Wednesday 28 December 2016

Writers and money

The Society of Authors recently conducted a survey amongst members and established that the average amount earned by authors was £12,000  per anum.  That’s not really enough to live on these days. So most of us do other things as well. Sometimes they’re things we want to do and sometimes it’s just work. Occasionally, other work may be more attractive than mere jobbing writing: e.g. doing shift at the pub to pay your rent and for food, then spend all of your creative energy on the writing you’re really interested in.
Even the great and good didn’t necessarily have it easy.
Here are a few examples:



Yes, his plays were good and he was a risk-taker. Instead of just taking the royalties paid for the scripts, he actually also invested in the theatres and the theatre companies until he built his own. He was a business man as well as a creative practitioner.
Note, however, when Walter Scott invested in his publisher and printer, the firm became bankrupt, almost taking him with it.     


He actually only lived at Dove Cottage for eight years. That was a really romantic time, however. He could really spend time writing and also enjoying family life. Financially he only managed to do that because he got a sponsor. He received a legacy of £900 from Raisley Calvert to pursue a career in literature. Someone believed in his work and paid for him to live. Whilst at Dove Cottage he worked on the Lyrical Ballads. At the time, these did not sell all that well. In 1842 he received a government pension and a year later became Poet Laureate. He wrote no poetry whilst he was in the role, however. In his youth he had a day job which gave him financial security. 

Dylan Thomas

He was mainly poor whilst alive though in May 1949 Thomas and his family moved to his final home, the Boat House at Laugharne purchased for him at a cost of £2,500 in April 1949 by Margaret Taylor. Again, someone had faith in his writing and thought he was worth sponsoring.

Louisa May Alcott

Alcott had other means which were just about adequate.  She wrote mainly to supplement these.  She wrote well and professionally for about twenty years and then wrote Little Women followed by the other books in the series. Little Women alone earned her over $5000 which was a fortune in those days. She invested this money wisely in the railways and became a rich woman.  She was so rich that when someone could not afford to pay the mortgage she had set up with them she simply waved her hand and dismissed it.

J K Rowling

Yes. Okay she has done well. Very well indeed.  She has become very rich though has given a lot away to charity. She had a difficult time whilst writing the first Harry Potter book. Chances are anyway that if she had put that amount of good creative energy into any other industry she would have made even more money. Not that it matters- where else would she want to put her energy?

As for me?

I’m not rich or famous but I am comfortably off and known. My big dream isn’t about being published by the Big Five or having a super-duper agent. I wouldn’t turn down a best seller, however. I have yet to find my Little Women. I am mainly where I am because I’ve worked for nine years as a lecturer in creative writing, three of them as a senior lecturer. I’m retired from the day job now but never from writing. My various pensions, my little income from writing and some investment in property make for a nice life style.
The bottom line for me is that I want people to pay for my work so that I feel justified in writing.

Thursday 8 December 2016

Some thoughts on two important past tenses

The imperfect
This sort of describes itself. It’s used for an incomplete action. In French it is expressed by in endings on a certain part of the verb or “je travaillais” or “il allait”. These two can mean three different things in English: I would work, I used to work, or I was working and he would go, he used to go or he was going. All are incomplete, continuous and / or repeated actions.
Don’t say “She was sitting”, say “She sat” say some of the gurus. However, I’d argue that these two phrases carry subtle but important different meanings. “She was sitting” implies an interrupted action. It also slows the pace somewhat and makes the action part of the setting. “She would sit” implies a repeated action with a sense of approval from the subject whereas “used to” implies a repeated action that may not be continued.
“’She was sitting’” is too passive,” say some of the gurus. I don’t agree. It has nothing to do with activity or passivity. It has to do with exact meaning.
I was very pleased that a colleague from a rival institution to the one where I used to teach recommended to a critique group friend of mine in her Masters class that she should consider using this tense.  
This tense exists in some form or other in all languages. Let’s make sure we use it to pinpoint our meaning.

