Thursday, 15 April 2021

Writing that Stands Out

 


I’m currently selecting work for an anthology. Writers were given a theme – “Resolutions” and a word count 1,000 – 5,000 words. I’m working with another member of the team.  We have to select 24 stories from 176.

It’s tricky. It’s easiest in fact to identify ones that we’re going to decline straight away. In the easiest of these have been the ones that don’t match the word limits. Sometimes as well you start reading and before you reach the end of the first page you know that this story won’t work.

In order to get some objectivity we’re awarding points for the stories, how well they match the theme and how professional the writer has been. However, the ones that seem acceptable all score highly on these matters so many of the publishable stories are coming out with a similar score.

As I work my way through the selection I’m rejecting more stories because I know I’ve already got better ones. And there are some stories I like better than others even though technically they have the same score.

At some point we’ll have to put them in rank order and then also deanaonymise.  We’ve gone for anonymous submissions this time so that we avoid the situation of thinking “Oh this is by X Y so we know that will be good.”  Nevertheless, I’m sure I can identify the writers of some of the stories I’ve read. We also want to check that we’ve not got more than one by the same writer.

On the whole, the better written ones are more successful. This may sound rather obvious.  It is indeed true that those who write better can also craft stories more easily.  But not always. For a few I’ve got to the very last page sure that a story was going to be accepted and then found that the ending disappointed.  There either was no story or it all resolved too simplistically.

In my selectin there is one exception. There is a delightful story by a writer who appears to be inexperienced.  It will need a lot of editing but it is going to be good.

What is the bottom line for us?  We’re certainly not womag, romantic, genre or commercial, but then we’re not particularly literary either. We’re looking really for writing that stands out.  That is the bottom line for us.  Oh, and another advantage of selecting anonymously is that we never consider whether the writer has marketing prowess or not. We’re interested in good quality books rather than what will sell well.       

Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay  

Thursday, 1 April 2021

News 1 April 2021

 


A bit of risk-taking and some writing inspiration

I’m having a problem with my leg and my GP sent me to the hospital for a scan and a blood test. The day everybody returned to work. The GP was running late, so I had to sit in the waiting room for a while, something I’d tried to avoid by arriving just five minutes before my appointment. Then I had cross some “medium risk” areas within the hospital. Martin had dropped me off earlier.  People are avoiding public transport at the moment so parking is a nightmare.  I needed to pick up the prescription my GP had given me, so I opted to risk coming back by bus and pop into the pharmacy on the way. And I hit the school run!  I have to say the kids were really good. They all wore masks on the bus.  They knew not to crowd on to it and when I got to my stop and had to make my way past them to get off, they stood well back and they all held their breath.   

I’m glad to say they found nothing untoward with my leg and hopefully the antibiotics I’ve been given will do the trick.

And what a joy to be out amongst people again and collecting hundreds of ideas for stories.

The bus route also takes us past a very pretty little park that is actually within walking distance of our house.  Spring is bursting out all over there, so I’m looking forward to visiting it again soon.      

                  

News about my writing and other creative projects

The Class Letter, the fifth book in the Schellberg Cycle is now completely edited and queued for publication. I am now on the third edit of Not Just Fluffy Bunnies which I’m reading out loud.  I’m still working on The Business of Writing.  I’m interspersing all of this with short stories and flash fiction though not quite so much of that at the moment as I’ve started my fifth novel in the Peace Child series.  

I continue to write for Talking about My Generation, and I’m pleased to say that some of my creative writing series made it into the hard copy magazine, as did my article about my early childhood holidays at Colwyn Bay. 

Yesterday LOCKDOWN NUMBER TW0 was published. I have two stories in this volume. You can find it here.   I’ve bought a copy for my Kindle and three paperbacks. I see it already has three good reviews.

“A collection of fifteen winning short stories and an additional five stories, some of which contain adult language. These twenty short stories, based on "Lockdown Number Two" and "General" themes, are innovative, amusing and captivating to read. It is interesting to discover, particularly, how people spent their lockdown periods during 2020 in either real or imaginary situations.”

   

 

The Young Person’s Library

This month I’ve added:

The Power of her Pen by Lesa Cline-Ransome and John Para  

This is a non-fiction picture book possibly suitable for upper primary children. 

Prince Caspian by C S Lewis

A classic suitable for the fluent upper primary reader.

 

What We're Scared Of by Keren David

A young adult text that portrays some antisemitism.      

 

 

Current reading recommendation

This month I’m recommending Keren David’s What We’re Scared Of.

