Thursday 31 December 2020

News 31 December 2020


Tier 4 now in Greater Manchester, it’s snowing and it’s our last day in the EU. Technically we left last year but only now will we notice it. It was called “transition”.  Interesting word. I have had to change the domain name of my blog. So, it’s now . I’ve restored all of the internal links, I think, but if you find something not working, give me a shout and I’ll send the new link.


News about my writing and other creative projects

I’m still carrying on much as before: The Class Letter, the fifth book in the Schellberg Cycle, Not Just Fluffy Bunnies, and I’m still working on The Business of Writing.  And of course I’m interspersing this with short stories and flash fiction.

I’ve had two more articles published on Talking about My Generation:  - this compares Covid19 with Spanish Flu and the Great Plague of 1665 and argues that one big difference is that we have been able to keep in contact via such facilities as Zoom. However, there is a divide; some do, some don’t.        

a review of a reading of this great work by actors at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton.    


The Young Person’s Library

This month I’ve added:

Monster Blood Tattoo -  Book 2 in the Lamplighter Series a fantasy book for fluent readers and older readers.  Quite a long book and rather complex.  A very interesting world, though.


Current reading recommendation

I’m recommending this time Word Shower produced by poets Mary Bevan, Lesley Cooke, Jane Cope, Bec Macleod Turner, Anne Peterson, Julie Sharpe and Christine Storey. They were introduced to prose poetry by Anne Caldwell, who runs Prose-Poetry UK, when she ran a day’s workshop with the group.

Inspired by the workshop, the eight began to meet on a monthly basis and this project was born from those meetings.   

We are encouraged to read the pieces aloud. Yes, that does indeed work.

This is a genre I’m rather fond of. My own first writing was in this form when I made contributions to the school magazine. Back then nobody talked about prose poetry.

Each piece transports you to a moment in time and each of these moments each have a gentle emotional overlay.

It’s a tricky book to find. You really need to make contact with one of the contributors. I know Penny Rogers and was delighted to receive this book from her.     




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

This month I’m giving away The House on Schellberg Street

This is the first story in my Schellberg cycle. It has three interweaving stories of:

·          Renate Edler, who did not know she was Jewish until she was sent to England on the Kindertransport. She spoke no English and struggled with her identity

·         Renate’s grandmother and best friend who helped to hide and teach children with disabilities.  This was in the house on Schellberg Street.   

·         The school friend who Renate left behind.  They kept in touch via a class letter.

Two more books in the cycle are published: Clara’s Story and Girl in a Smart Uniform. Face to Face with the Führer is in press and The Class Letter is being written. Helga’s Story and Gabriela’s Story are planned. Helga is a Holocaust survivor. Gabriela is a German resistance worker.    

I hope you enjoy the novel I’m offering this month.  

Please, please, please review it if you read it.

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 December.

Bystander guilt discusses how the girls became bystanders.  In The Class Letter I dela ot some extent with how the girl fac their guil when they ifn out about what happened to towe girls whi disappeared formtheir school, one of th nuns who used ot teach them and  alocal prest.

The Stammtisch and Newspapers   debates how news was recived diffently ojn htose dyas. The Stamm tish provide much of what we now have with sicla media but this wans;t relaly open to the girls.


Review of Wild Spirit Wild Spirit is a boat. Its ownere are involved in the Dunkirk evacuation. A loves tory is woven around this.   


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.


Wednesday 30 December 2020

Creativity Other Ways

Of course writers of fiction are creative.  They use their imagination to inhabit and people other worlds.  But they also write what they know. I’ve often found imagination pushes what I know. I discover things I didn’t realise I already knew by engaging the imagination. But does that creativity spill out and appear elsewhere? And are we in fact being more creative in other areas than even in our writing?

Parallels between teaching and writing

For twenty-six years I was a secondary school teacher. Days during term time included five to six hours contact time with students and then two to three hours marking and preparation. Preparation was a joy. It was relaxation at the end of a busy day, it was preparing for the future and it offered hope.  Perhaps they would understand and even enjoy what I was offering. Or better still they would be inspired, then motivated and in fact would direct their own learning.

