Monday, September 24, 2012

Wearing my cranky pants today...

I was a bit bummed to see articles in recent weekend papers commenting on the (gasp, shock, horror probe) six million dollar price tag for sending authors and a coterie of associated folk to the Frankfurt Book Fair this year. In case you didn't already know (if you've been hiding in a closet or under a rock or like, ya know, just not reading my blog) New Zealand is country of honour this year in Frankfurt. It's a big deal. Its a very big deal for authors in New Zealand. We got very excited. If you have been reading my blog you will also know I have had a few issues with certain aspects of New Zealand's Frankfurt programme. Like why aren't more children's authors and illustrators included. And why are so many other non-booky interests getting involved. But lets face it, even those who disagree with me over these issues should understand it is part of my job to try getting as many opportunities as possible for my work to reach a wider audience. Wouldn't you think less of me if I didn't try at all? I would.

Anyways, I digress. Whatever I have thought of the programme, I wish it well. Any greater interest in New Zealand writing in general has the chance of having positive spin-offs for me and my fellow writers. They are a great bunch. I like them very much. And there are lots of tremendous people in New Zealand writing deserving of greater things and if greater things happen for them I will be stoked (and more then a smidge jealous - I am human after all).

But I do not like that folk might be suggesting writers in New Zealand should not be helped to export their product. I feel sad that the public might be encouraged to be outraged at this expense. It reminds me of the cutting of the Queensland Literary Awards earlier this year when members of the public were incensed by the bludging authors in their midst sucking the public coffers dry. I don't know any bludging authors. We are not plundering the public coffers. None of us are rich. All the ones I know work very hard to create the best writing that will inspire, motivate, inform, educate, entertain and feed readers. They feel passionate about words and their potential. The big thing that makes us human is our ability to communicate in complex ways. Books foster our ability with words. Our culture should celebrate this. Recent articles have also lamented dropping standards in literacy in schools. Perhaps if our culture saw its literature as more valuable then our standards would improve. I can't imagine its only 6 million dollars that was spent on last years Rugby World Cup or New Zealand's attendance at this years Olympic Games. I think its important to encourage and celebrate this kind of excellence. I also think we shouldn't be limited to just encouraging sports people financially. Maybe runners sell more gatorade or rugby players more life insurance but writers feed more  minds. Holy moley, public money supported that televisual crime that was the GC. I know our economic situation is grim and people are doing it hard. I thank my lucky stars every day that my SO can cover our bills because I earn diddly even though I have what some might consider a pretty successful writing career. But I also think if we sent a better message about the value of our literary culture in New Zealand then it wouldn't seem so embarrassing and cringe-worthy for children to be picking up a book instead of playing Call of Duty or watching Snooki give everyone an unwelcome eyeful on Jersey Shore. And whatever you might think about literature, reading books does improve a child's chance of future success. So please don't say NZ writers don't deserve this kind of international development. It sends the wrong message.


Fifi Colston said...

AGREED 100% !!!!!!!!

Old Kitty said...

Don't these "bludging" authors pay tax and have family who pay tax so therefore are paying for themselves to be sent to this event!??!

Take care