The pluperfect

The “plus” perfect if you like. It means you go back one further stage in the past. The word “had” is important here. Here’s an example: “He had been to market earlier. There hadn’t been as many people there as usual so he was able to get back by ten. Now he was sitting in the garden enjoying the sun. The phone rang. Darn. He’d better answer it.”
Again the gurus will recommend avoiding this tense. I’m afraid I do tend to obey this time though I do the recommended trick of using it once or twice to show that we’re that one stage further back in the past and then using the normal past tense, so that we get something like this:
“He had been to the market earlier and Jed had recommended the Kelly Bronze turkeys.  He’d agreed to buy one and whistled to himself as he gave Jed his week’s salary. He hoped Marge would be pleased with his purchase. He set off home, daydreaming about Christmas dinner.
As he approached the house he began to feel sick. “Here goes,” he thought as he slid his key into the lock.””
Again, this exists in all grammars though sometimes a language may have an idiomatic way of expressing it.
In pre-wordprocessing days my father-in-law paid a young woman in the village to type up his thesis. Every time he’d written “had” as part of a pluperfect, she’d typed “has” or “have.”
“I don’t think they have a pluperfect in Welsh,” said my father-in-law.
Ah but they do, sort of. You may often hear Welsh people saying something like “He was after having cooked his supper.” A little word they use with a verb is very similar to the word for “after” in Welsh. So, the pluperfect is simple: “He was after having …. “

Universal grammar?

It seems we need all of these nuances of meaning and a grammatical form for them in each language allows them to exist. Let’s make the most of our language to make our meaning crystal clear, even if it means ignoring some of the current trends.                               


Thursday 1 December 2016

News 1 December 2016

Life post retirement goes on. I still say it’s more of a career change than retirement per se.  Do writers and other creative practitioners ever actually retire? I’m certainly very busy. I’m doing many things that I did before but not the admin. I’m my own boss, which I’m enjoying.  

Nevertheless I’m upping all of my marketing strategies. I’ll shortly be sending out an email via Sprint Mail. It’s an expensive option but I’ve found it very effective in the past.    

We are European continues to get more followers. I do want others to write for this, so do take a look if you love Europe – whether you’re Brexit or Remain.  I want your articles poems, short stories. Do submit! Instructions are on the site.   

Bridge House

Baubles is out! We’re very pleased with the cover. Take a look and like our page

We’ve also published Salford Stories and actually managed to get it out on Shelagh Delaney Day. The stories are the winners of the competition we ran last year. I’m now considering making this an annual event and running a parallel event for school children. We have a page for this book too. See it here.  
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.    

If you’re a Bridge House / Red Telephone / CafeLit / Chapletown 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. A 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.      
We’re all very much looking forward to the Bridge House / CafeLit celebration / launch that we’re holding on Saturday 3 December. Alas, this event is now full.   

We haven’t quite decided on the theme for the 2017 anthology but Debz and I will be discussing that on Saturday. 

We’re running an extra one. Citizens of Nowhere. The stories will all be about the global citizen. You probably get the drift.  We’re partly commissioning and partly having open submissions. Watch social media and this newsletter for further details.      


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.

The Best of CaféLit 5 is now available. There are some lovely stories in this. I’m very pleased that I have a story in this collection. Order your copy here.     
We’re setting up the Advent Calendar of stories again and there are gaps. I’ll fill them by recycling stories from previous years or using one or two of my own. All of the stories we have so far are rather on the dark side.  A few more cheerful ones would be very welcome. Submit your Christmas story between 100 and 3,000 words here.    



We’re currently looking for collections of Flash Fiction. See our submissions page here. We have two writers signed up already and I’ll be putting out one of my collections as well soon. I’m also currently reading a third. Take a look 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.   

I’m also now proactively encouraging cafes to stock The Best of CafeLit. 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.     


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. I’m offering this half price to first six schools to apply. Contact me here.     
I’m now adding in materials for schools. See them here:       
Query for a school visit here.
I am also happy to do standard author visits which include readings from my books, Q & A sessions and creative writing exercises.
Costs= travel expenses plus £400 for a full day and £200 for a half day. This includes all materials and some freebies. Tow school near to each other might consider splitting the day and halving the travel expenses and fees. This is open to negotiation in any case.        


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’m currently reading a couple of full submissions. I welcome others but send sample chapters and synopsis first. The full details are on the site.  
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.  Four people have now signed up. Room for one more. We’re running out of space so if you’re hesitating, now is the time to make your mind up.  We look forward to hearing from you.       


Books and short stories

I continue to make good progress on Shooting Hitler. 

Clara’s Story is being serialised. The cover makes this theme quite clear. The novel is 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. Shooting Hitler is Renate’s mother’s version of events. In The Round Robin we learn about what happens to Renate’s friends.  

Upcoming events

Coming soon: a read through of J K Rowling’s The Cursed Child. Watch this space and social media for details.  


This month I’m giving away a copy of all three books in my Peace Child trilogy. Message me via Twitter = @GillJames. You can have these either as mobi files for Kindle or as hard copies.   

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, sing up here.   

Happy reading and writing.