Tuesday, 3 May 2022

How to avoid or cope with some of the biggest bugbears of being a writer

 Guy, Angry, Hat, Tie, Bow, Irate, Irritated, Bang

1.      Your friends and family – or even you yourself - don’t take you seriously 

Don’t be afraid to call yourself a writer. If you spend time writing, you are a writer.  It doesn’t matter whether you are published or not or whether you have hundreds of five star reviews or not; what matters is that you write  So, make time to write and make sure that everyone understands that that time is precious.

2.      Rejection

It still always hurts, no matter how often it happens and no matter how many acceptances you have. It’s okay to think “Your loss, mate.” But best not to say that. Often it’s not because there is anything wrong with your writing though it’s always worth another look before you send it out again. It can be a matter of timing. It’s all so very subjective anyway. So, dust yourself off, give the work a little tweak, take an honest look at why it may have been rejected, consider it a “rewrite” and get it out there again. It’s good in fact to have quite a few things out there. A publisher may bite.   

3.      Professional jealousy

Either feeling it or being the victim of it can be uncomfortable. It’s not fair is it, that your writing friend got a three book deal and her writing is no better than yours? And it’s annoying when you get the good news from a publisher and your writing friend ignores you.

Force yourself to be glad for your friend. Your time will come.

Make your jealous friend an important part of your launch. You never know, she may be able to network at your event and get some good leads.  

4.        Running out of ideas

Often when you first start out you have tons of ideas. Then you use them up or decide that they weren’t so good after all.

Remember there are ideas are all around you. Retell an old story by taking a different character’s point of view or bringing it into the 21st century. Take a walk and look at what folk are doing, Lots of stories there as swell. Or try a writing prompt. There are various books around full of them and you can often find them on social media.

5.      “I’m going to write a novel one day”

Says your non-writing friend.

Oh so many assumptions here: that it’s easy, that anyone can do it and that you will be pleased to read the end product of someone right at the beginning of a writing career.

Could you play devil’s advocate here?  Show a real interest. Ask them how they’ll find the time, have they planned the novel out yet, have they done any research. If they ask if you’ll look at it say that you don’t have time but point them towards someone you know who edits.  If you do that yourself discuss your rates. You might offer mates’ rates but be clear that you must make it worth your while.      

Monday, 2 May 2022

News 2 May 2022


Checklist, Check, Marketing, Project, Survey, Tick 


This month I’d like to offer a quick checklist for your short story or novel. And if you’re not a writer but a reader and a book group member this may also help you to find points to discuss.   

  1. Is the ending satisfying?  Hopefully it’s not too melodramatic. Nor is it a damp squib. And a deus ex machina has not been applied. No god is swept on to the stage to solve everything, either literally or figuratively.
  2. Has the main character changed? Are they different at the end of the story from the way they are at the beginning?
  3. Are the other characters also believable and rounded? Neither completely good nor completely evil?
  4. Is there a good narrative balance – the right amount of dialogue, action, description and inner monologue? Does any exposition have to be there? The balance of these elements will vary from text to text and may depend on genre. It’s a talking point anyway.
  5. Is the reader allowed to think for themselves or is the writer telling them what to think? The writer should show you what happens and leave the reader to decide if there is any moral.

Happy reading and writing.         


Current writing

I’m continuing the sixth book in the Schellberg Cycle. This is Helga’s story. Helga is a Holocaust survivor and the story is set partly in World War II and partly in 2001. The more modern part is set in North Wales and I have to learn about sheep farming! The story is as ever taking on a life of its own and the plot is even more intricate than the way I’d seen it.  Actually this time this is happening more than normal. A while ago I decided to make the part set in World War II a first person narrative so at some point I’ll have to go back and alter earlier chapters.  Half way through Chapter 23, I decided that the 21st century part should also be a first person narrative and this time also present tense. I can already see that it’s making a difference. But there’ll be a lot of extra work soon. I am now almost at the end of the last chapter.

I’m very pleased to have had my short story Forever Hold Your Peace accepted by Page & Spine. You can see it here: https://pagespineficshowcase.com/stories1/forever-hold-your-peace-gill-james . I submitted this almost two years ago. Doesn’t that show you should never give up? I wrote the story in response to a prompt form one of our prompt books. That makes it a double success.  