Writing and teaching share a cycle of action research. You plan something and then you try it out. If it works you build on it. If it doesn’t, you adapt, teach again and then revaluate, planning again if need be.  

I often tell my creative writing students that teaching and writing is actually a difficult combination until you become a competent and confidant enough teacher to be able to switch off at weekends and in the school holidays. Teaching saps much of your creative energy.

That said, I did start my MA in Writing for Children whilst I was head of Modern Languages at a demanding comprehensive school. So, anything is possible I suppose.  


Working with prompts

I’ve always enjoyed this and have come up with some very pleasing work in response to random prompts.  I now build this into my writing routine. After an edit of my novel I’ll write a short story based on one of the prompts from my Prompts book. And I also have a go every so often at submitting something to a “Themed” call for submission.  Just to show that I can.

In fact the Prompts book is based on prompts. I invite other writers to provide them but I then also look at lists of prompts and turn each one into something slightly different.


Creating events 

This reminds me a little of lesson-planning. I enjoy creating events, whether they are our annual celebration events, book launches for myself or other writers, or seminars and talks on aspects of writing and publishing.


Working with restraints 

This is a little like working with prompts anyway.  You have to come up with something specific, maybe a certain number of words, or in a certain time frame or on a certain theme. I once created some higher reading papers for GCSE German. They had to include certain words and phrases, be pertinent to certain skill levels and there was a fairly strict word count.  Great fun. I made them all episodes of the same story which began to read a little like something from My Family.  

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Wednesday 23 December 2020

Maroula Blades: celebrating her flash fiction collection "The World in an Eye"

 Today I welcome to my blog Maroula Blades who has recently published The World in an Eye, a collection of flash fiction.   

1. What do you write? Why this in particular?

I write novellas, short stories, flash fiction, poetry and children stories. My work focuses on the themes like identity, austerity, disabilities, discrimination and racism.

I try to be a voice for those who do not have a platform to air their opinions, grievances and aspirations. The goal of my work is to address and empower the multi-features of diversity—and we find those characteristics in the people of every cultural and ethnic background. In addition, I want to promote a better understanding of cultural differences and to highlight the social issues which continue to trouble the margins of our societies.

2. What got you started on writing in the first place?

I started writing in my mid-teens. My mother is quite a strict woman, so there wasn’t much opportunity for a strong-willed, self-opinionated teenager to air her views. As I couldn’t discuss my standpoints, I wrote them down as confessional poetry and songs. From there, one thing led to another.

3. Do you have a particular routine?

No, I do not have a specific routine for writing. As I work in different artistic areas, each creative discipline materializes intuitively.

4. Do you have a dedicated working space?

I have a designated area for writing and reading. But with painting, I need sometimes half the floor of my living room to support a canvas. This was the case when I painted the artwork used on the cover of my new flash fiction collection “The World in an Eye”, published by Chapeltown Books. The format of the artwork is 47.64 x 59.45 inches. The book cover design is a rectangle, but the picture is actually an oblong.

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

After a few publications, I called myself a writer. This was several years ago. Deep down, I thought I didn’t deserve such a lofty title. Nowadays, depending on what’s being published, recorded or exhibited, I might use the term “multifaceted artist”.

6. How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you’re doing?

I have a handful of like-minded friends who are very supportive. As I live in Berlin, it has been essential to have support, as I didn’t speak the German language when I first moved to the capital from England.

My family can relate to my works and offer valid encouragement.

7. What are you most proud of in your writing?

I’m proud to address important social issues in my written works that aren’t tackled often in the mainstream literary arena. Since the recent Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements, a vital shift is taking place in the literary field which encompasses a few more diverse voices.

8. How do you get on with editing and research?

I enjoy the research aspect of writing. I love to weave facts through fiction. Editing is time-consuming and rarely aids in getting the creative juices flowing, but is invaluable to the success of a piece. With it, text come into fruition.

