Saturday 26 June 2021

A Day in the Life

The Sunday Times magazine has a regular article with the same title. I read it avidly as I’m always interested in people’s routines. The most lucrative piece of wring I’ve ever done was for NAWE: I had to write about a typical day as a PhD student. The article had to be under 1,000 words and I was paid £100 for it,

So, I’m inviting a few writing friends to contribute a description of their routine. 

I’m kicking off with mine and describing a typical weekday.

The alarm goes off at 6.30 a.m. I listen to the news, the weather and the traffic report then make my way to the kitchen where I brew a cup of Earl Grey tea. This I take back to bed and read while I drink it.

I read between fifty and a hundred books a year and review them all. Before lockdown this included library books. Now its’s mostly book that are on my Kindle and a few hard copies I’ve bought. How do I choose them? Amazon itself recommends some, others I see on Twitter, Facebook or Linked in.  I usually buy books that my writing friends have written as long as they’re in one of the genres that I’d enjoy. I also follow up some recommendations in the various magazines I read. Occasionally there will be a recommendation for a book from a talk or pod cast.

Breakfast is muesli or wholemeal toast with Marmite, accompanied by orange juice and coffee.  I have a piece of fruit with every meal – expect at the weekend when there is sometime some indulgence in dessert and / or cake.

After breakfast I’ll have a quick look at Twitter, Facebook or Linked in, then it’s down to work. Generally I punctuate my day with a bit of social media – before I start work, after my coffee break, after lunch, after my afternoon tea break and after supper.

I work for two hours to start with. If I’ve finished reading a book I’ll start off with writing a review for it. I alternate between projects, spending about two thirds of my time on my fictional work in progress and one third on a non-fiction project. I also write articles for Talking About My  Generation. And there are blog posts like this.  I maintain several blogs. At the end of the month I write a couple of newsletters. If I’m in editing mode on my work in progress, after each edit I’ll write a short story, often inspired by something from one of the writing prompts books I’ve put together.

Now its’s time for another cup of Earl Grey tea. Whilst I drink it I usually read a magazine, often one to do with writing, but there are others as well including the Times Higher Education. About once a fortnight I’ll have a go a themed piece of writing, flagged up in my writing opportunities web site Fair Submissions.  I’m actually having more success in getting published and placed in competitions with these pieces.  I suppose this is a form of writing for the market. If I run out of reading material I have videos and pod casts saved up.

After the break, I’ll switch project.

The aim is to write for three hours a day or write 2000 words. If I’ve achieved neither by the end of the morning, I’ll carry on after lunch or even into the evening if need be. I don’t always manage it but I don’t beat myself up about it if I don’t.  

Lunch is normally about 12.30 and we try to eat our main meal at lunchtime. It’s better for the digestion. We take turns in cooking.

Straight after lunch and my dip into social media, I’ll find my CaféLit   story for the day. We’re now using Duosuma for submissions and it is making life easier. We don’t charge but we do have a tip jar. We have to pay a small amount for each submission that comes in. Not everyone pays every time but enough people give us a tip now and then that we more than cover our chares. Thank you to anyone reading this who has given us a tip. I read all the stories that have been submitted on the day or the day before.  I pick the best one and reject any that are unsuitable.  If a story is suitable but can’t be published that day it goes into the archive. If none have been submitted, I’ll use the oldest one in the archive. We keep about thirty in hand. If after I’ve made my selection we have more than thirty in the archive, I’ll reject  the oldest.

Next up is tackling the emails.  I get about 200 a day. I spend about half an hour indulging myself in the fun ones and responding to invites, then it’s hit the delete button and only attend to the important ones. This includes book orders, returned edits, queries from writers and publishers, acceptances and rejections, various domestic ones and bills than need paying.   On a good day I’ll be finished by 2.30. On a bad day I don’t finish and it hangs over for the next day.

Then it’s time for some physical activity: a potter in the garden,  some baking, a walk or a trip to the gym.  I’ve taken up Tai Chi which I very much enjoy. Or I might practise my singing. It’s often a mixture of all of these things.

Back at my desk I’ll look at my own submission list and make a new submission. I try to make one a day.

Then I’ll do anything that must be done for the next day: preparation for workshop, U3A meetings etc. I then deal with snailmail post or make online purchases. If it still isn’t 4 p.m., I’ll start on my publishing business. This includes selecting from submissions, editing, sending out contracts, marketing, book design and postproduction routines.   