I’d also like to flag up here The Hive who recommended the book to me. This is a lovely on-line book shop that supports independent bookshops. Their site is clean and uncluttered, they deliver our print on demand books quickly and sell them at the RRP which Amazon is not doing at the moment.

What We’re Scared Of starts off with many of the marks of the chicklet-lit book. However, it becomes more serious as non-identical twins Evie and Lottie confront their Jewishness. 

Evie is a feisty stand-up comic and goes to the local comprehensive school.  Lottie is tall and thin.  She possibly has an eating disorder though this is understated. She also suffers from asthma. She attends a fee-paying school. As Evie gets to know the son of their mother’s friend and as Lottie gets to know school friend Hannah better the girls begin to realise that their being Jewish is significant.  After their mother protests openly on her radio show about antisemitism both girls are exposed to danger.  Will life ever be the same again? Will they be able to live with their Jewishness?

What we’re Scared Of   will really get you gunning for Evie and Lottie. Keren David has created an engaging and enticing read here.

Get your copy via The Hive here  or Amazon here.       

Giveaway

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

This month I’m giving away The Best of CaféLit 6

This is the collection of the best stories that appeared on the CaféLit site in 2016. Each story is accompanied by a drink suggestion. You might read the stories according to what you fancy drinking rather than in the order they’re listed in the book.

For CaféLit we like to have a variety of stories – short, down to 50 words or longer up to 3,000 words. We like darker stories that make you think or scare you. We also like lighter stories that make you smile or that lift your heart. We have some writers who really understand CaféLit and we publish them again and again. We also welcome new writers. Which story will you read today?

Hopefully you will enjoy this collection and you may then be tempted to purchase more in the series.  

The Best of CaféLit 6 is as you might suspect the sixth in the Best of CaféLit series. These are all short story collections by multiple authors.

Pick up your free copy here.         

Note, that 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 were two posts in March:

The Class Letter (Book 5) almost finished

As you would probably expect here I write about finishing The Class Letter.

I have also here another review of What We’re Scared Of  but here I go into more detail about how this reflects on the Holocaust.       

 

 

 

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.

 

Monday, 29 March 2021

Wonderful coincidences

 


We love coincidences. They’re bound to be unusual and so we receive them with joy. I can quote a few real life ones:

  • On a trip to London I got off my train and walked along the platform just as my business partner’s train drew out of the station from the other side of the platform.
  • We travelled all the way from Holland to Denmark and visited a colleague of my husband.  His front door was opened by one my former students who was staying with his daughter.
  • My PhD supervisor moved from North Wales to the south coast and then back again. Once when retuning to the south coast, where I lived at the time, I followed a haulage firm that specialised in moving between the south coast and North Wales – and the company and my PhD supervisor shared a surname.

However these days if we include such happenings in our stories commissioning editors are known to tut and say “That wouldn’t happen in real life.”

Yet Shakespeare, Dickens and Molière used them a lot. Not only did they get away with it but that is what particularly delights us in their stories. 

It is delightful again in Ann Booth’s Girl with a White Dog. The protagonist’s grandmother has a close connection with the family she befriends as she works with the white dog. And the connection is all about another white dog.

These have to be handled well. You can’t simply have a deus ex machina. It has to be convincing and possible.

Maybe the answer to all of this is that we actually move in quite restricted circles. And that, of course, is an enticing premise for story.  

Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

Friday, 26 March 2021

 

I'm pleased to be hosting this event on 1 April. I've worked with Janet quite a bit over the years.  She has been a regular contributor to Cafelit, the ezine I produce. She has also contributed to Bridge House's annual anthologies.  We'll be chatting about how she came to write the series and how CafeLit serials work.  All welcome.   

1 April 7 p.m. online

Interview

readings Q & A 

Free Event  

 

Sign up here  

Read more about the book on Amazon  

This is one of our CafeLit serials. Dramatic Episodes are linked episodes that have appeared on CafeLit. Learn more about CafeLit and CafeLit serials at this event.   

See you there?   


Monday, 1 March 2021

News 1 March 2021

 

An early career story

In late 2000 several of my suggestions for educational material were taken up. A few years later my first full book was accepted and published in June 2003. This was a guide to learning languages.  Well I had been a language teacher for town-five years up until then.

