Saturday, 21 April 2012

Heart to Heart Communication - Pauline Fisk


VIRTUAL READERS?

Pauline Fisk says I think not

I blogged the other month about the ups and downs of being a virtual author. At the time of writing, I had my first e-publication day in mind but now it’s readers I’m worrying about.

Anything that creates a barrier between the books we authors write and the people out there reading them is a bad thing. Too often, whilst visiting schools, I’ve found children amazed to discover that an author like me is made of flesh and blood. But how much less real will I seem now that I’m a virtual writer? And with no physical books for them to buy, or bookshops for them to buy in, aren‘t I in danger of thinking of my readers as virtual too?

I hope not, because I hate this use of the word virtual. The connections people make online are as real as anything else that happens in their lives. Authors Electric is a virtual group, but it’s a real group too, full of fellow-writers far too alive and kicking to be described as ‘virtual’. And the readers I’ve been hearing from since Midnight Blue’s e-launch aren’t virtual. I may not have met them in the flesh, but I’ve been thrilled to hear from them, old fans and new, some children when Midnight Blue first came out and adults now; some children now, discovering the book for the first time.

I’ve never been an author who writes regardless of her readership. At the age of nine I discovered that having an audience for my work was almost as satisfying as the writing itself. The weird introvert/extrovert contradiction at the heart of every writer had revealed itself to me and ever since, as much as I’ve wanted to write, I’ve also wanted to have readers.

This is one of the reasons why I enjoy author visits so much. Only a couple of weeks ago I was in St Patrick’s Primary School, Wellington, talking about my gap year novel ‘In The Trees’. Who says modern children have an attention span of eight minutes? With just a few photographs and the power of words, I kept children from as young as seven enthralled with tall jungle tales about moonlight in the rainforest, howler monkeys in the trees, swimming in crystal rivers and trekking through the jungle surrounded not just by danger but by clouds of yellow butterflies. 


Engaging with readers isn't something I intend to stop now that I've begun publishing in e-format.  To me the essence of a good story comes down to what the great American children's writer, Katherine Paterson, called a 'heart-to-heart communication' - hearts in hiding reaching out to each other to create something that otherwise wouldn't be there.  A book is only ever half finished when it's written.  Only when the reader - each reader with their own unique imagination - reads it, does it truly come to life.


So readers aren't virtual.  They're very much alive, and e-books aren't virtual either.  They're as real and vibrant as any other book.  And the partnership between writer and reader - that isn't virtual either.  To celebrate it, and in the spirit of World Book Night, Authors Electric will be running a two-day Great Giveaway of e-books, and I'll be a part of it with my Smarties Prize winning novel 'Midnight Blue'.


'Midnight Blue is about growing up, about self-knowledge, and about the redeeming power of love. It's imaginative and magical. And just a little bit scary. What more could you want? ...Here's hoping this new edition gives this lovely and unforgettable book a whole new generation of readers.' JILL MURPHY, BOOK BAG

'To my embarrassment, this book made me uncooperative and uncommunicative until I had finished it. It certainly has an appeal far beyond the juvenile fantasy category. It is intriguing, beautifully written and keeps the reader wondering until the very last page. The suspense of disbelief is not merely willing, but eager; the fantasy becomes reality in one's mind, springing from that rich central core of England that gave us Elidor, Puck, Middle Earth and Watership Down. This is fantasy at its best.' FICTION FOCUS

So there you have it. As I said at the beginning of this post, anything that creates a barrier between the books we write and the people out there reading them is a bad thing. But from the 23rd to 24th April, all the barriers will be down. So do come back then. You'll be glad you did.

8 comments:

sell my house said...

Exactly great idea!Virtual reader benifited by that blog.

julia jones said...

I was quite bothered about the lack of something tangible to put in a child's (or any reader's) hand but when I was at an unsophisticated rural primary school recently there were audible gasps when I showed that that my book was on a Kindle. I felt the status of my work had risen! Perhaps it's a little like the impression that something is more 'real' when it's been on TV? Anyway it's their imaginations we hope to reach, by whatever means possible and REAL author visits are unbeatable in that respect

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Isn't that interesting, Julia? When a video game is on iPad it seems to elicit the same response from kids. And I identify quite strongly with Pauline's post. When I'm writing, I'm so immersed in it that I'm doing it for me (or, I sometimes think, for my characters) but once it's 'out there' I want very much to communicate something to somebody. It's the reason why a review that seems to misunderstand the book is so hurtful as well as irritating. And also the reason why the reviews or letters or emails that show that somebody has 'got' it completely are so moving in an odd sort of way.

Susan Price said...

Julia, I've found that a kindle is as good as a dog for starting conversations with strangers! I've become quite blase about mine, but whenever I read it in public, I find that people come up and ask me, quite excitedly, 'Is that one of those electric books?' or, 'Is that a kindle?'
The students at the University where I'm RLF are also very impressed - whereas I would have expected them to know all about them!

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I think this is one area in which the oldies (or quite oldies) are early adopters. Long live David Hockney and his ilk!

Lee said...

Susan, I've had much the same experience here in Germany with my iPad, though my pride suffered a blow recently when I discovered that my hospital roommate had brought a SONY reader, a Samsung tablet, and a smart phone with her. The SONY was quite nifty, I have to admit - light on the wrists for those like me who don't suffer from RSI but carpal tunnel problems.

Pauline, I reckon it's different with children, but otherwise I consider all my readers to be virtual. As far as I'm concerned, having an audience is not the same as having a readership. In fact, I believe that writers who talk to readers about their work actually distort the reading process - create a barrier for the imagination.

Pauline Fisk said...

Lee, I'm really interested in what you say here. Yes to not creating barriers for the imagination. Absolutely yes. But yes too - whether they step out of their role as readers and become an audience too, or whether they never become an audience; you never meet them, they always remain strangers to you - to recognising that your readership is made of real live people just like you. And that's what I'm afraid of seeing slip away as the world of my screen - which I spend so much time before - creates a barrier not to the imagination but to real life, and the people who inhabit it with me no longer seem to have that edge of reality.

I'm writing this very fast as I have to go out. I hope I'm making sense. I'm speaking out of personal experience here. After twenty years of writing novels one after another I've been taking a sabbatical, and enjoying 'real life', but it's good to be reminded, returning to the screen, that what's here is real too. And the more real I keep it, the better I as a person and my writing life will be.

Does this make sense? I do hope so.

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