At around 4 p.m. I take a tea break. Builder’s tea this time. Recently I’ve taken to watching episodes of  A Place in the Sun during my tea break. During lockdown I’ve missed the sun and the sea.  Always as I watch these programmes I ask myself if I owned one of the properties featured where would I do my writing and what would be my routine there?

Supper is generally about 6.30 p.m. My husband is half German so we have a German Abendessen: cold meats, cheeses, nice bread and some salad.  

I’ll carry on working in the evening until just after 9 p.m. Then we’ll watch TV for a couple of hours. It’s a bit of a busman’s holiday as I’m constantly watching how the plot works and all too often I know way before the end how it will all resolve. We may indulge as we watch in chocolate, beer or wine but sometimes it’s just fruit tea.  

I’m in bed at just after 11 p.m. I read for another twenty minutes or so.

Not every day follows exactly this pattern. It is often disrupted by attendance of U3A groups,   interesting visits and events and meetings or medical or hairdresser appointments. Sometimes I run meetings and workshops myself. So, on those days two things remain important: the three hours / 2000 words and the 200 emails.          

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay                

Thursday 24 June 2021

An Interview with Marion Grace Woolley


Marion is one of the authors who will be appearing in our Resolutions anthology November 2021. I'm delighted to have her on my blog today.  


What do you write? Why this in particular?

I mainly write dark fantasy and historical fiction. My first published novel, Angorichina, was about a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1930s South Australia, and the one that I’m writing now is about ancient Mesopotamia. However, I also love to retell myths and fairy tales. Historical fiction with a twist of magic, such as my retelling of The Children of Lir, which is an ancient Irish legend.

What got you started on writing in the first place?

I’ve loved writing stories ever since I was little. I remember picking up a book from the library in primary school and it was missing the last page, so the teacher asked me to write an ending for it. I was always attracted to dark tales and abandoned places. I share a love of horror with my dad, so most of my early stories were about vampires and misadventure. I have very happy memories of going to the public library to choose children’s books and hours spent browsing the shelves in Dillons, which was the big-name book chain in the UK before Waterstones. I guess I was born between the pages of a book.


Do you have a particular routine?

I really dislike routines, I can never stick to them. I try to get in a couple of thousand words a day, but I really don’t beat myself up if I don’t. I prefer to write at home where the kettle is within easy reach and nobody is going to distract me – except my cats, who are very vocal around feeding time. There’s a lovely café up the road, run by my friend, but the problem with living in Kigali is that it’s more like a village than a city, so you’re constantly bumping into people you know. You can’t really say, ‘leave me alone, I’m trying to write!’ So, better to write at home, then go out for a drink afterwards.


Do you have a dedicated working space?

I wrestle working space away from the junk on my desk. I am a self-confessed atomic bomb, my house designated a disaster zone. My laptop is currently balanced on top of two microphones, a GoPro, a roll of toilet paper, a pen stacker and – for some unknown reason – a pot of ‘butter soft’ cocoa butter. But, somehow, things manage to get done.


When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?

I think I’ve always been a writer, in terms of ‘someone who writes,’ but I became an author when my first novel was published in 2011. I had three novels come out in quick succession, so I felt I’d earned the right to say ‘author’ at that point. But I don’t go to parties and introduce myself as that. I never know what to say when people ask, ‘what do you do?’ I currently work as a writer and ghostwriter, I have a development company working with international NGOs, I’m a university lecturer, and a part-time piano technician. What I ‘do’ depends on the day of the week. Generally, I prefer to avoid the question altogether. I think I prefer ‘writer’ to ‘author’ because I feel it holds more possibilities. I’ve authored novels, but I write all sorts of things, and I might go on to write anything.


How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?

My family are super supportive. Both of my parents love reading and I grew up surrounded by books. My dad is an avid fan of crime fiction and took me off to Cheltenham Literature Festival each year to listen to the likes of Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman and Victoria Hislop. I’m lucky to have that kind of support. I don’t feel restrained. I can write dark characters, murders, saucy scenes and strange events without worrying about giving my family a heart attack. I think it would be very difficult to be fully creative if you constantly had to tread on eggshells and worry about what your family thought. You need a lot of space and freedom when you’re making stuff up.


What are you most proud of in your writing?

