Editor's Blog #3: Finished a book (I know) + thoughts

I went away to France for a week and start and finished a book. That shouldn't in itself be surprising, but the fact it was only my second completed book in two years is troubling. The shame I feel is real believe me, but the sense of achievement feels addictive. And so the need to continually read once again rears its head!

Hello blessed creature, good to see you again! 

The book I completed? Matt Haig's The Humans - easy to love, enjoyable, relatable, sad and heart-warming also. Do read it if you haven't. You'll likely burn through it. 

I need more time for books, this site requires that at the very base level. After all, I can't write about things I know little of And so regular reading. I miss it, I love it, and I'll report back with more thoughts on that, this site and more very very soon I hope.

To those who haven't read for a while, just like me, go on. Shift the bookmark!

Peace and adventure,


Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Children's Awards backlash

Kiran Millwood-Hargrave is one BAME author who some believe has been ignored

Kiran Millwood-Hargrave is one BAME author who some believe has been ignored

CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) has found itself facing some strong criticism about a lack of diversity, with neither the institute's Carnegie or Kate Greenaway Medal longlists featuring a single BAME author.

The Carnegie medal is awarded to an "outstanding" book written in English for children and young people, and the Kate Greenaway Medal recognises "distinguished illustration" in a book for children. The longlists for both awards are 20 nominees long, and despite a clear depth of talent neither features a title by an author of Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic identity.

We gave out a "wow" when we heard, and it's news which has been met with a strong response from some quarters of the book industry. That despite CILIP stating it: "acknowledges and respects the concerns expressed", and assuring all titles were "judged on merit and on an equal playing field".

It's a sentiment refuted by Jhalak Prize co-creator Sunny Singh, who took to Twitter to make her own feelings known: 

Those sentiments were echoed by Jhalak co-creator Nikesh Shukla, who revealed his sadness about CILIP's statement. He added: "An equal playing field happens when no one has any cause or suspicion to note the lack of diversity. An equal playing field happens when more than a handful of authors from marginalised backgrounds gets published."

It's hard to argue, and it's hard to argue further still with a series of tweets Ms Singh referred to - by Sarah Shaffi (online editor of The Bookseller). Ms Shaffi, we think, offers an excellent tear-down of the elements for concern, with the first tweet in the series highlighted below. Still, we recommend clicking through to read those that follow:

Finally we just want to pick up on the idea of 'ignorance', because one of the books that was ignored was The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave. Ms Millwood-Hargrave's book has already been selected for the shortlists of this year's Jhalak Prize and Waterstones Children's Book Prize. It's clear then that in general terms The Girl of Ink and Stars isn't being ignored outright. That title may have been ignored by CILIP, but we wouldn't dare suggest that one book by one author should be on every shortlist. It's not completely surprising it isn't.

What we are completely surprised by - astonished really - is that of two 20-strong lists (a combined 40 nominees) there is not any book by a BAME author. That represents...well, zero representation, and it feels, looks, and even sounds odd to us; just as we're sure it will to many authors (and aspiring authors) across the UK. 

(The full longlists can be found here).

Samuel French Theatre Bookshop to close in April...bah


Sad news today as the Samuel French Theatre Bookshop, sat on Fitzroy Street, London, has announced that it is to close after 187 years. The reason? A 200% rent hike making it impossible for the bookshop to keep its doors open at its current location. It's really unfortunate stuff, and the doors will be closing for good on the shop come mid-April.

For the unfamiliar, 'French's Theatre Bookshop' is owned by the theatrical licensing and publishing company Samuel French. The shop has occupied the premises on the corner of Fitzroy and Warren St since 1983, and specialises in plays and theatre books. 

The shop will continue to sell online at www.samuelfrench.co.uk, but regardless it's hard to see a central London bookstore closing as any kind of progress. We believe bookshops and libraries should live at the very heart of our towns, cities and societies. Business was growing too, so French's bidding farewell to a physical store - particularly when the decision is out of its hands - is a shame indeed.

Below is an extract of a statement about the closure (which can be read in full here).


