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Comment from the book world in March 2009

March 2009

'At the heart of the writer's life'

30 March 2009

'One of the attractions of being a writer is that you're never a specialist. Your field is entirely open; your field is the entire human condition...

There's no doubt that writing can on occasion be grim, lonely, miserable, desperate and wretched, and there were many years when I struggled materially. But I've also known wonderful times. Writing is a very emotional thing, especially when words come in a way that you know is right. At the heart of the writer's life there can be a great sweetness. And it's also a great adventure: your whole life, from book to book, is a constant adventure.'

Graham Swift in the Observer

'The sunlight of literature'

23 March 2009

'Without the sunlight of literature children cannot grow as they should. We know that from books come knowledge and understanding, that they are a source of infinite joy and fun, that they stimulate imagination and creativity, that they open eyes and minds and hearts. It is through the power and music and magic of stories and poems that children can expand their own intellectual curiosity, develop the empathy and awareness that they will need to tackle the complexities of their own emotions, of the human condition in which they find themselves. And it's through books that we can learn the mastery of words, the essential skill that will enable us to express ourselves well enough to achieve our potential in the classroom and beyond.'

Michael Morpurgo, launching the Sunday Times/The Times Books for Schools promotion

'A focus on frontlist?'

16 March 2009

'If backlist sales decline significantly - notwithstanding the questionable "Long Tail" argument - will publishers have to rely on frontlist and ancillary revenues? We're in an industry that produces perhaps 100,000 new consumer titles every year. We publish as many consumer titles in a day as Hollywood releases movies in a year, each supported by marketing budgets book publishers cannot emulate.

Would it really be so terrible if bookstores stopped selling backlist, aside from a few staples and p.o.d, and became like apparel stores, selling mainly frontlist? There would be more space for big promotions; inventory turn would improve; and publishers and retailers would sharpen up their marketing skills. The book trade hasn't prided itself on business savvy, but now may be the time to develop appropriate skills. Maybe publishers could sell to retailers on a firm sale, guaranteed gross margin basis, allowing markdowns in place, doing away with the expense and nuisance of returns, and their demoralising impact.

Or is thinking like this a step too far?'

Lawrence Orbach, CEO of Quarto, in the Bookseller

'Movies and pop music and stuff'

9 March 2009

'I think readers who aren't used to reading contemporary poetry are surprised to find it's about our world now, our experience; it talks about movies and pop music and stuff. It's not some fuddy-duddy thing, and most of it contains a good deal of imaginative brilliance. My experience is that when people read contemporary poetry they are engaged and interested in a way they did not expect to be.'

John Stammers, whose last collection was Stolen Love Behaviour

'Just get it all down.'

2 March 2009

'I first started writing when I worked as a copywriter in an ad agency. I was dreaming about having babies, but I also got an idea for how to begin a novel and started writing under the desk at work. They told me my heart wasn't in it, and I remember going home and telling my husband that I had lost my job, but not to worry because I was going to finish my novel. He wasn't particularly impressed.

It was 18 years and 10 books ago and what I was writing seemed to strike a cord. My main characters have grown up just as my readers and I have, so in my latest book there are darker themes than before. Much of what I write is inspired by the ups and downs of my friends' lives, and life does become more complex.'

Advice to new writers: 'Just get it all down without being too self-conscious. I carried a notebook, but I kept losing it; so I just store ideas in my head. With thefirst draft you should get it all out, then revise later. I never know what will happen when I sit down and that's what keeps me hooked on writing. I want to know how it will end.'

Catherine Alliott, author of A Crowded Marriage, in the Sunday Telegraph's Stella