Halloween Competition!

Those pumpkins be CRAY. You can win spookalicious HOLLOW PIKE and murderific CRUEL SUMMER just by answering this very simple question:


Write your answer in the comments box below, either with your Twitter name or your email so I can contact you if you win. Best of luck – a winner will be picked at random tomorrow.

Thanks to Indigo for donating the prizes.

Why I Won’t Be Seeing Ender’s Game

You may or not be aware of the controversy surrounding this seemingly innocent movie. You may not be aware of the movie at all. After all, in the UK, the book it’s based on hardly hit The Hunger Games sales figures.

The film is based on a 1985 novel by author Orson Scott Card and features a boy called Ender training to battle a species of bug like aliens somewhat hilariously called ‘Buggers’. I guess that doesn’t translate to the US the same way we use it over here (they’re rebranded Formics for the film). The story isn’t the issue, reviews are positive and the novel won various awards.

So why are there calls to boycott the film from the US rights groups? The problem is with the author. Simply put, Card hates LGBT people. No, really. Here are some choice quotes:

  • In 1990, Card suggested anti-homosexuality laws should “remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behaviour cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.”
  • Card is firmly against same-sex marriage. “If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.”
  • Card was on the board of National Organisation for Marriage, a group that opposes same-sex unions.
  • He drops pearls of wisdom like this: “The dark secret of homosexual society—the one that dares not speak its name—is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.”
  • And this:  “I was not trying to show that homosexuality was ‘beautiful’ or ‘natural’—in fact, sex of any kind is likely to be ‘beautiful’ only to the participants, and it is hard to make a case for the naturalness of such an obviously counter-evolutionary trend as same-sex mating.”

It goes on and on. It’s interesting that Card has attempted to distance himself from these comments in 2013, when it became clear he was damaging the prospects of the film adaptation. Indeed, Card has not been included on panels with the film’s cast and Lionsgate  publicly came out in support of gay marriage.

Interestingly, ‘Milk’ screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and the film’s star, Harrison Ford, have spoken out against the boycott suggesting that the people who worked on the film are pro same-sex marriage and that the film promotes inclusion. Is it pointless to boycott a film when Card has already received his rights money?

I’m not so sure. Granted my box office money wouldn’t be lining a homophobe’s pocket directly, but going to see the film feels like tacit approval. If it’s a success you can bet your bottom Hollywood dollar that other properties of his will be snapped up. What also bothers me is that in their quest for a new Potter, Lionsgate didn’t do the most fundamental research on Card. IT’S ON HIS WIKIPEDIA, PEOPLE. It’s a shame they made a film with liability attached but perhaps an even bigger shame no one thought to not pay such a hateful man money right at the get go. I’m not going to feel bad for the studio. Didn’t anyone, cast or crew, think to google him?

This is not about religion. Most Mormon (Card has hidden behind his religion as a defence) people are pro gay-marriage – at least the ones I’ve chatted to about this on Twitter. This is about a man who hates gay people. I am a gay person and I’ll be damned if I go see his film. It’s a personal choice, of course – it’ s a big half-term movie and I’m sure kids will love it, but I think everyone should know the background.

It’s an interesting message to authors, I think, the message being – you represent your work. An author and their books are permanently entwined. Card isn’t the only author I won’t read because of their douchey public behaviour. Watch yo mouth, folks.

UPDATE: I was in a bookshop earlier and saw a lovely nice big pile of the original Orson Scott Card novels now with a film tie-in. It suddenly occurred to me that actually the film IS directly lining a homophobe’s pockets – I’m quite sure sales of this tie-in will be doing very nicely indeed. A quick check on Amazon confirms this. 

It pisses me right off. It shouldn’t but it does. People can buy whatever books they want to buy, but it stings. This is a man who hates me. He hates my boyfriend. He hates my friends who are basically my family. I tell you what, why don’t we take the £7.99 for the book and just pay it straight into my newly set up HATE FOUNDATION?

I guess the problem is that Lionsgate have (unwittingly) endorsed a homophobe, as have Orbit, the UK publisher. It troubles me because I KNOW he’s a homophobe, but most filmgoers and Waterstones browsers don’t. While the book isn’t subliminally suggesting people hate LGBT people it is making a bad man richer in my opinion. Yes, I am allowed one.

Anyway, that’s why I won’t be seeing this YA adaptation.

