Sunday 1 March 2015

Newsletter 2015

Well we’re well into the new semester now at the University of Salford. The students are now into a routine and are sharing their work quite freely. They learn from each other. Often they’ll learn even more by looking at others’ work than they do by just looking at their own.
I’m busy preparing new lectures and updating ones I’ve delivered before. It’s great when the students come to the seminars having read the suggested material. It makes for some really interesting discussions.     
I am just about keeping up with my writing though I don’t manage my two hours / 2000 words every day. I look forward to when I retire when I shall be up to four hours a day and 3000 words. So, not really retirement but yet another career change, actually.  
I shall miss that interaction with my students, however.   

Books and short stories  

I’m making great strides into the Girl in a Smart Uniform. I’m adding eight new chapters, making one of the main characters a second point of view character, I’m changing from a third person to a first person narrative and I’m also tightening up the story arc in some of the sub-plots. It really is improving. I’m enjoying it more, too, and I like my characters now as well  
I’ve now almost finished my chapter on books about the Holocaust in the non-fiction book I’m putting proposal together about. This is the one that discusses the darker side of children’s literature.    
I’ve had some flash fiction,  Hareless,  accepted by  Paragraph Planet.  I’ve also had my story told in emails, Deleted, accepted by Cracked Eye. This had been rejected by another publisher who has accepted other work by me. This other publisher said that they didn’t like stories that went backwards. This really demonstrates why you should never give up.
Both also said they really loved my work and could they see more. Have I reached another milestone?

Bridge House

Bridge House is open for submissions at the moment. This year, we’re concentrating on snowflakes. Real ones? Perhaps but more likely stories that are like snowflakes. Unique and perfectly formed. As they melt into the psyche they bring a life-sustaining force. Snow can be beautiful and it can be treacherous. It can swing from one extreme to another in seconds. It is an important part of the nature cycle. Read more here.
Do get those submissions coming in. We’re beginning to get quite a few now but more are welcome.

Creative Café

I had a great time working as a writer in residence for the day at the Hornsea Flora Hall Café (HU18 1NQ) on 12 February.
Mainly people came to tell me their stories. I now have quite a collection. Read about the afternoon here.
I’m steadily bringing new cafés into the project and I’m always on the lookout for more. So, if you know of one, do get in touch.  More and more people are now engaging with the project. Take a look here. I’m also looking for more articles on Writers in Cafés – see what’s involved here.
Don’t forget as well we’re always looking for stories for CafeLit.
I’m also going to start adding pages of resources for writers to the web site. Do look out for those.

 An Evening with Jackie Kay

20 February found me attending this event. I felt very privileged to be invited to read on this occasion. I teach autobiography to our first years and we use Kay’s Red Dust Road as an example. I’m forever looking over my shoulder to see whether she is about to walk into the room. I don’t think I need worry, though. She is the warmest and friendliest of people.
In fact I read from Girl in a Smart Uniform. The extract is reproduced below:

27 August 1947: going home?     

“Not again?” Julia grimaced. There was dog pooh all over the post box. “They did that last year as well, didn’t they?”
Gisela nodded.  It was bizarre. After the first couple of months the neighbours had become really friendly. Julia and Marieke had more or less insisted. Then two years running now, on the 5 May, the anniversary of the Liberation, “Germans go home” scrawled in horrible canine faeces.
Julia shook her head. “They’re as bad as the people they’re protesting about.”
“Now I’ve got to get the damn shit off.”
Julia rubbed her arm. “Come on. I’ll help you.”
“Thank you. Everything was going so well.”
“And it still can. This is just stupid. I’ll go and get a bucket of warm water.”
Julia came back a few minutes later and soon both women were scrubbing at the box.
“How’s Melissa doing now?”
“Grand. Sleeping until seven every morning and beginning to speak. She calls me Geesy.” 
Julia smiled. “You two have settled in so well. And you can hardly hear your German accents now.”
Thank goodness. Julia was right. It was working out well. Her little cleaning job, the German lessons she gave – yes, some people bizarrely wanted to learn German – and the beautiful soft furnishings Trudi was managing to make were selling well. Life was good.
She smiled to herself as she thought about old Piet Janke’s lessons. “Best to learn the language of the enemy.  You never know when it will come in useful.”  He really struggled, though.     
“There. All done. Now I’ll leave you to look at your mail in peace.” Julia plopped the cloth into the bucket and walked away towards the stairwell. “Pop down later. Bring Trudi and Melissa.”
Gisela nodded and waved. She opened the mail box. There was just one letter in there.  Her heart jumped. The post mark was Stuttgart.  

