Wednesday, 18 August 2010
Call Me Irresponsible: Gillian Philip
I'm going to apologise in advance because this will be short, and much of it is based on this post from Pete Hautman, which is an incredibly interesting account of another author being 'uninvited' from a teen literary festival, and how Pete Hautman himself withdrew in solidarity. It isn't just the post that's interesting but the comment thread (I love it when a comment thread is smart and fascinating instead of just abusive).
The reason this is rushed and half-stolen (bear with me while I explain my tortuous train of thought) is because I've just arrived at the Edinburgh Book Festival, which is just as fabulous as always. Anyway, my new book FIREBRAND was published just in time to be on the shelves, and will be launched here at an event on the 27th, so I took the chance to vandalise some copies with a signature or ten. As I was doing this, along came a curious 9-year-old, who wanted to know if she could read the book. And since I won't let my own 9-year-olds read it, I said I didn't think that was a good idea. (Which wasn't that virtuous, actually. I sold one to her older brother and said she could read his copy in a few years.) But the point is that my (many would say underdeveloped) sense of responsibility did actually overcome my commercial instincts. I think all YA/teen authors would say the same. Wouldn't we?
This brings me back to Pete Hautman's post. I was uninvited once. I'd been asked to speak to primary pupils - just about the business of writing, and what was involved in doing it for a living, and how I went about it. I'd already explained that my work wasn't suitable for younger children, and they'd understood that, and agreed I'd simply talk about being a writer, and the invitation stood. But then they panicked. What would the parents say if they googled me? So the invitation was withdrawn at the last minute.
I'm still not sure how I feel about that, and I'd love to know what anyone else's perspective would be. I sympathise with the nervousness about a pack of angry parents; but I can't help feeling they were confusing me and the writing profession with my characters and storylines. Are we simply not trusted if we address certain issues in our work? Should organisers capitulate to a vocal minority (or even the prospect of them?)
Answers on a postcard, or possibly the comment box. And now I had better get this posted...