9. Do you have any goals for the future?

Currently, I am developing a hybrid manuscript of poetry, prose and art called “Roll Over A Change Is Coming!”. The project would not have materialized without a grant from The Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature in Switzerland. My goal is to have this project completed by next year. After which, I will submit the manuscript to publishers in the hope someone will find it interesting enough to publish.

10. Which writers have inspired you?

Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Jayne Cortez, Ben Okri, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Alain Mabanckou, and Derek Walcott to name but a few.


Maroula's  exhibitions at  the Gallery Lietzow - Berlin

                                                                  Photo by F Jerke

                                                                 Photo by J Heinrich
                                                                  Photo by F Jerke

                                                                Photo by J Heinrich




Tuesday 15 December 2020

Keeping the Lid on Social Media


Social media can be a boon and it certainly can help the isolated writer feel more connected with the world. During the Covid 19 pandemic it has probably been a life-line for many. It is powerful tool. But it also may become a tyrant and we have to make sure we master it and it doesn’t master us.

I start my day with a visit to either Twitter, Linked-in or Facebook. This time of year though, I play with my Jacquie Lawson advent calendar for a short while before I settle down to work.

Then at various intervals thought the day I’ll pop into my social media platforms. Also, when I trawl through my emails after lunch I will also see some notifications from my various social media accounts which I will follow up.  But I only do this for half an hour.  I then move on to answering only the important emails and the rest of them are ditched.

I’m not too concerned how many likes etc. I get because I only like what I genuinely like and have time to give some attention to. It’s a bonus when it happens.  It’s not a disaster if it doesn’t.

I’m also quite careful that for every proactive piece I put out there I respond to four other messages. In addition only about one in ten of my posts will be about self-promotion.

Sometime I will get involved in a good old political argument and it can get tricky. Then you have to remember that you can just walk away from it and mute or disconnect form anyone who is giving you grief. It’s good thought that we can express our views openly and find like-minded people. So, there are clearly some advantages and some disadvantages:



  • You can connect with people from all over the world.
  • You can connect with people you’ve never met.
  • If all else has failed when you have an issue with a big company a tweet can perform miracles (we got our broadband fixed that way)
  • If you have a sound idea others will promote it for you – think of the power of the retweet.
  • It offers free advertising.
  • You may also come across opportunities through it.
  • You can get rid of nuisances easily

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 



·         It can become addictive.

·         It can become time-consuming.

·         You may feel under pressure to keep up.

·         You may encounter trolls.

Bottom line advice

Enjoy it and keep it under control.  It is there to serve you not to rule you.

Thursday 10 December 2020

Great review for Babel



From Amanda Jones

From the very beginning Babel grasped my attention as the Peace Child is needed so much in today’s world. Then as I read further echoes of Coronavirus greeted me as we delved into a futuristic realm not far from reach of our own imagination.

The scene is set with Switch Off brought about from a population so healthy and disease-free that death needs to be a controlled administrative function. But Babel is not all about bleakness, we learn about Kaleem as he comes to understand his life’s purpose and origins wrapped into a personal story of love and desire.

Rozia adds interesting foresights as chapters open her diary and we read her thoughts. Then the dark nature of humanity is brought to us with Kevik. We are led to hope for change, but will it be for the better? Disability and discrimination is brought upon an innocent race but soothed with a true kindness.

As we near the halfway mark we learn about the creation of the Babel book and a break into our familiar, present world and author-editor relationships are explored; much to my delight as an author with a printing/graphic design background.

Gill cleverly and imaginatively weaves realistic possibilities into the book as she draws from our own past. Does history repeat itself? There are certainly echoes of wrongs and rights but this future world with a highly technical civilisation brings intrigue as with all hierarchy. Will they listen? What will going backwards create?

Babel leaves me with a truly possible reality we are almost on the cusp of and reading the book in 2020 Lockdown brought shivers of foresight. Enjoy entering this world and follow the hope of peace.