Malorie Blackman has urged the next children’s laureate to speak their mind, despite describing her "surprise" at the “vitriolic reaction” she had received to some of her own campaigns.
Blackman is coming to the end of her two-year stint in the role and the new laureate will be announced next week.
Writing in the Telegraph, Blackman said she received racist abuse after a news outlet misquoted her thoughts on the lack of diversity in children’s publishing.
“In a television interview I said that diversity in our children’s books should include the adventures of disabled children, travellers and gipsies, LGBT teens, different cultures, classes, colours, religions,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a token gesture, nor do such stories need to be “issue-based”. One provocative misquotation was later used as a headline, and threatening tweets and racist abuse came flying thick and fast in my direction.”
She also faced opposition from those who disagreed with her support for libraries.
“I have encountered those who feel that libraries have served their purpose and are no longer needed,” she said. “There are those who consider them a soft target when it comes to local authority budget cuts. In certain political quarters, there is a refusal to see that our public library service needs active protection.”
One of the projects she launched was Project Remix, a fan fiction competition that asked teenagers to produce a piece of creative writing, comic strip, book cover, book trailer or music composition based on one of 24 works of literature.
However, it was met with “a degree of ire from some… I was accused of encouraging our teenagers to “mess about” with the classics”,” said Blackman. “But why? Shakespeare’s Othello was inspired by Cinthio’s A Moorish Captain, his Hamlet came from Saxo Grammaticus’s Amleth.”
She said: “I’ve always been mouth and was well aware that some of my proposed projects might come in for criticism, but the vitriolic reaction from some quarters did take me by surprise.”
Nevertheless Blackman said she “loved” being laureate. “It has been a wonderful two years. I look back at all the children I’ve met and I count myself incredibly fortunate.”
She mentioned her support for YA publishing, including Love Hurts, an anthology of YA stories published by Penguin RandomHouse Children’s this year, and the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC), which she set up with Booktrust.
The next laureate, who will be announced on the 9th of June, should speak their mind and “have fun”, she said.