Saturday, 13 August 2016

Writing about Käthe



The Pitch

At the SCBWI Conference held in Winchester 2105 my ten minute-pitch:
“An anteroom,
a gun,
a Führer.
Will she shoot him?”
was runner-up in the ten word pitch contest. I entered on a whim. I passed the notice about the contest on the way back to my hotel and tried to work out how I could make my work in progress fit the bill. And yes, I am writing about a woman who may or may not have shot Hitler. In real life, we know she didn’t. In fiction she may have. I’ll give no spoilers here. Whichever way it turns out, there are two possible stories here anyway. 

 

Pitch versus reality

It’s one thing having this very quirky pitch. It’s another trying to sell the story. “This woman had the chance to shoot Hitler? Never!”
Yet it is true that Käthe Lehrs was offered that opportunity. Those of you who have read  The House on Schellberg Street may also like to know that I had difficulty convincing publishers that, yes, it was true, Renate did not know that she was Jewish before 22 December 1938.

 

Different girls, different points of view

Käthe Lehrs, who is the main character in Shooting Hitler, appear in The House on Schellberg Street as the rather awkward and annoying mother to our main character. In Clara’s Story she is the rather feisty and slightly frivolous middle child. So far in the current work she is a little bit cowed by her older brother but starts getting on top of the world though her own determination.

 

Researching Käthe

Always the research is fun. I’m learning a lot of physics as I go and I’m particularly interested in Einstein and relativity. 1920s fashions are fun, too and my Pinterst board is getting full.
On that writing level, I’m really getting into her motivation.
I have a feeling that this one is going to be a long one and will need a lot of cutting back. It has taken me a while to get into it but now it’s beginning to roll.    
There are regular updates about the whole project on www.thehouseonschellbergstreet.com       

Friday, 5 August 2016

Newsletter July 2016



Well, my retirement day looms ever nearer. Now it’s 54 actual days and twenty working days. I’m on a day’s leave today, so it’s a sort of practice. I’m intending to spend a couple of hours or so writing, then I’m off to see an open air production of Alice in Wonderland at Ordsall Hall. Weather’s looking good. However, the ticket warns “bring suitable clothing for the weather”. That’s Rainy City for you.          
I have started my European blog though I’ve not got into a routine yet. I’ve also yet to make it look prettier.  But you can take a preview here.                  

 

Bridge House

I’m well ahead for once on editing my twelve stories for Baubles. Debz Hobbs Wyatt   is doing the other twelve and she’s enormously busy. I’m finding I have a little less to do over the summer than in other academic years.   
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’ve been encouraging my students to submit. I’m beginning to see some of their work appearing.
I’ve now finished the selection for The Best of CaféLit 5. There are some lovely stories in this.     

 

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 words – 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.

 

The Red Telephone

We are currently open for submissions. Hoorah! We’re looking for the next great YA novel. Check out the details here.
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.    
I’m now also sending out a proposal for an academic book about children’s lit. Fingers crossed.
I had an interesting chat last Friday with Laurence and Steph of Crooked Cat Publishing.  There may be some projects on the go. Watch this space!      

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.

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?