Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The School Talk

[Bertie tries to address a girls' school as the students keep making faces at him]
Bertie Wooster: Er, right, yes! Er, well. Erm... oh, ah, yes! Now! Here's something that's often done me a bit of good, er, and it's something that not many people know. [they begin making faces again, and he pauses in confusion] Ah, yes, well, anyway. Erm -- my uncle Henry gave me the tip when I first came to London. Er, "Never forget, my boy," he said, "that -- er -- that if you stand at Romano's in the Strand, you can see the clock on the wall of the law courts down in Fleet Street." Now most people don't know this, wouldn't think it was possible, because there are a couple of hefty-looking churches in the middle of the road, and, er, you'd think they'd get in the way, but they don't! You can! And, er, it's, well, it's worth knowing. You can win a lot of money, he used to say, betting on it with fellows who... who... who haven't found it out. [laughs nervously] And, by Jove, he was absolutely right. It-it really is a... a thing to remember. Yes, many's the quid I've won...
Headmistress: [clears her throat loudly] Perhaps, Mr. Wooster, a story might be in order, some anecdote to illustrate the benefits of hard work, study, and healthy living?
Bertie Wooster: A story! Right. Erm... never can remember stories. Oh! Yes, yes, here's one I heard recently. [laughs to himself] Erm... It seems that there was this chorus girl, and she met this stockbroker. And he said to her...

Giving a talk to 500 young adults in a Dubai school today has me rather feeling like Bertie Wooster addressing a girl’s school. Pupils at the Dubai American Academy are going to be herded out of their classrooms and driven, shuffling, into the main hall to listen  to me shouting at them for an hour. The poor darlings.

After much soul-searching, I decided to talk to them about why publishing is headed for a time of fundamental and existentially dangerous change, why that’s potentially the greatest opportunity writers have ever known and how it’s led to me deciding to go it alone rather than hold out for that elusive publishing partner.

Do 13-15 year-olds even care about books anymore? I’ll be fascinated to find out – and to find out what they’re engaged with. Tragically, I’ll have to dash away straight afterwards to make the Dubai Eye Radio studios in time for the weekly talk radio show I co-host, UNWiredFM, which starts broadcasting an hour after my talk’s scheduled to finish with 500 slack jawed kids wondering who the hell the loony shouting at them from the stage was...

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  1. How can one man hold 100+ eleventh grade English and journalism students spellbound through a lightening-bolt hisory of publishing and one man's journey through the publishing labrynith? You can and did. The hour just flew past. You are demonstrating how you can take your story directly to your readers and make the connection. Yes -- quality, can emerge from the technology and be transformed. Although we are in the tech age and it did take a few minutes to get the tech to work, the real 'quality' came from your depth of experience, your connection with the audience and allowing us to share your experiences in Jordan and the publishing world directly. We could always watch you on youtube, but our experience today was the real 'quality'. You are quite the storyteller!!! That is ageless!!! The DAA students and staff thank you so much!
    Maggie Travis, Secondary Librarian (I'm not anonymous -- I'm just learning how to use the blog technology -- aargh!)

  2. Thank YOU, Maggie! I had a blast and was really impressed by DAA. (see next post, in fact!)