Monday, 24 April 2017

Writing a workshop



Sometimes writing isn’t writing. Sometimes something that is supporting your writing can be just as creatively demanding but it doesn’t actually produce the normal word count per hour. 

I’ve had fun recently “writing” a workshop. This is about my Schellberg Cycle and in fact refers to my The House on Schellberg Street. I’ve included:
·         Board games
·         Role play
·         “speed-dating”
·         Letter-writing
·         Discussion
·         Discovery packs (where students solve puzzles to find out more about the characters in the stories from clues given in visual and written texts)    

The whole of the Schellberg Cycle refers to World War II and the Holocaust but gives an unusual German perspective on it in places. Although only one book is published, the workshop refers to the other four.
The Discovery Packs are a new idea I had after a school visit. I wanted to give the students some ideas about working with primary materials. They get more information about some of the characters they’re working with by looking at some documents such as the charts that showed how the Blood Laws worked, rationing cards and newspaper articles written at the time. 

All the time I’m getting more ideas of what to include and I’ve just applied to run a session at a conference to show other teachers / creative writers this project. 

I also suggest that outcomes should be pieces of creative writing and I’m next going to provide prompt sheets for those.

It goes on and on. 

You can find out more about The Schellberg Cycle here.  
If you would like a copy of the Teachers’ Notes, sign up here.    
You can also sign up for further news about the workshsop here.
Click on the link below if you would like to know more about The House on Schellberg Street. 
   

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Story Theory



I work with story theory a lot. I’m a planner and I establish the spine of the story before I start writing. I instil ideas about how stories work in my students on two of the modules I teach – Intro to Children’s Literature and Writing Novels for Young Adults. I also use it as an editing tool.  If a story isn’t working what’s missing? What isn’t strong enough? 

Many writers say that their stories come from the conflicts between characters. This is where I start anyway. I establish four basic characters: the hero, the friend, the mentor and the enemy. Only the hero has to be a sentient being. The enemy, for example, could be a set of circumstances. The mentor might be a computer programme. I put these elements together and see what happens. I can then get the two line description of my story: Cinders’ life is transformed when she meets the prince, they fall in love and he marries her.
I then flesh it out, along the lines of Robert McKee’s Story:
1.                  hook
2.                  3 or more incidents
3.                  crisis
climax (this is the gap between the crisis and the resolution) 
4.                  resolution
5.                  stasis
I recommend reading the whole book and then going back and reading Chapter 14. 

I’m also quite keen on three other story theories – those of Joseph Campbell, Vladimir Propp and Christopher Vogler. Vogler has in effect adapted Campbell’s ideas for the film industry. Vogler says that it works better if it is slightly skewed.  

Andrew Melrose brings us the idea of plot pyramids and tells us of the relationship between plot and sub-plot.  I’ve refined that even more and suggested that sub-plots are not separate plots but part of the main plot. All plots resolve at the same moment.  Melrose talks of an “Aha moment”.  The prince tries the shoe on Cinders’ foot. Will it fit?  

Christopher Book tells us that there are only seven stories:
  • Overcoming the Monster
  • Rags to Riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and Return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth
.                        
I find it useful to decide which mine is and look at that particular shape. Do I have it there? Booker also offers us an overarching shape:
  • Initial phase
  • Opening out
  • Severe – constriction
  • Dark power dominant
  • Reversal and liberation
  (Note that this is in fact very similar to McKee’s story theory and to what I call the Canpbell, Propp, Vogler amalgamated theory)      
Then we have more from the film industry:
  • The three act structure
  • Beat sheets

Even “pansters” – those who don’t plan in advance – might find all this useful as an editing tool.
I recently attend a SCBWI NW meeting and we worked with Vogler’s theory. Even though I’ve worked with this material for years, I had a few new ideas. 

I’ve frequently noticed as an editor and as an academic who marks hundreds of scripts that stories often fail between the crisis point and resolution. We sometimes get melodrama, a damp squib or a deus ex machina.  
Suddenly, though, the other week I saw it. The Ordeal in Vogler’s theory is our crisis point. He then gives us several extra steps to take before the story resolves. And didn’t I then go and see all of this in the BBC’s production of The Worst Witch?

My Intro to Children’s Literature students will be submitting their second assignment soon. They’ll either be producing a story or analysing one critically. Later today I’ll be working on a spread sheet for them that aligns all of these theories. I’ll also make to available to my followers here. Watch this space.   
Meanwhile, recommended reading:                       

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Newsletter 2 April 2017



Three author events in one week?  

