ve written without gasping for breath or tripping over the words like a drunk then it will be less effective on the page. Beautifully written books are a veritable joy to read out loud to friends and family, whether they are clipped and dynamic, or syrupy and luxurious. Reading something out loud is the truest demonstration of a writer’s individuality and character. After all, you don’t want to be left red-faced at your book launch if you’re reading your book out loud for the first time and you hyperventilate in the process.




Think like a journalist. This does not mean that you have carte blanche to tap phones, cheat, lie, scheme, deceive or start talking in headlines. But it does mean developing a steely, astute edge, enabling you to be more objective about your own work, recognising what’s really interesting about your writing, identifying who your reader is and catering to them efficiently and effectively, and learning how to isolate the newsworthiness of your own story. The first thing any journalist worth their salt will ask in relation to a potential news item is “Why do I care?” Their second question is “Why would anyone else care?” Ask those questions of yourself, so that you’re completely realistic and focused in whatever you do. Anticipating what others – whether they are journalists or bloggers or even publishers – really want to hear and read will enable you to deliver content or comment more accurately and with greater success. You have a radio interview coming up? Work up two choice anecdotes and find out something funny about the host who’s interviewing you. Do not drone on about what happens in chapter ten that won’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t read the book. And never, ever, ever respond to a question from a punter or a hack with the words “You’ll have to read my book to find out”. Because you know what? They will not read your book now.


Give and you will receive. The concept of freemium marketing is an inspired one. Whether it’s a first chapter, a couple of books, your time or a blog post, being open and willing to give things away for free – without always expecting to get something back in return – will not only encourage others to engage with you, they will start to appreciate you. Joanna Trollope famously spent years driving around the UK giving unpaid talks to the Women’s Institute in return for the opportunity to talk about her book. Her grassroots PR slowly enabled her to build up a loyal following. Now she lives in a castle and breakfasts on caviar (possibly). Don’t begrudge this bit, because it can count for an awful lot.



An Agent Looks Forward Literary agent Andrew Lownie speculates on what 2014 might bring to the world of publishing. It’s now a full year since the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency launched its own digital and print-ondemand (POD) imprint, Thistle Publishing, and we’ve published some two hundred titles from the agency list – a mixture of backlist where rights have reverted and front list where we failed to license rights. It’s been a great success with half a dozen books serialised, many making Amazon promotions and therefore their bestseller lists, and the profile from ‘establishing’ the book has led to new rights deals in the USA and translation. It is clear as we go into 2014 that this sort of agenting is here to stay. It provides a useful new revenue stream for authors and allows editions to be published which would otherwise never see the light of day. Indeed, many authors are opting to go down the Thistle route rather than go with a legacy publisher because of the better rates on eBook rights – at least twice as good – the fact that rights are not locked down for term of copyright, that Amazon promotions are delivering sales often in excess of 10,000 copies for some eBooks and that books can be published very quickly and at various lengths. Thistle will be expanding next year and all that limits growth is the availability of suitable books from the agency’s own authors, which may mean that Thistle in 2014


develops into a publisher which draws in authors hitherto not represented by the agency. The success of Thistle has not meant that the agency has stopped submitting to legacy publishers; indeed, this has been the most successful year in the agency’s twenty-five years. According to Publishers’ Marketplace, Andrew Lownie retained his spot as the top selling agent in the world. There’s room for both publishers and agents to publish just as bookshops have become publishers and publishers have become both retailers and rights agents. It’s simply a more fragmented market now that authors and agents can handle roles traditionally reserved to publishers, such as production, distribution and marketing, and that fragmentation will continue throughout 2014. The digital revolution and Amazon have provided exciting opportunities for individual authors, agencies and small publishers to compete with the conglomerates – Amazon makes no distinction by colophon – which doesn’t mean the conglomerates don’t still have a powerful place. Two of my most successful authors, Cathy Glass and Casey Watson, are published by HarperCollins, who have been very clever at selling what appear to be British domestic dramas around the world. Cathy Glass is now published in


eleven countries and was number 1 on the New York Times eBook bestseller list last Christmas. Between them, Cathy and Casey have been in the paperback non-fiction list most weeks this year. This is due to very skilful and innovative marketing by HarperCollins, including varying the price and releasing Cathy’s last book in three separate ‘taster’ instalments. I envisage both Cathy and Casey being even more successful in 2014 because of the support they receive from HarperCollins. I see the role of authors in promoting their books becoming increasingly important. Cathy Glass spends hours each day responding to enquiries and questions on her website but this attention to building a relationship with her readers has paid huge dividends. Looking at my crystal ball for 2014, my instinct is that publishers will be increasingly selling direct from their own websites, building up useful data about their customers and, I hope, passing on the savings to the authors. Perhaps they will develop their own book club models in targeted areas where brand authority is important and there is a loyal following, such as crime fiction and inspirational memoir, offering a certain number of books early and more cheaply in return for readers committing to take a certain number of titles each year. Perhaps that principle could be rolled out to bookshops, with certain hardbacks available to them exclusively for a month before being released to online retailers. Perhaps we will see Penguin Random House playing to their brand strength by opening their own bookshops, simply selling their own titles and making the bookshops centres of various speaker events. Maybe the big conglomerates will organise their own book festivals, partnering with sponsors, and regional and national newspapers will enter into joint ventures with publishers to produce books, guaranteeing extracts, selling copies ‘off the page’ and through websites and generally supporting through features.

There are battles still to be won by authors and agents, such as eBook rates, where I’d like to see 50% paid on front list titles moving to 70% on all books which have been out for over two years. Contracts currently cannot keep pace with the rapid technological changes and seven- or ten-year renewable contracts, as with translation, would be fairer. We need to see rights not being ‘bought’ for term of copyright but publishers simply acting as custodians of those rights for a certain number of years. That will help keep all of us in publishing on our toes in terms of the service we offer. It’s encouraging that publishers and booksellers are placing more focus on backlist – one of Amazon’s key advantages – but more needs to be done in relating backlist to the changing news agenda, with dedicated marketing teams working on backlist titles. I very much hope that contracts, especially with imprints within the same houses, will become more standardised and consistent and rather closer to the terms won only in recent years with the Minimum Terms Agreement. I cannot believe that discount rates, subsidiary rights splits and escalations need to vary as much as they do. A simple gesture such as generous provision of author comps would go a long way to demonstrate that publishers are genuinely interested in author care. It would be lovely, too, if the whole process of paying authors, who are often delivering to tight deadlines, could be speeded up, with payments such as ‘on publication’ actually being on publication, and if royalty statements could be rather more informative and be emailed or made available through author portals. The rate of change in publishing, I believe, will accelerate in 2014 and we will all need to be more responsive, more flexible and more co-operative; but if we can think imaginatively, there is no reason that it shouldn’t be a bumper year for all of us.