Maybe the progress I’ve made. Like most writers, I cringe at my backlist. I rarely recommend my earlier books because I desperately want to edit them again. But around 2015, with Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, I feel like I really found my voice and knew what I was doing. I still falter now and then, but I’m a lot better at making the story sing. Even on a bad writing day, I feel what I throw down is acceptable. More recently, with the lecturing position, I’ve been able to create and deliver both technical writing and creative writing courses to undergraduates. If I’ve managed to encourage one person to go off and start writing stories, then I’d be very proud of that.


How do you get on with editing and research?

For historical fiction, I research heavily. That can take months before I even start to write, with regular breaks along the way when I fall down rabbit holes for a few days. A while ago, my friend David Southwell developed a fictional county in England called Hookland, where folklore lives and breathes. ‘Ghost soil,’ as he calls it. It’s a collaborative artistic world for writers, photographers and musicians. I set a paranormal novel there. It wasn’t historical in the traditional sense, but it took just as much research, because I needed to sift through all of David’s notes and maps to make sure I didn’t contradict anything or muck up the timeline. So, it’s a historical novel about the history of a place that doesn’t exist.

I also enjoy editing, most of the time. Filling up a blank page is excruciating, but once you’ve got something solid to work with, it’s a pleasure to sand it down and polish it up. I love the Neil Gaiman quote, “the second draft is the step in the process where you make it look like you knew what you were doing in the first draft.” I just wish you had the chance to do that with every conversation in life.


Do you have any goals for the future?

Like every writer – get my current project finished. There’s always another project and another project in the pipeline. I’m trying to do a bit of YouTubing, though I must admit, it’s a bit uncomfortable being in front of the camera rather than behind it. I’d like to do a few interviews with publishing friends in Rwanda, put more of a spotlight on that. I’m also hoping to start a new ghostwriting project later in the year. I get a huge kick out of helping other people to get their stories down on paper. I’d like to do more collaborating, but you need the right match of energy and ideas – someone you can bounce off. I try not to plan too far ahead and just see what comes along.


Which writers have inspired you?

A huge range of people. I learn something from every book I read. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni showed me that poetry and prose are not mutually exclusive, Ian McEwan’s short story Butterflies taught me about the power of misdirection, and Aimé Césaire taught me that things don’t have to make sense in order to be beautiful. The learning process never ends.









Twitter/Instagram: @AuthorMGW



Tuesday 15 June 2021

Ten things to consider when editing your short story or novel


1.      Does the ending work?

Is it logical? Take care that’s not too melodramatic. Make sure also that it isn’t just a damp squib. Avoid the inclusion of a “deus ex machina”.  Don’t allow a super hero / fairy godmother, or indeed an ancient god just to sweep in and save the day. Even if your protagonist has a mentor, get rid of them well before the end of the story so you’re your main character can own the adventure. Importantly has your main character changed from the way they were at the beginning?

2.      Is there an overall structure?

And is that structure balanced?  This might be about escalating drama followed by a crisis point, the climax and the final resolution.  You may like to think of your story having a three act structure.  Where is the midpoint?

3.      What about your characters?

Are they believable? Do they act like real people? Are they consistent? Are they rounded, with the evil characters having some redeeming qualities and the good ones having some flaws? Are their needs and wants clear to the reader?  Do they have unique voices in dialogue?

4.      Is your narrative balance secure?  

Do you have a good balance of action, dialogue, description and exposition? There should be very little of the latter – remember to show not tell.

5.      How is your dialogue?

Does it always say something important? Does it tell us about character, story or atmosphere or preferably all three at once? Do you have a balance between sounding natural and only saying what is important? How have you tagged it? Is it clear who is saying what?  Can you do without some of the tags? Can you use body language instead?  

6.      Can you do without some of the clichés?

Clichés are out there because they are segments of language which work. However, they become tired because they are overused  Can you show the bull in the china shop, that all’s well that ends well, that something touched every fibre of someone’s being another way? Tip: if you speak another language borrow a cliché from that. It will sound fresher in English. That sudden silence may be because an angel is passing (French saying).  

7.      Is there a good flow in your prose?

Do you have a good balance of longer and shorter sentences? Short, sharp sentences can create pace but too many of them can tire your reader.

8.      Do all of your sentences make sense?

Look out for clumsy sentences, but also from run-on ones and ones where you haven’t quite said what you mean or you don’t quite mean what you say.