However, I upstaged myself by getting a short story accepted in a collection for children about war. This was published a few days before the language book. Lines in the Sand was edited by Mary Hoffman and her daughter Rhiannon Lassiter.  Some witters had sent in stories or extracts of stories they had already written, others, like myself, made up a story especially for the book. Artists send it pictures they had in their portfolios and these were matched to the stories. My The Gift Child was included in the “Seeds of Hope” section. All profits and royalties went to the special UNICEF fund for the children damaged by the war in Iraq and the book was our protest against that war.

My copy of the book arrived. I opened the book eagerly and was delighted to see that the girl in the illustration that accompanied my story looked just as I had imagined my protagonist. I turned to the page after the illustration to find that one third of my story was missing.

I phoned the publisher straight away but the office was not yet open. I went for a swim. When I got back to my phone there were about twenty missed calls.

Of course they were very apologetic. They sent a full copy of the story to everyone else in the book. This has had the not entirely unwelcome effect that everyone remembered my story and my name. No such thing as bad publicity?

They also found one name misspelt and that another picture gave away the ending of a story. So, another edition was created but the book retained the same ISBN. So, there are a few unusual books around.  Collectors’ items? I have a copy of the original book and the one with the corrections. Both of them are signed by Michael Morpurgo.  Unfortunately to fit the rest of my story in we had to lose the lovely illustration. All of the original illustrations were auctioned off but alas I didn’t have enough money to buy that one.               

 

News about my writing and other creative projects

The Class Letter, the fifth book in the Schellberg Cycle is now almost completely edited. I also now on the second edit of Not Just Fluffy Bunnies. I’m currently going through the rather tedious process of checking all of the references.  I’m still working on The Business of Writing.   I’m interspersing all of this with short stories and flash fiction.

I continue to write for Talking about My Generation:

I’m writing a series of creative writing prompts for lockdown.  

These are very similar to the exercises I provided for the Bury Art Museum. Readers are invited to send in their work. I’ve provided six of these and they’re publishing one a week.  So far we have:

https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/lockdown-adventures-mining-art-galleries-for-stories

https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/writing-with-the-senses/

https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/meet-in-the-middle-story/

https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/lockdown-adventures-creative-writing-making-names-and-words-into-poems/

https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/creative-writing-adventures-in-lockdown/       

And now I’ve become a cookery writer: https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/riceandpeas/

 

The Young Person’s Library

This month I’ve added:

South & North, East & West by Michael Rosen

Her Michael Rosen retells in his fabulous story-teller voice several folk stories from around the world. This is suitable for upper primary school children.

 

Beauty and the Bin by Joanne O’Connell  

This is a story for early teens, Key Stage 3, about an enterprising young lady who makes beauty products from what she can find in the kitchen.  There is a lot more to the story however.

 

The Proudest Blue Ibtihaj Muhammad, S.K. Ali, Hatem Aly

This is a picture book that may also be suitable for emergent readers. It tells the story of an older sister who has to start wearing the hijab. The illustrations are delightful.  

  

 

Current reading recommendation

This month I’m recommending Dawn Knox’s Fearless Heart .  It is a story set during World War II and tells of the adventures of Genevieve who speaks fluent French and joins the Special Operations Executive.

Genevieve has to learn to behave as a man in occupied France. Yves is at first very wary of her. She falls in love with him.  But will her love be requited. Will they both survive?

Knox engages us from the beginning and keeps our attention through her carefully drawn characters about whom we care about a lot.   

 Fearless Heart is an historical romance by experienced 1940s Dawn Knox.  It is published by the Linford Romance Library. This is a large print book.          

Giveaway

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

I’m offering this time the mobi-file (for Kindle) of my flash fiction collection, January Stones 2013.    

They were originally published on a blog called "Gill’s January Stones". In fact, they were published in reverse order. The first one you read here, "When Physics Got Sick", was the last one to be written and originally published on 31 January 2013.

Sometimes the stories would come right at the beginning of the day. Sometimes they would take a while longer.

Do they have a theme? Not really, though the idea of ‘stones’ is one of turning them over slowly on the beach until we find the right one. It’s not a bad time of year, anyway, right at the beginning in January, as the New Year starts and the days slowly become longer.

There was no strict word count. Each story is as long as it needs to be. It had to be finished, though, by midnight of that day.

Please, please, please write a review when you’ve read the book.

You can download it and lots of other free materials here.

Note, that 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 were three posts in February:

This includes two book reviews:

Fearless  Heart by Dawn Knox (also mentioned above)

The Last Correspondent by Soraya M Lane   another celebration of women doing their bit during World War II.

I have also included an article about a rather nice connection we now have with the people who live in the house on Schellberg Street:

Read the account 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.

 

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.