Andrew Lownie of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency will be at the LitFactor PitchUp! tent during the London Author Fair. Details at londonauthorfair. com



Writer’s Block: What It Is and How to Beat It


An author himself, James Wharton knows full well how irritating writer’s block can be. Here are his tips on how to prevent this pesky syndrome.


For me, writer’s block had a bark slightly worse than its bite. Of course, everybody is different, but I spent more time, and was more affected by, worrying about waking up one morning and not finding the words to write than about the real onset of actual writer’s block. The pressures of deadlines, inevitable calendar obstacles and the urge to spend hours YouTubing rather than typing away in bliss are stressful factors when writing anyway; to wake up and not have the mind to focus on conveying the written word onto the page can cause huge problems, as well as the obvious delay in a book’s production. But what can be done? My own experience has taught me to just expect the inevitable. Know and respect that Christmas is not the time to wake up early and write 2000 words; understand that Sundays are just natural days on which our minds don’t want to be taxed too heavily and that we all, sooner or later, need a holiday. I have friends who block out the entire world when writing, particularly in the run-up to deadline, but for some that isn’t desirable, and for me, I was pleased I didn’t need to make such arrangements. Here are my tips on preventing writer’s block: Plan ahead. Plan a week’s writing in advance, on a Sunday afternoon perhaps? Sit down and draw out a timetable of events. Give yourself ‘fudge-factor’, allowing you to run over by an hour or so if things are going particularly well; equally, start an hour later if the energy to produce is missing in the morning. Take in some fresh air. I found walking my dog around the block early in the morning, before making a cup of coffee and sitting down to write for a few hours, to be a really good way to wake up. On the odd occasion (and I mean odd) I even took in a little jog, dog-lead in hand, which certainly boosted my energy levels for some serious writing. Take regular breaks. OK, not overly regular (which is a great cause of writer’s block in itself ), but stop for lunch. Take a walk to the coffee shop midafternoon, and do a little housework sporadically throughout the day. I always took an hour for lunch, a stroll to the coffee shop on the near-by high street in the afternoon, and it became something I looked forward to. This is something you should ration into your plan at the start of the week. Don’t give yourself a hard time. If a friend has invited you out for dinner, give yourself a little bit of time off and relax. You will probably end up talking about your writing process at some point, so you won’t be able to completely take your mind off the task altogether, but do seriously consider leisure time. It’s also nice to bounce ideas off friends, whether they be cover design details or potential titles. Consider a writer’s retreat. I did this; I stayed in a property in the New Forest in picturesque southern England for a week to hone in and get some serious writing completed. It was perfect. I took my dog and was able to write 10,000+ words in an extremely relaxed state. It was probably the most creative period for me. Have the discipline to ‘turn it on’ if deadlines are approaching. I had a few late nights in the run-up to deadline day, which is perfectly normal. We want to cram as much as possible into the writing of our manuscript, and the way around this is to push through the occasional late night at the computer.



Of course, these tips are all well and good, but they don’t completely remove the possibility of finding yourself in a pickle, unsure where to go or turn next. If writer’s block does arrive, these tips, I hope, will be useful: Exert a little energy. I could usually tell within five minutes of starting the day if I just wasn’t up to writing a thousand words. I found taking a jog, completing a few lengths of the swimming pool or just casually strolling for a few miles in the countryside a very good way to clear the mind. I always let my mind wander when doing physical activity, and the inspiration you might be looking for can arrive when you allow this to happen. Take a week off. If time allows, close the laptop and give yourself a break. Keep a note-book in your back pocket, however, because if the moment of inspiration arrives whilst out shopping, you want to be sure to capture it somewhere. Eat healthier. Perhaps you’ve not been taking in enough fruit and veg and your mind is just a little too exhausted. Putting yourself through a little detox for a day or two might up the energy levels. All those creative chemicals will come streaming back. Speak to other writers. Whether they’re close, personal friends or via a website, enquire about other ways people have overcome delays in writing. I read an interesting piece by a well known author recently who realised their writer’s block was down to spending too long Tweeting and Facebooking with friends; if this is you, unplug the modem and come offline during writing sessions. This also allows you to implement a reward strategy: ‘no Tweeting before 500 words’ etc. The thing about writer’s block is that it affects people differently. There is a real worry that one can get swept up in the whole thing, and declare a project in tatters at the onset of the problem. This needn’t be the case! My opinion is this: if you can see it coming, or even if you wake up and suddenly find yourself in the midst of a mindset that won’t allow creativity, take effective and thought-out steps to rectify the problem as soon as possible; and if it doesn’t go away, relax. It will sort itself out soon enough; just be ready for the author in you to return!



Roses are white. American author Susan Higginbotham’s captivating new biography explores the remarkable Woodville family – whom many consider to be the Middletons of their day – and charts their astonishing ascent to royal power through a clandestine marriage. Hayley Radford reviews.



In 1464, the most eligible bachelor in England, the Yorkist King Edward IV, stunned the nation by revealing his secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, a beautiful, impoverished widow whose father and brother Edward himself had once ridiculed as upstarts. Edward’s controversial match brought his queen’s large family to court and into the thick of the Wars of the Roses; they would go on to act as major sparks during these wars, igniting some of the most critical events in which the Houses of York and Lancaster were embroiled. In her striking and insightful biography – the first to tackle the Woodvilles as an entire, fantastically colourful dynasty, rather than focusing on the King’s

bride alone – Susan Higginbotham reveals how the Woodvilles’ fates would be inextricably intertwined with the fall of the Plantagenets and the rise of the Tudors: Richard, the squire whose marriage to a duchess would one day cost him his head; Jacquetta, mother to the queen and accused witch; Elizabeth, the commoner whose royal destiny would cost her three of her sons; Anthony, the scholar and jouster who was one of Richard III’s first victims; and Edward, whose military exploits would win him the admiration of Ferdinand and Isabella. At the time of her birth, Elizabeth’s family were mere midrankers in the English aristocracy. Her first marriage ended upon

