Tuesday 30 August 2016

Questions for Schools on Spooking

1. How did you find reading the book? Did you get into it straight away or did it take you a while to "get into it"? How did you feel reading it—amused, sad, disturbed, confused, bored...?

2. Describe the main characters—personality traits, motivations, and inner qualities.
• Why do characters do what they do?
• Are their actions justified?
• Describe the relationships in the novel e.g. Tom and Amanda.  Amanda and her friends. Tom and Marcus.     
• How has the past shaped their lives?
• Do you admire or disapprove of them?
• Do they remind you of people you know?
·         Do you have a favourite character?  

3. Are the main characters dynamic—changing or maturing by the end of the book? Do they learn about themselves, how the world works and their role in it?

4. Discuss the plot:
• Do you find the story interesting?
• Is this a plot-driven book—a fast-paced page-turner?
• Can you outline the plot in six stages?
• Were you surprised by complications, twists & turns?

5. Talk about the book's structure.
• Is it a continuous story...or interlocking short stories?
• Does the time-line move forward chronologically?
• Is there a single viewpoint or shifting viewpoints?
• Why might the author have chosen to tell the story
   the way he or she did?
• What difference does the structure make in the way
   you read or understand the book?

6. What main ideas—themes—does the author explore? (Consider the title, often a clue to a theme.) Does the author use symbols to reinforce the main ideas?

7. Which passages did you enjoy most?

8. Is the ending satisfying? If so, why? If not, why not...and how would you change it?

9. If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? Have you read other books by the same author? If so how does this book compare. If not, does this book inspire you to read others?

10. Has this novel changed you—broadened your perspective? Have you learned something new? What do you think of the Inbetween Place?  

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.    


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.     



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?         


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.