Monday 26 November 2007

SCBWI Writers’ Day

It was a fantastic day. There was the usual assortment of good talks and interesting ideas. It was good looking at the catalogues and books, and of course, I had to buy two new books. It was great seeing some old friends and making some new ones. Some of us met up afterwards for a meal at the Loch Fyne Fish restaurant in Winchester. That was really good of course. My favourite activity is writing. My second favourite is being with other writers.
I think the highlight for me was hearing how David Almond eventually took off. “Skellig” came in a flash and almost wrote itself. Then he took off. He was a competent writer before that, but it somehow never quite clicked. He was convinced that it would all fall into place one day. He kept the faith. It did.
So, you just hold on and hold on and hold on to the dream. It’s what I tell my students. Can I hold on myself?
He also did a fascinating creative writing / storytelling exercise with us. Could I build what I created there into a story?

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Working with Schools

I was at the NAWE (National Association of Writers in Education) annual conference recently. I divided my time between the Higher Education strand and the Schools strand. There was controversy in both places. But after all, maybe that makes the discussion worth it.
In the school section, it kept coming down to creativity against the curriculum. There was a feeling that the curriculum was constrictive. I don’t actually think that that is the case. Anyway, teachers are so talented at doing what a writer doesn’t have the skills to do. What is more, they know their own children.
I was in a school yesterday. We are going to produce a book. We worked on content. The children chose a theme – Freedom – and we worked on stories, haikus, opposite and acrostic poems and non-fiction. We didn’t finish any piece of work, but they had a very rough draft of at least the beginning of four pieces of work each.
It was a very well planned visit, but even so, there was a little mismatch between what I expected and what happened. Is there an argument, therefore, for actually providing the materials - obviously put this into the cost – and put in writing how you expect the other staff to work with you? Providing the material might make it different form “just another school activity”. But how might the staff react to being told how to be supportive?

Thursday 15 November 2007

Letters from Publishers

It’s always great to get a letter form a publisher. One that mentions your book, with ISBN numbers and a publication date. Exactly that came for me yesterday. I had requested it. They need proof for the RAE submission at the university that the books actually exist or will exist.
It was good seeing it. There are four coming out with Butterfly:
The Lombardy Grotto – for 9-11 December 2007
Scum Bag for 14+ March 2008
Kiters for 9-11 Auntumn 2008
Beyond the Vale 14+ Autumn 2008
I have now carefully stowed it away with many papers for the university. Next, I have to organise a launch. That will be tremendous fun. In fact, I think I’ll organise a book tour. A free reading to al the local schools. I’ll do a short talk, a reading form the book, answer questions and then sign copies.
Keep your fingers crossed. Other suggestions would be welcome.

Sunday 11 November 2007

Sometimes you have a good day

Last Friday was one of those. I had a letter form Academi – the Welsh Academy, concerned with literature promotion. I have been invited to become a Full Member. Full membership is by invitation only and offered “only to those who have made a contribution to the literature of Wales”. Yes, you have to pay subs, but they’re only £20.00 per year and it does give you access to the literary community in Wales. So I feel quite pleased. On top of that, I had two publishing contracts for signing and one contract which has now also been signed by a publisher. Friday it was also confirmed that I shall be doing a Masterclass on behalf of the University of Salford at a school in Warrington. My private contact with schools in the area is booming as well. I’ve had the idea of doing a schools tour. A free author visit to launch The Lombardy Grotto and signings- with, of course, sales of the book. And hopefully, of some of my others.

Wednesday 7 November 2007

World at Our Fingertips

I listened to an actress talking about her work yesterday. She is well-known form a soap, which she ahs now left and is currently working in pantomime. She has also just finished filming. She played a dark character in that. So, she is herself, a fairy godmother, a criminal and has lived in the backstreets of Salford.
It strikes me that life can be like that for writers as well. What we actually do, probably, is sit for ours on end at a desk possibly tapping away on to a computer keyboard. Our imagination is not confined, though. I personally have been to magic realms, visited oterh planets, survived as a German Jewess in the 1940s, learnt to sail, and coped with the death of a young friend and experienced coma and epilepsy. All from the comfort of a life with a writing-related day job.
That is something else we share with our acting friends: we are more out of work than in it, but our imagination is never deprived.