Higginbotham’s The Woodvilles examines the history of the entire family, not just that of the infamous Queen Elizabeth


the death of her husband, Sir John Grey of Groby, himself a minor supporter of the House of Lancaster. When she wed Edward IV, almost completely out of the blue, Elizabeth’s great beauty caused almost as much of a stir as her lack of a great estate; on Edward’s part, he became only the second King in England to marry one of his subjects. But as the Woodvilles quickly took up their place at court, and Elizabeth’s political influence began to shine, the royal family began to divide along dangerous, irreconcilable and, eventually, rather bloody lines, as rumour and hostility began to envelop the Woodvilles. One of Elizabeth’s sons would briefly become King; two would perish – the infamous princes in the Tower. Susan Higginbotham’s The Woodvilles is the first commercially published biography of this notorious family – whose aggressive social climbing and fondness for the limelight could lead them to be viewed as the Kate and Pippa Middletons of their day – and provides a deep, perceptive exploration of their lives, alongside little-seen documents and portraits. As praised by the Times Literary Supplement, Higginbotham lifts the Woodville family ‘out of the


centuries-old caricature of grasping, rapacious upstarts, to present cultured, intelligent and significant individuals’, all to illuminating effect. Higginbotham, a lawyer by trade with a masters in English, is better known in her native USA as a novelist; her first novel, The Traitor’s Wife, won the gold medal for historical and military fiction in the 2008 Independent Publisher Awards. Other publications include High and Bess (2009), The Stolen Crown (2010) – a novel in which Higginbotham focused her attentions on Katherine Woodville, the clan’s ultimate survivor, The Queen of Last Hopes (2011) and Her Highness, the Traitor (2012). She has also written numerous articles with a historical focus for the Ricardian Register, Historical Novels Review and Solander. For her, getting to the heart of who the Woodvilles really were and what they actually represented in fifteenth-century England was vital. “When I began to research the Wars of the Roses a few years back, I was shocked to find that so much of what I read about the Woodvilles didn’t withstand scrutiny – the story about the Woodvilles stealing the royal treasury, for instance. I also realised that so much of the

family’s history, such as Anthony Woodville’s contribution to the burgeoning printing industry and Edward Woodville’s exploits abroad, is overshadowed by the events of 1483. I wished that someone would write a book dissecting the various myths about the family and telling the lesserknown aspects of their story, and when no one obliged, I decided to write such a book myself.” By approaching this biography with her lawyer’s eye for detail and accuracy, extracting the truth from the boundless myths in circulation about this family made royal by marriage, Susan Higginbotham delivers a fair, frank and refreshing restoration of the Woodville name and reputation, whilst still serving populist appetites. Accessible, exceptionally well-researched and written with a novelist’s skill for storytelling, Higginbotham reveals a family who clawed their way to ultimate power but unquestionably paid the price for it. The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family by Susan Higginbotham is published by The History Press, £17.99, hardback, ISBN: 9780752488127





2014 January

24th–28th: American Library Association Midwinter Meetings and Exhibits Every year, the American Library Association holds an annual business meeting of library and information industry professionals in Philadelphia to showcase the latest books, videos, computers and other materials available to libraries and their users. Among a dynamic schedule of events and exhibitors is the annual Youth Media Awards, including the presentation of the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz and Coretta Scott King Book Awards to honor high quality children’s books.


Louis Dresner looks ahead to bring you the highlights of this year’s literary events calendar.

February 28th: London Author Fair If you’re going to put one date in your diary this year, it should be this. We’re excited to join forces with industry friends including Blurb, CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo Writing Life and NOOK Press to put on a forward-thinking new event designed specifically for authors. The inaugural fair will host over 400 authors across three floors of The Hospital Club in Covent Garden for a day of radical seminars, intimate workshops, one-on-one collaborator hubs, educational films and the live PitchUp! literary agent submissions event run by LitFactor. The day will close with an evening drinks reception where authors will get the chance to network with fellow writers and the variety of industry professionals in attendance.


March 6th: World Book Day (UK and Ireland) This UK event is chiefly aimed at promoting children’s literacy, but each year book lovers across the UK and Ireland get involved with readings, workshops and dressing up as their favourite literary characters. The rest of the world celebrate the UNESCO-designated World Book Day on 23rd April, but no one else does it quite like us Brits!

21st: World Poetry Day 25th: Bologna Children’s Book Fair

April 8th–10th: London Book Fair 23rd: World Book Night (USA) (UK) Last year saw over half a million books given away in the USA alone, and the event continues to grow. Among the wide array of titles to be given away this year are The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman, After the Funeral by Agatha Christie and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller; keep your eyes peeled for those kind volunteers who will be handing out free copies.

12th & 13th: LA Times Festival of Books The mission of the LA Times Festival of Books is to bring together the people who create books and the people who love to read them. The event is held every year on the University of Southern California campus and is free to the public. Highlights include author events, cooking demonstrations, poetry readings and exhibitors including booksellers, publishers and literacy and cultural organisations. Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner announced



May 12th: Limerick Day 15th–18th: Nebula Awards Weekend Every year, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America holds its annual Nebula Awards Weekend to honor the best of science fiction and fantasy writing. SFWA members and science fiction fans may attend to participate in workshops, programming and special events. All of the attending authors participate in a book signing, which is also open to the public. 22nd–1st June: Hay Festival Established in 1988, the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts, once described by Bill Clinton as “the Woodstock of the mind”, has grown to become one of the world’s best known literary festivals. An impressive list of headliners has already been announced, with Stephen Fry, Judi Dench, Jacqueline Wilson and Arianna Huffington all set to appear. 29th–31st: Book Expo America The largest trade fair in the USA, BEA is held in New York every year and features exhibits from all of the industry’s major players. While most of the fair is geared toward publishing professionals, the last day of the fair every year is open to ‘Power Readers’ – book fans and avid readers who want to take advantage of signings with over 500 authors, advanced reading copies, and tons of giveaways.


June 16th: Bloomsday Bloomsday celebrates this date in 1901 – the day depicted in James Joyce’s classic novel Ulysses. The first major celebration took place in 1954, with Irish writers Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien visiting various places mentioned in the book whilst drinking beer and reading the book as they went. It has since become an annual tradition celebrated by Joyce fans across the globe, with readings, performances and reenactments going on throughout the day. In Dublin, fans dress in Edwardian costume and follow the journey taken by the book’s main protagonist, Leopold Bloom, after whom the day is named. 26th–1st July: American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition This is the world’s largest event for the library community. More than 25,000 librarians, educators, authors, publishers, literacy experts, illustrators and library suppliers attend the annual conference, held this year in Las Vegas. Registration is also open to nonALA members.