“You were a while,” said Trudi when she got back up the apartment. “Oh, dear. What’s up?” She put Melissa down in the rug and dangled her rag doll in front of her.
“Dog pooh on the mail box again and then this.” She waved the letter in front of her.
“Where’s it from?”
Trudi nodded. “Go on then. You’d better open it.”
Gisela tore the letter open and recognised Kurt’s writing straight away.

Stuttgart, 30 April 1947
Dear Gisela,
I have some very sad news. Two days go our dear Mutti suffered a massive stroke and died before we could even get her to the hospital. We are holding the funeral next Saturday. I do hope you and Trudi will be able to get there and that you will bring my new niece . I am anxious to meet her and even though this will be a sad occasion, there will at least be some joy in that.
And I also have a huge favour to ask. Would you and Trudi consider looking after Jens? Either come back here or let him come and live with you in the Netherlands. As you can imagine, Poldi Silber wants nothing to do with him and with me being away so much, I’m not the ideal person either. That boy still needs a lot of care.
Perhaps I should also let you know that I’m now fully resigned to you and Trudi being a couple. I still can’t understand how it all works and I still find it a little repulsive to think of two women sleeping together like that but I accept that that is the way you want things and it is your choice not mine.
Please let me know if you can help.
Your loving brother,
Kurt Schmidt.
Gisela put her hand in front of her mouth. Poor Mutti. And poor Jens. Did he actually understand what had happened? Probably not.  Kurt hadn’t changed really. Not much anyway.
“What is it?” said Trudi gently.
“Mutti’s died. Kurt wants us to look after Jens.”       
Trudi was up on her feet in seconds. She rushed over to Gisela and put her arm round her shoulders.  “Then that is what we must do. Shall we have him here? Or shall we go back to Stuttgart?”
Of course, this will eventually be transposed into the first person.
This was all well received by the audience, by Jackie Kay and by several of my colleagues there.   


Coming soon – conference about the Young Adult book, 21 March:

Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher  

Does it push boundaries? Does it become ever more excellent?
Arguably the young adult novel has always existed as has the young adult, though neither were recognised or named until recently. As we moved into the 21st century there was an explosion in the number of young adult novels being read and written.
This conference explores the nature of this energetic novel form and asks writers, readers, academics, educationalists, those who work with young people and other interested parties the following questions of the young adult novel:
  • Who are its readers?
  • What is its nature?
  • Which are its themes?
  • What does it look like now?
  • How is it written?
  • Why does it exist?
  • Will it endure?
  • What will it look like in the future?
The conference is aimed at academics, writers, teachers, parents and school librarians.  
Keynote speakers are Melvin Burgess and Nicola Morgan.
There is still some more room for a few academic papers on the above themes or for session suitable for educationalists and writers. We do have content for the whole day but can look at parallel sessions. If you’re interested in offering any of these, contact me via the contact form on this blog.
If you’d just like to sign up for the conference, you can do so here.   

School Visits

I continue to offer free school visits, details below.      
These visits are up to 90 minutes long and are focussed on my books.
In addition, many of us from the university are going out and offering presentations on what is on offer on our programmes. I’ll generally throw in a creative writing exercise.    
I’ll reiterate straight away that authors should be paid for school visits, but these free ones are actually part of the work I do at the university.
I offer readings for 14+ of Veiled Dreams, Scum Bag, Spooking, Fibbin’ Archie and The Peace Child Trilogy (The Prophecy, Babel, The Tower) a short question and answer session and a creative writing exercise for your class. For primary children there are Jason’s Crystal, The Lombardy Grotto and Kiters. Read more about my books here. There are of course also my stories in various anthologies. All other visits are at the rates suggested by the Society of Authors. Schools can mix and match these visits. I do ask that travel expenses are covered.    
I’m offering visits and talks specifically about my The House on Schellberg Street project for a donation towards the project. I’ve devised a whole interactive workshop for this. The book is now out and selling steadily. It would be a real asset for any school teaching the Holocaust at Key Stage 3. Even if a school can’t afford a donation, I’d be happy to run the project.
Here’s some further news about the Schellberg project.
Query for a school visit here.

The Red Telephone

We’re still working on marketing Shanta Everington’s XY. You can still join in the online launch here. She has run a very successful blog tour.
 Cyan Brodie’s, Dream Girl is now out and we’re also promoting that.
I’m working on Kathy Dunn’s The Demon Magician. This has a fast-paced plot and some delightful characters.
There will be a new call for submissions shortly.    

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