Friday, 6 July 2007

Does your face fit? Or does it make people throw a fit?

I may well be silent for the next week because I start teaching a summer school in novel writing tomorrow and it runs till next Friday, by which time my brain will be mush. I've been spending ages getting my handouts and exercises in order: as with all teaching, it's not the teaching itself that takes the time, it's the preparation - and I very strongly believe that you can be a confident public speaker only if you're fully prepared and have mapped everything out properly. This doesn't mean there isn't room for class input, discussion and diversions - it just means that I need to have in my head a clear idea of the overall shape of the lecture or seminar and I need to have my back-up material carefully marshalled.

So, folks, you're on your own for a few days - just hope it'll make you miss me!

In the meantime, a couple of items: J.K. Rowling will be appearing on the Jonathan Ross show tonight (does this mean that for once he'll turn off the lech/prurient/shock the interviewee with blatant sex-talk and frequent use of the F word/ twitch the tie, eye the camera and look smug technique? I think not. No doubt he'll say to her 'I'm such a great fan of yours ...')
Back to the point - apparently she describes her feelings on finishing the last Harry Potter as a mixture of euphoria and being 'devastated'. Coming to the end of a book is hard enough, and switching off from the characters you've obsessed about for so long feels strange and unnerving in the extreme. It is a mixture of triumph and dislocation. After seven books, she's going to feel very dislocated indeed. The question is, whither now? She doesn't ever have to write to earn a crust again - so will she still write at all? Will she write something completely different in genre under a pen name? Will she, ten years down the line, be a Spice Girl and reconvene her characters because of a desire to recapture the magic that was. (And if she does, is she likely to have more luck than the Spice Girls will? Hush your mouth, Lorna - look at Take That!)

Second item to catch my eye - you may well have heard of the site Meet the Author, ( founded by David Freeman, where you can catch interviews with authors (though I can't - when I click onto an interview, it just endlessly tries to load and gets me nowhere - very frustrating.) He has started a new section called Marketplace to give unpublished authors the chance to pitch their work. Pitches will be rated by viewers and it is hoped publishers will source new material from the site. All very admirable and worth a look. However, the pitch involves uploading a video of yourself giving your spiel, at a cost of £35. This is all well and good if you are of the generation of 'digital natives' and comfortable with this. It seems very Hollywood to me (have you seen the film 'The Player'?) What happened to the written pitch as opposed to the audio-visual one? Is everything to be audio-visual-digital these days? And what if you've got a face like a slapped arse? Will this not detract from the power of your presentation? Claire Armistead, literary editor of the Guardian says: 'Faces sell books - a theme that's been taken up and whacked for all it's worth. Which is perverse, because there's no reason why writers should be good-looking. But that's the world we live in.' Faces sell books - and there was me thinking it was words.

Freeman also predicts that publishers will use the site to 'test the public's appetite for some topics before expensive publication decisions are taken.' I see. We're back to focus groups (see Wanna Bet? earlier post). The thing is, the public doesn't often know what it wants until it gets it. Give editors some autonomy, for Godsake!

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