Monday, 31 August 2015

Newsletter August 2015

The view form my window
I’m still buzzing form a writer’s retreat I’ve just come from ate Retreats for You. I was there with two colleagues, the mum of one of them and my very good friend and business partner Debz Hobbs-Wyatt. I shall write a much more detailed account of this later on my blog.
I will say straight away, though, that we were very well looked after. It felt as if our right to write was honoured. Okay, so yes, we have to pay for the visit, but the price was extremely reasonable for what we got.
I’d intended to try to do about four hours a day and then do some other things – like marketing.  In the end, though I did do much more writing: about seven hours a day. I even managed about four hours each way on the journey there and back.  And there was time too to socialise over meals and the six-o-clock glass of wine. There was even time for a few walks in the pretty

surrounding countryside.
Normally, I slow right down after the first couple of hours. This time, though, I managed to go at full strength. I wonder whether it was because I knew four other people were also writing?          

Books and short stories  

I’ve now completed the ninth edit of Girl in a Smart Uniform and have just started the tenth. This means that the very important but relatively easy dialogue edit has been completed. This really helps the novel to come along. It’s beginning to become solid. I’m now culling quite a bit of the description.       
I’m steaming ahead with the chapter on war in my book on children’s literature. Naturally I’ve included Lines in the Sand. Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman feature a lot in this chapter as one might imagine. I’ll also be writng about Elizabeth Laird and Beverly Naidoo who both set stories in troubled part soft the world. In writing this chapter I’ve become more aware that there are some children for whom war is a part of normal life. They have never known life without war.     
I’m very pleased to have got two more stories accepted on the Cut a Long Story siteAccess Denied and  Extra Dimensions. This happened the same week as I was sent the proofs of The Best of CafeLit 4 in which I have a short story and a piece of flash memoir.
I’m still I’m getting a lot of visits to my Spooking Facebook page. I still wonder why. Is it affecting sales?       
   

Bridge House

We’ve almost finished editing the stories for the Snowflakes. I’m busy now putting a book trailer together. This is always good fun. We’ve started looking at covers.
Don’t forget we’re already planning the celebration in London. Note for your diary: 5 December. Those writers in the anthology will be given first refusal on tickets. The CafeLit4 people will follow, then other Bridge House and CafeLit writers and finally anyone. We’re hoping to get between 50 and 100 people there. We’re making the event free this time but there will be a cash bar. There will be books on sale, too – Snowflakes and The Best of CafeLit 4. There will also be a few other Bridge House titles on sale.


CafeLit

Remember, we’re always open to submissions. Find out how here. We’ve now put together The Best of CafeLit 4. This is currently being proof read. It will be a slightly slimmer volume than usual; this time we have more pieces of flash fiction. Our 100-worders are in fact very popular.    


Creative Café

We’re always looking for new cafés. I’ve now added some resources for café owners. We’re also continuing to look for reviews of existing cafés. If you visit one of the cafés in the project and would lie to write a review of between 250 and 350 – nice, too to have a couple of pictures – query via the contact form.     

School Visits

As I said last month, I am now limiting my school visit to these associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’m still offering visits on this for a donation towards the project. I’ve devised a whole interactive workshop for this. It would be a real asset for any school teaching the Holocaust at Key Stage 3. Even if a school can’t afford a donation, I’d be happy to run the project.
Query for a school visit via the contact form.

The Red Telephone

I’m just finishing what I hope are the final edits on Kathy Dunn’s The Demon Magician. We’ve now set a release date for 31 October. We’re currently looking at covers.   
There will be a new call for submissions once this has gone to print which shouldn’t be too long now.
I’d like to remind you of our new enterprise -  something between a mentoring system and an online course. Though publication is not guaranteed, we will at least look at your full book if you’ve attended one of the courses. We’re offering it for free to a few people at first. We’ll refine as we go along based on feedback from our clients. We’ll then continue to offer it at a discount for a while before going to full price when we’re completely happy with it. We’re not sure what full price will be. Again, we’ll be guided by our current clients. Find out more here.      

