Q & A – SF Said
I am delighted to welcome the brilliant award winning author SF Said to the blog today for a Q & A as part of the YA Shot Blog Tour. Today we chat about topics that we are both passionate about libraries, author visits, reading for pleasure and the Cover Kids Books campaign.
1. Unfortunately many libraries in the country are under threat of closure, why do you feel they are so important for the community as a whole?
I’m totally thrilled to be taking part in #YAShot because I’m a huge fan of libraries. I write in my local public library, so I see the incredible work librarians do every day for so many in the community, and most of all for young people. They provide services that are life-changing, essential, and irreplaceable.
I don’t think libraries should be cut or closed under any circumstances. I think they should be supported by law – and actually, they are! The government has a statutory duty to provide public library services for all. If you want to know more about this, there’s a brilliant campaign called #MyLibraryByRight: http://www.cilip.org.uk/advocacy-campaigns-awards/advocacy-campaigns/support-your-library/my-library-right
2. Having seen the hugely positive impact on children at my school when we have had author visits, what have been your experience as an author and how do you feel children have benefitted?
I love visiting schools and libraries, and meeting readers of all ages. There really is nothing more inspiring for an author. Teachers and librarians have told me it’s inspiring for children too; often it’s the first time they’ve ever met an author in real life. I just try and show them that they’re no different to me. I believe all readers can be writers, because all writers start out as readers. If you love stories, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot write them yourself.
3. You have visited many schools, do you think it is vital for schools to have libraries and librarians?
You can always tell when a school has a dedicated librarian with a well-resourced library, because the kids in those schools will be reading an amazing variety of books! It’s much harder for children to get access to real range of literature if a school doesn’t provide those services. So yes: I think libraries and librarians are vital, and if I was making the laws, they would be required by law in all schools (primaries as well as secondaries), just as they are in prisons. It’s strange that prisoners are given rights by law that children are not.
4. How do you think schools can create a reading culture and encourage reading for pleasure?
I think the single most important thing is to let children choose what they read. Everyone likes different things; there is no single right book for everyone. So give them a good range to choose from, and then support their choices. Of course, this will be much easier if you have a dedicated librarian to help them make those choices, and if that librarian has a good budget to stock and run their library!
5. As a parent walking into a library or a bookshop and choosing a book for your child can be a minefield, why do you think it is essential that the media cover Children’s books.
Over 10,000 new children’s titles are published every year in the UK. It really is impossible for anyone to keep up with that. We all need expert guidance to find the right books for each particular reader, and that’s where the media should be helping us.
Newspapers currently give children’s books just 3% of their review space, but children’s books make up 30% of the market! If newspapers gave children’s books a fair share of coverage, we would all benefit hugely. I started a campaign this year to ask the media to #CoverKidsBooks more – you can read all about it here:
As part of this campaign, I’ve written an open letter to all UK newspapers, asking them to cover at least one children’s book a week. There are nearly 1,000 signatures on the letter now, including authors and illustrators like Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell and Malorie Blackman, as well as many librarians, teachers, booksellers, publishers and so on. If you’d like to read the letter and perhaps add your name to it, you can find all the information here:
6. What was your favourite book as a child, how did it impact on you when you were growing up?
I had many favourites, but Watership Down was definitely a book that changed my life. I read it when I was 8 and thought it was the best book I’d ever read. I also thought it would be amazing to try and write a book that was even half as good as that one day! I’m still trying… but I can see the influence of Watership Down in everything I write. I think the books we love when we’re young are the ones that really shape us, and stay with us forever. That’s why I decided to write books for young readers myself.
7. Can you tell us more about your current work in progress Tyger, I know your fans will be eager to find out more.
Thank you! I’ve just sent my agent draft 4(c) of TYGER. This is the first time that anyone else has seen it, so it’s quite nerve-wracking! It’s the first book in a series, and I’ve been working on the project since I finished writing Phoenix. It has some elements in common with Phoenix, and also with Varjak Paw, but I think it’s a big step up on them both. I think when it’s done, it’ll be the best thing I’ve written so far, by quite a long way.
8. Is there one piece of advice you can give to aspiring authors who feel that they are ready to take their first tentative steps into getting published?
As I say, every writer is a reader. So just write the books you most want to read yourself. And then do everything you possibly can to make them as good as you would want them to be. It really is that simple, and that difficult!
SF Said is the author of ‘Varjak Paw’, ‘The Outlaw Varjak Paw’ and Phoenix. SF Said is also active in the wider world of literature and arts. He has judged the Whitbread Book Awards (now the Costa Book Awards) and the Amnesty CILIP Honour. He has given talks at the British Library, the British Film Institute, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and on BBC Radio 4. He has written extensively about children’s and young adult fiction for both the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph.
To find out more about SF you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter @whatSFSaid.
A huge thank you to SF for taking the time to answer my questions, it has been a fantastic honour to have you stop by my blog.