Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Eventually, a reply...

I was pretty shocked and dismayed by a recent article that appeared in The Spinoff, defending the new initiative, the Academy of New Zealand Literature. The Academy seeks to support and promote New Zealand Literature here and overseas. The article was a reaction to some of the 'less than rosy' responses to the launch of the academy. I was shocked that children's authors were deemed 'the worst' of those responding, and dismissed as 'easily ignored.' Maybe it was meant as a joke, although it didn't feel funny at the time. At least the part about us discussing the initiative was true. We weren't happy there were no dedicated children's writers included in the 100 strong membership of the academy. I would have said that was a compliment to the academy - that we saw its value and appreciated what it might do for authors. I would have thought discussing this amongst ourselves where we sought to understand, rationalise and move forward would have been an understandable thing to do. But it came off sounding more like we had been throwing entrails in a cauldron while we concocted some curse against those working hard to create this new endeavour. In truth a large part of our discussion ending up referencing superheroes, capes, masks and wearing our undies on the outside. Someone asked whether you could wear a poncho instead of a cape (the consensus was yes). We're writers and illustrators. We're not new to rejection. We're also human.

In the moment when I read the article there seemed no response I could make that would not reinforce the writer's opinion of our group. I felt hurt and angry and all the words that sprung to mind were fairly loaded. We were exhorted not to 'fight' by others. We often say nothing because of fear. It's a small town. And times are hard. Yet if we always say nothing maybe we are 'easily ignored.' And none of these are 'fighting' words.

Most of all I'm sorry that this might deepen the divide between adult and children's writers. That's a real shame. We're not the enemy.

Now our online group has moved on to discussing the importance of breaking regularly from constant sitting to avoid blood clots - a serious issue for serious writers. We're talking about the LoveOzYa campaign, and about a similar promotional poster campaign that one of our group has been driving here in New Zealand. We talk about a lot of things that might help us. Sometimes we moan and groan, and get a bit feisty. Feel free to throw the first stone at us if you never do this. Anyways, our demonic cabal of cauldron stirrers is now on hiatus as we focus on our key obsessions of writing and illustrating, and the secondary ones of profile, promotion and marketing. I hope the Academy springs forward in leaps and bounds and is able at some near future point to bring children's writers and illustrators on board. In the meantime we will continue to look to each other for support and promotion.

1 comment:

Angela Soutar said...

Yes, it's hard to deal with when one part of the community ignores and devalues the other part. Both equally skilled and well regarded, both recognised internationally and nationally. Both vigorous and inventive, both trying to promote their efforts on minimal/no budgets.
Is it because the pie you have to share is so small?