Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Your Inner Artist Needs You by Maggie Nerz Iribarne


Today I have on my blog  Maggie Nerz Iribarne who tells us abut her writing process and about   creating oneself as a writer. 

Do you realize you are an artist?  Julia Cameron, the author of the book, The Artist’s Way, tells us that our inner artist is a child that needs daily attention and recognition.  My inner artist emerged in my youth when I began writing poems for school and friends. Words came to me in class; I’d jot them down in the margins of my notebooks,  then copy them out neatly on loose-leaf, editing and polishing them. Once, I read about a local teen suicide and wrote a poem. I showed it to a teacher who said I must send it to the boy’s family, so I did, my first inadvertent publication.  



Take Yourself Seriously
To accomplish our art, we must view our work as important.  One of my graduate professors asked my advisor, “How will we get Maggie to take herself more seriously?” I  bristled, but instantly knew this was true on all counts, personally, academically, and creatively. Yet there was evidence to the contrary.  Mr. Washburn, my young, Godspell-loving, guitar-playing grammar school religion teacher, encouraged my poetry and let me taste success by always hanging my poems on the bulletin board.  Mr. Northern, my ninth grade English teacher, wrote “SUPERLATIVE” on the top of my essay about chocolate chip cookies. Although in high school I chose popularity over grades, in college I got published in the  literary magazine and was inducted in the English Honor Society. These events transformed me from high school airhead to graduate student material, yet at the time I always thought of myself as an imposter on the brink of failure. My inner artist was knocking at the door, asking to be seen and heard, but at the time I could not discern the order in the chaos of my life and work.   

Get Up Early, Write in Short Bursts
The first step, according to Julia Cameron, to recognizing your inner artist is by writing, first thing every morning (and you might need to get up 20 minutes earlier to do this) three pages of what she calls Morning Pages (MP), to dump out all the chatter in your mind to make room for art, whatever that means to you.  I read The Artist’s Way when I was in my late twenties, began doing the MP, and have never stopped.  
The MP got me started with a daily habit/practice of writing. In the last year, I have added to my morning practice by writing 500 words of a short story or essay. This only takes about 20 extra minutes and I finish rough drafts this way.  Recently, two short stories (one of which was accepted for publication) were written in this daily dose of 500 words. 


Write about Everything and Anything, Start Big, Messy, even Stupid
I just wrote a story (one mentioned above)  about my parents’ deceased elderly neighbors. I made the wife into a ghost that kills the husband and haunts their house. My mother would be appalled by this; I call it fair game.
Write about anything that resonates for you. Start every story as long, disorganized, and over the top as you need to get it done. Change names of people and places. After drafting, whittle down to a more coherent, cohesive, narrative. 


Take Your Time, Don’t be a Perfectionist
            Writing, like life, love, careers, needs time to unfold, learn its lessons, slowly reveal its meaning and potential. That story about my parents’ neighbors was written specifically for a particular journal. I wrote it, revised, shared it with my writing partner and my husband, revised it again, and sent it. It got rejected in under 48 hours. I reread it, revised it, searched online for another place that would take a literary ghost story and sent it out again. I know it’s not perfect, but  I will continue this process until it gets published. So, getting rejected actually helps fine tune writing.  I am not fussy about who takes my work, as long as I think the publication is looking for quality stories. It doesn’t have to be The New Yorker.
Find a Writing Partner
Currently, I have my friend Laura, who matches me in passion and productivity. One writing friend, Libby, I cold-called after reading an article she wrote.  She called me back and invited me to a writing group. This was 23 years ago and we are still friends and ardent supporters.
It’s Never Too Late
At age 50,  I nurture my inner artist by writing a little bit every day. I call myself a writer.
Sift  back through the story of your life; find the lost moments that spoke your misplaced truth. You are an artist, too; say it out loud, write it, begin.