Looking Forward

I’ve now booked for the NAWE conference in November, where I’ll be delivering a session on Build a Book in An Hour and a Quarter. This is based on the school workshop that I do on Build a Book in a Day. The emphasis here though will be on kick-starting inspiration for adult writers, coupled with a knowledge that the work will get out there.
Then the following week I’m off the SCBWI –BI conference in Winchester. This will be a little like going home. I did my MA in Writing for Children there. At this conference I’ll just sit back and listen though I shall be looking for copy for Network News in Words and Pictures.         
There’s another conference in November as well. Three weekends running ….! Gulp. Booking hotels and trains is actually quite stressful at times but I’m more and more reluctant to drive these days. I find train journeys good for getting work done.
SCBWI North West has plenty of activity, too. We’re at the Imperial War Museum next Saturday and as well as critiquing, we’ll be looking at self-publishing. Then we have a visit form the Skylark agency at the end of the month.
Being a writer certainly does not mean being lonely.  
 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Kaffee und Kuchen for Writers



Kaffee und Kuchen – that very delightful late afternoon German habit. Sumptuous cakes or something a little more modest like apple cake or cheese cake and good coffee.  Plus some engaging conversation and a feeling of celebration.  
Cake, anyway, seems to be a leitmotif with me:
·         I love making them
·         When I was a language teacher one of my line managers always used to provide chocolate cake for our department meetings.
·         I often provide cake for my team meetings.  
·         My creative writing colleagues at the university like a good piece of cake and one of our favourite activities is repairing to a nearby cake shop to try out the wares.
·         A choir to which I belong offers good cake as well as good singing to its audiences and serves it up with tea at every rehearsal.     
·         Afternoon tea, including cake, is my favourite form of celebration.
·         Not to forget the Creative Café Project

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Newsletter July 2015

We spent a couple of weeks in Lanzarote and we were without the internet for much of that time. We were supposed to have free WiFi and we did – it’s just that it was rarely connected to the net and when it was, it wasn’t really strong enough to upload and download.  Even the email gave up after a short while. This was all actually rather liberating. One can live without being online all the time – for a short while at least.
As usual, whilst on holiday I did a lot of reading and some writing. I also acquired lots of ideas for new stories.
We visited the house and library of José Saramago. I envied him the house and the library and his daily routine. He would write in his study or in the library, then swim in his pool, finally sitting for a while on his special chair in the garden, looking down to the sea. I want that house. I want that life-style.
The study
The library



People would often call at the house and because the intercom to the door didn’t work properly, he’d invite them into his kitchen where he would make them Portuguese coffee. We were offered this too and were able to sit on his beautiful terrace to enjoy it and the view.
I’ve not yet read any of his work but I intend to soon. It’s just my type of thing and not too dissimilar from my shorts about the near future.
He went on to be a Nobel Prize winner. Hmm. Thinks.

The terrace

 

Books and short stories  

I’ve now completed the sixth edit Girl in a Smart Uniform and am about to start the seventh, where I’ll look at the conflict and tension balance. Yes, there must be tension but I must also allow my readers to relax a little sometimes. The novel is coming along. I’m toying with putting all of the bits about her older brother in one section, as a flash back. I’m not sure, though. I may run this past my critique group and eventual beta readers.       
My second chapter for my non-fiction book proposal is now finished. I’m about to start a third on war in children’s literature. I’m quite looking forward to getting my teeth into this. I’ll be including some classics and looking at the latest offerings.  
I’m continuing to write short stories and flash fiction. I’m not really getting them out there enough but I am a little. I keep a “traffic light” spread sheet of where I’ve submitted.  Green means it’s been accepted. Amber means it can be submitted. Red means it’s out somewhere and we’re waiting. I’m quite pleased to report that half of my works are green and the rest are half red and half amber. Obviously, we really want all green but at least it’s mainly older works (perhaps ones that won’t ever make it?) that are amber. One shouldn’t really have any ambers.  Everything should either be accepted or awaiting approval, so green or amber. I do reedit in between rejections, so I guess there’s always hope.
I’m rather intrigued that I’m getting a lot of visits to my Spooking Facebook page. I wonder why. Will it lead to more sales?        
   

Bridge House

We’re now into editing the stories for the Snowflakes anthology. All of the EDIT 1’s have gone out and handful of people have returned them. I’ve already four stories in FINAL, so I’m feeling quite pleased.
Don’t forget we’re already planning the celebration in London. Note for your diary: 5 December. Those writers in the anthology will be given first refusal on tickets. The CafeLit4 people will follow, then other Bridge House and CafeLit writers and finally anyone. We’re hoping to get between 50 and 100 people there.  
 

CafeLit

Remember, we’re always open to submissions. Find out how here.

 

Creative Café

We’re always looking for new cafés. I’ve now added some resources for café owners.
 

School Visits

I’m actually calling a halt to these for the moment, for reasons that I won’t go into here. I’m hoping to work with schools in a different way shortly. All will become apparent in a few months’ time.
The one exception is The House on Schellberg Street project. I’m still offering visits on this for a donation towards the project. I’ve devised a whole interactive workshop for this. It would be a real asset for any school teaching the Holocaust at Key Stage 3. Even if a school can’t afford a donation, I’d be happy to run the project.
Here’s some further news about the Schellberg project.
Query for a school visit via the contact form on the web site.

