Sunday, 5 July 2015

Newsletter June 2015

Summer holidays are coming up and we had an Open Day at the University on what was the hottest day for twelve years. The work doesn’t seem to be reducing – if anything it’s getting even more hectic.

The busyness included our Create Festival. I was very proud of the contribution our drama students made. There were some really pleasing examples of haiku and flash fiction beautifully presented. We even had some short extracts from critical essays.   
Never mind, though. At least work included a few visits to the Manchester Children’s Book Festival. This included a panel event with Julia Churchill, Jon Mayhew and Kate Pankhurst that addressed the question: “When Are You Going to Write for Grown Ups?” If you like, sub-title: “What is the worth of creating for children?  I also helped out on the SCBWI stall at the family fun day. We helped youngsters to make their own masks. I attended the launch of Liz Kessler’s Read me Like a Book. This was introduced by Carol Ann Duffy and hosted in the beautiful Portico Library.
So, “work” is fine. I’ll get some more writing done whilst we’re away. At the end of August I’m going on a writers’ retreat with two colleagues and a friend.    


Books and short stories 

 I’m now into the fifth edit of Girl in a Smart Uniform. This is where I look specifically at whether the characters are rounded and consistent. I’m pleased to say that the characters are gaining their voices and the plot is shaping up. The whole novel has some coherence now.  
I’m still working on a second chapter for my non-fiction book proposal. I’m discussing Lemony Snicket and Hans Christian Andersen: in other words, authors who offer no happy ending at all. It’s interesting to observe which particular stories modern selections / adaptations have used. The most popular collections are by Award, Floris, Usborne, Oxford and Penguin. Some appear in all five selections but Penguin has several that appear in none of the others. A discussion of that probably merits a chapter on its own.
I’m continuing to write short stories and flash fiction. Two that have appeared on CaféLit are going into The Best of CafeLit 4.  Naturally I’m –pleased even though I’m so closely associated with the publication.
I’ve written a short story for Key Stage 3. Intriguingly this was based on an exercise that we did during our SCBWI Scrawl Crawl on 6 June. All about bees and the intriguing sky bridges that link up parts of Manchester town hall.

Bridge House

We’ve now made the selection for the Snowflakes anthology. We’ve sent out contracts and got most of them back. Soon, we’ll be editing.  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. We’re hoping to get between 50 and 100 people there.

Creative Café

We’re always looking for new cafés and we’re always looking for stories for CafeLit.
I’ve now added some pages of resources for writers to the web site. Do look out for those. I’ll soon be putting some ideas for café owners and managers.

School Visits

I’m off two Meadowcroft School tomorrow – working with two different groups on Build a Book, on a Citizenship theme.
I continue to offer free school visits, details below.    
These visits are up to 90 minutes long and are focussed on my books.
In addition, many of us from the university are going out to schools and offering presentations on what is on offer on our programmes. I’ll generally throw in a creative writing exercise.  
I’ll reiterate straight away that authors should be paid for school visits, but these free ones are actually part of the work I do at the university.
I offer readings for 14+ of Veiled Dreams, Scum Bag, Spooking, Fibbin’ Archie and The Peace Child Trilogy (The Prophecy, Babel, The Tower) a short question and answer session and a creative writing exercise for your class. For primary children there are Jason’s Crystal, The Lombardy Grotto and Kiters. Read more about my books here. There are of course also my stories in various anthologies. All other visits are at the rates suggested by the Society of Authors. Schools can mix and match these visits. I do ask that travel expenses are covered.  
I’m offering visits and talks specifically about my The House on Schellberg Street project for a donation towards the project. I’ve devised a whole interactive workshop for this. The book is now out and selling steadily. 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.
Query for a school visit here

The Red Telephone

I’m working on Kathy Dunn’s The Demon Magician. This has a fast-paced plot and some delightful characters.
There will be a new call for submissions shortly.
We’re continuing to publicize our backlist. We’ve had a sudden interest from people who want to review. That can only be good.
We’ve also started something that is 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.    

20-21 June Great Writing Conference at Imperial College, London. International Conference.

This was full of interesting papers and presentations as usual. My work on Clara’s Story went down well. I also managed to sell a couple of copies of The House on Schellberg Street. As always, the people you meet are just as important as the session you go to.
I was particularly impressed by the work that Calum Kerr is doing on Flash Fiction. He had some intriguing materials there.  I bought his The World in a Flash: How to Write Flash Fiction. I suspect it will make its way on to our reading lists.
Something happened on the Friday that if one put it into a story they would all say “That couldn’t possibly happen.” I was making my way along Cromwell Road, looking for my hotel when Graeme and Louise Harper just turned into the road in front of me! What are the chances?
Graeme was my PhD supervisor and organises Great Writing every year. Louise is one his main supports in this. They were rushing round putting up signs to the conference.                         

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