Where's your story?

One of my favourite things about the SCBWI BI conference in November is the badges. I love them so much, I have a complete set and was thrilled last year that my design, which was actually a bit of a cheat - I'll tell you why in mo - made it into badgedom too.

I wanted to have a go, so I rooted out a drawing of mine which while inexpertly executed, might be ok for a badge. I struggled to find a slogan but eventually decided on was Where's your story?

The huge numbers of books, e, paper, comic... published daily can make make finding good stories tricky. And to a large extent, being a subjective business, print is not always an assurance that a story is one a reader wants to read.  So where can good stories be found? I loved Clare Whitston's feature this week that part of an editor's job is to look for them and sometimes in 'unexpected places'.

A recent article to decry one possible hiding place, ebooks and self publishing, said that they, together with Twitter and Amazon, are 'decimating literary culture', 'undermining serious writers' and 'doing a disservice to readers'. So said Jonathan Franzen in the Guardian on Friday.

Is a story really diminished by its medium? If we read it on a kindle or a smartphone or in a paper bound comic, is that less worthy than turning the pages of the first edition hardback. And if the reader is more aware of the medium through which they're accessing the story, has the author succeeded in transporting them to his world? Is reading a story such a chore that holding a beautiful object compensates? Books are beautiful, the old and battered as well as the gold edged and leather bound but it's the story that makes the difference in a child's life, that inspires, entertains, encourages, comforts, reassures...

So where's your story? Soaked in paper, back lit on a phone, or preserved in a perfect binding and if you've done your job, does it really matter?

Lorraine Gregory who's now working with Tania on celebrations, found two great celebration stories yesterday: W&P's own Gill James and Undiscovered Voices winner, Katie Dale both have new books out. Thank you and Welcome Lorraine! Here she is safely installed on our team page.

Also this week, we've had some excellent 'Everything Editorial' input not only from OUP's Clare Whitston but also from Hot Key's Sara O'Connor with another brilliant Ask a Publisher - this month there's advice on how to choose a publisher, what to include in an author website and whether you need a platform before getting published. Nick found some must click blogs - BIG Questions were tackled along with a smattering of crochet. Thursday belonged to Anne-Marie with an essential review of Bloomsbury's Becoming and Illustrator by Derek Brazell and Jo Davies and a wish you'd been there write up of the Picture Book Retreat in July.
I hope you like the new banner. Every one we've had has been a delight and not least of all Mike Brownlow's Very Cute Colin the Caveman. Mike's Featured Illustrator biography is full of fun just like his wonderful art.

Next week, Agent Julia Churchill, from A.M. Heath will be describing how she works editorially with her authors. Social Sheila has a new video shedding some light on Pinterest and John Shelley will be considering the pros and cons of exhibiting.

Have a great week!

Jan Carr

Jan Carr is the editor of Words & Pictures. Her fiction is older middle grade, she blogs occasionally and loves to write in magenta. You can contact her at editor@britishscbwi.org.


  1. Great post Jan! I have often tried to say these things but have never been able to put it so well.

  2. I wanted to take time to read the whole Jonathan Frantzen piece before I commented here. I feel he's been rather misquoted by The Guardian, who extracted the more controversial comments out of a long and fairly balanced essay. This is ironically exactly the kind of thing that Frantzen decries in the essay: "One of the worst things about the internet is that it tempts everyone to be a sophisticate – to take positions on what is hip and to consider, under pain of being considered unhip, the positions that everyone else is taking."

    In summary, I don't think he's really saying that non-print stories are less significant, just that the culture that goes along with the e-book model tends to minimise quality in favour of quantity.

  3. Good point Nick - he does get rather a bad press on this subject, doesn't he? I confess I read the Guardian article rather than his essay but I did read the opening to Freedom and very much enjoyed it - he has such a ring of Anne Tyler who I like very much too.
    I don't think we'd argue that the ebook model encourages gung ho mediocrity and worse. The last stage of getting something out there because 'what the heck, I can' is very easy. What I was thinking about, but didn't express so well, was less of a defence of ebooks and more of poke at any snobbery that may be attached to the method by which a story is accessed - if indeed there is any. I was thinking about comics and how they should be valued as 'worthy' reading matter too. What's the story anyway? Just the words on a page, an exercise in decoding, or something more? That needs more thought maybe...

    1. I totally agree you about the idea that the message is most important, not the medium. But the nature of the medium can affect the way the message is communicated - there are things that comics do better than books, and vice versa. When we tell a story, we should be keenly aware of whether we're making the best use of the medium we've chosen (I say this as someone who came to novels as a frustrated screenwriter and had to be trained out of my bad habits!)

  4. Ooh interesting discussion - possibly feature/post - on whether or not the story chooses its medium, how the same story works in different media eg all those marvel comics on film, are there any instances where the film communicates the story better than the book or is the book always better....


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