Tag Archives: libraries

Big Library Love

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Farnham Library's new extension.

Farnham Library’s new extension.

PLR time!

PLR stands for many things. Potato Liberation Regiment. Polyunsaturated Lemon Rinds. For authors, it means angel music  from the clouds, known more specifically as Public Lending Right.

I knew nothing about PLR before I became an author. Then I heard the whispers.

‘With PLR, you earn approximately 5p every time someone borrows one of your books from a library. Last year I earned enough to buy a Caribbean island*!’

Frankly disbelieving, I settled down to debating percentage splits with my illustrators. I filled in some forms. I waited. And in February of that first year I stared at my bank balance with incredulity.

Here are some statistics to send you running half-crazed into the street screaming and rending your beards.

My borrowed books stand as tall as THIS.

My borrowed books stand as tall as the Sneeuberg.          (Bless you.)

Based on data from 45 library authorities, 22372 writers, illustrators, photographers, ghost writers, editors, translators and adapters will receive anything from £1 to £6600 this year. 200 people (1.3% of the whole) earn the maximum amount. If you make more than £6600, the extra money goes back into the system to pay everyone else. 

77 books of mine were borrowed 202,663 times. Assuming each book is 20cm long, a row of them would stretch for 25 miles. I could line the whole A31 from Farnham to Winchester. If each book is approximately 1cm thick, I could stack them on top of each other to a  height of 2026 metres, matching the snowy apex of the Sneeuberg in South Africa.

This is not me. This is better than the one of me.

This is not me. This is better than the one of me.

And PLR is so fabulously levelling. Once a year, puny authors like me can be in the same earning bracket as the leviathans. ‘I earned the same as that JK Rowling last year, yeah…’  It’s a massive part of the average author’s annual income, which can be terrifyingly sporadic. And it doesn’t cost you a THING. 

So I say this to you. All of you.

KEEP SUPPORTING YOUR LIBRARIES, FRIENDS!

You pay for my children’s shoes, my annual heating bills, that blackmailer who regularly threatens to post photographs of me with a horrifying teen mullet. I  love you for it and will buy you a coffee next time we meet!

*sandbank of the small variety

Children’s Laureate: the Challenge

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_67955667_malorie-blackman-photoMalorie Blackman is the new Children’s Laureate 2013-2015. A triumphant choice. Here’s what I would like to see her do.

  • Introduce a primetime weekly TV show where people discuss children’s books with wit and humour while armed with large bags of Tangfastics. I will happily go on that show. Tangfastics fuel a tremendous urge for dialogue within me, plus a desire to climb trees and surf down Firgrove Hill on an ironing board. Haribo might like to sponsor this show.
  • Talking of ironing boards, let’s encourage people to act out famous scenes from children’s books like Alex Rider’s ironing board stunt in Point Blanc and post them up on social media with links to bookshops. (I am happy to volunteer. Price, one box of Tangfastics.)
  • Have a different celebrity a month commit to carrying a children’s book with them wherever they go, so children can see a book as an awesome accessory considerably less painful than a belly ring.
  • Ensure that national newspapers dedicate a quarter of their book review space to children’s books, as an accurate reflection of the 1 in 4 books sold today being children’s titles. (Thank you, outgoing Laureate Julia Donaldson for raising this.)
  • Start a guerrilla library movement. Set up libraries in unlikely places. Overnight. WITH NO WARNING. Make them mysterious, not municipal.
  • UnknownEncourage adults to hold children’s book clubs. Not children’s book-clubs, but CHILDREN’S-BOOK CLUBS. Instead of talking endlessly about Fifty Shades of Boring, grown-ups can read and discuss, for example, funny cancer, the perils of floating, parallel worlds and the role of dragons in society. They can then make informed choices for their children, passing on those books which have caused genuine tears / laughter / bladder-control issues instead of blind-buying titles they have vaguely heard of or maybe read themselves in Upper Fourth in 1953.
  • Enshrine library lessons in schools.
  • Make sure every primary school child has a library card.

What? The library card one’s already in hand? Hot damn, I knew she was a good choice.