 

The Red Telephone

I’ve just finished the edits on Kathy Dunn’s The Demon Magician.
There will be a new call for submissions once this has gone to print which shouldn’t be too long now.

I’d like to remind you of our new enterprise -  something between a mentoring system and an online course. Though publication is not guaranteed, we will at least look at your full book if you’ve attended one of the courses. We’re offering it for free to a few people at first. We’ll refine as we go along based on feedback from our clients. We’ll then continue to offer it at a discount for a while before going to full price when we’re completely happy with it. We’re not sure what full price will be. Again, we’ll be guided by our current clients. Find out more here.      
 

Looking Forward

At the end of this month I’ve booked on to a writing retreat with colleagues Judy Kendall and Ursula Hurley, Ursula’s mum and my good friend and business partner Debz Hobbs-Wyatt. We’re looking forward to being pampered.   
I’ve now booked for the NAWE conference in November, where I’ll be delivering a session on Build a Book in An Hour and a Quarter. This is based on the school workshop that I do on Build a Book in a Day. The emphasis here though will be on kick-starting inspiration for adult writers, coupled with a knowledge that the work will get out there.
Then the following week I’m off the SCBWI –BI conference in Winchester. This will be a little like going home. I did my MA in Writing for Children there. At this conference I’ll just sit back and listen though I shall be looking for copy for Network News in Words and Pictures.         
There’s another conference in November as well. Three weekends running ….! Gulp. Booking hotels and trains is actually quite stressful at times but I’m more and more reluctant to drive these days. I find train journeys good for getting work done.
SCBWI North West has plenty of activity, too.
Who said being a writer meant being lonely?
 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Narrative balance: brush strokes



I've been talking and writing a a lot recently about what I call 'narrative balance'. This is a balance of the components of prose: description, action, dialogue, other forms (e.g. letter, emails, texts) and exposition. Hopefully there is very little of the latter and prose writers should be able to show their readers, rather than merely describe, the scenes they hold in their heads.
At all times the plot must move forward. Pace and tension must be maintained. Economic writing allows these parts that make up a narrative balance to be multifunctional.
There is no formula nor theory about how these parts can or should balance. It is something that the writer knows instinctively rather in the same way that experienced artists add brushstrokes to their paintings. A touch of dialogue here, a little action there and maybe even the odd bit of telling from time to time. The latter is certainly a very advanced skill; we are told to 'show not tell'.
I've been writing seriously now for 17 years and this is something I've only recently become aware of. Now I look for it in books I read  and in the work of my students. I try to assess it in my own work. I've recently defined it as a creative writing skull.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Pens, notebooks and writing by hand



I have to confess to doing most of my “writing” – like this today, in fact - straight on to the computer. Yet I love writing by hand. I always have a notebook on the go and I always make notes in meetings and at most events. Making notes confirms my understanding. There’s something about the brain, hand and eye coordination. The hand connects with the page and manifests what the mind is thinking.  

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Newsletter June 2015

Summer holidays are coming up and we had an Open Day at the University on what was the hottest day for twelve years. The work doesn’t seem to be reducing – if anything it’s getting even more hectic.

The busyness included our Create Festival. I was very proud of the contribution our drama students made. There were some really pleasing examples of haiku and flash fiction beautifully presented. We even had some short extracts from critical essays.   
Never mind, though. At least work included a few visits to the Manchester Children’s Book Festival. This included a panel event with Julia Churchill, Jon Mayhew and Kate Pankhurst that addressed the question: “When Are You Going to Write for Grown Ups?” If you like, sub-title: “What is the worth of creating for children?  I also helped out on the SCBWI stall at the family fun day. We helped youngsters to make their own masks. I attended the launch of Liz Kessler’s Read me Like a Book. This was introduced by Carol Ann Duffy and hosted in the beautiful Portico Library.
So, “work” is fine. I’ll get some more writing done whilst we’re away. At the end of August I’m going on a writers’ retreat with two colleagues and a friend.    

Friday, 5 June 2015

Self-promotion on social media needs to be moderate



And how to keep it so.


My love of social media

I love social media, I really do. Twitter is my all-time favourite but I also “do” Facebook, Linkedin, Streetlife and just recently, Pinterest. I’m just about on Goodreads, too. They all have slightly different uses, so I use them slightly differently.  I just love the power of Twitter, though. One retweet can take you to all sorts of interesting places.   
I use my social media interaction as punctuation between tasks and as a way of keeping in touch with the world. The latter is really important as because I’m both a writer and an academic I tend to work in an isolated way.