Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Newsletter June 2016



Fifty-five days until I retire, apparently. Yes, that’s right; I’m retiring form my post as senior lecturer at the University of Salford. I’m going to be busy though: more time for my writing, publishing and getting political.
I will make no apology for saying here that I voted for Remain in the recent referendum and struggle to understand the sincere and informed reasons for voting for Brexit. The crazy ones I can dismiss. Please let me know. I’m trying to understand. I have many reasons for voting the way I did but what is relevant here is that I believe the Arts are better off in a united Europe and European copyright laws are firmer and fairer than the British ones we had before. So this is all relevant to my writing too.
I wrote a very personal piece the night before the referendum and this was very well received, as have been many pieces I’ve written since, actually by both sides. There’s been a minimum of trolling. Is my writing taking a different direction? Well, we’ll see.   
We made all of the Peace Child trilogy free on Kindle for five days as the theme is so in keeping with some of the issues that the referendum raises. Alas, those five days ended on 30 June.                  
Well, I don’t want to discuss politics too much here, but do engage with me more directly if you wish to.      
               

Bridge House

We’ve now almost finished selecting the submissions for “Baubles”, those short, snappy, sparkly stories that brighten up the darker nights like baubles enhance the Christmas tree. We’ve made a firm decision about seventeen and we’re sifting through the “maybes” for the final seven. We’ve found some really strong writing and some very interesting interpretations of the Baubles theme.    
We’re also looking at doing some single author collections. These are for authors we’ve already published. You may recycle stories we’ve already included in another anthology, and you may reedit these if you wish. You may also add in new stories. We’re aiming at a total word count of between 30,000 and 80,000 words. 
If you’re interested in this, contact me here.    


CafeLit

Remember, we’re always open to submissions. Find out how here. I’m now making the selection for The Best of CafeLit 5. I’ve been encouraging my students to submit. I’m beginning to see some of their work appearing.  

 

Chapeltown

We’re currently looking for collections of Flash Fiction. See our submissions page here.

 

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.
There is also now a page of links to some articles about the process of writing the novels.    
Query for a school visit here.
I visited Heysham High in Morecambe yesterday and was intrigues that the teacher, Helan  Trisorio, had found me by doing a Google search on writers who do school visits in Lancashire and I came up third on the list. Fame at last? It was a really enjoyable visit. Please read more below.   

 

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 the full price will be. Again, we’ll be guided by our current clients. Find out more here.       

 

Books and short stories

I’m now making good progress on Shooting Hitler. Remember my ten-word pitch.
“A Führer, an anteroom, a pistol. Will she shoot him?”   
I’m keeping everything crossed for Clara’s Story which is being serialised. You may recall I was thinking of changing the title of Flowers on the Table. I decided not to in the end. However, the cover makes this theme quite clear. The novel is can now be found on Channillo. You may read it here.    

Past events

My book launch of the new edition of  Spooking went well. We had a small but select group of attendees and some superb cake at the Honest Coffee café . The room was just right. The space was intimate but would have had enough room for forty people. The cake was really special.  There was some left over so I took it along to a concert that was serving cake afterwards. This included a delicious chocolate cake and possibly the nicest cheese cake I’ve ever eaten. My car smelt of rum and vanilla for days afterwards.    
I was very pleased with what happened at our Create festival. Our “canned” fiction was particularly popular. Several students were able showcase their synopsis of their young adult novel. The general public voted on the best one. We had a tie. So now, Lauren Hopes and Christian Lea will be mentored by The Red Telephone. They may well choose to write the rest of their young adult novels and if all goes well, they may receive a publishing contract. Well done to both! During the day, flash fiction written by our students was shown on the screens throughout our Media City building. Several people had a go at writing flash fiction guided by our prompt sheets.  
   


