Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Power of Words

A whole world of words to explore
While I was away this weekend a furore started when it was reported that Michael Gove was removing certain acclaimed American books from the GCSE syllabus. There was uproar and quite rightly so. It went viral across Facebook and Twitter within hours and several petitions were set up ranging from wanting the books reinstated to wanting Gove removed.

This was on Sunday the same day as the European Election results. Having been in PR the cynic in me considers this perfect timing. It is easily lost as a headline particularly considering what happened - I am not even going there in this post it is too depressing. Swallowed up by the panic created by the results and therefore totally ignored by the news people. I know the BBC did intend to discuss it on Monday as Matt Haig had been called in but then was told it had been pulled just forty minutes before he was due on. I also fully aware that this happens all too often if a 'more important' story comes in. But it hasn't reappeared. What has appeared is Gove rapidly declaring that he never said that and that he wouldn't do it. Now again the cynic in me thinks that is all too convenient. Perhaps he has seen the reaction and been able to respond by denying it rather than backing down and thereby losing face. For what it is worth as far as I am concerned there are two important points here which should have been and were considered by some: one is that literature does not and should not respect country boundaries and our children should know this. And secondly, there has been a huge amount about the need for diversity in children's literature recently, which is vital we know, but this diversity should not just relate to characters it should also include authors. I will now get off my soap box because if I start on my opinion of Gove I might get banned.

It is all about words and their power. The scriptwriter Peter Bowker in a recent programme on BBC4 about his writing processes was talking about this immediate reaction we get with the internet and he suggested that now the only way we can get to the truth is through fiction. I think he is probably right. Certainly for me that is very true of young adult fiction. I believe it is a place for them to find out how the world really works around them.

Words play an important part of another part of my life. I am aware that at times I make people's day with an email and for other's I might just slightly crush their dreams. It is very hard. I am constantly reading and giving feedback. For some it is for Golden Egg who want constructive feedback with the ultimate aim of wanting to get published, for others it is because they are moving towards an assignment and they want the best mark possible. All of them wanting and waiting for words from me that are going to make their words better.

You can also become blind to words when you spend your time looking at so many of them, particularly your own. I have had to send my own words over to IC because I could no longer see them. I knew it wasn't good enough but I couldn't see what else to do at that stage. I had done so much marking and read so many GE submissions my head was full of words but they were the wrong ones.

A single word can make your day or bring your world tumbling down around you. I personally think it is important to  think about what you are saying to others to make sure you don't hurt people unnecessarily. Verbal abuse can stay with you for many a year and because there are no visible bruises people often assume they don't damage you - I can assure you they do.

Words whether full of joy, truth, rhetoric, spin or venom are full of power, please use with care.

But with all words we never know what is true and what is not so here is a bit of Spandau Ballet for some old fashioned reminiscing

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