It’s always a thrill, nerve-wracking too, when the book proofs arrive. But then with this new Sharp Shades edition of Mau Mau Brother there was no need for qualms. Ransom’s Art Director, Stephen Rickard, has done my story proud, both in the final edit, and the inclusion of some moody grey-scale images.
The story that was 6,000 words in the original Shades series has been chopped in half, but spread over the same 64-page format to become a Sharp Shades edition. And it works. And I’ll repeat that for the benefit of any writers who are reading this, and who are a touch sensitive about heavy editing: three thousand words from my tightly written 6,000-word story (you can see an extract of the original HERE) have been expunged, and the end result is great.
I’d better explain.
When I am not growing cauliflowers, making leaf mould and generally hanging about on WordPress, one of the very important things I do is write short fiction for teens who are striving to build a reading habit.
Back in the spring, Ransom, who publish these works, suggested that my latest title, Mau Mau Brother, would make a good Sharp Shades edition if I was prepared to cut it by half. As I wrote in a post back in April HERE, I was doubtful that I could, but I said I would try. In the event, I found myself stuck at around 3,400 words and Ransom asked me to hand it back for some more pruning; they would let me see the finished text for my approval, they said.
A few days ago they did just that, and I am really pleased with the end result. They are great people to work with.
Not only that, Ransom Publishing are specialists in the production of accessible fiction and nonfiction for struggling readers of all ages. Their strap-line is ‘UNLOCKING LITERACY’. For those of us who can read and write fluently, it is hard to imagine not having these skills. But if you can’t read well, you are effectively disenfranchised as a functioning member of the community. Locked out in every sense.
The Shades series includes some 60 titles written by many well known and seasoned children’s writers. The titles are aimed at young adults with an interest level of 12 years +, but a reading ability of 9-10 years. Many young people are also daunted by the size of a book, while still wanting ‘the excitement of a great story told with pace and style. ‘ At 64 pages, the books are compact, easy to handle. The cover images are striking, edgy, and with all the style of quality mainstream fiction. In other words, they may be small, but they don’t look ‘less’.
Inside, the story is presented novel-style, in chapters, but with plenty of white space on the page. To cater for the less able reader, the Sharp Shades editions have half the number of words of a Shades title, far fewer words per page, are set in a larger font and have added illustrations.
Personally, I think the books in both Shades series are appealing to any reader of any ability. They make for handy quick-reads that fit in most pockets. And just because they are aimed at people who struggle with their reading, doesn’t mean the stories are either simple or simplistic. They embrace themes that matter to all of us: love, hate, fear, injustice, belonging, relationships, families, overcoming threats and hardship. So I’m not going to say any more about Mau Mau Brother. The blurb on the back of the book pretty much covers it. Thank you, Steve Rickard.