July 16th–22nd: Hong Kong Book Fair With the Asian market increasingly developing a thirst for English-language books, this is quickly becoming one of the more important events on the publishing calendar for western authors and publishers. 23rd–26th: Romance Writers of America Annual Conference The RWA Annual Conference is specifically for romance writers looking to build their careers, meet other writers and interact with book publishing professionals. Taking place in San Antonio this year, the conference includes book signings, speeches from published romance writers, and a publisher-focused trade show.

August 9th–25th: Edinburgh International Book Festival

The Edinburgh International Book Festival books itself as the largest public celebration of the written word in the world. The event includes over 800 writers and thinkers who give talks and participate in book signings. Edinburgh also has a famously impressive children’s programme.

September 13th: Roald Dahl Day

8th–12th: Frankfurt Book Fair 15th–21st: Brooklyn Book Festival One of the lesser-known and newer US book festivals, the Brooklyn Book Festival is New York’s largest free literary event. The fair already boasts an impressive roster of past guests, despite only having been established in 2006; previous speakers include Salman Rushdie, Téa Obreht and Art Spiegelman, the cartoonist behind Maus.

October 14th: Man Booker Prize winner announced This year will see the globally recognised award becoming truly international for the first time, with recent rule changes set to open the doors to Englishlanguage books which were first published outside of the UK. This means that far more American authors are likely to be up for consideration than in previous years, adding some much needed transatlantic competition! Nobel Prize for Literature announced



November Whole month: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. While the event is international and largely individual, NaNo provides online support to writers via their website, allowing aspiring novelists to track their progress on their manuscript and interact with other writers and mentors. Miami Book Fair International The Miami Book Fair International is an eight-day literary party every November. Held in the streets of Miami, the fair includes over 350 author readings, including an impressive Latin American and Spanish programme, as well as more than 250 publishers and booksellers. National Book Awards winners announced


December 29th November–7th: Guadalajara International Book Fair Guadalajara is one of the world’s largest book fairs, and the biggest fair dedicated to Spanish-language literature. Unlike a lot of the other major annual publishing events, which could more accurately be described as ‘trade’ fairs, the Guadalajara International Book Fair has a focus on connecting readers to the books and authors they love.


Sign on the Dotted Line The ease and recent popularity of self publishing have changed the publishing landscape forever. But more options often mean more confusion for authors who set out to weigh services that may have the same name but not the same description or cost. Oren Berman explains some of the major differences in today’s available publishing options and how to make a well-informed decision. 21


Before technology allowed for authors to be the publishers of their own work, there was vanity publishing. Large companies, often affiliated with traditional publishers, would ‘acquire’ an author’s manuscript – telling the author that the publisher really believed in their work – and offer to publish it for a fee. Authors who hadn’t been acquired by traditional publishers but still wanted to see their work in print had no other choice besides these vanity publishers. The publisher would provide editorial, design, and marketing services in exchange for that fee, and they would also retain the copyright to the work as a traditional publisher would. Authors were responsible for distribution of the books, often buying a large quantity of copies and selling them themselves. The rise of self publishing hasn’t done away with this business model. While some companies leave complete control to the author – solely providing professional editing, design, and marketing services for a fee – others still seek to retain rights to the work like a traditional publisher would. The issue is that both types of company often call themselves self publishing companies and market themselves in much the same manner. And while it’s appropriate to pay a professional for services rendered, it’s not appropriate to pay a traditional publisher, who will retain the copyright and make profits from the sale of that work. The lines have blurred between vanity publishing and both self publishing and traditional publishing, and the term more aptly describes a set of motivations and behaviours than it does a particular business model. With many self publishing imprints utilising questionable sales tactics for their services – pretending to put manuscripts through a selective review process, or lavishing praise on their prospective author clients – and with some seemingly ‘traditional’ publishers asking authors to pay for the editing and marketing of their books, it means that authors have to be very wary to avoid getting taken for a ride. So whether you are looking for a traditional publisher or a facilitator for your self publishing project, here are some basic guidelines to help you avoid the vanity-esque elements on both sides of the spectrum:

If a publisher claims to have chosen your manuscript for publication while rejecting others, and offers you a book deal: You should only be offered a deal in which you get paid royalties for your manuscript, and possibly an advance on royalties before the book is published. You should not be asked to pay the publisher for any editing, design, printing, storage, marketing, or really anything at all. You should be comfortable with giving up control of your book’s design, production, and release schedule. Be aware that a book deal does not equate to a successful book. Be aware that many publishers do not spend much money marketing books by less famous authors, and you might be left with the responsibility for a lot of your own marketing; this does not make it vanity publishing. Read the fine print before you sign anything! It doesn’t hurt to have a trusted lawyer look over a publishing contract for you, too.


If a publisher or consultant offers you any publishing-related service that you have to pay for: There should be no intimations to the effect that your work has been selectively chosen, curated, or that you are in any way specially privileged to have the opportunity to work with the service provider. The provider should not be judging your writing or prophesying about your book’s chances of success. You should not be giving up any of your rights to the manuscript or finished book (distribution rights, translation rights, print or eBook rights, etc.). You should maintain control over the book’s design, retail price and release timing. You should be able to ask for the credentials of anyone who will be working on your book’s editing, design, distribution or marketing. Read the fine print before you sign anything! It doesn’t hurt to have a trusted lawyer look over a publishing contract for you, too.


