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.