Wednesday, 1 July 2020

News 1 July 2020






I hope everyone is keeping well and cheerful in these strange times. This bizarre situation seems to be bringing out the best and the worst in people. I’ve just finished watching Devs (BBC, Ealing Studios, but also filmed on location in San Francisco, North Carolina and one or two other places). Recommended.  It poses many questions. Do we have free will? Is everything pre-determined? Can we make choices? Are there multiple universes?  So, can we choose to do the best thing or the worst thing at any given moment? And: is it our job as content creators to pose this kind of question.  Is it our role as readers to look for answers?  Certainly that is part of the attraction for me in reading and writing.                
        

News about my writing and other creative projects

I’m delighted to be involved, as a culture champion and also as a creative writing teacher, with Bury Art Museum. There are lots of on-line activities being planned and they’re looking for a creative response. I’m offering a three hour online creative writing workshop, using some of the resources at the museum and some that participants can find at home. I’m just waiting for the time to be finalised.  You are all very welcome though there will be a limit on numbers.  It will be suitable for beginners and more experienced writers. Watch out for me on Twitter with more news.            

I’ve had more flash speculative fiction published this month with Page and Spine. https://pagespineficshowcase.com/crumbs/gill-james. They have also accepted a longer story: https://pagespineficshowcase.com/stories/the-scars-of-war-gill-james . So, I’ve earned another $30.  I’m not complaining at all.

I’m still carrying on much as before: The Round Robin, the fifth book in the Schellberg Cycle, Not Just Fluffy Bunnies, and I’m still working on The Business of Writing. 
I’m also continuing to write stories relating to what might happen after the virus leaves us – if it does. This is Aftermath, an invitation to write speculative and near future fiction about what may happen after the virus.
      

The Young Person’s Library

I’ve added new this month:  

This was originally written for a young American fan and only appeared in the UK many years after it was first written. I picked up my copy on a visit to the Lakes just before lockdown started.

Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery

A lovely classic.  This was the first book I read when my primary school teacher tried to wean me off Famous Five books. I’ve recently reread it.  It is suitable for fluent readers and upwards.

 

Forever by Judy Blume

First published in 1975, this is a YA novel way ahead of its time. I think it’s better written than many contemporary novels for this reader and it doesn’t gloss over a young girl’s first sexual experiences

 

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Fast pace and full of adventure this is suitable, I think, for both fluent readers and early teens – and older people like me who still enjoy reading children’s books.

 

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

The world contained in a Catholic boys’ school. This is for a skilled reader. It’s complex but thought-provoking.

 

A Walk in the Park by Anthony Browne  

A delightful picture book by the former children’s laureate. And it contains some astute social commentary.

 

Anne of Avonlea by L M Montgomery

Another “Anne” book but this time perhaps for the early teen reader.

 

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Books by this man and wife team are always lovely. This contains an I-Spy element and relies somewhat on the child’s knowledge of fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters.

 

The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Again the Ahlbergs produce a text that relies on the child’s knowledge of fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters. This is to some extent a novelty book and also contains post to and from some well know characters.   

 

Current reading recommendation

I’m recommending this month Anne of Green Gables.
I’ve now read this four times.  
You can read my full review of it here.          

 

Giveaway

Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle.  Occasionally there are PDFs.
I’m giving away all three novels in the Peace Child series in case you missed out over the last three months. Protagonist Kaleem started nagging at me and I had to write a fourth story about him. I have a fifth one planned. So much for it being a trilogy!   

Certainly the economic situation at the moment is making me realise how the Zenoton may have created their society. And that is one of the bits of Aftermath writing I’m currently working on.  
You can download The Peace Child Trilogy and lots of other free materials here. Look out for the three titles: The Prophecy, Babel and The Tower.  

Please, please, please review it if you read it.     

Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99, with most on Kindle being about £2.99 and the average price for paperback being £7.00. We have to allow our writers to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy. Also at the moment I’m quite happy for you to share these links with other people and any of the items you’ve downloaded before - just until the end of the lock-down.   