Writers Welcome It is often said that a writer’s life is a lonely one. I don’t necessarily agree with this. As a writer, I have never been able to lock myself away for weeks at a time and shut out the rest of the world. The world needs to be experienced and connections with other people must be made in order to make a good writer. I write on the train, or when I’m waiting in line somewhere, or at 2am. The rest of the day is for living life. I have had periods in between jobs when so many people were telling me things like, “This is great! You can be a full-time writer! You have so much time to write now!” I did, but I also learned a really important lesson. In order to feel inspired and to keep my mind churning with dialogue and characters, I had to keep myself busy. I also needed more friends who were writers, something I always lacked. After working in theatre for many years, I certainly had enough actor/director/ producer friends, but hardly any writers. I decided to

Looking for a sense of community to encourage her writing, Diana Rissetto set out in search of the perfect writers’ group. She shares what worked for her, what didn’t, and how she ultimately ended up with the support she desired.

peruse the website for writers’ groups that I could join. Since I was lucky enough to be living in suburban New Jersey with easy access to New York City, I felt I would be able to join several groups at once. I live my life as a writer constantly terrified that one day somebody will tell me to just give up, so by opening myself up to joining writers’ groups, I was opening myself up to be crushed. I’m okay with constructive criticism and I have one friend that rips apart everything I write, but the thought of being in a classroom with people I don’t even know and being judged makes me feel nauseous. The first group I went to was a Playwrights’ Group that met in the New York City Theater District weekly. I should have had more confidence, since I had already been produced off-Broadway and had worked behind the scenes of many Broadway shows, but I didn’t. The playwrights each got ten minutes to present their work,


NEW EDITION, JANUARY 2014 is a rich resource for writers in any city looking to join a writer’s group or connect with other local writers.

which was read by actual actors, and then the rest of the group offered criticism. I realised something. Most of the playwrights were a lot older than me and most of the plays they were reading from were all really depressing. I felt out of place and realised that this group wasn’t for me. The next group I was asked to join by a member because they were seeking younger playwrights for the group. (Translation: Most of the playwrights they had were 80.) The group worked just like the last one. Playwrights would have their work read out loud, and then they would be critiqued. Once again, I felt very intimidated and couldn’t imagine ever offering my plays to be read out loud in front of people that I didn’t know. The other two writers’ groups I joined were in suburban New Jersey. One was another group for playwrights and the other, all different kinds of writers. The suburban playwrights’ group was much smaller than the one I had gone to in the city, and kinder as well. When it was time to offer critiques, people would only offer endless praise. And, yet, I was still scared to share my work, even after the theatre that the group belonged to produced one of my plays to a great reception. The general writers’ group was a supportive bunch, but they seemed much too all over the place for me. I attended several meetings, and yet, once again, never shared any of my writing. I had to ask myself why I was so scared to show strangers or new friends things that I had written, while I wasn’t apprehensive at all about handing my plays over to be done on stage. I think it was the idea


In order to feel inspired and to keep my mind churning with dialogue and characters, I had to keep myself busy.

that somebody could look me in the face and tell me something I wrote was horrible. During the run of my last play, I would run away and hide at the start of each intermission because I couldn’t handle seeing people’s reactions. When you write a novel, you aren’t there to witness somebody’s face as they read it. As a playwright, I am forced to personally see people’s reactions, and it’s terrifying. Being in the audience of my own play can be either one of the most incredible, reassuring feelings in the world or the absolute worst. I think finding the right writers’ group is like finding the right psychiatrist; and in some cases the writer is just not suited for a writers’ group. Two years ago, I started going to a group I call my ‘Positive Thinking Class’. Strangely, these non-writers have been more supportive and encouraging of my writing than any writers’ group I have ever been a part of, and attending that class weekly has provided me with endless inspiration. I now have several friends who are also playwrights, and I always try to be as supportive as possible to them. When I hear about a competition or a theatre accepting scripts, I always pass it along to my friends and I don’t see myself in competition with them at all. We are all different and have special things to offer the stage. I do find that many fellow writers are a bit competitive, and cringe when other writers succeed, something I have witnessed in the writers’ groups. I like to feel that in helping out fellow writers, some of that ‘writer’s karma’ will come right back to me. Let’s face it, writers are hypersensitive and crazy people. We need all the support we can get.


Movie Seeing movies based on beloved books is often disappointing for avid readers. But Chris Sansom lined up some of his favourite movie adaptations that got it right.


Loath as I am to present a list to you, there’s something about movies that lends them to the approach. People have long debated book-to-film conversions, mewling of film’s inadequacies, which rarely capture the written word’s true essence. For the most part I’d have to agree, but there’s been no shortage of successful attempts, and plenty of movies have even surpassed their printed counterparts. So let us look past my journalistic simplifications and jump straight into a by-no-means-exhaustive rundown of ten books that, in my opinion, made the fraught leap to the silver screen with aplomb.



‘The Pianist’ Based on Death of a City written by Władysław Szpilman (1946) Movie directed by Roman Polanski (2002) ‘The Pianist’ follows the Polish Jewish musician’s harrowing journey from Warsaw’s ill-fated ghettos during the Holocaust. Szpilman’s extraordinary survival takes him from his family in the city’s crumbling ghetto, surviving only thanks to his gift of piano playing. The film’s director himself was a survivor of the horrors of Nazi-occupied Warsaw, lending a unique perspective that aided in the film’s stark realism. A stand-out performance from Adrian Brody, which remains his unequivocal best, propelled the extraordinary story of survival amidst history’s most infamous genocide.

‘American Psycho’ Written by Brett Easton-Ellis (1991) Movie directed by Mary Harron (2000) Currently enjoying an East-end stage revival, EastonEllis’ timeless tale of psychotic serial killer yuppy Patrick Bateman shows no sign of releasing its ironlike grip on the imagination of readers (and viewers) worldwide. With a career-defining performance from Christian Bale, underpinned by a solid supporting cast, ‘American Psycho’ makes a strong case for a betterthan-book entrant.

‘Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas’ Written by Hunter S Thompson (1972) Movie directed by Terry Gilliam (1998) With Terry Gilliam at the helm and Johnny Depp firing on all cylinders of weird – fresh from spending some prime bro-time with Hunter S Thompson at his desert ranch in what could only be described as the most incredible role research of all time – ‘Fear & Loathing’ was never going to be anything other than twisted and incredible. Benicio Del Toro rides shotgun in this top-down, drug-fuelled hell ride through the psyche of one of the literary world’s leading proponents of Gonzo. It’s worth noting that Thompson’s book was more than loosely based on actual, no doubt twisted, events that took place, too. Where many films glorify drug-taking, this one is more of a cautionary tale that warns ‘everything in moderation, folks’. “Let’s get down to brass tacks, how much for the ape?”



‘Apocalypse Now’ Based on the novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899) Movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1979) Doomed from the beginning by torrid filming location conditions, actor/director conflicts and general bad luck, ‘Apocalypse Now’ looked sure to fail. Somehow, though, the manic psychosis of Conrad’s story seemed to bleed through, driving outstanding performances from Martin Sheen as Captain Willard and an ailing, overweight Marlon Brando as the murderously insane Colonel Kurtz. A truly eye-opening exposé of the horrors of war, and a stark reminder of the cost of America’s botched occupation of Vietnam, should we need one.