I was delighted with my school visit to Heysham High in Morecambe yesterday. I met with a group of Y7s, a group of Y8s, a group of Y9s and the creative writers from the 6th form. All of them were delightful as were the staff. I’ve completed hundreds of school visits and most of them have been very good or even excellent. This one was excellent.  
I read to Y7s from The House on Schellberg Street, to Y8s from Spooking and Y9s from The Prophecy (the first of the Peace Child trilogy.) Then we had questions and answers. We also created characters, a setting and the first dramatic incident in a story. The students will now write up their stories and we’re hoping to “build a book” even though this wasn’t a Build a Book Workshop.             
     

Upcoming events

We’re going into a quiet period. Summer holidays are coming.
It won’t last forever, though.
I’m looking forward to a Writer’s Retreat at the Gladstone Library  in October, possibly making my Clara Lehrs journey and the Bridge House celebration on 3 December. I’m also thinking of holding the Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher event again.
I will be returning to Salford University as a hourly paid lecturer at the end of January. I’ll actually be teaching 11-12 hours a week and eventually marking 188 scripts. My husband has said he’ll buy me a dictionary so that I can look up what the word “retire” means.   
And I also have a feeling that I might get involved in University of the Third Age, plus I’m open to a lot more school visits again ….
Isn’t life grand?         

Giveaway

This month I’m giving away a copy of The Prophecy, the first book in the Peace Child trilogy. The first person to message me via Twitter that they’d like the book  -  @gilljames – gets it.  

Happy reading and writing.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Mixed Feelings about the Hay Festival



It was great fun when we took Gentle Footprints to Hay. We were in the biggest stadium which was almost full and we had the early Friday evening slot. Virginia McKenna wrote our introduction to the anthology and so she was there. The publishing team had coffee with her in the morning and took her out to dinner in the evening. All of the contributors met her for lunch. It was definitely a red letter day.
My friend and publishing partner Debz Hobbs Wyatt and I decided to go for most of the week. We were joined later by other members of the team. We had a ball. We stayed in a really good value for money B & B that was a short ride out of Hay and in beautiful countryside.
We paced ourselves and even managed a few hours chilling back at the farm.
Hay needn’t be expensive. There are lots of free events and most don’t cost all that much. The food is good – mainly local produce and very good value for money. If you book your accommodation enough in advance you can get it at a reasonable price. There is such an atmosphere – even when it rains – maybe particularly when it rains and you get to paddle around in your willies.  It’s nice, though, as well, when the sun shines and you can lounge around in the deckchairs or sit on the grass reading books. It’s lovely, anyway, to be surrounded by people who love books.
I’ve made a second trip to Hay and enjoyed it just as much. I booked it very last minute but managed to get reasonable accommodation forty minutes’ drive away. It was just as enjoyable though we weren’t such stars that time. I began to think I’d like to do it every year.
One thing bothers me however: they do not pay their writers. They treat you like royalty. You get exposure. You sell books. Maybe. Yet even with Virginia McKenna there, signing copies, we only actually sold 75 at the festival and this was deemed to be good. The profit on that nowhere near covered our expenses.  
I’d thought about going this year. I wanted to support Melvin Burgess who will be discussing Junk there on 2 June. I’ve recently read this and was impressed. Alas, I’ll be up to my neck in marking by then and also moving office. But would I have gone anyway? I do feel inclined to boycott those festivals that don’t pay their writers. Creative Practitioners must be paid.
The counter argument is that it would make the festivals a lot more expensive. Isn’t there a creative way in which we can make this win win?                        

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Newsletter 5 May 2016



The year still whizzes by. I didn’t write a newsletter at the end of March. I simply didn’t find the time.  Last time I wrote, I was facing a heap of marking. The first few scripts of  the second round came in yesterday. I’ll have a couple of masters to mark, a few to second mark and another hundred or so undergrad assignments in ten days’ time.
We’re also getting ready for our Create festival. A few more details to follow under Future Events.
I’ve now self-published a new version of  Spooking and will be launching this from Honest Coffee     Chapel Street. Your invite is below.  
Life goes on. But the writing life’s good, isn’t it?
   
