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.

Friday, 2 October 2015

September 2015 Newsletter

It’s that time of year again. We had our induction week at the university last week. It’s always good to meet the new first years and to welcome back returning second and third years. This year there were very few who didn’t come to the event. Most of them also seem to have logged on to our Virtual Learning Environment, Blackboard, have used their student email and have accessed the library.

I’ve particularly enjoyed teaching my first lecture and my first seminar – on Introduction to Children’s Literature. I really enjoy that interaction with the students and the material.    

Friday, 18 September 2015

Writer’s Retreat

It’s beginning to feel like a lifetime ago but it’s actually only just three weeks since I went on a writer’s retreat at the lovely Retreatsfor You location in Sheepwash, Devon. Host Debs and Rob really make you feel welcome. We were truly pampered. The meals were fabulous, with delicious food and the company and good conversation of other writers, the rooms comfortable and conducive to writing and particularly lovely was the glass of wine delivered at 6.00 p.m. to your desk. It was cosy too, sitting by the log fire. 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher: writing and reading the young adult novel

9 April, 2013 The University of Salford 
Arguably the young adult novel has always existed as has the young adult though neither were recognised or named until recently. As we moved into the 21st century there was an explosion in the number of young adult novels being read and written. This conference explores the nature of this energetic novel form and asks writers, readers, academics, educationalists, those who work with young people and other interested parties the following questions of the young adult novel:         
Who are its readers?
What is its nature?
Which are its themes?
What does it look like now?
How is it written?
Why does it exist?
Will it endure?  
What will it look like in the future?
What of the New Adult novel?
Proposals for papers, presentations and workshops are invited on any of the above themes and other subjects related to them. Sessions should be twenty to ninety minutes long. Please send proposals as a 200 word abstract and a 50 word bio to  by 31 January 2016.    
For further information, please contact Gill James on 0161 295 6792 or

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.


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.