April 30th, 2008

society of authors

I've recently applied to join the Society of Authors, partly because I thought it was about time, since I've gatecrashed a few of their events and I can get in cheaper before I turn 35. But I also think they fill a gap that the other two organisations I'm a part of don't yet meet. All three are great in their own ways.
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Last night I went to the SoA talk at Random House about 'Age Ranging'. Scholastic UK's Elaine McQuade introduced Martin Lee from Acacia Avenue, a research and strategy consultancy firm. The Publishers Association hired them to do a study on how people buy children's books, and how much their awareness of the books' projected age ranges helped or hindered their buying. They concluded that the majority of buyers feel a bit lost when buying books as gifts for children, and would welcome a subtle little black-and-white box near, but not inside, the books' bar code box, stating a projected 'age plus' range (ie, 5+). It sounds like publishers will be going ahead with this fairly soon.

Or course, this threw up a whole storm of protest from the authors, who don't want their books pigeon-holed and felt they hadn't been consulted soon enough. Here's a picture I drew of the audience response:

Here's a sketch of Elaine, looking polite, engaged, and slightly under attack:

And here's an audience member after the storm had abated a bit.

(I saw Ros Asquith drawing people, too, but I didn't manage to get a good look at her sketchbook.)

After the discussion, we went for a cosy curry with an amazing table full of people: my friends Sally Nicholls and An Vrombaut, and some people I hadn't met but was chuffed to bits to meet, Fiona Dunbar, Shoo Rayner and Nicholas Allan. Funnily enough, I've had one of Nicholas Allan's books sitting right next to my keyboard, and I think I've bought at least ten copies of it: the £1.50 version of The Queen's Knickers. It's the perfect thing to send to foreign friends who want a quirky little bit of Britain, but also lightweight and flat enough so I don't break the bank doing it. He also wrote The Hefty Fairy and Cinderella's Bum, which I find hilarious.

Here's one of An's animations, Little Wolf. She's made loads more since then, but this one's still brilliant:

And here's a photo I took on a quick walk in Chelsea in the afternoon. The flowers smelled heavenly.