Posts Tagged ‘Malala’

Guildford Book Festival 2014

October 21, 2014
Ben Collins aka Stig at Guildford Book Festival

Ben Collins aka Stig at Guildford Book Festival

This year 12-19 October 2014 marked the 25th aniversay of the Guildford Book Festival.

The execution of Charles I was a huge disconnect in English history, not only the killing of a King, the English Civil War, but the awful retribution metered out to those responsible. This was the topic for Charles Spencer The Killers of the King. Sold out.

ghost town of Famagusta sealed off behind rusting razor wire

ghost town of Famagusta sealed off behind rusting razor wire

ghost city of Famagusta seen from the sea

ghost city of Famagusta seen from the sea

The latest from Victoria Hislop is The Sunrise, the story of Famugusta, an abandoned ghost city on the Island of Cyprus, abandoned since the illegal Turkish invasion and occupation of 1974. The world turns a blind eye, Famagusta surrounded by rusting razor wire and crumbling to ruins.

Maybe Victoria Hislop writing of Famagusta will focus world attention, but I would not hold my breath. Even more so now the world needs Turkey in the fight against ISIS.

A special edition of The Sunrise from Waterstone’s has an essay in the back on Famagusta.

A literary lunch placed the event outside the pocket of many people, and limited numbers.

Coffee morning. House of Fraser! It could have been worse, Costa or tax-dodging Starbucks. At least pick somewhere that serves decent coffee, Harris + Hoole or Glutton & Glee.

I am Malawa with co-author Christina Lamb, left many people disappointed as the venue was far too small. And that was even before she was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Head of State, A Political Entertainment a very interesting insight by Andrew Marr into how corrupt and rotten the political system. Party apparatchiks who have not done an honest days’s work in their life in the pocket and at the beck and call of Big Business, lack of respect from the electorate, out of touch with real people, in Scotland a move to independence, in England a shift to Ukip and the Green Party, EU dictating policy. Following in the footsteps of Jonathan Swift, Head of State, the latest book from Andrew Marr, is satire.

Too many events running concurrently. An illusion of choice. No real choice as cannot be in two places at once.

Kate Mosse a natural story teller, The Taxidermist’s Daughter, discussing the background to Labyrinth, Citadel and her latest book The Taxidermist’s Daughter.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter is set in Sussex, gloomy marshland, a river estuary, very much the setting found in The Moonstone. The seed, the gem of an idea, a museum, no longer there, in Arundel. A Gothic thriller in the mould of The Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, Frankenstein, Dracula.

There is currently an exhibition of Gothic literature at the British Library.

Poorly designed website. Irritating pictures flicking across the screen. But worse were highlights that were not live links, and live links not highlighted that you had to stumble upon. Books and authors were highlighted, these should be live links to pull up more information on the books and authors.

Guildford Book Festival is a registered charity, in receipt of public funding, I would therefore expect to find published accounts on their website.

Very poor use of social media. Puerile, sycophantic, drooling tweets.

Please no. Stick to straight forward factual information. And please no, please do not re-tweet every sycophantic, drooling tweet. Added to which a fundamental lack of understanding of social media, social networks.

  • social —> interaction
  • network —> many to many

A dialogue should be taking place.

Steve Lawson gave a three hour talk on the use of social media at the Digital Music for Musicians seminar held in Leeds at the Belgrave Music Hall. He summarised in a five minute video. A must watch for those clueless on the use of social media.

Book festivals are springing up all over the place.

Lincoln Book Festival, an interesting line up, half a dozen authors. OK with that. What is important, have they something worthwhile to say, can they write, are they worth reading.

Halfway up Steep Hill at a suitable resting place, BookStop Cafe, a little coffee bar tucked in a Norman Undercroft. Inside lined with books, emphasis on local writers, looking out a stunning view, occasional evening talks with local writers.

The world’s oldest and the largest book festival is the Frankfurt Book Fair, established by Gutenberg, an estimated 300,000 visitors over five days. This year the highlight was a discussion on publishing between Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho and festival director Juergen Boos.

Two books around which there has been a great deal of buzz, The Zero Marginal Cost Society and This Changes Everything. Naomi Klein was in London, then Oxford, a pity not Guildford too. Last year there was a lot of buzz around Feral.

Too many events are taking place concurrently. An illusion of choice. Not possible to be in more than one place at the same time.

One Tree Books has for the last few years been the official festival bookseller. And that is as it should be. The Festival depends upon local support, in return the Festival supports local indy bookshops. It was offensive to book lovers to find WHSmith selling the books, a failing High Street chain that has no interest in books.

Kate Mosse stressed the importance of supporting indy bookshops.

