Like many people, I am feeling very tired at this stage in this pandemic, and more than a bit dispirited by the way it has been handled. It seems like lots of money has been misdirected or wasted, whilst there is real hardship and suffering not being noticed. At the moment various regions are in lockdown, and as writers we are naturally aware of bookshops and publishers who are struggling.
Firstly I would like to draw attention to the publisher Tiny Owl, who published my most recent picture book 'Bloom', illustrated by Robyn Wilson-Owen, as part of their 'Hope in a Scary World Series'.
'Bloom' was published during lockdown, which seemed a disaster at first, as there was no launch party and no bookshops open to sell it. However, Tiny Owl are very respected, and brilliant at providing support with materials on their website for teachers and parents during lockdown, and teachers have taken it to their hearts, and I am so proud of the beautiful work teachers and students have done, inspired by the story, and also that it was used extensively in lockdown.
So it was so shocking to read their tweet this week that they had been turned down for a grant to help them at this difficult time.
Tiny Owl is a tiny publisher, yet so many books Tiny Owl publishes have been noticed and admired and shortlisted for awards. Two books have already been long listed for the UKLA awards 2021 https://tinyowl.co.uk/fair-shares-under-the-great-plum-tree-longlisted-for-the-ukla-book-award-2021/
They work so hard to create diverse books and encourage children to value and learn about stories from other cultures, and to see varied and beautiful illustrations, and even, in the case, of The Phoenix of Persia, hear original Iranian music through a link you can use via the book. This is an amazing project explained here.
And here you can see an example of the amazing free downloadable resources which Tiny Owl makes available to teachers and children, not just for The Phoenix of Persia, but for all their books.
On October 20th, yesterday, Tiny Owl published a wonderful picture book called 'Last', illustrated and written by Nicola Davies, dealing with Conservation of the White Rhino. I think it is beautiful that this book, about an endangered animal, should be part of Tiny Owl's 'Hope in a Scary World' series. They aren't scared of difficult issues, yet they always give children a reason to look forward to the future and to feel positive.
When I think of all the billions given to companies who did not deliver on vital equipment needed in the pandemic, and compare it to Tiny Owl being refused a grant, when it consistently produces high quality and original books which make the world a better place for our children, and make so many free resources available, it makes me very upset.
However, it is no good getting upset - we have to do something positive. So one thing we can all do is support publishers like Tiny Owl and consciously choose to buy online from them and other small publishers or order their books via independent bookshops.
Here is a link. Please take a look at all their lovely books and see if you might order one or two from them. It would make a big difference to them and may help them get through this terrible time. We need small independent publishers with visions like them.
Small independent bookshops need our support too,
A friend recently sent me a book she deliberately ordered from Wales - she ordered from this bookshop:
https://www.book-ish.co.uk and in this time of lockdown in Wales, online sales become all the more important. After tonight's news about Manchester, it might be a good idea to look for bookshops in Manchester and see if they have online orders.
Here is a way to find an independent bookshop https://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch
I have had very good service in lockdown ordering from https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/home
I also have a click and collect book to get from my local branch of Waterstones , and I must go there soon to support the lovely booksellers. Obviously I can't afford to buy from every publisher and bookshop, especially as lockdown has been hard for me too as a writer, but I am trying to collect books for presents and for local schools, and maybe if we all try to choose books for presents we can keep our own industry afloat during this time.
Maybe you could suggest other independent bookshops and publishers to support at this time? And perhaps share their twitter handles? If everyone in the industry tries to support each other, maybe we will come through this pandemic more united and proud of what writers, publishers and booksellers can give to the world post-pandemic?