Saturday, 9 July 2011
The SAS - Celia Rees (inc competition)
No. Not these guys…The other SAS, The Scattered Authors Society, came into being in 1997 when three Scholastic authors: Peter Beere, Malcolm Rose and Anne Cassidy got together over a weekend in Birmingham and decided that there should be some kind of way for authors like them to connect each other and stay in touch.
I joined a few months later, responding to a letter that Peter had sent to The Author asking for writers of specifically teen fiction I seem to remember, to get in touch. His letter seemed to be speaking directly to me. Publishers and agents tend to be centred on London, but authors (as the title suggested) are scattered all over the country. It was rare to meet up with fellow writers, apart from the odd publisher’s party or festival. It was easy to feel isolated and disconnected. I answered immediately and received a reply inviting me to a lunch at the Barbican. I remember feeling bereft because I couldn’t go but I did manage to make the next gathering in Stratford-on-Avon. There were maybe ten or twelve of us there and although I didn’t know anyone it wasn’t long before I felt as though I was among friends. We had so much in common. We could talk writing for as long as we liked without anyone keeling over with boredom. We decided we needed more time, so we agreed to a weekend get together – in Milton Keynes because it was easy to reach for most people and Malcolm Rose lived there and was prepared to do the booking. The SAS has always been like that. Someone suggests something, someone else agrees to organise it and somehow it happens.
More people came to Milton Keynes and still more to the next meeting. Many of the authors whom I met at those first meets are still my friends now. The SAS grew from there and has gone on growing until now we have over 200 members. No-one knows how to stop it, even if they wanted to. It is inclusive, not exclusive. Anyone can join for a nominal sum. The only rule is you have to be a published writer. It is a bit like the Hotel California – you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave, because there is nothing to leave. There is no committee, no chair, no secretary, no real organisation. We have a Newsletter, message board, web site at http://www.scatteredauthors.org and the ABBA blog site at http://awfullybigblogadventure.blogspot.com, but no-one is forced to do anything, members put in as much as they want.
There are still local lunches, an annual conference, and a yearly retreat at Charney Manor in Oxfordshire (10th Anniversary coming up) but all these things are organised on a strictly ad hoc volunteer basis and no-one has to participate if they don’t want to. The fact that so many do is testimony to the how useful the SAS is to many of its members. The SAS is not just about sharing knowledge and expertise about writing and the process of writing, it is about it is about making real and lasting friendships. On a more mundane but equally important level, it is how to make a living from writing: how to handle publishers and agents, how to organise school visits, what to expect from festivals, how to set up a blog/website/twitter account. There is always someone who knows, someone with more experience, someone who is willing to share that knowledge with scattered comrades.
I’m giving away a copy signed, hardback of my latest novel, The Fool’s Girl, to the first person to contact me via my website www.celiarees.com or my Facebook Fanpage www.facebook.com/theofficialceliareesfanpage and who can correctly answer this question:
What is the title of Celia’s first book and what year was it published?