Monday 11 April 2011

HUROPEL and Babel

Babel had its first outing on Friday. I talked about the issues in it and how the society on Terrestra in the year 3500 dealt with a healthy but aging population.   
The HUROPEL Conference is taking place at the University of Salford 4-15 April 2011. HUROPEL is a collaboration between Universities in 6 countries in Europe running an ’Intensive Programme’ for two weeks on the themes of Human Rights, Older People and End of Life Care.
Babel fits, because in Babel there is “switch-off”. Much of the novel is about doing away with “switch-off”. Yet the issues are complex. Terrestra is scared of disease because it has none. So, it keeps itself isolated. Coupled with this is an intolerance of imperfection. It’s actually quite difficult to talk about one issue without bringing in another.
Fiction is useful to us, however, because it can explore factual material in a closer emotional way. Science Fiction is particularly useful for young adults because it stylises and symbolises our present lives. It can be to young adults and adults what anthropomorphism and glove puppets are to younger readers.
I talked and read passages for about 50 minutes. We then spent another 45 on questions. Which were lively and interesting.  I had the impression that Babel’s first public appearance actually went rather well.

Sunday 3 April 2011

CWIG One-day Conference 2 April 2011

This was a day that started off with us all licking our wounds and ended with us feeling cautiously optimistic about the future and remembering that what we do has value.
We have to be realistic: school budgets are slashed, librarians no longer have their School Librarians Association fee paid and are often only employed for the weeks the children are in school, and school visits are harder to come by because schools no longer have the money. Even if you do one for free… you often fail to sell books – parents don’t have the money either.  
And yet, a publisher who came to talk to my students this week reported that his sales had only gone down by 2% because of the recession.
Tony Bradman reminded us that we have a responsibility to be paid properly. We have an economic value. Perhaps it will be difficult to return to the golden days for the 1950s and 1960s when children’s literature had a special place possibly because of the 1944 Education Act, but we still have something very important to bring.
Yes, we have to promote ourselves now. I do already do a lot of what was mentioned – blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc. but for some time have been looking for a sensible way of providing a newsletter. One of the other delegates came up with the answer: Mailchimp. It’s a package that will manage your database and is free up to 500 subscribers.  
That’s why we go to these occasions: to find out from our friends.
And yes another great value is meeting up with old friends and meeting in the flesh for the first time those chums we know in cyberspace.
Ideas were shared also for the full conference to be held at reading in 2012. That already sounds as if it too is going to be inspirational.  
Frank Cottrell Boyce was the final speaker. He reminded us that everybody can benefit from reading and not everybody is going to write. So the traditional author visit, with the writer reading from their book, still has enormous value.
The whole conference was so inspiring that my little note-book, in which I jot down ideas for short stories and blog posts, had as many pages filled in a couple of hours as it normally has in a couple of weeks. We have a future and it actually looks quite bright. It just needs managing.