Just attended a conference organised by NALD (National Association for Literature Development). Nearly didn’t go, but now I’m glad I did. Several things. Firstly, it struck me that there are an awful lot of people working and being paid for doing something associated with writing. Poetry society, librarians, National Book Trust, that’s before you get to publishers, etc. I began to wonder how all this is funded and that sort of thinking always leads me into a cycle of terror; bear with me, it’s a bit long and incomprehensible, but hopefully you will follow….

imagine that food is our commodity – at a fundamental level this is what is bought and sold, and all money stands in for food and production of such food, then there’s a level of goods which perhaps help produce food (and of course land to grow it on).. Anyway don’t know if you are going where I am, but my brain starts to ponder about all the levels built on top of this (commodity brokers for instance) and if we think of food as the level at which money and value are created, doesn’t there seem to be rather too many levels piled on top of a base layer which require someone beavering away on the land to sustain it all? I mean the community I live in seems to entirely subsist on servicing others – everyone is employed servicing other people – postmen, teachers, nurses, people building houses, etc. Literature even more so – how do we fund all this?

The aforementioned terror is about what would happen if we said “I don’t believe it” – like Peter Pan and the fairies, do we keep our economy alive simply by believing in it? If we all said, “this cannot be sustained”, would the bubble burst and money cease to exist?

This has got something to do with writing (honest!) in that I remember a great short story by John Wyndham where, following a tube crash, a group of people end up in hell. One character is so astounded by what he sees that he announces, loudly, that he does not believe in it. He carries on doing this and the whole edifice of Hell crashes and ceases to exist. The dead passengers then arrive back in London unscathed. Said disbeliever then stands outside the bank of England for another go, but as he draws breath to announce, “I don’t believe it” a venerable gentleman in bowler hat etc, pushes him under a car. “Can’t have people challenging great British institutions, what.”


literature-3Probably would work quite easily with the Bank of England today – and perhaps this may be a useful tip for you to try if you find yourself somewhere hot and unpleasant when you depart this world…

So, ignoring the terror and the fact that I have no idea how we pay for all this stuff just by growing a few turnips, back to NALD. There is so much happening in Scotland in terms of writing. I’ve said this before, but then I was thinking about Edinburgh. Turns out that up here too there is much to be seen. Inverness library has just created a website of local writers, where they are, where they come from etc. Fascinating, and well worth a look.http://www.ambaile.org.uk


literature-2One author, James Robertson (who features on the website), gave a fascinating talk about writing, as well as delivering an informative workshop about publishing (he is responsible for all those Scots children’s books I keep coming across, like Roald Dhal’s translations: The Eejits, Geordies Minging Medicine, etc). In the course of this he read out his 10 favourite books. I love it when people do this! Gives me a great excuse to go off to bookshops, and several of his recommendations were new to me.


So.. in my next post, I’m going to do my own Desert Island Books – and would love to hear what other people would offer as their own top 10..
See ya

(first published April 2008)


Additional thoughts. James Robertson will be at the Highland Literary Salon this September so don’t miss that. http://www.highlandlitsalon.com/upcomingsalons.asp

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