‘Forrest Gump’ Written by Winston Groom (1986) Movie directed by Robert Zemeckis (1994) Proof that a more light-hearted film belongs on such a list, ‘Forrest Gump’ followed the intriguing life of the eponymous Forrest – a dense and eminently likeable small-town boy with a unique view on life, who somehow finds himself present at some of the most major political events in history. Through wartime heroics to sporting prominence and inadvertent business acumen in the shrimping industry, Tom Hanks proves why he’s always been a solid lead. Although I’ve never quite understood his assertion that “Life is like a box of chocolates”.

‘Schindler’s List’ Based on Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Kenneally (1982) Movie directed by Steven Spielberg (1993) This list simply wouldn’t be complete without Spielberg’s haunting take on the Holocaust from Kenneally’s landmark book. Filmed in black and white and punctuated by the drifting figure of the young girl in red, ‘Schindler’s List’ is an unflinching depiction of some of the darkest moments in humanity. It stars Liam Neeson, who would’ve acted everyone else under the table if his co-stars hadn’t been Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes.



‘LA Confidential’ Written by James Ellroy (1990) Movie directed by Curtis Hanson (1997) Ellroy’s vision of LA’s seedy underbelly is realised beautifully in this late nineties heavyweight starring Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey and the criminally underrated Guy Pearce. Police corruption, violence and an abundance of necessary arse-kicking permeate this glorious slander of 1950s Hollywood. A true must-see for any fans of shotgun showdowns.

‘Trainspotting’ Written by Irvine Welsh (1993) Movie directed by Danny Boyle (1996) Seminal, grim, smack-headed movie-making doesn’t get any better than ‘Trainspotting’. It made its explosive entry into cinema history in the mid nineties. Personal favourite author Irvine Welsh’s hell ride into heroin-induced depravity is captured with true finesse by a burgeoning Danny Boyle. Truly a terrible advertisement for the otherwise beloved Edinburgh, depending on how sane you are. Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle seem so immersed in their roles that it feels more like voyeurism in a real-life drug den than cinema. Welsh’s checklist of questionable pornography, indiscriminate violence, faecal matter, excessive recreational drug use and incomprehensible language are so dutifully committed to film that one must question whether the Olympic ceremony committee were aware of Boyle’s early achievements.

‘Fight Club’ Written by Chuck Palahniuk (1996) Movie directed by David Fincher (1999) I’m not sure how it makes me feel knowing that ‘Fight Club’ is going on fifteen years old. Still as affecting as the day it was released, a stellar job was done by Fincher of translating Palahniuk’s much-loved book into a mind-bending tale of paranoia, anxiety and job-dissatisfaction which still resonates today. Brad Pitt and his washboard abs provide the perfect wine to complement Edward Norton’s proverbial cheese, as his straight-laced counterpart.



‘Blade Runner’ Based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick (1968) Movie directed by Ridley Scott (1982) One of several films on the list of those loosely adapted from somewhat short reads, ‘Blade Runner’ needs little introduction. Scant in size though it may have been, Philip K Dick’s book better than anyone else’s of the time painted a chilling picture of a dystopian earth, and Scott’s version served to elaborate in the most glorious way possible. Harrison Ford is sent to trace and execute sentient androids who have hijacked a ship in space and returned to confront the man who created them. Synthetic blood is bled, and circuit boards are fried beyond repair by Ford’s unrelenting character, Rick Deckard. An end of movie monologue crescendo lavished on the viewer by a Rutger Hauer at his peak solidifies the place of ‘Blade Runner’ in sci-fi greatness, if you needed any more of a reason to watch/re-watch it.



Writing FOR A Cause Katy Garland talks to author Graham Wood about the impetus for writing his novel, why he chose to self publish and what his plans are for 2014.

When Graham Wood’s daughter Becky diagnosed her own heart defect in a school biology lesson, a subsequent enquiry with her GP concluded with terrifying heart surgery. At just 14 years old, Becky, with her family, was put on a harrowing journey. Her condition will always require management through relationships, pregnancy, sport and work, so it is a journey that’s only just starting. But her bravery and reluctance to be treated as anything other than an ordinary teenager was an inspiration to everyone who went on that journey with her, and it had a particularly profound effect on her father. One thing became clear: life is too short and too precious to be wasted. It was during many sleepless nights at Becky’s hospital bedside during her recovery that Graham, in an attempt to take his mind off the worry, decided to fulfil a lifelong ambition. In January 2013 he began to write, and just four months later, the first instalment of the Zein trilogy was complete. Now with one book down, the other two are on the horizon as Graham hopes to build up a fighting fund to help his daughter have as normal a life as possible.


Tell us about that moment you realised you should write a novel, and why you felt it was now or never. It was in June 2012. Watching the indicator light on the pulse monitor attached to my daughter in the hospital have to be reset every ten minutes by the nurse, when her pulse was erratic on that first night after the operation. To take my mind off the worry I began to sketch out the plot for the first novel, which then turned into a determination to create something from the chaos and uncertainty of the last two years. It was also a way I could thank Alder Hey Hospital and Ronald McDonald House for their support during a difficult time. Pledging to give 50% of Zein’s first book profits for the next three years to these charities is a great motivator. Life has been good for me and successful; however, we have lost loved ones recently and we have other family members who have been and are ill. Then you have my daughter’s condition. It makes you focus and realise that there is only one thing stopping you from writing and that is you. My success in my career is down to just saying ‘yes’ at the right


time and taking opportunities. This opportunity is mine to waste and no one else’s. Why did you choose to go down the self publishing route? I had heard of self publishing a couple of years ago but knew very little about what it entailed. It was in January 2013, when I started my first book, that I researched what it would mean to me as an author. I did send my initial draft off to one agent with no success; however, I wanted to publish the novel this year and the traditional publishing route appeared flawed and laborious in my judgement. My only option was to self publish.

chapter without any interruptions. I would wake up at 5am on Saturday and Sunday and go down into my hut at the bottom of the garden. It has light and heat and is incredibly quiet with only the birds at dawn for company. I would focus on writing, say, four thousand words and then through the day as I walked the dog or did my errands I would develop the chapter further.