Author Visits: A Beginner’s Guide

I don’t do ‘Tips For Writerz’ very often because, frankly, it’s a bit egotistical to think that your way will suit every children’s and YA author. Of course there are loads of ways to ensure you have a successful school visit, but these are the basics I wish I’d known when I started out two years ago.

Full disclaimer – I did used to be a teacher and I still work in schools through First Story, so standing in front of hundreds of kids never bothered me, but the role of a visiting author is not the same and there are different practical considerations. I just completed a twenty date tour for Cruel Summer/Being A Boy, taking in Preston, Sheffield, Edinburgh, London, Kent, Sussex and Liverpool and while it’s fresh in my mind I thought I’d get this done. If I came to your school, thank you – there are some pics embedded within!

Farringtons School, KentPlanning Your Visit

  • The best contact to make is the school librarian. Librarians are awesome because this falls under their remit whereas teachers are snowed under with parent’s evenings and paperwork.
  • You can find librarians by approaching local schools directly or by advertising your visit services on your website or Twitter.
  • There are now also agencies which act as agents to provide schools with appropriate authors.
  • To charge or not to charge? This is a hot topic. The current guidelines from the Scottish Booktrust recommends £150 for a single session (not exceeding an hour), so for a full day with three sessions you’d be looking at about £450. However, authors can be a cutthroat bunch and undercutting does happen, as do ‘promotional’ visits – where the author’s time is free. I agree to promotional visits to coincide with a new release but outside of tour time I always charge. Basically it’s a bit shady to do all your events for free, even if you can afford it, because most authors can’t and school visits are a much-needed additional source of income.
  • Travel – the school must always foot the travel costs. Remember schools do have English budgets, don’t feel bad about this. If a school two hundred miles away wants you for nine in the morning, you will need a local hotel too.
  • Books! Do not take for granted that copies of your books will be ready for you to sign at the school. Ensure your school contact has sourced stock from a local bookshop or arrange to do it through your publisher. Some authors like to buy stock at a discounted rate from their publisher and then sell them on for either the same price or at a profit. I always make sure the school does it.
  • Money! This makes SUCH a difference. Ask the librarian or contact if pupils will need to have money ON THE DAY. The best school visits are the ones where money has been collected in advance or where the school contact allows pupils to get a signed book and then bring money tomorrow. This HUGELY affects sales.
  • Promotion. Most schools like you to send posters/showcards/postcards in advance so the pupils know you’re coming. Most publishers will send these goodies on if you give them an address.
  • Prepare – Don’t assume you’ll have access to a laptop and projector unless you’ve requested one. Check if your school has unblocked YouTube if you want to show book trailers and ask if you have speakers for sound. The vast majority of schools DO NOT use Macs.

Durrington High, SussexDuring Your Event

  • Your presentation must be age appropriate. NEVER assume even older pupils have top notch literacy skills and fill a presentation with writing. 
  • Use drama, role-play and hot-seating: where you get a pupil to interview you in character.
  • Be interactive. Even with very large groups you can ask pupils to talk in pairs about the themes in your book or the big WHAT IF? questions. Don’t be scared that if you let pupils talk you won’t get them quiet again. You will, but that’s what teachers are there for.
  • Goes without saying but authors must never be left alone with classes. A teacher must always be present.
  • Keep readings VERY short, absolutely no more than five minutes, especially for primary age children.
  • Be aware that if you’ve been brought in to do writing workshops, the pupils will likely see it as a ‘fun lesson’ and the work won’t be excellent. For workshops, smaller groups work better so the author can spend qualitative time with each pupil. I always say no more than 15 pupils if they want quality writing.
  • Always leave plenty of time for questions – this way the pupils can take away what they want from a session.
  • Consider taking gifts – bookmarks, postcards, badges etc. They’re like catnip.
  • Make sure you have plenty of time for signing if books are on sale. It can take ages, but also don’t be too disheartened if there are few sales – despite the heroic efforts of librarians some pupils SWEAR they didn’t know you were coming or just plain can’t afford £6.99.

After your event

  • Always get in touch with your contact to thank them from a fantastic visit. They did a lot of work to plan the day.
  • Don’t forget to invoice! You’d be surprised how often I do this, but that’s probably just my amazing business skills.

This seems like a good place to thank all the schools, teachers, pupils and librarians that made the Cruel Summer tour so much fun. I’ll be back with Mary next year… 😉