9.      Read your work aloud

This helps you to spot clunky language, typos you’ve not noticed before, repetitions, and spelling and grammatical errors.

10.  Sweep through for your own favourite mistakes

Which is that typo that you always make? One of mine is “form” instead of “from” – yet I often spell “Salford” “Salfrod” Bizarre. You may also be aware of a word you overuse. Or you may know that you are weak at setting out dialogue


It’s useful to look for just one thing at a time, even for a short story. You may of course notice other matters at the same time. No problem.

Even if you are going to employ an editor it’s good to get your script as good as you can before you hand it over.

Writing is all rewriting, we all know that.

Happy editing.         


Wednesday 2 June 2021

News 2 June 2021



Don’t you just love them?  Yes, this is the woman who has been known to go out clothes shopping and come back with books. Often. In recent months, though, shopping in bookstores has been more difficult.

Of course many of my books will be in the online store we’ve started: . Here we give you a choice of ways to buy the book. You can search the site or browse it. Choices include buying via us or in some cases getting assigned copy directly from the author.

We offer Amazon – but they’ve been doing some very odd things with books recently. We also offer Barnes and Noble for our US friends and my personal favourite on-line store The Hive to UK shoppers.  They have a lovely clean web site and you can choose which indie bookshop they will support. I’ve found their book recommendations very good as well.

I love book shops that have cafés attached. Or, even cafés that have book shops attached. Shall we soon be able to enjoy those to the full again? I hope so!

And by the way, when we’ve finished putting books into the Bridge Town Café Books Shop, we’ll be adding in a café service.


Current writing

My main work at the moment is my fifth Peace Child novel. Former protagonist Kaleem has now become a minor character. A minor character has stepped up. I’m about half way through the first draft and am already sharing it with my SCBWI group.

I’m also continuing to work on my Prompts 2022 book. 365 writing prompts – one for each day of the year. Others are contributing as well.

I was pleased to have Dreyfus’s Bed accepted. This was written in response to a prompt. You can read it here.  Many of the ideas about homelessness that feature in this story only occurred to me as I wrote.

My new creative writing exercise for Talking About My Generation can be found here.


The Young Person’s Library

This month I’ve added two more Narnia books:

The Last Battle

A classic suitable for the fluent upper primary reader.


The Horse and His Boy

Also a classic suitable for the fluent upper primary reader.




Current reading recommendation

This month I’m recommending Meet Me at the Museum by Ann Youngsen

This is a story of a mature couple finding love through a series of letters on which they get to know each other intimately. It starts off with a simple query addressed to a professor who has died.  A colleague replies on his behalf.  The story of their lives comes to us through the letters. We begin to empathise with the characters. They both have much sadness in their lives and we watch as they sustain each other through the writing of the letters.

Meet Me at the Museum was nominated for the Costa First Novel Award in 2018.

 Grab your copy here.     



Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle.  Occasionally there are PDFs.  

This month I’m giving away So Now You're Published. What next? aka Marketing for Indies.

The last thing most writers want to do is spend a lot of time on marketing. Yet books don't sell themselves by magic, no matter how good they are. Publishers do what they can but time and money is limited, and inevitably they have to move on to the next project. If you can adapt a few useful routines, especially ones you find palatable and fun, you'll hardly notice you're doing it. There are heaps of useful suggestions here and handy check lists to keep you on track.

So Now You're Published. What next? is a manual for writers about how to make themselves visible in a crowded market and how to treat themselves as a business.  Grab your copy here.  


Note: Normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99.  Most on Kindle are about £2.99 and the average price for paperback is £7.00. Writers have to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy.


The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust and also for other writers and readers of historical fiction.

Sometimes I also write about what might be of interest to other writers.

There was just post in May – about how I’m thinking of more stories and how in fact I’m going to be writing about the German resistance.  You can read that here.

School visits

I’ve suspended these until further notice. I’m now starting work on a series of on-line materials.  

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, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.


The Bridgetown  Café Bookshop where you can buy my book and books published by Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books and The Red Telephone.  We’re building up our inventory, so please bear with us. Visit us 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. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it 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 and a reminder of the ones I’ve highlighted in this newsletter.    


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. 


The Young Person’s Library The children’s book catalogue. Access it here.


Fair Submissions  Find it here.   

Opportunities for writers are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  

Happy reading and writing.