What about balancing your writing life with work and family life? I am a freelancer who negotiates IT global outsourcing contracts. My working hours are flexible and there is an element of remote working. I factored this into my What was your writing routine planning and made sure I gave like during those four months? myself time to progress the book. I I found it incredibly easy to write. had days where I produced whole My approach was to write a new chapters and nights just sitting in

front of the television watching football critiquing. My wife did mention that when I finished my book that at last things around the house would be done! I then started editing for seven months. I’m very lucky that my family know how much this means to me and are very proud and supportive. What have you learnt in the process? Lots. The different stages of the process have each provided their own challenge. You quickly realise how you can improve aspects next time to make it smoother and more productive. I have learnt to approach this as not just a labour of love, which it is, but also as a serious commercial undertaking. I know that I will enjoy the experience more (and my family and friends) if the product is good and people enjoy the story. The

Author Graham Wood plans to self publish all three books in his Zein trilogy.



key is to plan out my activities and deliverables in detail. This attention to detail will enable me to achieve a goal that has eluded me for over thirty years. Structure and planning is vitally important when you have a day job that needs the same love, care and attention that writing a novel does. The latter is just much more enjoyable. Talk us through the positives and negatives of the process. Writing is the number 1 positive. Watching the words, sentences, chapters and story unfold is an incredible feeling. You enter a different world and it consumes part of you. As an example I walk the dog regularly and when in the throes of writing I can walk for an hour with plots rushing around my head and then all of a sudden I’m back home. Autopilot dog walking – a new business idea! The

other main positive is the sense of achievement; although there appear to be many books hitting the shelves or, more accurately, Kindle, it is still recognised far and wide as a major accomplishment. I also have enjoyed meeting and talking with people from a completely different industry than I currently work within. The negative is the typesetting and printing phase as you are on a high and then you need to learn patience. I also know I could write faster, quicker if I didn’t have the demands of my day job – but we all need to eat. How would you describe your overall self publishing experience? On the whole a positive experience. I enjoy the freedom of setting my own pace and having input into the cover and other aspects of the process. In the same breath I would

appreciate the attention of a literary agent or publisher to support my writing development. I have found the process enjoyable with the only downside being the delay caused by the typesetting in September and October. The support from Authoright has been excellent and I have just agreed for them to support books two and three. It has been enjoyable and exciting as I have wrapped my head round the whole process of producing a novel. The excitement of seeing your first cover and then the first proof is indescribable. I was like a giddy teenager! How did it feel to fulfil a goal that you have been considering for most of your life? Life altering. It is hard to describe and it is up there with some of the most important days in my life. Finally, what one piece of advice would you give aspiring writers? Start. Zein by Graham Wood (published by New Generation, RRP £7.99, eBook £4.99) is available online at retailers including and can be ordered from all good bookstores. Fifty per cent of the book’s profits for the next three years will go to Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and Ronald McDonald House.

The first book in the trilogy is available now, online and in stores.


Give the Gift of Reading


Looking for ways to do good in the new year? Jordan Koluch has found a few charities looking for donations of money and time to bring literacy to disadvantaged communities.

United Through Reading seeks to unite the families of US military personnel who are physically separated by allowing them to read aloud together. The programme records deployed parents reading aloud and sends the DVD recordings to their family members back in the States, which “eases the stress of separation, maintains positive emotional connections and cultivates a love of reading”. The family’s reaction to the video is also recorded and sent back to the service member. United Through Reading has nearly 200 recording centres worldwide on ships, bases and USOs and is available to enlisted members of any branch of the military. Find out more about United Through Reading at

Literacy for Incarcerated Teens provides reading-level-appropriate books to New York City’s juvenile detention centres and other residential settings operated by the Office of Children and Family Services in upstate New York. The programme funds libraries in Passage Academy’s eight locations in the state and provides over 600 books to the Brookwood Secure Residential Facility for Boys. They fund automated catalogues for the libraries and provide the shelves, audio-visual equipment and other necessary resources. A young person at an OCFS facility said: “Having new books in Brookwood not only helps us education[ally] but makes the ‘programme’ they teach us here seem real”. Literacy for Incarcerated Teens also brings authors to the Passage libraries to interact with over 300 students. Find out more about Literacy for Incarcerated Teens at www.

Springboard sends trained tutors and mentors to disadvantaged communities in London and Manchester to work one-on-one with students on their reading skills. The programme focuses on reinforcing what children are learning in their classrooms, using many different resources to teach topics like phonics, spelling, reading and comprehension. They also have a ‘Reader Leader’ programme that encourages secondary school ‘Leaders’ to support primary school ‘Readers’. One seven-year-old participant says: “I like having fun in Springboard. I enjoy playing spelling games and learning stuff. I love reading books. I think Springboard is great!” Find out more about Springboard at



Real Action promotes literacy for children, teens and adults through programmes in inner-city communities in the UK. Their Butterfly Saturday Reading School helps children improve an average of one grade level in their reading in just twenty hours of instruction. Says one six-year-old participant: “I like the Butterfly school because you learn more: if you don’t know something you can go there and learn it. And you can ask the teacher things after class. I also like it because you can borrow books to read; I’ve got lots of friends there, and the teachers are very nice. I’ve improved, and I’m very pleased about that.” They also offer English-language classes that take participants who speak very little English to an intermediate speaking level in just twenty weeks. The classes are offered during the day and at night to accommodate a variety of work and school schedules. Find out more about Real Action at


Girls Write Now brings professional female writers into at-risk and underserved New York City public schools and establishes mentorship programmes to inspire young girls. The programme provides one-on-one mentorships, monthly workshops and a reading series, along with college prep courses and therapy services. Their mission is to help girls “develop their creative, independent voices, explore careers in professional writing, and learn how to make healthy school, career and life choices”. One hundred per cent of Girls Write Now’s seniors have graduated from high school, most with portfolios, awards, scholarships and new skills. Says one mentee of her experience with Girls Write Now: “I loved the feeling of having so many people surrounding me willing to help me with my writing. In school, we are just told to write an essay; at GWN we are given examples and ideas on how to get started and how to keep the audience’s attention”. Find out more about Girls Write Now at

Reading is Fundamental provides children across the USA with the opportunity to choose from an array of free books and make them their own. Members of the local community help organise the book distributions, which include a host of reading-motivated events from read-alouds to book-themed carnivals. The Family of Readers programme helps parents develop the skills to encourage literacy in their children through a series of workshops on selecting children’s books, reading aloud and planning literacy events in their communities. One parent says of the programme: “As an RIF parent of two kids, I have seen how RIF books have broadened my children’s view of the world and changed their attitude. Thank you for your commitment to literacy.” Find out more about Reading is Fundamental at