Ironic then Guildford Book Festival has ditched One Tree Books and this year the Festival book supplier was WHSmith. A High Street chain that does nothing for books, hated and despised by book lovers.

One Tree Books used to have a wonderful display of books in the Electric Theatre during the book festival, you could talk to them about books. Sadly not WHSmith. They could not even be bothered to mount a display in their own bookshop. Nor was there any mention of the book festival in their stores in neighbouring towns.

WHSmith a huge mistake. Hopefully not to be repeated next year. Or if is, buy your books elsewhere and bring them along for signing.

Amazon often get the blame for killing off indy bookshops. It is not Amazon. It is chains like WHSmith, that not only destroy indy bookshops, but also destroy our town centres, draining money out of the local economy and turning them into Clone Towns.

Mid-August Paulo Coelho had a new book out Adultery, WHSmith had it on special offer at half price. It was an international best-seller from an internationally known author, and yet WHSmith staff clueless as to title and author, most stores did not have in stock or only two copies and when sold, not restocked. One of the worst was WHSmith Guildford where it was claimed only opinion an international best-seller.

September This Changes Everything was published. About to ask for it in Waterstone’s Winchester, I saw it was piled up, a few weeks later, was told it was an excellent read, well written, well researched. Asking in WHSmith Guildford, they had not a clue, never heard of title or author, and no it was not in stock, it was not even showing on their computer.

High Street sales are falling at WHSmith (no surprise there), down 5% compared with last year. The only reason they are not posting big losses is strong performance in travel (56% profits compared with around 20% nine years), in-store Post Office counters and cost cutting.

How soon will it be before WHSmith follows Clinton Cards, Jessops, HMV, Phones4U into oblivion?

WHSmith is to books, what McDonald’s and KFC is to food and Costa and tax-dodgining Starbucks is to coffee.

It is important though to differentiate between the company and its employees. They shrug their shoulders in despair at not being able to provide a service, and some go out of their way to try and be helpful.

Indy bookshops need our support. Guildford Book Festival should be setting the example.

Guildford Book Festival has become far too celebrity focussed and obsessed. A PR bums-on-seats mindset. Where are the poets, the local writers, the up and coming writers, local publishers?

One would hope Guildford Book Festival would promote other book events happening in Guildford. Sadly not.

During the summer, Steph Bradley author of Tales of Our Times and forthcoming Flip Flop, did a book tour. She stopped off at Guildford between Brighton and Oxford. Not a whisper from Guildford Book Festival.

Most festivals have a fringe. It is long overdue, a Guildford Book Festival Fringe.

I am Malala

October 15, 2014

I am Malala, was one of the events at the Guildford Book Festival.

I would have attended, only the local Amnesty International group screwed up big time and booked a venue that was far too small. It was oversubscribed with a long waiting list, and that was before she was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Same night was Andrew Marr discussing his satire Head of State, and so Andrew Marr it was.

Malala, when she opened Birmingham library donated a book. The book she donated was The Alchemist, her favourite book and the book that has inspired her.

War correspondent Christina Lamb is co-author of I am Malala. The Zahir is based on Christina Lamb. She was one of the few journalists granted the privilege of interviewing Paulo Coelho on his latest book Adultery. She approached the interview with trepidation, wondering if once again a books based on her. Her fears were unfounded.

Guildford Book Festival 12-19 October 2014 at venues in and around Guildford.

Malala awarded Nobel Peace Prize

October 11, 2014
Malala Nobel Peace Prize

Malala Nobel Peace Prize

We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced. — Malala Yousafzai

I am proud that I am the first Pakistani and I am honoured that I am the first young woman or the first young person to be receiving this award. I’m thankful to my father for not clipping my wings and letting me fly. — Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

For once, a worthy recipient.

Cristina Lamb, co-author with Malala Yousafzai of I Am Malala, is appearing at the Guildford Book Festival. The event is oversubscribed, a long waiting list (which will now grow longer), a totally inadequate venue, and yet the organisers are ignoring all requests to relocate to another venue. They lack even the courtesy to respond. They seem more interested in tweeting drooling, sycophantic tweets promoting boring celebrities.

Malala Yousafzai: By the Book

September 12, 2014

The activist and co-author of “I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World” relished “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the first book she read in the hospital when recovering from an attack by the Taliban. New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor will continue the conversation with Malala Yousafzai at a Times Talk this evening; click here to watch it live or afterwards.

Malala Yousafzai Credit Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

Malala Yousafzai Credit Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

What book are you reading right now?

I’ve been reading “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck, which is on the school curriculum. It’s a short book, but it is filled with so much. It really reflects the situation of 1930s America. I was fascinated to learn how women were treated at the time, and what life was like for poor itinerant workers. Books can capture injustices in a way that stays with you and makes you want to do something about them. That’s why they are so powerful.