The lease on our current building in Fitzroy Street (where we’ve been since 1983) is coming to an end. Facing an unsustainable 200% rent increase to stay in our current location, and after exploring all options for alternative premises, we have come to the conclusion that sadly it isn’t viable to maintain our London shop. 
We remain resolutely committed to theatre bookselling, and we will continue to sell a full range of plays and theatre books (from both Samuel French and other publishers) through our well established and growing online shop. In recent years, we’ve already seen many of our customers switching to the online store - 4 out of every 5 books we sell are now bought online or through other retailers. We will offer the same selection, expertise and support online that has made our London bookshop such an invaluable resource.

Phillip Pullman confirms His Dark Materials 'equal'

Phillip Pullman

To the delight of His Dark Materials fans, Phillip Pullman has confirmed that a "companion" trilogy to his HDM series is on the way - and that the first title in The Book of Dust is set for publication on October 19th! Needless to say we here at W&M are pretty chuffed about that, and we're sure we're not alone. 

The new trilogy is being referred to as a 'companion' series by the author. But Pullman is also referring to them as an 'equal'. In speaking to American National Public Radio (NPR) Editor, Glen Weldon, Pullman explained his reasoning:

The story begins before His Dark Materials and continues after it...You don't have to read it before... this is another story that comes after it, so it's not a sequel, and it's not a prequel, it's an equal.

A little bit of semantic linguistics required, but the new trilogy will be set before and after the events of Northern Lights, The amber Spyglass and The Subtle Knife. We also know some additional details. Like, as The Book of Dust title suggests, that the bookswill explore the dust particle featured in His Dark Materials

That's what I really wanted to explore in this new work. More about the nature of Dust, and consciousness, and what it means to be a human being.

Of course Pullman's series is in part so well-regarded because of the parallels we see between his narrative and the real world; because of the raw connection he conjures between readers and characters. We feel confident that will continue (indeed Lyra Belacqua and "an ordinary boy" will feature in the new series), but ultimately we're really looking forward to getting stuck into another Pullman trilogy!

Some additional thoughts to finish with:

  • Hear from Pullman himself via this clip from BBC Radio 4 Today, and read a little more at NPR here.
  • Not much reference to Pullman's 'other' His Dark Materials titles - Once Upon a Time in the North and Lyra's Oxford - doing the rounds. However, both are excellent extensions pf the HDM series and well worth your time!

Rife Magazine goes Unbound for youth-focused title

Rife Magazine Unbound

Unbound, the book crowdfunding site, is probably the most democratic of book creation tools available. If a book doesn't get enough funding it doesn't get made. If it does then there's clearly interest, and everyone's a winner. Authors get to bring their books to life, and readers get to help support and bring to life an interesting read, usually by pre-buying the title in digital or print forms. 

The site is home to a great deal of wonderful books-to-be-funded, and right now the one that has caught our eye is Rife: Twenty Stories from Britain's Youth. Bristol-based Rife magazine is for young people, by young people. And the magazine and its editorial team are behind a pitch which they hope will resonate across the UK.

To be edited by Nikesh Shukla - Rife editor and editor of The Good Immigrant (a standout Unbound success-story) - it feels like a pretty important time for the voice of youngsters to be read and heard and considered on an even level with other generations. It always is of course, and opportunities for discourse across generations is something to always encourage.

Yet we understand the timing in the drive for this particular project, and it's one which Unbound's self-powered approach to book creation (and backers) will ultimately determine the future of. If you're intrigued you can hop over to Unbound and check it out here. And, if you're 24 or under and UK-based, there's also a chance to contribute to what may prove to be a really insightful read.

WCBP17 and some unseen dynamics

We were going to write a by-the-numbers news story today; one about the shortlist being announced for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2017. We could do that, and it would go something like "the shortlist for Watersones Children's Book Prize has been announced!" And it would be true excitement because we loved books as a child, children's books are great, books are great, but books for young'uns are a little extra special in some ways.

