There are writers that we read that will forever live in our hearts and heads. Writers whose vision, and eloquence, and understanding of their world and the wider world expands our own and makes us more understanding. For me Langston Hughes is one of those writers. A hugely important writer whose work heralded the Harlem Renaissance , one of America’s most important creative geniuses.
And then today I heard about this fund raiser from I, Too Arts Collective, a nonprofit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts. Their first major project is to provide a space for emerging and established artists in Harlem to create, connect, and showcase work and the goal is to lease and renovate the brownstone where Langston Hughes lived in Harlem as a way to not only preserve his legacy but to build on it and impact young poets and artists.
As Langston Hughes said ‘Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly’ Help make this dream become a reality and help affect the creative and working lives of people for years to come,
This May I spent five days in Singapore attending the impressive AFCC (Asian Festival for Children’s Content). The conference draws professionals involved in the world of children’s books, film, games and other media together in the National Library and hours are spent talking, listening and learning about other peoples expertise.
This year the country of focus was Japan and publishers, writers and illustrators from Japan presented their wonderful books to a very interested crowd whose members came from all over the world.
If you want to know more about the events and the scale of the conference visit the website http://afcc.com.sg/ which not only looks forward to next years event from 17th to 21st May (when the country of focus is Indonesia) but also looks back at the conference over the six years of its existence.
If you are interested in taking part the organisers have put a call out for submissions for papers https://www.facebook.com/AFCCSingapore/
There is no fee paid to speakers but if you are selected to speak then you are given a free multi-day pass to the conference which is worth its weight in gold based on the quality, diversity and range of the wonderful speakers.
How delicious it is to sit down with a magazine and not be entirely sure what you are going to find between its page, to have a sense of excitement and curiosity about what will be there. That is the feeling we are hoping to engender and encourage when people subscribe to Scoop.
Scoop is a new magazine for children between the ages of 8 and 12. It will be jam packed full of wonderful content by a fantastic range of writers and illustrators offering all sorts of different children something to tickle their reading fancy.
From Catherine Johnson to Gareth Jones, Emerald Fennell to Piers Torday, Chris Priestley to Lucy Coats the fiction will be a rich mix of voices and perspectives. From a look at the fun of cycling to how to paint a flower like Georgia O’Keefe we will have a range of activities. From writing a play to writing a poem we will encourage interaction. There will be graphic novel fiction and non-fiction, quizzes, competitions, reviews of exhibitions around the country as well as reviews of books. There won’t be a moments boredom and all this and so much more from the likes of Tom Stoppard, Neil Gaiman, Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin ….
So, who are we? We are Clementine Macmillan-Scott the founder of the magazine. She has worked as Coordinator of the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka and the Galle Children’s Festival. And me. Editor-in-Chief, commisioning content and working with contributors. Our Marketing Director Joanne Owen, a children’s and YA author and reviewer, who has worked for Bloomsbury Children’s, Macmillan Children’s, Walker Books and Nosy Crow. We all love reading, care about what children read and want that to be fun, quality, accessible and challenging.
Our aim is to enthuse children about the written word in as many ways as possible and publishing monthly at £3.99 per issue it is an irresistible purchase. The website goes live in the 1st September with lots of exciting content until then you can visit the site to register for a subscription http://scoopthemag.co.uk/. We are on twitter and instagram @scoop_the_mag and the first issue will publish on the 23rd September.
Why not subscribe http://scoopthemag.co.uk/ for someone you know. At £39.99 what a perfect year round birthday, Christmas or any-day present.
What an exciting week in the world of commentary about literature for young readers. First an article in TES (attached below for anyone who hasn’t read it) and then The Today Programme on Radio 4 follows it up with the author of the TES article having another opportunity to express his thoughts on the world of writing for Young Adults. (Again link below )
What can I say! It amazes me constantly that ‘other people’ are sitting around deciding in their great and elevated wisdom and critical ability what is ‘good’ and ‘right’ for Young Adults to read. That these wise, educated and cultured people have a notion of what is good means that they also have very clear ideas of what is ‘bad’ and bad seems to be anything that the young person might choose for themselves. Something that engages with the world on issues and concerns that they hold dear and want to address not only in the books that they read but in their lives both personal and political (or is there a difference!) So much about reading is about entering another world, the world of another person or political situation which allows you to polish and refine your ideas and opinions. For all of us (young or old) reading is also a way to vicariously experience, an opportunity to polish our opinions through the action of the protagonists without actually having to engage in the acts of rebellion, heroism, self-sacrifice and more. Through the vicarious sharing in the dramatic actions of Standish Treadwell I might just make a better and more noble choice when facing smaller but no less significant acts of repression in my own life.
So, when someone writes a long article about the risible standard of literature for young adults and seems to have very limited knowledge of what is being read by young adults today I am very keen to know what they think is good. Like the best wish fulfillment fiction my dream comes true the next day when the same commentator suggests that a good book for Young Adults to read at the moment is ‘The Domestic Manners of the Americans’ by Fanny Trollope. I have never heard of this book but a quick bit of research tells me that it created a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic when it was published in 1832 as the author had ‘caustic views of the Americans’ , and that she found ‘America strongly lacking in manners and learning. ‘ Sounds like just the enlightened, sensible, generous and empathetic literature we need these days to make sense of our fractured world in such troubled times. Thanks for the tip? No. Not really. But thankfully young adults continue to vote with their feet. To buy books by wonderful writers like Lisa Williamson, Louise O’Neill, Malorie Blackman, Brian Conaghan, Juno Dawson, Benjamin Zephanian, Alex Wheatle, William Sutcliffe, Laure Halse Anderson, Non Pratt, E Lockhart … someone please stop me
Radio 4 23.08.16 Today Programme the clip with the commentary about YA fiction is at 8:20 am http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07r1qh0
It has taken two months of intense and thoughtful reading to read and carefully consider the well over 500 submissions we received to our call out for manuscripts. And it has been a really fascinating experience for so many reasons.
Firstly, to see themes and ideas that appear through so many books from authors in hugely different and separate parts of the world. I wonder why this is? Is it that people are trying to write things similar to books that they have read and love, or similar to books that are selling well. I have read advice to aspirant writers that you should see what is working in the market place and try to write alongside that. Based on my past two months I now know that that is very very bad advice.
Secondly, writers all over the world are looking at ways to create engaging, interesting, original and compelling stories for young readers. Sometimes those stories are so universal in their handling of their story that I feel concerned that something is being missed and the missing thing is taste and flavour. I do believe as human beings we are all very similar. We care about fundamentally the same things – love, friendship, family, independence … the list could go on and on BUT (and this is a big but) we come at all these things with such distinct cultural knowledge and that should neither be ignored or made to be an excuse for certain types of behaviour and attitude that may be challenging. How do we navigate that literary tight rope … its tough but we have to as writers, publishers and readers. We want to see ourselves in books, we don’t want to see a neutered version of people but we also don’t want to feel that we are being pigeon-holed.
Thirdly, magic. The world is full of magic. Books are full of magic. Life is full of magic. The act of writing a book is pure magic and the act of reading one and having life transformed by that book is also magic. But magic isn’t a get out of jail free card. Things should not just happen purely because magic exists. Even magic is logical and has to make sense. One action has to lead logically on to another. A crazy mayhem packed plot may not be magic it may just be confusing.