Saturday, 6 February 2016

News 6 February 2016

2016 has got off to a hectic start. I’ve been away from my writing desk for quite a bit as I’ve had a fair chunk of marking coming in. It’s still critiquing and giving feedback on mainly fiction writing, so it’s a little like editing and is certainly a “writerly” activity. But I’ve been away from my own writing and for once found it difficult to get back into it.

Last semester I had that extraordinarily demanding piece of admin to do for the university. That took up the time I would normally use for writing. When I did have the time, I didn’t have the brain space. I also had the flu two weeks ago. That didn’t help either.

However, today I may be turning the corner ….  I’m on a “read aloud” edit, I’ve written a blog post and I’m writing this ….                       

Bridge House

We’ve decided on the theme for next year. Baubles. Short, snappy, sparkly stories that brighten up the darker nights like baubles enhance the Christmas tree. We’re not talking about things that give you a good belly laugh nor anything that is overly sentimental. Feel good is fine, yes, but just a light touch. You’ll know it when you think of it. Check out full submission details here.  
We’re changing the way Bridge House is administered slightly. We’re getting rid of the LLP and Debz and I are working on a simple partnership basis. Because of this, any projects I work alone on will probably go to Chapeltown and joint projects will remain as Bridge House. New titles for The Red Telephone will go to Chapeltown.    


Remember, we’re always open to submissions. Find out how here. I’m now making the selection for The Best of CafeLit 5. Today I’ve been encouraging students to submit. I hope to read some of their work there soon.


We’re currently looking for collections of Flash Fiction. See our submissions page here.
We’re also looking at creating another imprint. We’re not sure what to call it yet.  Maybe “Revive” though that may be a little too obvious. It’s all about republishing books that have gone out of print. This is sparked really by what I’ve said about Spooking below.          

Creative Café

We’re always looking for new cafés.  If you visit one of the cafés in the project and would like to write a review of between 250 and 350 – nice, too to have a couple of pictures – send it to me here. Do the same if you find a new café.
I’m now going to send out a welcome letter to each new café that’s added. This will also offer them the opportunity to join the mailing list. 

School Visits

I’m proactively promoting my school visits 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. 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. I’ve added in  a page referring to “deleted scenes”. You know, just like you get on some DVDs.
Query for a school visit here.

The Red Telephone

There will be a new call for submissions next autumn. We’re leaving it quite a while now so that we can give our current authors all of our attention.  
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.      

Books and short stories

I’m now on the penultimate edit of Girl in a Smart Uniform. This is the one where I read it aloud. Oh, I do miss our cat. She used to listen quite patiently. But what about this for serendipity? I’ve had to have some severe dental work done recently - in effect I’ve had a   new tooth built.
“Read out loud as much as you can to get used to it,” the dentist said. Well, well.
I’ve now signed off the proofs for my German science fiction stories. I am rather pleased with them and I did write the bulk of them whilst on a writer’s retreat. Hmm.    
Sadly, Spooking goes out of print in February. Yet in a perverse way I’m rather excited. It means I can deposit all of it in the repository at the university. It also means I can give it another edit and republish it. I was really pleased with what Crooked Cat did with it but now it’s time to move on.     

Looking Forward

I’ll gradually drip feed my future plans, but alas, for the moment they’re under wraps. Watch this space!


This month I’m giving away a copy of Going Places, a Bridge House publication. The first person to message me via Twitter that they’d like the book  -  @gilljames – gets it. 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Getting the habit, losing the habit and getting it back again

Once I started taking myself seriously as a writer and gave up the day job to become freelance I gave myself a regime of writing 1,000 words a day and writing for an hour. That worked. It was a matter of turning up at the page, not worrying about whether the muse popped along or not, and just getting on with it.
My first publications were educational materials. The royalties on them were quite generous and in fact I’m still earning from them now even though they were published in 2001. However, although I was sent copies of the books and they’re on my book shelf, I’m never going to see one of these in a bookshop. They’re sold directly to schools.
Then came my first contract for a “proper” book – one that would and has appeared in book shops. In order to complete that – another non-fiction one so it was sold on a proposal rather than a speculative complete script - I had to up my game to 2,000 words a day and two hours. I’m now a little kinder – I’m still on two hours a day but I only expect 1,500 words.
I now have a day job again but one that is very much connected to writing – I’m a senior lecturer in creative writing – and no one would say a word if I wrote my novel on the employer’s’ computer on the employer’s time. In fact, I’m writing this during office hours.  
Turning up for those words and hours was never a problem. I mainly tried to do this in the morning, even if it meant that some university work had to wait until the evening. Two hours of dedication to my writing.  Bliss! If I didn’t always quite fit in my two hours I would catch up at the weekend or even on holiday
All went well for the six years I free-lanced and for the last seven I’ve spent working at the university. Then all of a suddenly this year there was a massive amount of admin to do.  The only time I could fit it in was in the time when I would normally write. When I did get a few minutes to write there seemed to be no brain space.
The view from my window

I was also invited this year to go on a writers’ retreat.  I normally believe I don’t need this. I usually don’t have a problem with getting down to work. I’m now glad I did. Although I’m still behind, at least I got some solid chunks of work done whilst I was in Devon. Interestingly, the quality of the work was better than normal so I’m now considering trying to programme one of these retreats in each year. Perhaps it’s the concentrated time that helps.  No doubt also being with other writers has its influence. And perhaps even being in a place where s much writing has taken place before.  I’m somehow picking up on the energy.
I’m pleased to say that since just before Christmas life has returned to normal. I’m back into the rhythm of writing first of all each day. My work is progressing and I’m optimistic about the future again.                      