              

Bridge House

We’re currently reading through the submissions for “Baubles”, those short, snappy, sparkly stories that brighten up the darker nights like baubles enhance the Christmas tree. Watch this space. We should have our list out by the end of June.
We’re also looking at doing some single author collections. These are for authors we’ve already published. You may recycle stories we’ve already included in another anthology, and you may reedit these if you wish. You may also add in new stories. We’re aiming at a total word count of between 30,000 and 80,000 words.  
If you’re interested in this, contact me here.    


CafeLit

Remember, we’re always open to submissions. Find out how here. I’m now making the selection for The Best of CafeLit 5. I’ve been encouraging my students to submit. I’m beginning to see some of their work appearing.  

 

Chapeltown

We’re currently looking for collections of Flash Fiction. See our submissions page here.

 

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. Naturally the Honest Coffee café will now be included.
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.
There is also now a page of links to some articles about the process of writing the novels.    
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 the full price will be. Again, we’ll be guided by our current clients. Find out more here.       

Books and short stories

I have now started Shooting Hitler. Remember my ten-word pitch.
“A Führer, an anteroom, a pistol. Will she shoot him?”   
I’m keeping everything crossed for Clara’s Story which may be serialised. This an interesting new concept for me. I suppose if it’s good enough for Dickens, it’s probably good enough for me. I’m actually thinking of changing the title of Clara’s Story to Flowers on the Table. Only thinking, mind.  

Past events

April’s highlight has to be my Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher conference. This built on the success of the 2015 conference.  We had again Melvin Burgess as a keynote speaker. He was also joined by Sara Grant, Nikki Heath, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt and Rachel McIntyre. A new feature this year was critiquing session led by Debz, Melvin and Sara. Read full details here. I’m now hoping that this can become an annual event.   
I also really enjoyed the Author’s Compass organised by the Society of Authors. This gave some fascinating insights into the process of self-publishing. Kate Harrison reported on her success that wouldn’t actually have been possible with a traditional publisher. Kate Pool and Sarah Baxter of the Society of Authors told us of some to the pitfalls in contracts.  Richard Sheehan, Katie Roden, Helen Lewis and Kevin McCann took us through the nitty-gritty. Dan Kieran, Kristen Harrison and Michael Schmidt talked us through some interesting funding models.  
Links and further info here.             

Upcoming events

On 21 May 2016 at 2.00 p.m, I’m launching the second edition of my book, Spooking. It will be at the charming Creative Café, Honest Coffee, within Salford, so highly appropriate for me. Cake, tea, coffee, soft drinks. Do bring your teenagers along.

Reserve your place here.

Giveaway

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

Happy reading and writing.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Revisiting Alice



I’m currently rereading Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. This is partly because I’ve obtained the 2011 Macmillan editions. These are large hardback texts with the original drawings by Sir John Tenniel. Eight of these were coloured by Victorian artist Harry Theaker, and published in 1911, with the remaining pictures coloured by Diz Wallis in 1995. These editions include a foreword by Philip Pullman. The books are beautifully tactile and very heavy. I have the impression that I am reading more slowly because the pages are so long. This actually makes me pay more attention to the text.
I am also rereading them because I’m currently writing a chapter in a book about these two books and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Alice tends to polarise people: some love her stories others hate them. Most adults are spooked by Coraline. Younger readers love her. My book is about the darker side of children’s literature. I find Alice and Coralline very sinister. A baby  that turns into a pig. Uncanny twins. Button eyes. And much more.    
This time, though, I really enjoyed Alice in Wonderland. This is partly because of the rewarding experience caused by the beauty of the edition. I also recognise how well it is written. Alice certainly here has a book full of conversation. The point of view is solid. Alice is a well-established character and there are also some charming caricature layers. We have a real sense of Wonderland. The story moves quickly. Okay, so that’s my critical head consuming the text now and not the child who read it originally. Even so. I’m glad I’ve revisited. I’m just about to start Through the Looking Glass.