Writing the World
We have faced a few challenging incidents in the past weeks in the UK. Always when these big things happen we want to do something. Perhaps we add flowers to a memorial site, perhaps we attend a vigil or we might give money. What we choose to do may not directly make it better for the victims but it nevertheless expresses something.
I belong to a choir and some members sang at the children’s hospital last Sunday. This was a reaction to the terror attack on the Manchester Arena.
As writers and artists we often want to do what we do best. We put together anthologies of stories and sell books, donating the profit to the victims. We paint pictures or we make music.
I was delighted to have my short story The Gift Child published in Lines in the Sand, a collection of writings and illustrations by those who had protested about the war in Iraq. This was my first piece of fiction to be published. It very much told the same story as my novel The Prophecy. It also helped me to feel that I was doing something practical about my anger. Up until then I’d had a lot of time for Toni Blair and New Labour. That government also stopped compulsory language learning in school. That also horrified me. My story, included in the Seeds of Hope section, addresses that also. Lines in the Sand not only gave all profits and royalties to UNICEF but also tackled the topic of war for children.
We published 100 Stories for Haiti. All profits go to the Red Cross.
It’s our experience that the books don’t make a lot of money. Even when Gentle Footprints starred at the Hay festival we barely covered our costs and then the money we did donate to Born Free got tangled up with VAT. It might have been much simpler just to donate from our own pockets. However the sentiments expressed remained really important. Animals should be allowed to live in the wild. Our collection contained stories from animal points of view – very tricky, and Richard Adams made us a fantastic contribution- or from the point of view of humans who help them to stay or become free. Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, my publishing partner on this venture, has continued to work with schools on this.
Perhaps if we can make others re-examine these situations we make a valuable contribution. Isn’t it the artist’s job to make the viewer look back at the reality?
What’s up next? Well, we’re working on a collection called Citizens of Nowhere. It’s all about the global citizen. It embraces diversity and multiculturalism. It contains characters that have no fixed cultural identity. Now then, Madam May and co.