What’s the last truly great book you read?

“The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho. I like it because it is hopeful and inspiring. It tells the story of a boy who embarks on a journey to find a treasure, but as he goes along, he learns from every part of his journey and every person he meets. In the end, he finds his treasure in a very interesting place. His story tells you that you should believe in yourself and continue your journey.

Who are your favorite contemporary writers?

Who are your favorite contemporary writers?

Deborah Ellis (author of “Parvana’s Journey”) and Khaled Hosseini (“The Kite Runner”). Both tell stories about young characters in difficult circumstances, having to make hard choices and having to find strength. They accurately depict war-torn regions. I like writers who can show me worlds I know nothing about, but my favorites are those who create characters or worlds which feel realistic and familiar to me, or who can make me feel inspired. I discovered Deborah Ellis’s books in the school library after my head teacher encouraged me to go beyond the school curriculum and look for books I might enjoy. This wasn’t long after I arrived in Britain, and I was missing my friends terribly. Reading about Afghanistan made me feel like being back at home. This is the power of books. They can take you to places which are beyond reach.

And your favorite writers of all time?

Paulo Coelho.

What books would you recommend for young people hoping to understand the plight of girls and women in Pakistan today?

“Mud City,” part of the “Parvana’s Journey” series by Deborah Ellis. I was gripped by this series and couldn’t drag myself away from it. Ellis beautifully captures childhood in war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan. The stories are very moving.

Is there one book you wish all girls would read? One all students would read?

All girls: “The Breadwinner,” by Deborah Ellis. The book tells the story of a young girl who takes on the challenge of saving her family. I think it’s important for girls everywhere to learn how women are treated in some societies. But even though Parvana is treated as lesser than boys and men, she never feels that way. She believes in herself and is stronger to fight against hunger, fear and war. Girls like her are an inspiration. “The Breadwinner” reminds us how courageous and strong women are around the world.

All students should read “The Kite Runner.” It shows you should not judge other people by external things. And it shows loyalty and friendship.

Were there particular books that helped you get through the recovery process after the attack on you by the Taliban?

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was the first book I read in the hospital. I had been having headaches and couldn’t read or focus properly for a while. It is a lovely book, and it was given to me by Gordon Brown — he sent me 25 books, and this was my favorite.

Which books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

“A Brief History of Time,” by Stephen Hawking. I read it during a period when life in Swat was very hard. I distracted myself from the fear and terrorism by thinking about things like how the universe began and whether time travel is possible. I enjoy science, and I’m a very curious person. I always want to know the reason behind everything, big or small.

What was the last book to make you laugh?

“The Little Prince.” It is a very clever book, and in the beginning it’s extremely funny.

The last book that made you cry?

I never cry reading a book.

The last book that made you furious?

Mine! The editing was really hard. Especially because we wanted to get everything right in a very short period of time. The workdays were very long, but it was worth it in the end.

What are your childhood memories of books and reading?

One of the first books I read is called “Meena,” about a girl who stood up for women’s rights and education in Afghanistan. I also read a biography about Martin Luther King Jr., written for children.

But I didn’t read a lot of books when I was young. In our country, many children don’t attend school or learn how to read. Those who do usually read only textbooks. In our classes, we focused more on history, science and mathematics than literature. Many people couldn’t afford books. Most books were secondhand, used by many children before. In Pakistan even schools own very few books. I was lucky to have a father who valued education and thought it was important that I knew how to read. I read eight or nine books in Swat, and I was considered to be a bookish girl! Here [in Birmingham, England] girls have read hundreds of books.

One of the most memorable moments in my life was when I was asked to open the Library of Birmingham, Europe’s largest new library. I had never seen so many books and all of them freely available to members of the public. If only children in Pakistan had such easy access to books! People of Birmingham are very lucky to have such a wonderful library.

If you could require the American president to read one book, what would it be?

If you could require the American president to read one book, what would it be?

I would like to suggest him to read many books. He should read “The Kite Runner,” too. And “The Little Prince.” Or maybe “The Alchemist,” if he would like to get away from his real world into the imaginary world of “The Alchemist.”

If you could require the prime minister of Pakistan to read one book, what would it be?

I would suggest him to read “Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan: The Martyr Who Founded RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

The Alchemist.”

And the worst?

I think it would be disrespectful to say that, but I did read a book recently which I thought was the worst.

What was the last book you put down without finishing?

Someone gave me a book to help me in improving my English. I read a few pages, and I didn’t really like that book and decided not to read it, as it had no suspense. A book should have suspense and grab you right from the beginning.

What are you planning to read next?

“An Inspector Calls.” It’s actually a play that I saw and enjoyed. It is part of the English syllabus, and I want to read it as well.

Originally published New York Times.