Tag Archive | book events

Help get books to those who need them

It’s only now, writing and publishing, that I’ve twigged how the powers of commercialism control what we read.

I should have guessed really; commercialism controls most of what we do. But it always comes as a surprise to know to what degree.

Big publishers only publish what will earn them big money. And mainstream bookshops usually only stock books that do the same. They are businesses after all.

And you probably think that writers earn thousands as it’s usually only the writers that do, like Dan Brown or J K Rowling, who get the coverage.

The truth is that most writers will be earning less than the minimum wage. And many will be covering subjects dealing with issues that are not mainstream and therefore not going to earn big money, so will not have big marketing machines behind them. Which means that it is harder to get titles out to the minorities who need it.

So you can see how those minorities often don’t get the books they need to support them.

With the chance to publish independently now, and the whole publishing process made more accessible, micro publishers like Bird’s Nest Books have a better chance of surviving and supporting writers like me who write about marginalised subjects.

But we still rely on your invaluable help.

Mainstream book companies are the ones that get all the attention – they can afford to pay for it. Publishers pay huge sums for shelf space and for stocking their books in the first place. This involves fees that small publishers cannot afford. So this boils down to the fact that what you get to see on shelves in bookshops, and consequently what you get to read, is controlled by them – if the book’s not got the potential for big bucks, it won’t even get published in the first place! That’s a fact.

For example, celebrities can write absolute crap yet it will appear in your face because big money got it there. If you’ve got a burning issue to write about but there’s no big money to be made – you won’t get it published and people won’t get to read it.

Many writers like me have a message or support they want to share that has nothing to do with big money. Consequently it is hard to get it out there.

This is where your help means so much.

Come and meet me, the illustrator and publisher of 'Who's Not in School' at the Wisbeck LitFest on Saturday

Come and meet me, the illustrator, and publisher of ‘Who’s Not in School’ at the Wisbech LitFest on Saturday

I am indebted to all the people who have bought my books, shared them around, mentioned them online and networked them about, passed on my messages, promoted my work, donated to libraries, written reviews, and mentioned them on forums, blogs and Facebook. Your work doing that has meant that many who wouldn’t know this work’s there to help them get to hear about it. Thank you.

Both the publisher and I depend on the word of mouth and networking power of you our wonderful supportive readers.

And your support might one day sow a seed of hope in the hearts of a family whose children’s are suffering in school, yet who didn’t know alternatives existed.

It also shows that minority communities can survive and thrive even without a big commercial machine, on the kindness of strangers.

More than just helping me, your support goes so much further. And I am humbly indebted to you for it.

The joy of contrast

Well, I’ve certainly been in the wilds and away from civilisation this week.

Courtesy of Mike Turtle

We’ve just spent some time with friends in a remote part of Wales, climbing hills with spectacular views, walking in boggy fields, observing wildlife in woodlands and scrambling rather precariously up a waterfall!

Totally loved every minute of it! A natural environment fills me with joy.

And delightful to know that there are places without crowds, without traffic jams, where nature takes over and man has to bow to her forces at times rather than it always being the other way round.

I was also without signal – but I soon got used to that and it has advantages!

Just before we had to leave, I was sitting on top of a hill, Wales laid out around me and the Brecon Beacons blue in the distance, and I had a rather mind crunching thought; at exactly that time the following week I’d be in central London, at a meeting with some of you lovely home educators and supporters of my work. I’d be walking on pavements and pressing through crowds and traffic with noise and hubbub filling my ears instead of – well – nothing!

I’ve always maintained that we need contrast in life to keep it sweet – couldn’t get much more of it than that!

Missing Home Ed – so it’s great to meet you!

I do miss those home educating days with little ones. When there were children here full of curiosity and inquisitiveness about their world – like Little Harry in ‘Who’s Not In School’. It’s often misinterpreted for booklaunchnaughtiness when it becomes inappropriate! He’s the kind of child you take your eyes off for a second and his curiosity gets the better of him and he’s doing something he shouldn’t. I had one of those.

I also miss the company of other inspiring home educating parents and the excuse to have a good chinwag about our kids in general – oh – and education of course. My friends have heard it so much from me now I see their eyes glaze over.

So I have enjoyed meeting some of you at recent book events the publisher arranged.

