Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Do You Have a Submissions Strategy?




If you don’t submit, you can’t be rejected. But you can’t get published either.

Rejection is nasty – no matter how much you’re used to it and no matter how much success you’ve had elsewhere, including in being published. 

One writer I know talks about “rewrites” rather than “rejections”. This has two advantages: every piece you send out is new and you can feel better about your “rejection”. It makes sense on another level as well. Surely we all improve as writers all the time. As it often takes at least three months for publishers to decide, I frequently get work back and am not so surprised that it has been rejected. I always know I can do better. I’ve also noticed recently that my newest work is getting accepted almost at once whereas older work is taking longer. Should I be excited?   

Another writer once said “You should be like those fishermen at the end of the pier. Have about six lines cast and one of them eventually will get a bite.” Another part of his strategy is to submit to three agents and three publishers then as rejections come in he sends the script out to three more agents or three more publishers. Obviously after a while one would run out of time. However he spends a certain amount of time day on this, keeping everything on a spread sheet, the newest items at the top. He makes a living as writer from a lot of small successes. 

I too keep a spread sheet. I colour the cells red to show that submissions are out with a publisher or agent or submitted for a competition and are not available to send anywhere else. Amber means they are available and green means they’ve been accepted.  Recently I’ve been submitting to up to three competitions then to three agents and then three publishers though I don’t bother with agents for short stories. I’m still doing that for stage scripts but for my fiction I’m now publishing through my own publishing imprints. 

There is also post-publication submission. I’m now proactively submitting my own work and the works of writers I publish for awards. 

Of course you must check that your submission fits the imprint or competition. Do take advantage of the Opportunities page here to look for what would suit your work.  
And do develop your submissions strategy.           

Friday, 10 May 2019

The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen



2017, Teen, Key Stage 3, ages 10-13, lower secondary, Holocaust 

There are so many different ways in which people survived the Holocaust.   This one at first resembles my own book written for a similar audience: a young girl leave on the Kindertransport, she and her companions have to take care of a baby, someone is seasick , someone is determined to keep up with their music and the mentor is called Mrs Cohen.  It too is based on a true story.  
  
Then it is different. The protagonist, Lisa Jura, opts to remain amongst other Jews though she is treated well by her English employers.   

Lisa does well with her music. She is reconciled with both of her sisters but her parents are never found.   

Many stories about the Holocaust span several years so it can be difficult to identify the target reader. This one is about right; it will be readable to teens in the lower half of secondary school and this is precisely when the Holocaust comes on to the curriculum. The text would be very readable by slightly younger children but perhaps the inclusion of a love interest and the Holocaust may prevent this.

Even though the text covers a long period of time it remains engaging with plenty of dialogue and action. We do get to know Lisa quite well. 

This is published by a long established publisher, W Franklin Watts, so its ragged right formatting and rather large indents at the beginning of each paragraph may surprise us. It is double-spaced but uses an adult font.        

Thursday, 2 May 2019

News 2 May 2019



 

Endings and Beginnings

Well our house move is getting ever nearer. Considering that there is no chain and neither we nor the vendors have a mortgage involved it’s taking a considerable amount of time.  Apparently documents have been lost in the post, emails have been sent to non-existent people and we actually have done our own searches much more quickly than the solicitor has completed hers. As we paid for a full survey, we received detailed reports. Martin is interested in family history and this sometimes means delving into old maps.  We’ve found an old map of the area we’re moving to. And like in our former home we’ll have the foundations of a much older building in our garden.  Already we like the old wall that borders the 1960s built house. We’ll be in walking distance of the pub, the church, the river and many bus routes into Bury.
Martin’s family history work is giving me tons of ideas for stories. Such fun!
I also had my last formal session with my MA group yesterday. They are such a nice bunch of students. It’s been a particular interesting course to teach as much of the content in delivered by outsiders or by people who work elsewhere in the university. So, I’ve learnt a lot myself. I really act as a sort of supervising tutor to all of the students but they each also have individual supervisors for their projects. I’m supervising four projects.              
Next week they have individual interviews with me.
Then of course comes some marking and I’m also completing some marking on another module. I always feel marking enhances my editing skills. I get paid for it to boot.     
          

News about my writing

I’m now steaming ahead with my writing again. The House of Clementine is beginning to shape up.  I’m punctuating the editing process by writing bits of flash fiction. I’m still working on 280 x 70 - sequel to 140 x 140. This works in a similar way.  Each time I write I look at the first picture I see on my Twitter feed and write a story about it in exactly 280 words.
Then in between each edit of The House of Clementine I’m writing a longer short story.  I’m getting plenty of stories at the moment from my journeys by bus. I still have to jot the ideas down as soon as I get them or they drift away again.  I use my phone for this more often than not. 