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Newsletter December 2015

Another year almost done, then. 2015 has had its ups and downs for me and my friends and associates but we’re all generally making progress. I’m glad that not too many of my friends have been badly affected by the floods and those that have seem to be well supported.
The Book Case at Hebden Bridge suffered badly. However, it was good to see them so well supported by Blue Moose and Salt publishers and authors Melvin Burgess, Marion Keyes and Ian Rankin.
I expect as the day goes on we’ll all be making our new year’s resolutions and I look forward to reading them all.
My own is along the lines of getting back to my writing routine which has been very disrupted by the day job. It’s beginning to happen anyway.      


Bridge House

We had a great celebration event, featuring Snowflakes, The Best of CafeLit 4 and the Shelagh Delaney winners in London, 5 December, at Waxy O’Connors. It was marred somewhat by Debz having her handbag stolen. In her usual cheerful way though she didn’t let that get in the way. This time I did take along some books to sell and I’m glad to say I didn’t have to take any home. However, you’ve got to allow that against the taxi fare.
“Blimey, this is heavy,” said the taxi-driver as he loaded my suitcase into the cab. “What have you got in here? 40 books I should think?” He wasn’t far off. There were 41, in fact.
We did the book swap again. Everyone brought along another of their books or a book they’d enjoyed reading. Oddly, there were several left at the end. My daughter dropped them off at a place she knew on the way home.    
It’s always good to meet people in person. A few people read, though the acoustics weren’t brilliant in that space.
I was very pleased with the video in the end. Take a look here.
We’ve decided on the theme for next year. Baubles. Short, snappy, sparkly stories that brighten up the darker nights like baubles enhance the Christmas tree. We’re not talking about things that give you a good belly laugh nor anything that is overly sentimental. Feel good is fine, yes, but just a light touch. You’ll know it when you think of it. Check out full submission details here.
We seem to have sold quite a few more books than normal this time. For the first time ever we’ve had problems with delivery. So apologies to anyone who has had to wait a long time.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Story time

It’s that time of year again. It’s a time of the year I like a lot. It may be something to do with having a birthday in the few days leading up to Christmas. However there is more to it than that, I think.
This is the great story time. We stay indoors a lot. We hibernate. We fuel our bodies against the cold, we watch the snow coming down and are glad that we don’t have to go out in it. Or maybe there is no snow and it may not even be that cold, but the days are short and the evenings long. We often feel more like staying in that going out.   
So, what do we do? We stay in the warm, we perhaps light a candle and we devour story in all sorts of forms – books, films, video games.  
I also catch up with some writing. The act of creating a story can be even richer than reading one.  
I find too that it’s a time when I sleep more and dream more. I even daydream a lot. I get more ideas. The winter actually prepares for the spring and the summer. It’s all happening there below the surface. The story suggestions bubble away. They take shape and burst forth. It’s all part of the cycle.                

Monday, 2 November 2015

Holiday reads

There are two main points for me on holiday: getting away from the Internet a little and reading.
Reading has always been important for me on holiday. Even as a child I would save my pocket money to buy books to take away with me. What a delight if we happened to find a second-hand bookshop. Of course now I avoid them; I want the writer and publisher to get their full dues. I can forgive them, though. I’ve been introduced to several writers when I first bought their work in a second-hand bookshop. Thereafter I’ve been willing to buy the hardback as soon as it comes out.

It’s partly escapism, I guess. But it’s also partly reassessment, confirmation of life. I always include a few heavier literary texts, some in other languages and some non-fiction.

What was it this year? Some autobiographical work by Alan Bennett, Claire Tomalin’s  biography of  Dickens, a  couple of young adult books featuring vampires, one of them in French, and a handful of Crooked Cat titles. I’m published by the latter and I’m pleased to say that all of the books they publish are engaging. 

Most writers need to read a lot. We sort of “catch” our craft from what we read. So, it’s good being on holiday.  I’m actually “working” even though I’m really indulging in my default activity. 

We’re now approaching what I call the story time of year. Those long evenings and cold days when you want to stay in by the fire. Holidays are coming – half term for some in the UK, and Thanksgiving and Christmas not far behind.  I expect a lot of reading will get done.         

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Newsletter 1 November 2015

At work this month and much of last month I’ve been involved with two colleagues in getting a lot of paperwork ready for a review of our programmes. In my case Drama and Creative Writing and English and Drama. This process is called PPRR – Periodic Programme Review and Reapproval. It’s been a lot of work and I’ve done quite a bit at weekends – that’s the only time I’ve found the brain space.

There have been three really positive sides to this however:
  1. We’ve been able to scrutinize our programmes closely and we’ve brought in several changes as part of the process. Changes that we think will make to our programmes even stronger.
  2. One of our strengths we’ve always believed has been how well our programmes integrate. As we go through this process, we’re become even more convinced.
  3. I’ve been able to work really closely with my two colleagues whose programmes are going through the same process.
The down side of it has been that I’ve got less writing done than usual. Today I get back to it.  But eh oh: look what I’m actually writing about ….       

Friday, 9 October 2015

Positive Thinking for Writers

I always say of writing that “you can do it if you really want to but it’s a big ‘if’.” It can seem a little ludicrous sometimes. You spend hours and days on something that may never be read by someone else. You may never really feel that you earn enough from the writing to justify spending more time on it. Even those who do become rich and famous often have a long hard slog before that happens. So IF we’re to battle on we need to stay positive. Yes, it’s a very big IF.