The Young Person’s Library

This month I’ve added:

The Secret of Haven Point by Lisettte Auton

This is a fluent reader text and includes several characters that have disabilities. Author Lisette Auton also lives with a disability and prefers to describe herself as disabled.  The novel tells a very human story though includes mermaids and wreckers.   

Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories

This is another fluent reader text. There are plenty of ballet shoes, skates and theatre performances in these stories.  This is a compilation of Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas-themed earlier works that appeared in various magazines. There’s lots of nostalgia here.    



Current reading recommendation

I’m recommending today Meeting Coty by Ruth Estevez  

I really enjoyed attending the launch of this book at the lovely Portico Library in Manchester. Ruth gave us a fascinating talk which included some of the history of the Coty firm.  

Tessa Garcia has big dreams and takes steps to make them come true.

Tessa faces many expectations from her Spanish-Irish Catholic family; that she should marry, that she shouldn’t work, and that she should be dependent on men all of her life. She already has a work ethos and an enthusiasm for perfumes. This arouses in her a fascination with the perfume maker François Coty.     

Estevez presents us with a narrative as smooths as silk in this fascinating story of Meeting Coty.   

Find your copy here.     


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

This month I’m offering Fibbin’ Archie.

This is at once a YA light-hearted romance and a writing experiment. If you read the title out loud you may get a hint of what the experiment’s about.     

Love and romance can be tough for a compulsive fibber
Archie has quite a reputation as a practised fibber. Normally his lies are harmless but as time goes by they begin to get him into more and more trouble. They lose him his girlfriend, and bizarrely, his hearing is affected as his ears begin to react in a very strange way every time he is less than truthful. Giving honest opinions isn’t enough. Deep truth is called for. But finding that isn’t easy. Some truths are very hard to face. Then numbers become interesting, too.
Fibbin’ Archie is, the story of a disenchanted young man. It is also a humorous story of love and sex, an examination of social issues affecting young adults and a story of coming of age. 

Find out more.  Grab your copy and lots of other freebies here.

And please, please, please leave a review when you’ve finished.    

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.  They may also be interesting for other readers of historical fiction.

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

I’ve added three posts this month.

Two of them are about The Bamboo Bracelet by Merilyn Brason. The post on 7 April  is about an online talk I attended  about how the book came to be written. The post on 30 April  is an analysis of the book itself. This work certainly deserves a place in the project because although it is about a very different part of World War II many of the experiences and issues described are so similar.

Sending asylum seekers to Rwanda? is a post in which I seek to see both sides of the argument but still conclude that this would be a bad idea.    


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.  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 and some other editors 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.



Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Leela Dutt


 Hi – this is my first post on Gill’s blog.  I’m LEELA DUTT and I’ve just published a collection of eleven short stories called FRESH BEGINNINGS with Bridge House. It’s a mixture of serious and hilarious, according to some of the reviews it’s had on Amazon.  What started me writing, you ask? But I’ve always written, since I learnt to read and write at around five.  Like Gill I read Enid Blyton as a child, graduating to Graham Greene and George Orwell as a teenager. Later I ran round after my own children aged ten downwards, seeking out the second-hand bookshops of Bangalore and Madras to buy copies of Enid Blyton. 

Frankly, routines have gone out the window since the children left home.  As for calling myself a writer, I didn’t seriously think of doing that until just the other day, when Gill hosted the launch of FRESH BEGINNINGS and she interviewed me.  But yes, people do understand what I’m doing; my husband publishes philosophy books and articles all the time, and the children assume that we are both writers.

What am I most proud of?  A novel I wrote ten years ago called ONLY A SIGNAL SHOWN, which is a long-distance love story incorporating many of the places I have been to – Nigeria, Rome, the Denmark that my Danish mother took me to, Kolkata which was my father’s home, South Africa, Lesotho, Iceland, Australia, the USA…  and so on. People liked it but it didn’t attract much attention, and so I’ve just signed a contract with 186 Publishing to rewrite it, a job I’m enjoying enormously.  My goals for the future include getting this novel the best it can be, and writing some more short stories for another possible Bridge House collection – if FRESH BEGINNINGS  sells well enough!