Catalogue of books for children

I’ve added several titles to this over the last month. It continues to grow. You can find it here.  Do take a look if you’re into children’s books. This month I’ve included  How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow (YA), Hilary McKay’s Fairy Tales (fluent reader),  The Monster Café by Sean Leahy and Mihaly Orodan (pre-school) and Phoenix Burning by Bryony Pearce (YA).

 

Current reading recommendation

This month I have chosen You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac. I borrowed this from my local library and it has a “Read Regional” sticker on it. So, presumably I’m supporting a local writer. I hope I’ve triggered some PLR.
I found the characters very engaging and the story intriguing. It has an upbeat ending.  Protagonist single mum Jess has a secret. She lets us in on it part of the way through and then we hold our breath as other characters gradually find out what that is.
This isn’t a great literary work but neither could you really classify it as popular fiction. You could call it a romance but the actual romance isn’t the main theme of the story.
That is what is so great about much British literature. Its position isn’t clichéd.
And this book, anyway, is well written.
Give it a go. You’ll find it here.   
     

Giveaway

This month I’m giving away my flash fiction collection January Stones. These were written one a day from 1 to 31 January 2013.
Access it and lots of other freebies here.  
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.   
Naturally I welcome reviews.

 

The Schellberg Project

I’ve added just one post to the project this month. It is one that may be of use to teachers and will also form part of the discovery pack in the workshop. I give a little more detail about the Karl Schubert School which moved out of the House on Schellberg Street only in the late 1960s – in fact just a few years before I completed half of my year abroad in Stuttgart. This was part of my BA Dual Hons in French and German. I found a room to rent in the home of  two elderly sisters. When they found out about the connection with Clara Lehrs they were beside themselves. “Oh yes. We know Haus Lehrs. It is very important to us.”
I remain amazed that the school in the cellar survived not just World War II and the Nazi regime but also the exigencies of education in the 20th and 21st century in a country that is pragmatic about and demanding of its education.
You can read the post here.    
My third book in the Schellberg cycle, Girl in a Smart Uniform is starting its design process any moment now.             

School visits

I’m still 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.
It is now possible to purchase the kit to work on on your own. Find details here.
Costs for my workshops = 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 also offer a free half day visit, though you pay my travel expenses, if you allow me to promote my books.      
I’m continuously adding materials for schools to the site that are different from the ones I use for the workshops. I’ve recently added in 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.
Please remember, with these as well, I’m open to negotiation if you can’t afford the full price.

 

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, CafeLit, Chapletown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Link 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. Find it here.   

Opportunities List 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.  


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.   

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. 

Happy reading and writing.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

The Working Class Writer




There’s been a lot of talk about this lately. Is there such a creature? And do we need to distinguish this concept from writing about the working class?  

It may all depend on how you define working class. 

I remember the great joy I experienced when our teacher at primary school started reading us The Family at One End Street. We’d had Wind in the Willows and Secret Garden and now at last was a book with a family in it a little more like mine than the ones you found in the The Famous Five or The Chronicles of Narnia. Alas, we never got beyond two chapters. Only now am I wondering whether someone stopped him reading it?

Of course part of the joy of reading and indeed watching commercial television where I sometimes enjoyed the adverts even more than the programmes, was being introduced to a more luxurious life style than the one with which I was familiar. 

”But who wants to read about poverty and people who work hard for their living?” asks one of my writing friends. Plenty of people, apparently. Look at the popularity of Charles Dickens, D H Lawrence, Emile Zola and Catherine Cookson. 

But what of the writing class writer? 

What is working class and at which point do you stop being working class? You become literate, you acquire the skills of reading and writing, perhaps you go to a Grammar School  and maybe you then go on to university and become  teacher as I did. You are paid monthly and your salary goes straight into your bank account. You become what people call middle class. Are you still a working class writer because you were born into the working class? 

My father wore a beret to work and carried a knapsack. He was paid weekly and received his wages in a little brown envelope in cash. However, when he and my mother started buying a house, the firm agreed to “put him on the staff” and he stated receiving a monthly salary. Yes paid straight into his bank account. His job hadn’t changed. He was quite a skilled graphic designer. Now though, he enjoyed the trappings of the middle class: a mortgage, DIY at the weekends and an account with Burton’s. Later he got a Barclaycard.   

I argue that if you work for a living, whether it be as dustbin man or a brain surgeon, you are working class. You are perhaps particularly a working class writer if you earn most of your money from your writing. You are beholden to a boss – even if in the case of the writer it is your public and your publisher and if you don’t work you don’t earn. 

And why wouldn’t you write about people like that? Aren’t we encouraged to write what we know?   
So, let’s recognise our working class writers and I might just go an buy a copy of The Fanily From One End Street.