Posts Tagged ‘author visits’

Poster for 28 July 2015 Storytelling Dragon Tales at Sutton Coldfield LibraryA rare flying visit from the Dragon Whisperer brings a morning of fantasy and magical adventure to Sutton Coldfield Library (Birmingham, England) on Tuesday 28 July.

As part of the Record Breakers themed Summer Reading Challenge 2015, gorgeously costumed Agent Green the world’s only living Dragon Whisperer tells Dragon Tales from around the world to age 7+ at 11am. At 12.30, Agent Green breaks out the drawing pens to show age 9+ How To Draw Your Dragon – bring your favourite sketchbooks, pencils and colouring pens.

Both sessions are free thanks to sponsorship from Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust. The Library is at Lower Parade, B72 1XX. Tel 0121 464 2274.

Thrilling legends and folktales include a dragon in hiding and the dragon who was really a lost princess, ranging from Eastern Europe to Bamburgh Castle.

Agent Green, who is alleged to work for DCHQ, Dragon Conservation Headquarters, also reveals hot tips on dragon care and training, and talks about her mission to find and save the world’s last dragons. You’re welcome to ask everything you ever wanted to know about dragons – because the Dragon Whisperer has the answer!

Behind the bling is Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers, a storytelling entertainer and writer/illustrator from the Cotswolds. Celebrating 15 years as a spoken word artist, Chloë sets a new record this August as the first ever Dragon Whisperer in Residence at Sudeley Castle (Gloucestershire).

Chloë’s performances for children take her to primary schools, community events and festivals all over the UK. Her story cabaret shows for adults are acclaimed from Cheltenham Literature Festival to cruise ships on the Mediterranean. For her 15th anniversary celebrations Chloë has launched a new contemporary story cabaret show Scheherazade’s Shed which tours to Kidderminster Arts Festival 14 August and Windsor Fringe Festival 24 September. The Dragon Tales CD is available £5 from Chloë, while the fully written out and illustrated Dragon Tales are available as a Kindle ebook (£2.99).

  • The annual UK Summer Reading Challenge, an initiative from the Reading Agency and the Arts Council, encourages UK children aged 4-11 into libraries to read up to 6 books during the long summer holiday. The scheme is designed to maintain reading skills and confidence which can otherwise weaken during over that time.
Writing: not a proper job, is it?

Writing: not a proper job, is it?

Last week young adults in England were revealed to have very nearly the worst literacy skills in the industrialised world. In the same week, an author making a school visit in England was so shabbily treated that she drove home afterwards thinking quite seriously of jacking in the whole lonely, poverty stricken game.

My friend is no celebrity author. Let’s call her Fiona. Now in her sixties, she has steadily and rather quietly developed her craft over a lifetime with a modest frisson of success in the last 10 years. Fiona’s books for very young children are loved so much, they have to be cuddled in bed… Her series for young adults has won fans who like their fiction to contain thoughtfulness and compassion as well as swashbuckling action and evil magic monsters.

Fiona has also raised four highly intelligent and extremely challenging children alone, surviving on a low budget for decades.

Risky – but the only chance

Author visits are slightly notorious as cheap ways for schools to provide high quality inspiration for their pupils. Sometimes the publisher can afford to pay the author’s travel costs; the pocket sized publisher now producing my friend’s books can’t. What’s more, if my friend wants to sell books at festivals or in schools she must first buy them from the publisher. This is the real world for most authors.

The school in this incident contacted Fiona asking her to visit but declined to book her for formal workshops, for which she charges a perfectly fair, non-celebrity day or half day fee. The school insisted it was “too small” to find that kind of money. Nonetheless Fiona was required to prepare and provide four hours of sessions with various classes. Lunch was not provided. Neither were travel costs.

However, Fiona believed she had an agreement with the teacher who contacted her. They had discussed notifying pupils and parents to bring money in that day to buy Fiona’s books at the end of her visit. It’s risky because you can’t know if sales will cover your travel and book purchase costs, but for many authors it’s the only chance they get.

No customers

As Fiona drew breath between classes, the teacher forcefully demanded, “We’d like three books for our library. You will sell us three for the price of two, won’t you?” Perhaps the teacher didn’t know that Fiona doesn’t get her own books free of charge. Taken aback, Fiona stalled.

Having delivered four cracking sessions of inspirational literary creativity – Fiona is an experienced and rather brilliant tutor – she was disconcerted to see teachers vanishing after her last class. Where was she to set up her book stall?

The school office knew nothing about her arrangement and directed her vaguely to the library, where the only available table was in a corner behind a screen. Unsurprisingly no customers came in.


While packing her bags and book boxes back into her car, Fiona chatted with pupils she’d met earlier and several parents. It became clear no-one she spoke to had known in advance about the author visit – and they certainly had no idea they could buy her books that day. The school had made no attempt whatsoever to fulfil the arrangement that was Fiona’s only means of covering her costs, let alone earning an income to pay her bills.

Exhausted, nearly in tears, Fiona drove the near 30 miles home wondering why she bothers with any of it… She’d make a better living filling shelves in a supermarket.

This school effectively stole from Fiona the value of a day’s work and her costs of doing it – as surely as if they’d snatched her handbag or burgled her house.

I suspect that school did this knowingly. Even if not, they’re guilty of blinkered ignorance: they treated Fiona as some kind of lady writer of leisure, floating around schools for the fun of it…

Anyone who knows publishing will know the crushing commercial pressures of the modern industry. An author is a business not a charity.

Not a proper job

“Well,” you say, “She’s not a dentist or a plumber. We don’t NEED what she does. She’s not doing a proper job. She could write in her spare time.”

And there you have the core attitude in Britain – the reason why our young adults compare so abysmally in literacy skills, falling an eye wateringly long way behind students in the Czech Republic, Estonia and South Korea.

Writing professionally can’t be a hobby. It’s nine to five graft. You’re engaged in complex tasks: factual research, character and plot development, and simply stringing together words in ways that will keep readers turning pages. Yes, authors enjoy much of what they do. And it is demanding – sometimes all consuming – work, easily equivalent to the strategic planning and management of a large business.

Then – just like a ‘real’ business – there’s the promotional and marketing work. If you’re filling shelves or teeth, you don’t have to write press releases and interact with social media; you don’t have to flog around the country speaking to audiences in the uncertain hope that enough people will be moved to pay out less than a tenner each, so that you can eat and keep warm this winter.

Because somebody gets job satisfaction, is that a reason not to pay them?