How To See New Readers For Old Ideas

How To See New Readers For Old Ideas

As part of the Shrewsbury Literary Festival, one of the The Guardian’s regular contributors to the Country Diary series, Paul Evans, spoke about his new book: How To See Nature.

He explained how the publishers, Batsford Books, were keen to re-vist some of their earlier published works with a view to updating them for a new, modern readership.

Paul Evans reading from his book at the Shrewsbury Literary Festival 2018

Originally published in the 1940s, How To See Nature, was written by Frances Pitt, whose aim was to encourage war time evacuees (many of whom had never seen the countryside before) to stop and look at the natural world around them.

Paul Evans’ book of the same title is not an updated version of Francis Pitt’s text: instead it’s a contemporary version.

The ethos of Paul’s book the same as Frances’: to make readers stop and look around at the nature that is there. Because, there will be something there. It might not be something unusual or rare, like an otter or a golden eagle, but lichens, sparrows, crows and worms are all part of nature.

As I sat there listening to Paul’s talk, it reminded me that the business of writing, getting our work published, is all about interpreting information for specific readerships and the market. While nearly 80 years separate Paul and Frances’ books, the idea behind both volumes is exactly the same: to explain to readership who feel they’ve lost touch with nature how to re-engage with it.

Today’s readership is different from those of Frances Pitt’s day. The world has changed and as a result the nature is different, as it too has learned to adapt to the changing environment. But the premise is still the same.

Knowing who our readers are, and the problems/challenges they face can help us to angle an idea. As as How To See Nature shows, the right idea is one that can be updated for the world today and its readers.

As the year draws to an end, a time when many look back on what they have achieved over the last 12 months, why not go back a little further? Take a look at some of your earlier pieces of writing. Go back ten or twenty years, or more, if you can. What were your ideas then? Could you update them for today’s readership?

Could you learn to see old ideas in a new light?

Good luck.

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