In any case, the shortlist has been announced and we send our hearty and genuine congratulations to all those on it. They're actually listed nicely on Waterstones website, here. We'll list them below just because we enjoy typing their marvellous titles, but if this bores you a little rejoin us after the list (or, seriously, click here and check them out - aren't they some beautiful looking books?).

Ahem, the books:

  • Super San - Matt Robertson
  • The Journey - Francesca Sanna
  • The Bear Who Stared - Duncan Beedie
  • There's a Tiger in the Garden - Lizzy Stewart
  • Tiger in a Tutu - Fabi Santiago
  • Life is magic - Meg McLaren
  • Wolf Hollow - Lauren Wolk
  • Bettle Boy - M.G Leonard
  • Time Travelling with a Hamster - Ross Welford
  • The Girl of Ink & Stars - Kiran Millwood-Hargrave
  • Cogheart - Peter Bunzl
  • Captain Pug - Laura James
  • Hour of the Bees - Lindsay Eagar
  • Anna and the Swallow Man - Gavriel Savit
  • The Wildings - Nilanja Roy
  • Orangeboy - Patrice Lawrence
  • Paper Butterflies - Lisa Heathfield
  • The Sun is Also a Star - Nicola Yoon.

Okay, so there are five things are jumping out at us here. 

  1. Are those just some marvellous titles? They just make us so happy. They're bloomin' great!
  2. Excellent selection of animal-based tales, authors. Good stuff.
  3. Several books involving flying things. Flying things are awesome. 
  4. The Sun is Also a Star may be the best, science-related title ever to sneak onto a children's book.
  5. As shortlists go, it's not the shortest - but the more the better as far as we're concerned.

Another thing to notice is that it's been quite a week for Kiran Millwood-Hargrave. As well as a place on this shortlist, earlier this week the author also found a place on the shortlist for the Jhalak Prize. Well done, Ms Millwood Hargrave. Back to the list and it's nice to see such a strong selection of books from professional, creative, authors. We're referring to them as 'professionals' specifically, because of this piece on the website of the Guardian and the reported effects of celebrity authors. Celebrities writing books is hardly a new phenomenon, but the last few years have seen the idea diffuse in new waters with the rise of YouTubers and - specifically, for the purposes of this post - celebrity writers of childrens' books. 

We recommend the article, and can understand the concerns being raised. We suppose our thoughts are that there's nothing wrong with celebrity-written books if buyers (including ourselves) can support professional writers as much as possible. After all, book deals are based on appeal. Also, a bit like independent bookstores, professional writers presumably chose their profession for the love. But they are professionals and are invariably ruddy good at what they do. If the support that keeps the doors open falters - as it seems may sadly be the case for some authors - talent is unused and terrific tales are lost. 

Perhaps we're speaking to publishers more, being that they're in the position of power here. But really, we'll be sure to consider all these elements when next we pick up a title. As for the Waterstones Childrens' Book Prize, good luck to Watersontes for running it, and to all on the list for this year. More when we have it of course!

Rhyannon Styles' transgender memoir to arrive in July

The New Girl

Writer, musician and performance artist Rhyannon Styles' memoir, The New Girl, will be arriving in July. That's according to publisher Headline, which says the titles' exploration of the author's journey transitioning from male to female will be "redemptive" "very personal" and will also "explode myths". 

We're sure it'll be an incredibly powerful read, and one which readers of Styles' Elle column may particularly be looking out for. Tracing Styles' transition - beginning in 2012 - The New Girl will (we're told) promote understanding of the transgender experience, while highlighting the importance of self-truth. Styles' commissioning editor at Headline, Christina Demosthenous, says the publisher is proud to be working on the title, and rightly so. Demosthenous adds:

Rhyannon bravely – and with brutal honesty – invites us on her journey of transitioning from male to female. Emotional, powerful and utterly upfront, her story is also narrated with her trademark wit and wry sense of humour.

