I’ve added my election statement for the Society of Authors management committee below. There are some very good other candidates and I look forward to a fair election.
Because of space I wasn’t able to include details of my committee and campaigning work. I am a member of English Pen and the NUJ. I am also a long-time co-ordinator of the Disability Hate Crime Network, and have served on a number of expert committees arising from my investigations into violence against disabled people. They include an expert committee advising the Equalities and Human Rights Commission on its inquiry into the same crime; the Crown Prosecution Service National Scrutiny Panel on Disability Hostility and the National Police Chiefs’ Deaf and Disabled Forum.
Here’s my statement for the Society of Authors – if you are a member, please consider voting for me. I would like to serve to support the Society of Authors in its important work lobbying those in power to help creators carry on writing; in being an outward looking organisation, as free as is possible from internal disputes and supporting writers to become better at what they do through training and networking.
“The Society of Authors is well-placed to campaign for the power of stories – and the authors who write them.
I have written or contributed to twelve books, ranging from three non-fiction books based on campaigning journalism (one of which has not yet been published in the UK), books for children and Kindle Singles, both fiction and non-fiction.
I became a member of The Society of Authors soon after my first book, Fussy Freya, Frances Lincoln) was published in 2008. I’ve attended some fascinating talks and the SoA has suggested useful changes to draft publishing contracts. It also provided me with a much-needed Authors’ Foundation grant in 2012 to finish my second non-fiction book, No Place to Call Home: Inside the Real Lives of Gypsies and Travellers (Oneworld, 2013). That grant enabled me to drive to isolated Traveller sites, visit families bereaved by hate crime and witness horse fairs and religious meetings. Most importantly, it gave me the time I needed to put down on paper some of stories about which I feel very passionate – those from people whose voices are not often heard or who are wilfully misunderstood.
For me, the core mission statement for the SoA is all about getting stories published, voices heard. The Society has reformed itself and become more responsive to its members. Now I think we need to work together and face outward, because stories and authors are vital and must be protected – from politicians and even those in our industry who do not always treat us fairly. The Society of Authors needs to build on its reputation for safeguarding and defending authors’ rights. We face continual challenges – from changes to copyright and unfair contract terms, lower revenues and pirating of our books on the Internet and new threats such as Universal Credit for many low-paid writers. As a long-term union member, in the NUJ, and as a former parliamentary researcher, I believe we are stronger if we work together, using a range of tactics, from lobbying to deploying social media tactics and other forms of peaceful protest.
However, we must be positive too. Globalisation has brought disruption to our industry, but it has brought opportunities too – self-publishing, for example, and a range of new stories from refugees and others. If that much used word, diversity means anything real, it means a commitment to communicate a wider range of stories. Those include narratives from older and disabled people, younger people, or people who have arrived from abroad, as my mother and grand-mother did, post-war from Yugoslavia, carrying one book of fairy tales in the one suitcase they could bring with them. James Baldwin called writers ‘disturbers of the peace’ who revealed society to itself and made freedom real. That’s a daunting, if exciting challenge – but one for a management committee that is looking outward – to create a broader, fresher literature.”