Friday, June 27, 2008

Book Banding Update

I have a message from Phillip Pullman of

A meeting has been arranged with representatives of the publishers, including Simon Juden, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, Kate Bostock of the PA, and Elaine McQuade of Scholastic. I will putting our case, and I will be joined by Mark Le Fanu and Celia Rees of the Society of Authors. The meeting will take place on Thursday 3 July at Scholastic Children's books.

There isn't an agenda yet, but the purpose of the meeting is to clarify and reiterate our objections to the age-ranging proposal and see if we can help the PA see what a blunder they've made. I would also like to discover several things about the 'research' which so far remain opaque.

All your comments and experiences have been very helpful. If there is anything in particular you would like me to raise on your behalf, do please contact me at I can't guarantee to do so, of course, because I don't know how many people will respond, but anything you can let me know in addition to what you've already communicated to us would be extremely helpful. It would be especially helpful to hear from teachers and experts in reading development, since the PA's research obviously took no account of the problems their proposal might cause in this field.

I shall report on the outcome of the meeting very soon after it's happened.
Philip Pullman

Inspiration From the World of Neurology

Many of you have probably already heard of Jill Bolte Taylor. She is a neuro-scientist who had a stroke and studied her own experience to better understand the workings of the brain. She has recently released a new book about her experience entitled:
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey. She is an eloquent speaker and has a message for humanity about consciousness and choice. Please watch her 18 minute TED lecture here. It is one of the most fascinating and inspiring talks I have ever witnessed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

UCCS Needs Research Participants

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is conducting research via an online survey. The survey is a bit lengthy at 40-60 minutes long, but you are not required to answer every question. Participation in this survey would make you an important part of new scientific research. Richard Dawkins writes, " I strongly support this research. It is being carried out to the highest standards, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the results when they are all analysed. I shall be filling in the Survey myself and I urge others to do the same." If Prof. Dawkins had the time to fill out this survey, so do most of us. I encourage you all to click on the link below and do what you can to further scientific research.

To participate in the survey, please visit:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Book Banding

UK publishers have decided to begin age-banding their books. This means that children's and young adult books will be banded with an age level that is supposed to proclaim the appropriateness of the book for a certain age group. Books will bear a scarlet letter, declaring them fit for only those 10 +, 12+, and so on. Authors are outraged and claim that this will hurt sales and keep children from reading more challenging books, but the publisher's believe it will increase sales by directing parents to books that are at their child's age-level.

At the crux of this argument is the control that publisher's have over writers and censorship. With book-banding, publishers can now squeeze authors into tight boxes and dictate an age level at which to write. They will have margins for every age-level that will have to be met. They will be able to control content, language, voice, and vocabulary. It is a very dangerous concept, and don't think that this will end in UK. Major world-wide book publishers are leading this charge--Harper Collins, Scholastic, etc. This WILL be coming to the United States.

If you'd like to learn more about this issue and read some author's essays on the subject please read Darren Shan's essay at Soapbox and this Telegraph article about Bill Pulman's fight against the bands. If you would like to add your voice to those who are protesting, please visit: to sign the petition.

National Year of Reading Celebration

Waterstone's, the English book-selling behemoth is celebrating the National Year of Reading by publishing a collection of very short fiction from 13 of the most famous authors of our time. Authors like Neil Gaiman, Doris Lessing, Nick Hornby, Margaret Atwood, and J.K. Rowling are contributing this book which showcases original short stories on postcards. But they are also opening the field to all aspiring writers as well. You are invited to submit your short story to the website by June 19th for the chance to win an Arvon Writing Course. As of this posting there have been 2,707 stories submitted and that number is climbing every minute!

The 13 short stories will be available on the website for reading beginning June 11th, and the book will be available for purchase in about 56 days. You can pre-order it now, however, from Waterstone's for only 5 pounds. Go to the website and check it out. Support the National Year of Reading, and let me know what you thought of the stories!