For her part, Styles says "The New Girl is a very modern part of trans life". Her hope is that the memoir will "allow people access to the transgender experience, providing understanding and insight, and lighting up the electrifying process of transformation." We're sure it will. And that come July of this year, The New Girl will present a personal and revealing view of Styles' story; one in which many readers will find value, insight and perhaps a deeper understanding of a subject otherwise left unexplored. 

Jhalak Prize shortlist (and reactions)

Nikesh Shukla and Sunny Singh are the creators of the Jhalak Prize

Nikesh Shukla and Sunny Singh are the creators of the Jhalak Prize

The shortlist for the inaugural Jhalak Prize has been announced. What is the Jhalak prize? In its inaugural year, the Jhalak Prize aims to recognise the best books (and ultimately book) of the year written by a British or British-resident BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) author. The winner of the prize receives the accolade along with a £1,000 prize. For this first year the books and authors on the shortlist are.

The Girl Of Ink & Stars - Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Chicken House)
A Rising Man - Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
Speak Gigantular - Irenosen Okojie (Jacaranda)
Black And British: A Forgotten History - David Olusoga (Macmillan)
The Bone Readers - Jacob Ross (Peepal Tree Press)
Another Day In The Death Of America - Gary Younge (Faber)

We will of course be posting when the winner is announced, but for now we'll leave you with some of the authors responses, including one from a new-to-Twitter Jacob Ross, and one by Gary Younge which seems to link to some other website. Not sure what that is...

Another Day in the Death of America

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary Editions Launched

Yep, these are some smart books.

Yep, these are some smart books.

Exciting news for Harry Potter fans and book collectors everywhere. Bloomsbury has announced 20th anniversary editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone will be published in June. And, as the rather smart image suggests, there'll be four versions.

Yes, four versions - one for each Hogwarts houses - so if you fancy yourself Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin or Hufflepuff you can treat yourself. It's excellent marketing (well done Bloomsbury), but also a really nice idea. Honestly we'll be shocked if the Gryffindor books doesn't outsell the others. Yet we do live in strange times. Perhaps there'll be an upset though...with err, Slytherin? 

Let's just take a moment to look at those books and say "ohhh". Smart jackets/covers (it's hard to tell at this point) and sprayed edges is a strong look. And a little extra detail: paperback versions will reverse the colour theme and feature single-sprayed edges. Again, the start of June is when the 20th anniversary books will be available, so perfect gifts for Harry Potter fans celebrating around that time - be careful with version choice though.

Following on from the news, it's probably reasonable to expect follow-up 20th anniversary editions for the other six Harry Potter novels. So perhaps each novel will get a similar treatment in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2023, 2025, and 2027. 

Blimey, enough talk of the future - our heads are spinning more than (nope, couldn't bring ourselves to do a Potter pun).

Editor's Blog #2: Hello again

Hi all, Kevin here.

I just wanted to say hi again and thank you for returning if you checked us out before our hiatus. We'll certainly look to avoid a repeat of that (I really missed being here), and the idea is really to keep things running smoothly and consistently! So this is just a small update to say that regular pieces - likely one per weekday - is the plan for the immediate future. It might seem a bit 'half blog, half-news site', but a post a day seems sensible, and given the glut of things going on in the world of books we can't really cover it all.

What we will do is try to pick up on the news and topics we hope you'll be keen on reading about; ones you may have missed, or ones which might just freshen things up a bit if we feel that's needed. You can always help in pointing things out to us too - leave a comment below an article here, on our Facebook page or tweet us @wordsandmatter on Twitter. You can tell us your thoughts about what we're up to, what might be nice to see, or anything else. We'll do our best to get to it and see what we can do in response.

So that's that for now really. I'll be back next week hopefully - an Editor's blog at the weekend seems like it might work! So until then all the best. 

Happy reading! 

Speak Up For Libraries...did just that!

Speak Up For Libraries...did just that!

If you saw our post on Monday, you'll know that yesterday the Speak Up For Libraries group lobbied parliament - both on keeping libraries open, and ensuring they grow with their communities. Such support is certainly needed, especially as some 549 libraries have closed across Britain since David Cameron became Prime Minister.

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