More fabulous events these last few weeks: my thanks and best wishes to everyone I met at Northumberland Park Resource Centre in Tottenham, William Farr School in Lincoln and The Hillingdon Secondary Book of the Year Awards. :D

I’m still fizzing from my visit yesterday to Alexandra Park School - my second as their Patron of Reading.

The first visit back in December as a Book Doctor was deliberately low-key, to help me find my way into the role. This…

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…was much bigger.

In two sessions I spoke to the whole of the school’s Years 7 and 8 – introducing myself, taking questions, talking about how I became a reader, and putting forward my next idea: a Free Readers Manifesto.

What I would like to develop is a way of encouraging students to read by thinking about the differences between reading you have to do for school and reading you do for yourself – which is what I mean by Free Reading.

APS students can – and did! – give me comments, questions and suggestions about how this manifesto could end up – because it’s not finished. When it’s done I would like it to be theirs as much as mine – something we’ve come up with together. For now, however, the draft version I gave them to consider and work on with me looks like this…

The Free Readers Manifesto – First Draft

1. We are free to read whatever we want.

2. We are free to skip bits we find badly written or boring.

3. We are free to give up on reading that does not give us what we want, and find other reading that does.

4. As Free Readers we will not be measured, tested or questioned on our reading – unless we want to be.

How can this manifesto be developed and improved? I can hardly wait to find out. Meanwhile, my thanks and best wishes to Alexandra Park School’s staff and students for what was another thrilling and inspiring visit.

Being a Patron of Reading is brilliant. :D

This is my copy of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien:

LOTR

It looks slim because it’s printed on thin paper. The whole book is there. Ask my father, who gave and read it to me as a bedtime story.

It took him four years. Even in the context of what so far has been a very lucky life, it was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

This is my copy of The Princess Bride by William Goldman:

PrincessBride

The sticker on the front cover used to say its price – three pounds. I bought it to celebrate the arrival in the post of the contract for my first book deal.

The advance wasn’t big but it was going to be much appreciated: that night (18th Feb 2005) I had about two pounds left in the bank but enough in my pockets to pay for a bottle of tonic and this book that I knew and still love.

I was very happy, and whenever I’ve picked it up since I remember that feeling.

More of the Books Beside Me coming soon.

My five favourite books I’ve read so far this year are:

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage by Albert Glinsky

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West

Nemo: River of Ghosts by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill

-and-

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn

Of the films I’ve seen lately, my three favourites are:

The Fall directed by Tarsem

Bicycle Thieves directed by Vittorio De Sica

-and the thrillingly unhinged-

Blind Woman’s Curse directed by Teruo Ishii

BTW: The whole of my book Crawlers is now up and free to read on Wattpad here. A delighted THANK YOU to @dmitrixyz for all his comments as he read it and my smug smile when he was caught by one of the twists. :D

Happy holidays,

Sam

I haven’t admitted this officially before because I’m still raw about it, but here goes: the big book I’ve been working on these last four years? I’ve put it aside.

Last October, after we’d gamely knocked three drafts back and forth without agreeing what we wanted, my publisher cancelled my contract. My agent – before she quit the business – told me that she didn’t think she could sell the book to anyone else. Now my new agent has gently but definitely confirmed to me that the book has fundamental problems and ‘needs a lot of work.’

I can take a hint. ;p

One problem with the book is that I’ve put so much time and love into it that now I’m too close to it to see or accept what I would have to do to take it further. So, until/unless I get the distance and objectivity I need, I’m doing the next best thing I can do: I’ve stopped working on it, and started writing other stuff.

I’ve got a brand new novella out under consideration, I’m working on another short project right now, and my next full-length book is already underway. Meanwhile, for the time being, I’m sad to say that all that anyone else will hear or see of my broken but beautiful, crazy-ambitious, utopian SF rock-and-roll epic is its title and this gorgeous cover by genius illustrator Barnaby Richards:

VELVETbySamEnthovenCoverByBarnabyRichards

To those brave, kind few who have read the book as it currently stands, my thanks.

To VELVET, au revoir.

Sam

Book Week 2015 is over. I feel like I’ve been hammered out flat, but I am happy. This feedback I received this morning might show you why:

In answer to the question “What was the best part of the performance?” our students told us how much they enjoyed the readings from the books, saying things like “When he was reading, as it was interesting and the books were intense and fun” and “When he read to us from his books as he read with lots of expression.” However, they also enjoyed the Q&A part: “The fascinating answers he gave to the questions” and “I found the detail of his answers and his imagination was really good”.  And one student said “I think the best part of the performance was everything!!”

When asked “How will this help with your school work in the future?” they focussed on the writing skills aspect: “He gave ideas of how to write a good and imaginative story”, “It will help me with my creative writing”, “During Sam reading to us I noticed some writing techniques which could help me in English”, “I know how to plan and make my stories more exciting.”

In response to the question “What did you learn today?” there were two main themes. The students focussed on the messages that they need to seize the day and that they need to read.

In the “Any other comments” section they said some lovely things: “Thank you for visiting and good luck in the future”, “Thank you for coming!” and the best one, “He is a lovely person, hope he does fantastically well, I can’t explain how I am feeling right now, loved it!!!”

I love school visits. Thanks and best wishes to everyone I met this week. :D

Sam

I am THRILLED to announce that I now have a new literary agent – Davinia Andrew-Lynch of all-new agency Andlyn. Davinia’s enthusiasm, savvy, ambition and imagination all impress me mightily (and the fact that we’re both big fans of the film The Dark Crystal is a definite plus factor too ;D). Here’s to a highly promising partnership.

HURRAH for the wondrous Katie WebSphinx who, between running her own brilliant business and raising three young Sphinxlings, somehow found the time this month to update my websites.

SamEnthovenTitle

Broken links have been zapped and spammers foiled. In addition, though we’ve sadly had to say goodbye to my sites’ defunct Guestbooks, anyone who wants to reach me can now do so directly via this email address: sam at samenthoven dot com. That’s if you wouldn’t prefer FacebookTwitterLastFMLibraryThing or Wattpad – links to my profiles on which can all be found at my squeaky clean and fully firing homepage.

Katie has been kindly and patiently helping and guiding me with her web-fu and wisdom for nearly ten years now.

Thank you, Katie. You are AWESOME. :D

This is from a fascinating and inspiring book called The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. I feel it always, and this week especially.

When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.

There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to art school, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.

Mine snapped a while back. It’s held together with tape and hope. But it’s still there.

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