 

The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust and also for other writers of historical fiction.
This month I’ve written about my experience of the first edit of book five, The Round Robin. Read my comments here.   

School visits

I’ve suspended these until further notice. I’m now starting work on a series of on-line materials.  

Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.

Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.

Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.

The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.   

Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it here.   

Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  

Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.

A Publisher’s Perspective Here I blog as a publisher. Access this here.   

The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   

CaféLit Stories Find these here

Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.

Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head and a reminder of the ones I’ve highlighted in this newsletter.    

Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.

The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.

Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.     

Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 

The Young Person’s Library I am gradually moving the children’s book catalogue over to this site.  Access it here.

Fair Submissions I am gradually moving the Opportunities List to this site.  Find it here.   
New ones are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I go through it and take out all of the out of date ones. At that point I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  
Happy reading and writing. 
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Monday, 15 June 2020

Stages of revision 13: Kill off your darlings




This is a bit of a writers’ cliché, a little like the previous post. However, it is worth looking at  a little more closely.

What are the darlings exactly

They are those little bits of showy-off writing that actually don’t look right with the rest of your writing. You think of something clever to say and you’re rather proud of what you’ve come up with. However, ask your self- is this really that clever? Is this really part of my writing? Is this really what I want to say?

 

Two choices

These “darlings” tend to be rather short excerpts of rather rich language. They don’t fit it with the rest. So, you can either get rid of them – and you can do this by removing them completely or rewriting them into something more acceptable – or you can build up the rest of the text to match.  There are two real disadvantages with the latter.  First of all it’s a heck of a lot of work to change probably what would be over 99% of your text. Secondly, it can lead to a text being much too rich for the reader. They may feel as if they’ve gorged on chocolate instead of nutritious food. 
I remember once reading an excerpt of a text that seemed beautifully written. The language was really evocative. So, we asked to see the rest of the script. We then had to read over three hundred pages of the same style.  It was incredibly hard work and rather tedious.

 

What to do with your darlings once you’ve killed them

Maybe “kill” isn’t the right word. Maybe we should hibernate them. You may be able to use that clever turn of phrase elsewhere. Or they may serve as a reminder of what not to do.
I once crafted what I thought was a really good chapter about my protagonist and her chums stopping for breakfast. I’d worked carefully using the senses to really absorb my reader into the scene. It worked on that level, certainly.
But the verdict within my critique group? “This is really good writing but nothing happens,.  This chapter isn’t needed at all.”
I haven’t thrown it away.  One day, I’ll turn it into a piece of life writing or a short story.  In the meantime it serves as a reminder to me that the writer shouldn’t over indulge herself.    

 

Why do we do it?

I can only give you my own experience here. On the days when I feel that everything is going well I often find my writing is less good. On the days when I struggle I tend to produce better work. And those “darlings” tend to appear on the days when I think all is going well. Could it be that subconsciously I am after all aware that I’m not doing so well and the inclusion of a “darling” is an attempt to lift my writing?

Monday, 1 June 2020

News 1 June 2020



 

Routines

The days and weeks continue to pass by one moment at a time. I have established a routine and just as I used to wonder when I retired how I ever found time to work, now I wonder as there still never seems enough time for everything how I ever used to find time to go out before lockdown. My days are a little like this: 


  • Mornings write or mark if some work comes in from the university.
  • Coffee break mid-morning during which I read magazines – professional ones about writing,   the Times Higher Educational supplement, or publications from National Trust,  English Heritage,  Wildlife Trust, National Women’s Register or U3A. These publications are all a little thinner at the moment.
  • Cook lunch if it’s my turn. Martin and I take it in turns cooking.
  • Sort out CaféLit.
  • Spend half an hour indulging myself in reading all of my interesting emails, not just the important ones. Then deal with all the important ones.
  • Half hour of Tai Chi or similar, half an hour reading in the garden and then doing a little work in the garden – mainly dead-heading, weeding and dealing with pests. This is weather dependent of course.  
  • Go through my submissions list and make one new submission.
  • Any U3A work, critique work or post that needs dealing with. Or online shopping
  • Form 6.30 until 7.00 Mondays to Fridays we have a virtual choir practice via Zoom.
  • Evenings - publishing work.