Writers who have inspired me?  A mixed bag, but foremost I’d have to say Penelope Lively – I’ve always read everything she writes. In recent years my husband and I both read all the Botswana novels by Alexander McCall Smith as they come out, and also Lindsey Davis’s crime novels about ancient Rome – I enjoy the ones about Falco’s daughter more than the original ones about Falco himself.  I’ve come late to Val McDermid’s crime novels, long after she became so famous, but I love them now because they are so meaty – full of twists and turns, characters that I’ve come to know and enjoy.  In particular her novel about the war in Croatia stays in my mind still.



Saturday, 16 April 2022

Frequently asked question: where do you get your ideas from?


Book, Old, Surreal, Fantasy, Pages

Dreaded question

This is the question I always used to dread on school visits.  Not: how old are you, are you rich and famous or do you know J.K Rowling? In comparison with this question, those are easy to answer. For many of my works, certainly for my very early ones, I have no idea where the ideas came from; the stories were just there. 

Plucked out of the air

Yes, it did seem that they were plucked out of the air. One well-known writer indeed makes a feature of sprinkling invisible magic fairy dust over the students to give them ideas for their writing. If only.

People watching

Many writers, myself included, enjoy people-watching, Stories come from that:  just why are there so many distraught–looking people in the big out-of- town store’s café just after 6 p.m.? Oh I know. There are a few affairs coming to a close here. How did that young man become homeless? Whys is that colleague so temperamental? We make up plausible stories.

In fact, many of us become so good at this that we could take on another role as a private eye. I wasn’t at all surprised when a couple announced they were getting married, even though she was twenty years older than him. I’d seen it coming. Nor when a colleague left the school where we taught and set herself up as a financial advisor. Nor when a friend decided she didn’t want children.

We get so good at this that we know the way a film or a book is going to finish long before the end comes. We know how life works and we know how story works.

This doesn’t entirely spoil the fun; the figuring out brings its own pleasures.

And in fact life is presenting us with stories over and over.    


I enjoy working with prompts. They force the creativity a little. It’s good exercising that muscle. I’ve also enjoyed creating prompts for other people.

I have edited three books of wring prompts. Find them here.

My Writing Teacher blog often features prompts. Take a look here.

My U3A creative wring class meets twice a month and I set them a prompt each time.

I’ll often post a picture on Twitter as a wring prompt, also adding a few hints at how writers might interpret the picture.

At any time I can use any of these prompts to direct my own writing. Why should anyone ever run out of ideas?

One story leads to another

My Schellberg Cycle is indeed a cycle. As I wrote about a child who came to England on the Kindertransport, I then became fascinated with her grandmother who died in Treblinka. Part of the first story is about how a school for disabled children was saved from the Nazis.  I felt compelled to explore the motives of the ordinary girls who allowed the children to escape. As I have told the story of the daughter and grandmother, I must tell the mother’s story.  After all she almost changed history. And what about the ordinary German girls who were left behind? Their story came next. One of the girls lodges with her aunt who seems to know a lot about what’s going on. Ah, she also deserves a book of her own. And so it goes on.      

Retelling the same story

According to Christopher Booker, there are anyway only seven stories. His book is quite convincing. In fact, even the cover of his book is convincing. See it here.  And there are stories all around that we can clone, adapt and bring up to date: stories from the Bible and other religious books, fairy stories, stories form Shakespeare and stories from our favourite soaps. Why are Cinders’ sisters the way that they are? Why is that funny old man building such a big boat? What would a modern day Romeo and Juliet look like?   

Family histories 

Our families are full of rich stories. All families become interesting if we tell their story effectively. If I ever finish my Schellberg cycle I would love to tell my grandmothers’ stories: brought up in the back-to-back slums in  Birmingham, managed to get  a job in the jewellery  quarter, became a greengrocer, made hats, was a tailoress, had nine children, became the wisewoman of the street …. And much more.

Vivien Dockerty does this brilliantly. Take a look.   

 So then tell me, where do you get your ideas from?