The National Literacy Trust is the UK’s national literacy charity, promoting literacy in the poorest communities in the country. It supplies volunteers to work with children to build reading skills and encourage families to read with their children, beginning at an early age. They also have a Words for Work programme for teens, bringing volunteers into the classroom to teach crucial employability skills before young people begin the process of applying and interviewing for jobs. About the Words for Work programme, one volunteer said: “I feel really proud every time I say, ‘I’m off to school tomorrow’ – it gives me another dynamic about me. Words for Work is about learning the ways to ask for stuff and being positive and confident in yourself.” Find out more about The National Literacy Trust at


First Story is a charity that funds writers-in-residence in struggling UK secondary schools. The writersin-residence lead weekly afterschool workshops for students, who then publish their work in an anthology. The anthology is launched at the end of the programme, giving students the opportunity to read their work to their peers, family, friends and teachers. Created by teacher Katie Waldegrave and writer William Fiennes, First Story seeks to help “young people to find their voice and realise their voices have value”. With branches in East Midlands, Lancashire, London, Oxfordshire and Yorkshire, First Story is now running creative-writing residencies in forty schools. Students who participate in the programme have increased attendance levels, writing skills and confidence in their abilities as writers. According to one English teacher involved with First Story: “This has been an absolutely wonderful chance for our students. They are on free school meals, live in tough areas and have really challenging lives. It has been a chance for them to develop a love of language, of writing, to enjoy reading and the process of expressing themselves in a way that is so safe and so freeing. It has enabled them to discover themselves and develop this incredible talent.” Find out more about First Story at

Beanstalk recruits and trains volunteers to work one-on-one with children who have fallen behind in the UK public school system. Teachers choose students who could benefit from individual attention to improve their reading skills. Beanstalk volunteers are trained to deliver personalised attention in a constructive, encouraging manner. The main focus is to improve reading skills, but volunteers also help kids gain confidence in their own ability to learn. Last year, Beanstalk had 2,400 reading helpers in 1,100 schools working with over 7,300 children. Beanstalk’s volunteers help students improve two reading sub-levels (the Government target for one school year’s improvement) on average. In one case study, a sixyear-old student “has a long way to go before she reads as proficiently as many in her year group, but the change in her attitude since that day has been marked. She is growing in confidence each week and, at last, she believes that she too can be a reader”. Find out more about Beanstalk at

Reach Out and Read provides new books in paediatric exam rooms throughout the USA. Originally developed at Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center) in 1989, Reach Out and Read has expanded to all fifty states and distributes 1.6 million books a year. The programme also encourages doctors to educate parents about the importance of reading to children and of school readiness and estimates that they reach four million children a year. One doctor recounts her favourite memory from the programme: “I was seeing a fiveyear-old girl for her well-child check-up. I walked in with a brand new book and started telling her about Reach Out and Read. The mom interrupted and said, ‘Oh, yes! Last year you gave us The Ugly Duckling. It was the first book we ever owned at our house. We read it every night.’ She turned to her daughter and said with such excitement in her voice, ‘Now we’ll have two books at home!’ It shows how important Reach Out and Read is to our families, but it still breaks my heart to think that for some families, two books is such a luxury.” Find out more about Reach Out and Read at





Never Too Old

Every avid reader remembers a few books from their childhood that kindled their love of reading. Some even revisit these books over and over into adulthood. Here are a few books that we can’t help but return to, sometimes decades after they touched us for the first time.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett One of my favourite children’s books is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I regularly re-read this one and still love every bit. They even did an amazing job with the most recent film adaptation, which I always watch around the Christmas period. The magical, beautiful garden reminds me of my grandparents’ garden that I used to play in for hours on end when I was a child. There’s a prevailing theme around the idea that living things have an innate healing power and it just adds to the magic of it all.

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien I read The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien at the age of 14. Because it was such a significant part of my everyday life in 2002 it’s so deeply engraved on my memory that I can even vividly remember what music I was listening to or which computer game I spent my other free time on as the journey with Frodo Baggins progressed. Almost the entire year was absorbed in the reading of said book, so my 15th year stands out in my mind. Today, I occasionally return to Middle Earth, but generally only for a few hours every now and then – perhaps less than once a year on average. Sometimes I just flip open the book and start reading from the nearest paragraph. I don’t think I’ll ever read the complete work from start to finish again, but it sits on my bookshelf ready to go, and I will encourage younger generations of my family to put themselves through the experience as children, too, as it really opened my mind and made me aware of just how creative some authors can be. More than a classic, it’s literary treasure!


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon I first read this book when I was 12 and I loved it instantly; it is still one of the first titles that comes to mind when someone asks me to name my favourite novel. I recently re-read The Curious Incident in advance of seeing the fantastic stage adaptation and I think I enjoyed it even more than I did a decade previously. It wasn’t that I understand certain references or issues better now that I’m older (Haddon delicately addresses some sensitive subjects without being patronising to younger readers), it was more the fact that I noticed just how skilful a writer Haddon is; his dialogue is incredibly realistic and charged with emotion, making this a simultaneously sad and hilarious read for both children and adults.

Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself by Judy Blume I always felt this book was one of Judy Blume’s most unsung! Everybody always talks about Forever…, Tiger Eyes and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, but Sally was my favourite. Sally is a young girl growing up in post-WWII Florida. I have always loved stories set during the 1940s, and I wanted to be Sally. Sally is constantly making up stories in her head (such as Hitler really survived the war and is the retired man who just moved into her development). A book filled with Judy Blume’s typical comingof-age. Where would we be without you, Judy?





The Giver by Lois Lowry I read The Giver by Lois Lowry for the first time when I was eight years old. It was my first introduction to dystopian literature. Jonas, the main character, lives in a society where all negative emotions have been erased and everyone is assigned a place in the community. When he turns twelve, Jonas is assigned the job of the Receiver of Memory – the one person in the community who remembers the history of the world, pain and colour. I ran across a copy of The Giver when I was in high school and bought it for sentimentality’s sake. But in the process of doing so, I found out that there were two more books in the series, Gathering Blue and The Messenger, and bought both of those, too. In researching this article, I found out that the fourth book, Son, recently came out. It looks like I’ll be revisiting all of these books much sooner than I thought.







New Edition. Contemporary Publishing Magazine.  

Issue 10, January 2014 of New Edition, Authoright's monthly magazine for authors.

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