All of this is punctuated by trips on to social media and sometimes disrupted by a Zoom or other online session: French, German or Spanish conversation, Society of Authors, SCBWI or other webinars, talks by National Women’s Register, for example.  
If anything gets finished early, I move on to the next thing on the list.         

         

News about my writing

I’ve had a little bit of flash speculative fiction published this month. I was grateful to be paid $20.00 for this. https://pagespineficshowcase.com/outta-this-world/elementary-gill-james  . It just goes to show that you should keep on trying: this was rejected four times before it was accepted.     
I’m still carrying on much as before: The Round Robin, the fifth book in the Schellberg Cycle, Not Just Fluffy Bunnies, and I’m still working on The Business of Writing.  I’ve just finished the first draft and am about a third of the way through a second draft.  
I’m also continuing to write stories relating to the virus and the collection I’m putting together with other writers is growing. I’m ending that call to submission today but am continuing to write and collect stories for Aftermath, an invitation to write speculative and near future fiction about what may happen after the virus. One scenario is of course that there may be no after and the virus might be with us forever.        
      

The Young Person’s Library

I’ve added new this month:  

This is a very attractive compilation of classic and modern texts for Christmas, suitable for fluent readers.

This old classic disrupted my PGCE year. Many students were reading this instead of getting on with course work or preparing lessons. It’s quite difficult to identify the reader for this one.

A retelling of a lesser-known fairy tale with references to Beauty and the Beast, The Snow Queen and the Frog Prince. There’s a touch of feminism too.

Although there are references to the World War II and evacuation, it is more a story about relationships and superstition. It’s a nice short book and an easy read.

This is a fast-paced hilarious adventure with a few poignant moments.  It is suitable for fluent readers and early teens.  

 

Current reading recommendation

I’m recommending this month North Child by Edith Pattou.  
You can read my full review of it here.          
It’s possibly a fluent reader book but also suitable for adults. The characters are rounded and believable. The pace is enticing.  Chapters are short, making it easy to read. Yet it’s a hefty volume, some 472 pages long.    

Giveaway

Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle.  Occasionally there are PDFs.
I’m giving away The Tower. This follows on from the novel offered last month and in March.  and continues the story of the Peace Child. Protagonist Kaleem started nagging at me and I had to write a fourth story about him. I have a fifth one planned. So much for it being a trilogy!    
Certainly the economic situation at the moment is making me realise how the Zenoton may have created their society. And that is one of the bits of Covid 19 writing I’m currently working on.  
You can download The Tower and lots of other free materials here.
Please, please, please review it if you read it.     
Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99, with most on Kindle being about £2.99 and the average price for paperback being £7.00. We have to allow our writers to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy. Also at the moment I’m quite happy for you to share these links with other people and any of the items you’ve downloaded before - just until the end of the lock-down.   

 

The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust and also for other writers of historical fiction.

I’ve written about Carrie’s War here as well, though this time I’m describing how much it does give us some insight into what it must have been like for evacuees during World War II.

I’ve also written a post about which girls I’ve decided to include the The Round Robin. Read the post here.      

School visits

I’ve suspended these until further notice. I’m now starting work on a series of on-line materials.  

Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.

Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.

Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.

The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.   

Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it here.   

Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  

Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.

A Publisher’s Perspective Here I blog as a publisher. Access this here.   

The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   

CaféLit Stories Find these here

Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.

Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head and a reminder of the ones I’ve highlighted in this newsletter.    

Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.

The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.

Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.     

Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 

The Young Person’s Library I am gradually moving the children’s book catalogue over to this site.  Access it here.

Fair Submissions I am gradually moving the Opportunities List to this site.  Find it here.   
New ones are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I go through it and take out all of the out of date ones. At that point I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  
Happy reading and writing.

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay