12 February 2011

I’d only write….

if I had something to say which was constructive, helpful and expressive…a response Mr Amis should have made when asked if he would write for children… instead….

scissors blog

Well, It takes a lot to make me angry, even more to take me into the “red” zone, but I am well past that this morning.

The day started so promisingly…no post of controversy, the sun shining and then I happened to click on a link to the Independent on a Tweet. 

Amis: I’d write for children only if I'd had a brain injury

Was the headline.  The article – which isn’t on the link now, but has been altered to read the responses of children’s authors – was – well to say the least highly inflammatory, rude and ignorant.  

Also to go by what has been going on lately I should not be surprised if the article actually contravened the disability discrimination codes.  I am led to believe that the article was written on the back of a television programme in which Amis was interviewed this week. 

If so – again I am totally shocked that it was allowed to air.  I am going to check, and if it has, I shall be making a formal complaint, and will not let this go unchallenged…

So – moral of story? don’t read tweets on a sunny day…. or is it…?

Nope, following on from that, and whilst I was calming down, I received some other tweets – not really related – but it was in the order they came which gave me pause to think and a gestalt moment…  I hope the authors don’t mind me sharing…


The timeline started with this:

@periodwardrobe I have a 1460's gown to start today, I think I have given it enough thought to cut into the scarlet wool with the scissors! #periodcostume

My response:

@periodwardrobe that is the bit I get a chill in my stomach over....go for it !

@periodcostume responded:

@StrandedYarnsUK Ooh, especially if you have woven the fabric yourself - I wouldn't be able to bring myself to do it!

My thought here:

and that is the problem, when you are so close to something that you have invested hours in producing – yardage, fabric, articles, stories, that amazing watercolour painting – well you don’t want to mess it all up with a wrong move do you….?

Then my @writethewrite tweeted this back:

@StrandedYarnsUK- maybe this incident is something that will propel your writing in a new direction??? or cement an existing direction.

I thought about it briefly and responded…

@Write_the_Write have spent a long time thinking about it, so yep you are "write" - it isn't as if I haven't got the word "yardage"!!


and suddenly the brain did that synapse thing and jumped the tracks.  I have literally yards of text which I have written over the years – all destined for one project or another, but all needing editing to actually become anything worth reading…to anybody – not just differently abled.   

I have been too frightened to make that first cut it into… don’t know why – and this is where the woven yardage and not wanting to make the first cut came into my head..

Not only do I have yards of text, I bet every writer I know does.. and those I don’t….

The issue with books for the disabled are they don’t actually exist! Goodness knows why when you consider 1:7 of the population suffers with brain-injury in one form or another during their life-time.  A very untapped target audience I would say….

The books don’t need to be dumbed down, or words shouted – as the Englishman does abroad or issues clarified in idiot explanations.   So famous authors do not need to worry that their erudite thoughts will be lost on the less academically abled.  Brain-injured are not less academic, they just access their academia differently – and you have to have a wider understanding to capture imagination and draw in.  Also you don’t get the instant feedback, if someone cannot talk, or assimilate as quickly as “standard”. 

But trust me, the wait is worth it….  I have never met so many brain-injured people in my life as I have over the last 5 years and without exception they have taught me so much about myself and my writing, and the important of taking yourself out of your comfort zone to enter theirs. 

The reward is priceless…You get to watch the face breaking open with a slow smile, which spreads across the face like a dawn breaking…. recognition and understanding happens and you can see it palpably happening, as comprehension reaches the eyes and the sheer joy and exhilaration that you have communicated with another person and they with you, is beyond words. 

So what to do?

The text just needs to be “shorter”, you need to get to the point quicker, chapters, sentences all need to take into account poor memory, so there is more repetition and recapping – but this can be done through the characterisation. You don’t need to dumb anything down – just slow it down, cut out duplicated or unnecessary characters – your narrative arch needs to actually go somewhere with an artful plot… and take regular rest breaks…. 

Also the books need to be less intimidating – smaller sizes, easily handled – books are judged by the covers, so they need to be inviting. 

The font, slightly bigger – but not too large – you don’t have to shout, it is easier just to follow larger text, and the sense of accomplishment as the page turns, invites the reader to return…

You don’t need to be brain-injured to write a book, for an adult or a child – but you do actually have to know your target audience and understand people.

Mr Amis does neither…

and neither has he had the sheer, uncontaminated joy of being in the company of brain-injured people…  


Anonymous said...

and I don't think only those with brain injury/differently abled would benefit from less complicated, shorter books.

I love novella length books and many a story is the less because the number of words used is more than is needed.

Shani said...

couldn't agree with you more. When I am tired and just want to read to entertain myself quietly, I could really do with something interesting, but not complicated, to get my head into...