Meet Your New ALCS Board Member: Maggie Gee

We are pleased to introduce writer Maggie Gee who was elected to the ALCS Board for a three year term at the end of 2015.

Joining the ALCS Board for the first time is Dr Maggie Gee. Maggie is the author of twelve novels, many of which explore social and dystopian themes, a short story collection and a writer’s memoir, My Animal Life. Maggie’s most recent novels are a pair of comedies set mostly in Uganda, My Cleaner and My Driver, and Virginia Woolf in Manhattan (2014), set between New York and Istanbul. Her work has been translated into fourteen languages.

Maggie Gee is a Fellow and Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature. She has been a member of the Society of Authors’ Committee of Management and the government Public Lending Right committee and was, from 2004-2008, the first female Chair of Council of the Royal Society of Literature. She is now one of its Vice Presidents. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and in 2012 was awarded an OBE for services to literature.

What skills and perspectives do you hope to bring to the ALCS Board?

Of course, you can never be sure how you can help on a board until you have sat on it for a bit. But I do bring the perspective of a lifetime professional writer with a strong commitment to a fair deal for my fellow writers that I’ve put to active use on many campaigns and committees. I’m very interested in finding ways of making companies like Amazon deal more equitably with writers and independent publishers. I can also offer the perspective of a professor at Bath Spa University. Educational publishing brings in a lot of the revenues ALCS collects and it poses new challenges: we must be alert to the government’s new emphasis on ‘open access’ publication in the field of university research, because researchers and writers need to make money from their publications, and we must resist international pressures to extend educational exceptions so that schools and universities can use large amounts of copyright material (aka writers’ capital) for free.

I think we have to work out why writers’ incomes from books dropped by 30% between 2005 and 2014 while British publishers’ profits stayed steady or increased.

What do you regard as the most pressing issues for writers and for ALCS in 2016?

ALCS exists to distribute income writers can’t collect themselves, so the key issue is to keep doing that as successfully as it does at present, countering the challenges the digital world poses to copyright. For writers in general, I think we have to work out why writers’ incomes from books dropped by 30% between 2005 and 2013 while British publishers’ profits stayed steady or increased. The new campaign for fairer contracts really matters: feed the chickens and you get more eggs.

What are your own current writing projects?

Longer term: collecting my essays and journalism and finishing a series of performance pieces, dramatic monologues about the role of mothers in adult women’s lives. Short term: finishing two novels which I have dreamed up concurrently. I’m also crossing my fingers that Andrew Davies’s wonderful new screenplay for my last novel, Virginia Woolf in Manhattan, becomes a film.

And please tell us about your own cultural preferences.

Most things. New Scientist and visual arts. There’s nearly always a painting in my novels – Goya in my latest. I love cartoons and Cranach’s nudes, Daumier, Millet, Hopper, Bonnard, Hockney’s woods and fields. I love art that transfigures where I live: John Duffin’s paintings of Kings Cross-St Pancras platforms as a shining path to heaven, Martin Grover’s witty, touching reinventions of London bus-stops where you choose between Lovers Lane and Fortune’s Green on one side, Woebegone Ponds and Deepmire on the other.

Follow Maggie on twitter: @maggiegeewriter