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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Okay, post two.

As you may or may not be aware, this year I’ve been training to become an English teacher. Being a teacher is great – rewarding, inspiring, challenging, and above all it reminds you of how and why you got into your passions in the first place.

I loved English as a kid. I loved reading. I loved writing. The two were not mutually exclusive things; instead, it was what I read that inevitably inspired me to pick up a pen and begin writing. Over the last few years, the British Government has made some good changes to the curriculum: allowing teen fiction into the curriculum, such as the exceptional ‘Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’ by Mark Haddon, and ‘Martyn Pig’ by Melvin Brooks. Subversive, delicate, easy to read, wonderful books, that enhance a child’s reading and interest in the more difficult texts, like Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the new English framework. No children’s literature. Oh no. Instead? A 19th century novel.

… WHAT?!

Oh yeah. A 19th century novel. Most of which, by the way, I hate. No 14 year old boy is going to want to read Dickens. Hell, I’m 23, and I don’t want to read Dickens. Thomas Hardy and the Brontes are going to be not only lost on children, but it’s going to put them off reading for life. Imagine if you were a low achiever, struggling through Jane Eyre.

And not only that – it’s tested only at the end of the two year course. So you have to MEMORISE chunks of Jane Eyre over a two year period.

I’m sorry. What is this going to achieve?

Books are for enjoyment. No child is ever going to want to read again if they cannot even feel like they can access a text. And what does this, ultimately, mean for writing?

Perhaps I’m going a little bit off the wall here, but this can only spell disaster for the study of English and the enjoyment of the written word. I find it hard enough trying to get children to read, let alone read difficult texts. The correct book can change a child’s life. And if we’re meant to be pushing reading for pleasure, shouldn’t we push these books in class?

Hello all. It’s been quiet here for many reasons, but I’m hoping to rectify this with three posts in quick succession. So hold onto your metaphorical hats.

This first.

This is an article from The Guardian newspaper informing us of the way self-publishing is awful and ruining quality literature, masked as a statistical report on e-book sales.

Let’s get one thing straight: anyone who is brave enough to put anything of themselves out there for the wider world to see is brave and commendable in my books. I am not slagging off self-publishing or self-published authors. For some people, it works very well (see 50 Shades of Grey). For some people, it’s simply enough that one person might read their work and enjoy it – I know it’s that way for me.

But let’s be realistic. By the law of averages, not every self-published book out there is going to be a great shakes. Some of it will be awful (see 50 Shades of Grey). In fact, after reading some self-published novels myself, I have to say I was put off by the very idea of self-publishing my own work – partly due to the stigma that is generated by a) these not-very-good-books that someone, bless them, really did want to make successful and b) people who only like literature with a capital L.

Not all art is good. Not all music is good. Not all people are good. But it’s out there. And what can we do about it? If someone wants to publish their novel, fine. Let them. But let’s not all then beat them to death about how their work isn’t good enough. Yes, there are some self-published authors with chips on their shoulders, who militantly decimate anyone who dares say a bad word about their book, and the publishing world, and everyone. There are some who were rejected and can’t understand why, some even (dare I say it) delusional. But aren’t we all delusional? We all believe that someday someone will look back and think we were great. We believe we’re going to make some imprint on the world.

And look, people are buying these things. There is a market out there for it. It’s great to have cheap books. It’s great that people want to share. And self-publishing will never be regulated like Big Publishing because of the nature of the beast. Not every rock can be a diamond. Not every rock claims to be a diamond. There’s this huge thing about books, as if they’re sacred and can’t be touched, and somehow people reckon that self-publishing is making books base, dirty and worthless.

Not so. It is drawing fresh blood. It is bringing out those people who would otherwise shy away from writing anything, so certain they are that they will be rejected by Bloomsbury or Harper Collins. It is making people want to write and want to share.

And isn’t that, in the end, good?

I will never, ever try to degrade anyone publicly. If anyone is offended by what I’ve said, please take it in the best possible way. Self-publishing may not be for everyone, but for some people it is more than an outlet. It’s a sort of chance for them to get out there. I bet if Dan Brown self-published something tomorrow, nobody would bat an eyelid. There are good self-published books out there. The article says the self-publishing world is corrupt. Well, I’m sorry, but the whole publishing industry is corrupt. And that’s life, sweetcheeks.

My message? Do what you want. Self-publish if you want. Trad-pub if you want. As long as it makes you happy.