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About a month ago I delivered the final re-writes of a new collection of stories for ninth-graders to the Swedish publishers Natur och Kultur. This is the third book in this particular series I’ve worked on, and it’s been a demanding but rewarding commission.

As I’ve said before, writing for young people in short formats is not the most glamorous work an author can do.  Nonetheless, young people need tightly crafted stories that will help them learn about the world and their role in it –– while at the same time helping them develop as readers and people.  I believe young people have an even greater need than adults for skilfully written stories, so to me the format is far less important than doing work with the potential to help shape the next generation of thinkers.

In addition, I’ve also had a great time working with my editors on the project.  While it’s true that authors and editors sometimes have opposing interests, while working on six books for this publisher, I’ve come to understand that the editorial discussions we’ve had over structure, linguistics, and subjects have always produced stronger books.

The book goes to press in the spring of 2017, and its title sounds to me like a science-fiction novel: Wings 9.

The other night I was lucky enough to have dinner with some of my author-colleagues from the Skrivarakademin, the vocational writing college I teach at in Stockholm.  I find fellow authors in general to be pretty cagey about their work, not wanting to talk about manuscripts until contracts have been signed and the actual production cycle is underway –– especially in times of publishing-industry uncertainty like this, when even authors with decades of experience and dozens of books to their names are nervous about whether their next manuscript will be accepted.

It might have been the wine, the blood-pumping-in-our-veins jazz, or the pots and pans banging in the kitchen next to us, I don’t know.  But for once people were actually talking about their manuscripts, and for once I actually spoke about mine.  Writing stories to be read in the classroom isn’t glamorous, it’s true, but it’s important work, I said, reaching tens of thousands of readers who deserve excellent literature –– and besides that, it pays well.  Also, my publisher takes care of me and sends me around the country speaking.  In the past, I haven’t been able to explain that to my colleagues and feel completely proud of my work, but after a half a dozen books for Natur och Kultur, which I myself regularly read and discuss with young people in classroom settings, I finally understand how important these books are.

Happily, I was also able to tell the other authors at the table that I’m currently in the editing phase with another publisher on the beginning of a new, long fiction manuscript. To research this project, I’ve been interviewing soldiers who’ve served in Afghanistan.

It turned out two other authors at the table were working with this same publisher, and were just as enthusiastic about their projects. We all have verbal contracts at the moment (as a matter of fact I’m still on a verbal contract with Natur och Kultur), so none of us can be sure our projects will ever see the light of day, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.

Authors are usually modest to the point of timidity when discussing their work.  So it felt healthy to finally be able to discuss what we’re working on.

 

I’ll be giving free talks in Linköping, Sweden on the 25th of November, and in Östersund the next evening as part of the publisher Natur och Kultur Echo-series talks.  My subject will be working with fairy tales and fantasy with young readers and writers.

On the 11th of December I’ll be giving the same talk at Natur och Kultur, Karlavägen, Stockholm.  (Last spring there were hors d’oeuvres, books, and cotton tote-bags; I’m hoping for the same this time.)

Giving talks is something I love doing, though it does also makes me nervous.  For me, the feedback I get from the audience is the best part.  Last spring in Umeå, for instance, I got the chance to talk to people dealing with similar questions and problems as the ones I face.

This fall I’ve decided to focus more on integrating novels with textbooks, taking advantage of young peoples’ natural interest in fairy tales and fantasy, and new ways of working with reading and writing.

So far I haven’t written about the book I just spent a year completing.  But it was finally released yesterday, so maybe it’s time.

The book is called Echo: Main Issues 5, (an English textbook for high school students in Sweden) and has been beautifully produced by Natur och Kultur, who commissioned it from me last spring.  Writing a textbook was something new for me.  Even though I regularly write instructional texts for my students, I’ve never put this many thoughts into a single instructional text before.  In addition , it’s also full of genuine, tailor-made writing.  The way such textbooks usually work is that the main reading texts are culled from a wide variety of sources (which in my opinion as a teacher tends to be awkward and unwieldy to work with).  I decided to work in a holistic fashion, writing texts to unify purpose, situation, and learning goals.  It was an enormous amount of work, much of which would have been impossible without my editor.

I’m pleased with and proud of the results:

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