Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Catherine Fisher our new Young People's Laureate and other matters

Being pushed outside your comfort zone is salutary. In his piece on recent graphic novels in the winter issue of New Welsh Review, now at proof stage, David Thorpe mentions his friend, a comics ‘virgin’ who couldn’t work out whether to look at pictures or text first. Nor could her eyes gauge whether to follow the strips up, down, right or left. I must admit my sympathy, despite exposure to Japanese animation film (Howl’s Moving Castle, anyone?) and a lifelong love of children’s picture books. This essay ranges from literary adaptations such as Pride and Prejudice by Edginton and Deas (a challenge, as ‘a novel with little in the way of visual action’) to Catel José-Luis Bocquet’s original ‘linear’ biography Kiki de Montparnasse, whose subject, artist, muse and wife to Man Ray, defined the 1920s Paris art scene. This feature is literally an eye-opener.

I’ve no interest in omnipotence: my take on editing a magazine is that I’m learning alongside the reader. A fun part of that is using an essay such as Thorpe’s as a building block to creating a shared ‘moving castle’ with rooms that shift in vibe and location. So it is that I spent a morning researching Wales’ own emerging artist-authors for a future issue. The genre is now eligible for Literature Wales’ writers’ bursary funding, and is bearing fruit as Huw Aeron works on his first book, a dual-language version of the epic medieval elegy ‘Y Gododdin’, and US-published author Carol Swain (author of Foodboy) casts her dystopian charcoal-stick over an English story set on a Welsh hill-farm in Gast (‘bitch’). Huw Aeron led dual-language workshops on the graphic novel this weekend at Literature Wales’ October-long ‘Literature Lounge’, a family-friendly pop-up bookswap-shop within Cardiff’s St David’s Centre.

LW’s newfound emphasis on literature for children and young people is especially welcome and those of us banging the drum for YA literature are delighted at the news that Catherine Fisher is our first English-language Young People’s Laureate. The announcement will be made by Charlotte Church at the Literature Lounge tonight, Tuesday 18 October, and has been welcomed by Philip Pullman as well as National Poets Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy. Catherine’s first official appearance will be at the Young People Literature Festival, Theatr Soar, Merthyr Tudful alongside AM Huw Lewis, poets Eurig Salisbury and Mike Jenkins and others, this Thursday 20 October.

If you’re based in the north east, visit the Daniel Owen Festival this week at Mold. This celebration of ‘Wales’ Dickens’ runs from 16 to 22 October. Yesterday, Monday 17th saw the launch at Theatr Clwyd of Fireside Tales, the first English translation of Straeon y Pentan. Published by Brown Cow Publishing and Y Lolfa, this is Brown Cow’s second title in their ‘Daniel Owen Signature Series’ of all ten Owen titles. Translator Adam Pearce could have braved more linguistic risks, fought for fewer footnotes and assumed a core readership within Wales. But lovely English phrases are here, as well as Owen’s fascination for birds and his striking imagery such as the cat left to die hanging from a tree like a caged canary. One for Halloween.

A version of this was published in Gwen's Western Mail Insider books column on Saturday 15 October 2011.

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Next week's blog: Rory MacLean, Berlin ‘wild boy clubbers', nature writing, grief and belongings

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