Saturday, 22 November 2014

Postcards over Ramsbottom or Don’t ever cross a novelist – you might get put into a novel or How novelists make use of just about everything


So, I go to my study to look at my phone, just like I do every morning. To find out what the weather’s going to be like and how I should therefore dress.
Except that my handbag isn’t its usual place by the desk in my study. Perhaps I left it somewhere else. I did have rather a lot of luggage to bring in from the car last night.

It’s not downstairs by the lounge door. Did I leave it in the car? I go to the spare room to look out onto the drive to see if I can see it on the passenger seat of my car. My car is not there. Neither is my husband’s.

We panic a little. I must have done something really stupid like left the handbag on the front door step. Oh Gawd.   
Then I notice a cupboard open in our lounge. My husband notices the curtains are open a little. He opens them fully and we can see that they forced their way through a window – a window that has four locks on it, into a house that is alarmed. I’ve walked past that window four times already today and not noticed anything. 
Later still I find that they did indeed go upstairs. My Kindle, which was next to my computer in my study, is also gone. At the weekend we discover that we are also missing a bath towel. Our newest one, in fact.     
At least now I am relieved that I didn’t do something stupid with my handbag. We contact the Police, my banks, my phone provider and the insurance companies for my phone and our cars. Then I phone work. 
(No, this isn’t the beginning of a crime novel. This really happened to us last Tuesday. But you never know …)

Sunday, 9 November 2014

October 2014 Newsletter, slightly belated

I guess my biggest news at the moment is that I’ve been promoted to Senior lecturer at the University of Salford. It’s a nice feeling. It sort of confirms that I’ve been doing a few things right. Not that the pressure goes away – if anything there’s more. Current challenges: improve NSS scores, retention, continuation, completion and recruit more students. Oh, and fit in a little research and writing!   
We’ve just had Reading / Writing Week and I’ve been out and about doing some unusual things: school visits, visit to Ireland, where I’ve made one or two interesting connections, and a conference.
I’ve managed to do a little more research towards my book on Children’s Literature. Some of the material at Trinity College, Dublin was extremely interesting, especially to do with the connection to myths. This also feeds nicely into a lecture I’m delivering next week.     

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Worth it?


I don’t get to as many events for authors as I used to. I don’t get quite as excited about them either. It’s sometimes the case that it’s the “same old, same old” and sometimes it could be that I could have perhaps delivered the session myself. In a way, I do deliver such sessions: they’re part of my day job as a Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing.        
Some events are still worth it, though. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

On the cusp - ending and beginning



Letting go

I am at that delightful transition stage. I have finished the second of my Schellberg cycle books, Clara’s Story. I’ve got it as good as I can. It’s edited and polished. Now it’s resting a while and I’m gaining some distance from it. I’ll be sending it off to the publisher soon. There will be a reaction. I hope it will be that they’ll agree to publish it. Then there will be an editor’s reaction. No doubt there will be changes. If I get some distance now, though, any suggestions from the editor will be easier to digest.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

September Newsletter



The new academic year has started and we’re very busy pointing students to where they need to be. Several of our new first years are making a point of coming to my office or stopping me in the street to tell me how much they’re enjoying their course. This is fabulous. Let’s hope we can keep on working in such a way that they will be able to keep on enjoying their study. We’re watching with some excitement too the new building that we hope to move into in January 2016.      
     

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Clichés – how can we avoid them and do we really have to?



Clichés become clichés because they do what they do rather well. There isn’t anything else quite like a bull in a china shop. Nothing could be nastier than having a ton of bricks fall on you. Putting a spanner in the works probably works better than throwing a wooden clog into the machinery --- that act which gave us the word sabotage, form the French word “sabot”.
Plots and stories can be clichéd too, yet it is good for our psychological health to consume the same story over and over. Christopher Booker, anyway, tells us there are only seven stories, Arthur Frank offers us three and Robert McKee provides a template that will structure any story. Part of our enjoyment of stories comes from recognising this pattern over and over.
Language, too, has to repeat so that we understand it.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Modes of Diversity



Malorie Blackman had quite a hard time recently when she made a plea for diversity in children’s literature. She was horribly edited so that it came out as if she talked about nothing else. This was followed by a lot of racist responses to the article. (Should it call itself that? No self-respecting journalist would.).