Friday, 31 December 2010
Books - can we trust the government?
I have been busy writing letters to the press and MPs, including mine, the PM, for weeks it seems. But the absolute Yuletide biscuit has to go to Ross Clark (who he?), writing in the Times on 27th December. In case you missed it, and of course you can't read it online without being a Times subscriber, he had the nerve to say that children's writers speaking out in support of the Booktrust schemes, such as Philip Pullman, were just lamenting another chance to line their pockets.
Yes because writers for children are all as rich as JK Rowling, I suppose? It was a phenomenally ignorant column and I wrote a furious letter. They did publish it on 29th, but since they cut the last two sentences, I reproduce it in full here:
"What planet is Ross Clark living on? (Thunderer "Booktrust funding is just an enormous bung for authors" 27.12.2010) One where nurseries and schools are "awash with books" and children's authors "have grown fat" on proceeds of Booktrust's bookgifting schemes is much more of a fantasy than the world he posits where there are "fountains of free soup."
Mr Clark dares to impugn Philip Pullman's good faith in calling for the government not to cut funding to Booktrust's schemes (a decision which has fortunately been reversed). When I heard about the plan to cut the bookgifting schemes, I and many other children's authors wrote to the press to complain, with no idea whether my books were used in the schemes or not. I doubt that Philip Pullman checked on whether his books were included either because that is entirely not the point.
Doesn't Mr Clark know how many homes in the UK are without books? Or how many school and public libraries have been closed and are threatened to disappear under the coalition's proposed austerity measures? And how many librarians will lose their jobs?
Another fact he might have wanted to check on is how much on average children's authors earn per year. In the survey I published in 2006 and others carried out by the Society of Authors it was around £5K. Unless Mr Clark is similarly poorly rewarded for his writing, I suggest he donate his fee for that outrageous column to the Royal Literary Fund's benevolent scheme or, better still, use it to buy some books for his nearest poor school.
Though I suspect it will be a long taxi-ride away from Planet La-La".
Happy New Year!