These events are always a challenge for me. I prefer to hide away in natural places (where I write this now) rather than be public. But I’ve been so uplifted by the warm responses we’ve had so far I’m up for some more. So if you want us to visit your group do get in touch here.

I love meeting inspirational people and as home educators you’re definitely inspirational – it’s an inspirational thing to be doing. I never tire of hearing your stories and if we can pass something onto the next set of parents wanting to home educate, then it’s a double advantage.

So if you fancy coming along to any of the events I hope we get to chat.

Or come and let me know what you think of the new book – if it’s kind of course! As I used to say to the children; if it’s not kind or it’s not helpful, don’t say it! I think some of the people who go on forums could do with adhering to that rule! 😉

Otherwise your feedback is what keeps me writing – and emerging from my hiding place. Hope to see more of you soon.

Why are teachers home educating?

She used to be a head-teacher but my friend still came along to support my book event for ‘Who’s Not In School’. That’s because she supports the approaches we home educators use with our children out of school!

Much of what we do is what she’d have liked to do for the kids in the classroom; give them individual attention, free them from testing, inspire them with stimulating experiences, and ignite their passion to learn. But because of ridiculous educational bureaucracy it was impossible. You have to resign yourself to training kids to jump through hurdles, not be inspired. She did try, but like many teachers the frustration just makes you ill in the end.

So she’s left mainstream teaching now, along with thousands of others. She could no longer teach something she didn’t believe in. She’s now working in teacher training in the hope of showing the students other approaches to teaching rather than those conditioned reflexes they’ve learned as a result of their own schooling, still fresh in their experience log. We have to hope that their experiences of being taught were good enough to make them inspirational teachers. But as we all know, in the end they have to tick sheets and force kids through targets, irrespective of whether it’s doing them any good or not.

It’s quite frightening how many teachers do leave the profession. And it’s also very telling how many teacher/parents bring their children out of school to home educate. I’ve met some of them recently. And of course I’m among them.

And talking to these parents and former teachers I see we were prompted to home educate for the same reason, but not one you might be thinking.

I think many people assume teachers home educate because they know they can teach. But that’s not the reason at all and, as most of us come to understand, teaching isn’t really necessary anyway.

Most of the former teachers I meet home educate because they’ve seen what goes on in schools under the guise of education and they don’t want that happening to their children! They don’t want the children’s education inhibited by prescriptive curriculum, narrow approaches to learning, damaging and time wasting testing, and an experience akin to a conveyor belt. So they’ve left the profession and are bringing their kids with them.

So if the teachers don’t want their kids in the schooling system – what does that say about it? That would be an interesting question for the education minister to answer!

A humble thank you!

I’ve been so lucky recently. I’ve been invited to various groups of parents who have read my books and I have been made so welcome.

I’m completely humbled by your support and appreciation – humbled to know that people are even reading my stuff!

So many came up and thanked me for the reassurance and encouragement they find in my books and blog, but it also works the other way round. So I’m taking a moment to thank you for telling me.

For you’ve reassured me that my work is doing what I wanted it to do and worth going on with. You doubt that sometimes with writing being such a solitary workload. It’s heart-warming to know that I’ve helped a few folks find the courage to do what they want to do with their children’s education and try alternatives.

That’s what it’s always been about – encouraging people to think outside the mainstream and show that there are successful alternatives to school. School could never always be right for every child, just like one size or style of knickers couldn’t be right for every woman! It would be ridiculous to think they could be! We’re all different. And as well as all needing different knickers we all need different approaches to learning.

It’s been a delight to meet such inspiring parents. The warm support I’ve received is so uplifting.

And as if I wasn’t humbled enough by your lovely praise I go out to the car and it won’t start and a super bunch of supporters have to push me to get it going! Thank you to all of them. And, guess what? I was humbled again later to discover a massive chocolate stain down the front of my white top – I shouldn’t have been so greedy with the chocolate chip biscuits!

So however high we climb, and however much our differences, we are still all mere mortals you and I, who wear knickers and have food stains on their shirts. Now you know!

Thank you all, my treasured supporters, to all those who told me that they wouldn’t have rescued their child from a difficult situation in school if it hadn’t been for my work. Well – that works both ways – I wouldn’t go on writing without you!

Thank you again.

If you’d like us to come visit your group, get in touch with the publisher at Bird’s Nest Books.