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Posted by Kate, March 16, 2011

Japan

There’s a risk that it’ll seem self-aggrandizing and arrogant to write a post about the current events in Japan on the blog page of a little children’s publishing company. I can’t pretend that we’ve anything new or important or profound to say about the unfolding situation, but, on the other hand, it is in all our minds much of the time, so it seems ridiculous, too, to ignore it.

I wrote on Saturday on Twitter how absurdly trivial it seemed to be tweeting about books or apps or that day’s Pip and Posy event against the backdrop of events in Japan. Yesterday I had an email from a German publisher who said that he was keen to get on with the business between us, “but actually my thoughts right now are with our publishing colleagues and illustrators in Japan”.

I wrote to another publisher in Sweden, who has forged particularly strong links with the Japanese publishing community. She had visited the Sendai area some years ago with a publisher friend who came from Sendai itself. She wrote, “My friend and I once visited a small port. She showed me a sign on the wall of one of the little houses. ‘Do you know what it says?’ she asked. Of course I didn´t, so she translated: ‘In the event of a tsunami run to the hilltop as fast as you can’. And the water was so lovely – turquoise and clear – that the thought of tsunami happening was just not possible.”

The horror of the images and film that we’ve all seen of the tsunami, and the threat of further radiation leakage from the nuclear reactors gives what is happening in Japan a particular grip on our imaginations. I feel, though, that, as children’s publishers about to go to the Bologna Book Fair, it makes us think about the Japanese members of the community of international publishers and agents, authors and illustrators of which we are a part. Next week, for example, we will meet Noriko Hasegawa from The English Agency, Japan. She’s Nosy Crow’s Japanese agent (who sells our books to Japanese publishers). With terrific understatement, she emailed from Tokyo this morning: “Thank you for your concern. We are all safe but we are still having aftershocks and we are also concerned about the nuclear plants which are not functioning. We hope they will get them under control.”

Like pretty much everyone else, we feel very helpless. I am impressed with Keris Stainton’s Twitter-led initiative, Authors for Japan , which is raising money through a series of author-backed initiatives – bidding to have your name in an author’s book, for example. They’re giving the money raised to The British Red Cross Tsunami Appeal.