 

Yes that’s right. Now how did I manage that?
Well they all seemed to make sense at the time. I’ll give you more details later but in outline:
·         Author even with Jenny Palmer, Libby O’Loghlin,  Clare Weze and Catherine Green on Wednesday 29 March
·         School visit for Schellberg Cycle Workshop 31 March Hartford Church Of England High School 
·         Cyber launch of Allison Symes’ From Light to Dark and Back Again (flash collection) 1 April. I attended this as a publisher and friend.   
This was on top on my 13 / 14 hours of teaching a week at the University of Salford. But you could have sworn that I said I’d retired.  I have. That is correct.
Oh, and I’ve just finished marking 71 scripts.  This means, I’ve read and annotated about 111,000 words and I’ve written about 12,000. I’ve called this writing so managed to turn them around in eleven days at four hours a day of “writing”. Well, marking is kind of editing which is kind of writing.
Another 93 scripts come in mid-May but they will be longer: 75 x 3,000  words and 18 x 4,500 words. We have to turn them around in 15 working days but I’m away for the last five.
I was warned. Didn’t believe it. How on earth did I have time for a full-time day job? It’s all good, though and I’m having a ball.          
         
 
 

Bridge House

Bridge House’s anthology Baubles continues to sell. You can read a few extracts here. Salford Stories is out there also. Both could do with a few more reviews. If you’ve read them, do write a review for them. Please review on Amazon. You can also leave reviews on Good Reads or your own blog.  You may know of other places. I can also offer review copies for free (PDF or e-mobi). If you’d like a review copy, then reply to this email. If you do review or have reviewed, please also send me a copy.          

So, the submissions are now in our new anthology for 2107, Gliterary Tales. Debz Hobbs Wyatt  and I will be reading them soon.

Remember we’re also offering to publish single-author collections. These are for authors we’ve published before and they may include stories we’ve already published, ones they’ve had published elsewhere and new ones. The description for this is now on the web site. We’ve already had some enquiries. 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.    

We’re being a bit cheeky and getting a little political. Are we are in danger of getting our books burnt? Well, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. We’re doing an extra anthology, Citizens of Nowhere, with the theme of the global citizen. Oh, I hope we don’t upset Ms May. We’re commissioning just over half of the work from known authors but there is room for a few open submissions. It’s now a question of whether your story is good enough. If it is, we’ll accept it straight away. The call for submissions ends once we’ve filled the collection.   Stories between 1,000 and 4,000 words. Submit to editor at bridgehousepublishing dot co dot uk. We’re currently about two thirds of the way there. Please put “Citizens of Nowhere” in the subject line.      


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. Very shortly I’ll be putting together the Best of CafeLit 6.    

The Best of CaféLit 5 is still available. There are some lovely stories in this. I’m very pleased that I have a story in this collection. Order your copy here.      

 

Again we need more reviews for this. Have you read them? Could you write us a review? And again, I’m offering free copies as PDFs or e-mobi files. Remember to send me a copy of the review.  

 

Chapeltown

We’re still looking for collections of Flash Fiction. CafeLit writers might particularly consider this as your stories so often fit this brief anyway. See our submissions page here. We have now signed up five writers already and I’ll be putting out one of my collections as well soon. Take a look here.  
Our first volume is out.  See it here.  Congratulations to Allison Symes Again, reviews, reviews please. Email me for free electronic copies.   
This call for submissions will be closing soon so hurry if you want to submit. 
Chapeltown is also excited to be publishing Colin Wyatt’s Who will be my friend? – a delightful picture book about friendship and accepting others. Yes, Colin is Debz’s dad. He is a Disney licensed illustrator and his latest publication is The Jet Set. We feel very honoured to be publishing him.

 

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.  
I’m also now proactively encouraging cafes to stock The Best of CaféLit. Do you know anyone who might like to stock it? We can offer a 35% discount to retailers. Query gill at cafelit dot co dot uk.     

 

The Red Telephone

We are currently open for submissions. Hoorah! We’re looking for the next great YA novel. Check out the details here.  We’re particularly open to speculative fiction but we’ll also like anything that is well written and well-targeted.  I welcome others but send sample chapters and synopsis first. The full details are on the site.  
I am now working on Richard Bradburn’s Evernrood. We are still open for submissions but this will only be for a limited time now.    
Our mentoring programme is now full. I’m now working quite closely with three very different authors: Charlotte Comley, Dianne Stadhams, and Nina Wadcock. They are all  presenting some fascinating material.     
I’d also like to mention now that I’m mentoring two of my former students to help them get their novels up to publication standard. They won’t start this until they’ve finished their studies but it is something for them to keep them occupied as they wait for their results. I’m looking forward, too, to working with them.        