Library Love

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booksI had a tremendous time on National Libraries Day at Fleet Library last weekend, reading to a lovely audience about the odd assortment of animals and characters in my book KOALA CRAZY: specifically scary girl Cazza (“OK in a strangely terrifying way, with her death motif badges, regular detentions and insanely illegal school shoes”), dappy Taya (“If my plans to be an actress stroke fashion designer stroke singer don’t work out, perhaps I’ll be a teacher or a politician or some other kind of person who talks a lot and impresses people because I’m pretty good at it”), Taya’s sci-fi obsessed, spiky twin sister Tori (“K9  as robot dog – fine and actually pretty funny. 2thi as human person – not fine and about as funny as measles. Spelling stuff in stupid ways is just really annoying”) and confused kangaroo Caramel, who has no quotes because she’s a kangaroo and can’t talk. The atmosphere was relaxed, the room was airy, the children were attentive, the parents didn’t fidget too much, and everyone wanted to know what happened next because–

chapter 3 ended on a cliffhanger. *sly smile*

Ah, la Lumley

Ah, la Lumley

I also got to share a paragraph about it with Joanna Lumley in the Bookseller.  Ha!

All of which makes me doubly sad that a well-known author like Terry Deary should attack libraries and the important community work that they do.

Possibly he was saying it for effect. I understand that he enjoys taking a combative stance on things, which doubtless serves him well in his taekwondo classes, knife-throwing target practice and Special Forces training, but isn’t much help to these precious, endangered public spaces with their free reading material, free WiFi, cheap coffee, computer desks, e-book lending, knowledgable staff, toddler music sessions, rainproof roofs, blessed silence (except, admittedly, during said toddler sessions) and warm all-ages-welcome human environment. Humanity needs just as much investment as fibre-optic technologies, pork bellies and wind farms. More actually.

I have a Kindle and I see the value of e-books. I also spend an inordinate amount of time on my computer. But I try not to forget that we are still people in need of comfort, communication, kinship and communal spaces where these needs can be met. There is nothing sentimental about that, nor about the PLR money hard-pressed authors earn from library lending, not to mention the important publicity following library appearances like my own last weekend.

Perhaps Mr Deary will give away his PLR earnings this year. Perhaps he’s been stealthily doing so for years?

library_signing

Ding Dong Bluebell

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There’s nothing like a walk through the woods to stoke imagination’s engines. I went in hope of bluebells because I live in hope of bluebells even in October, so I’m hell come mid-April. I should have it as my epitaph (makes note in will):
“She lived in hope of bluebells.”
Bluebells were denied me, but a new and fabulously exciting idea shuffled across the brain lane instead, somewhere between “Where are the bloody bluebells?” and “That’s an astonishing fact about magnolias, I must remember it and tweet it soonest”, and the idea is THIS.
… …
Ah. Mustn’t blog it yet because there’s nothing more annoying for readers than to have an author say WOW I’ve just had the best idea EVER and it involves animals and spies and feisty girls and mysterious men in black and dogs of indeterminate breed and it’s all roiling around in my head like a marvellous Scotch broth of incomprehensible pasta and ill-thought-out root vegetables and makes no sense to anyone but me. So I shall hold off on the details and merely offer you this little crouton of loveliness: my working title is the most ace acronym ever conceived while walking past a grey lag goose.
If you want the magnolia fact you’ll have to follow my Twitter account. Here’s a good bluebell one to tide you over.
Bluebell bulbs were once used to make book glue, as the toxins killed silverfish and other book-eating insects.
If it weren’t for the native British bluebell (don’t get me started on the unscented Spanish ones), I wouldn’t be writing today, because the whole concept of books and libraries would have been killed stone dead halfway through the Middle Ages and all we’d have to show for the work of those ink-stained monks of yore would be pestilential swarms of VERY FAT BUGS.

Animal Antics

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I love a good animal fact, as you may have deduced by my previous interest in herring and their bottoms. Did you know for example that some monkeys burp at their friends for fun? Or that seals can sleep underwater? I discovered these when researching my ANIMAL ANTICS series for Stripes. The life of a children’s author is not all jokes, jokes, jokes you know.

Today I dusted off my colouring pens, stuck my tongue out of the side of my mouth to aid concentration, and test-drove my first Pongo mask in anticipation of two events at Ash and Frimley Green libraries next week, part of the Surrey Libraries Children’s Book Festival. As polar bears have transparent fur – another magnificent animal fact with which to wow your friends – I felt Pongo wouldn’t object to going multi-coloured. The effect is tremendous. Thank you VERY MUCH to Tom and the designers at Stripes. As Sunny the Singing Sheep (she’s a bleatboxing lamb, actually) would say:

To-om, drumma-drumma-drumma drum / Oh To-om, drumma-drumma drum drum / You is well drumma-drumma-drumma drum / Da bo-omb drumma-drumma drum drum

Morris The Clumsy Monkey will also be joining in the fun with Pongo and Sunny on Tuesday. The effect of thirty little Pongo / Morris / Sunnys is going to be unbelievably cute. Check out this last event for Pepper the Potty Penguin. ADORABLE!