Monday, June 09, 2008

Soon enough a cat post, I promise...

I'm proofreading the galleys of the UK edition of The Graveyard Book right now. Last night, at the exact moment I started to become convinced that these were amazingly clean galleys, there were no typos after the number of times we'd all been through the manuscript, and I should simply sign off on them and get on with my life, one character turns to another and says "Neil, I've broken the next para into five paras for clarity but if you want we can turn it back." Which was a comment from the copyeditor to me that had been written on the previous draft. After that I started squinting at the text and reading verrry slowly....

Philip Pullman in the Guardian, talking about why age banding books is such a magnificently wrongheaded idea, but also talking about what he knows when he starts a book:

When I sit down to write a book, I know several things about it: I know
roughly how long it will be, I know some of the events in the story, I know a
little about some of the characters, I know - without knowing quite how I'll get
to it - what tone of voice I want the narrative to be cast in.

But there are several things I don't know, and one of those is who will read it. You simply can't decide who your readership will be. Nor do I want to, because declaring that it's for any group in particular means excluding every other group, and I don't want to exclude anybody. Every reader is welcome, and I want my books to say so.

Which is pretty much true for me too, and sometimes all you need to know that it'll work is the tone of voice. When that works, everything works, and when you don't have it it's the intangible that stops the thing from being magic.

(On the age banding, from what I can figure out, the subtext of all this seems to be, in the UK more and more books are being sold through supermarkets. People in supermarkets don't have to know anything about what they're selling. They just need to know where to put it on the shelves. If publishers put colour-coded age bands on the books, indicating which books are for 7+ and which for 9+ and which for 11+, then supermarkets will order more books because they won't have to think about putting them out. And after all, the shelf-stackers don't need to know anything about dish-soap to sell that, so what makes books special?)

And now some good news:

Hi Neil,
I think you're already aware of this, but I wondered if you'd mind posting a follow-up to the story of Emru Townsend. I wrote to you back in April about Emru's search for a bone marrow donor and the desperate need for more people (especially non-caucasians) to get on their country's bone marrow registry. Here's the link to your original post for those who missed it:

Emru and his sister Tamu have been campaigning like crazy to raise awareness for the bone marrow registry. Last week, we got some excellent news:

A donor match has finally been found for Emru! Here's a CBC News article on the story:

I should remind you that there was no match in the registry for Emru when he was originally diagnosed with leukemia. I believe that this match is a direct result of Emru and Tamu's tireless awareness campaign, and of people like you helping to get the word out to as many people as possible. Thank you. And thank you to your readers, many of whom passed on the word and got themselves registered.

Emru is still a long way from being healed. He must get into remission, stay in remission, be prepared for surgery, have the surgery, resist or fight off infection, risk the donation attacking his body or his body attacking the donation, and get through the first 100 days. Plus, his anonymous donor has the option of backing out at any point and there is currently no backup.

Still, this is a crucial first step. Our friend now has a good, fighting chance.

To your readers: Don't see this as the end of the story. There are still massive shortages in the registry and many, many people are still waiting to find matching donors. Emru and Tamu have already committed themselves to continuing their awareness campaign.

Emru's story shows that this isn't a lost cause; it's a solvable problem. You can save lives just by registering and getting others to do the same.

For more information, visit

Thank you so much!
--Jeff LeBlanc
and several other well-wishers...
Pasley Preston
Beverly Preston
Driss Zouak
Ceri Young
Arin Murphy Hiscock

I talked about the NPR interview I did during the Graveyard Book Audio recording a few days ago; is the Anansi Boys Bryant Park Book Club radio interview.

(I have to go back into the studio on Thursday -- we only realised this morning that there were no alternate takes for the UK of sentences with words like crib, diaper and flashlight in them, so I will go and replace them with sentences containing cots and nappies and torches.)

Just got an email to tell me that a pre-eminent banjo player would really like to play the Danse Macabre, which left my jaw on the floor with delight.

And here, for the people who asked, is a photo of a dog in the woods, yesterday. He's come a long way in a little over a year. I suppose I have as well...

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