Book tours

If you’re a Bridge House / Red Telephone / CaféLit / Chapeltown author and you want to get serious about book tours, consider our author’s kit. We provide twenty books you take to the bookshop and the bookshop can put these through the till. We then invoice the bookshop, with a 35% discount for any sold and top up your supply to twenty. At the end of the tour you can either pay for the remaining books at cost + 10% or keep them until you’ve sold them and then pay the normal price of 75% of RRP. The latter can in any case be set against royalties. You need to allow at least ten days between events. Contact me here if you’re interested in this.           

 

School Visits

I’m proactively promoting my school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’ve now developed a whole workshop for this. It starts off with a board game, includes some role play and creative writing and ends with a discussion.
Costs= travel expenses plus £400 for a full day and £200 for a half day. This includes all materials and some freebies. Two schools near to each other might consider splitting the day and halving the travel expenses and fees. This is open to negotiation in any case.       
  
I’m also continuously adding materials for schools to the site that are different from the ones I use for the workshops. I’ve recently added in a resources and books to do with the topic. See them here:       
Query for a school visit here.
I’m also happy to tailor a visit for your agreed donation. This can be for either a Schellberg Cycle visit or a creative writing workshop. Any monies raised this way will go specifically to a project I have for a non-fiction book about a journey that will follow the footsteps of Clara Lehrs. I’m hoping to do the whole journey by train, including departing via my nearest Metrolink station. It’s important to feel the rails beneath my feet.       
 I offer as well standard author visits which include readings from my books, Q & A sessions and creative writing exercises.

 


Books, short stories and other writings  

I continue to make good progress on Facing the Führer. (Yes, I’ve changed the name)  
Clara’s Story is being serialised. The cover makes this theme quite clear. The novel can now be found on Channillo. You may read it here.    
Clara’s Story is the second in the Schellberg circle. All five stories cover roughly the same period and are very much happening in and associated with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. They can be read in any order. The stories overlap to some extent but where they repeat we see the happening form another point of view. For instance The House on Schellberg Street is mainly about a young girl, Renate, who comes to England on the Kindertranpsort. Clara’s Story is about her grandmother. Girl in a Smart Uniform explains how at least one German girl associated with the story became a Nazi – and then gave it all up. Facing the Führer is Renate’s mother’s version of events. In The Round Robin we learn about what happens to Renate’s friends.  
I’m also now turning The House on Schellberg Street into a play. I’ve been working on this during the odd minutes I get in the days when I’m working at the University of Salford. So far I’ve worked out which scenes I’ll use and I’m beginning to write out an outline for each. This is my first go at writing a play. I’m enjoying it.      

 

Upcoming events

Note for your diary: the London Bridge House / CafeLit / Chapeltown / Red Telephone celebration will be 2 December at the Princess of Wales again. People published 2017 will be invited first and then it will be open to all authors of our imprints. You are in any case invited to bring one friend at the first call. Last year we “sold out” – the event is free but ticketed.  I’m planning a similar event in Manchester in the summer. Watch this space.       

Past events

Yes, this week has been hectic. First of all there was the online author event on Wednesday 29 March. I’ll be writing about this on my writer’s blog soon. You can still take a look at what went on, though most of the offers will no longer be available. Some interesting debates took place about writing routines and we all spent some time talking about our writing. Catch up here.     
Then I spent a day at  Hartford Church Of England High School on Friday 31 March. I delivered my Schellberg Cycle workshop. We used it here in a slightly different way from the way it would usually be delivered. I’ve now come up with a few ideas of how to make it even better. I was pleased this time at how the students used the board games. I’ll be writing about this on the Schellberg Cycle Site shortly.     
1 April brought along the cyber launch of Allison Symes’ From Light to Dark and Back Again. We had a hoot. You can still look at what happened. Hurry, though if you want to grab the e-book at 99p. The offer closes soon. See what we did here. I’ll be putting a short report about this on the Chapeltown site soon.   
    

 

Giveaway

This month I’m giving away the e-mobi version of Making Changes, the very first Bridge House anthology. It is available for the first time as an-e-mobi file to be read on your Kindle.  Shortly we’ll put it up on Amazon. Download here. You will also find in this dropbox:
·         An extract from Clara’s story
·         Some seminars for schools about The House on Schellberg Street
·         Some fiction writing exercises
·         The opening chapters from my manual for writing the young adult novel     

Writing opportunities

Remember I keep a full list of vetted opportunities on my writing blog. See them 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.