I have been volunteering as a culture champion in Bury for the past few months. This is an initiative to involve older people in cultural activities. I am member of U3A (University of the Third Age) and we were invited to become involved with this. Of course, the very fact that we are members of U3A means that we are people who engage culturally already.
It was a great surprise and delight when I turned up for the first meeting to find that the facilitator was a former colleague from the University of Salford: Harriet Morgan-Sharni. Some of you will understand when I say that we just had to reminisce about a certain time-travelling bus that allowed us to work with Performance and Creative Writing students on enabling school children to create stories.
I’ve had some fun on the way: an interesting visit to the East Lancs Railway, several meetings in the Bury museum and a half-day sketching work-shop, also at Bury museum.
Many older people do not want to go out in the evenings and even day-time meetings can be tricky. We need safe social indoor spaces. We don’t have the climate in Greater Manchester to be able to sit under Guernica’s tree.
The Culture Champion project then becomes about taking culture out to where people feel safe.
Various groups obtained funding from the Culture Champions project and Culture Champion volunteers often helped out with them.
I was very privileged to help with three sessions at the Jinnah Centre in Bury . These were facilitated by Jen, Ferne and Rachel from https://smallthings.org.uk/ . It was fascinating watching the women’s confidence grow. In the first session they had said they didn’t want to sing. In the final session last Thursday we actually made a group recording of us all singing. I’m not sure how I helped exactly but I did enjoy joining in all of the activities. There was such a sense of play. This is something I think we all need. The women explored community, home, family and place.
Sadly the project is coming to an end soon.
News about my writing
I’m still carrying on much as before.
I’m now about two thirds of the way through the first draft of The Round Robin, the fifth book in the Schellberg Cycle. This may be only a working title.
I’m also continuing with Not Just Fluffy Bunnies – which is becoming a monster of a book. I’m really enjoying, though, rereading several texts written for young people.
Using my own Fair Submissions web site (https://www.fairsubmissions.co.uk/ ) I’m also challenging myself about once a fortnight to writing specifically for a competition or a call to submission.
I’m also now submitting something pretty well every day. Yes, that leads to more rejections, - or as one of my cup-half-full writing friends calls them, rewrites, - but it also leads to more acceptances. This also gives me insight for a section of the online course I’m designing: Submitting Strategy for The Business of Writing.
The Young Person’s Library
The full catalogue is gradually moving from http://www.gilljameswriter.eu/p/blog-page_81.html to https://www.theyoungpersonslibrary.co.uk/
I’ve added new this month:
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
This is a classic for fluent readers and concerns fantasy that impinges on everyday life. Read my full comments here: https://www.theyoungpersonslibrary.co.uk/2020/02/the-wierdstone-of-brisingamen.html
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Although the protagonist is only five at the beginning of the story and a young teen at the end this feels like a teen read as he has to take on the world. Read my full report here: https://www.theyoungpersonslibrary.co.uk/2020/02/enders-game-by-orson-scott-card.html
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
This is a fantasy classic for the fluent reader. It is great fun but also has a darker side. Read my full report here: https://www.theyoungpersonslibrary.co.uk/2020/02/charlie-and-chocolate-factory-by-roald.html
The Witch of Turlingham Academy by Ellie Boswell
Not quite Harry Potter nor The Worst Witch but nevertheless this is about a witch at school. The fantasy element makes it suitable for upper primary but the flirting and love interest can also appeal to younger teens. See the full report here: https://www.theyoungpersonslibrary.co.uk/2020/02/the-witch-of-turlingham-academy-by.html
Princess BMX by Marie Basting
Marie is a SCBWI friend of mine so it’s great to see that she has produced such a delightful book. It’s quite a thick volume but full of fun for the upper primary reader. https://www.theyoungpersonslibrary.co.uk/2020/02/princess-bmx-by-marie-basting.html
I’ve also moved across several posts from my blog.
If you’re interested in children’s literature take a look at the site. There is a search facility on it. You can also browse it by clicking on Labels and then Show More. Categories are age groups, schools, Key Stages, authors and themes. Information is also given about the year of publication for each text and when it was first published.
Current reading recommendation
This month I’m recommending Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver. Find more details here. I borrowed this book as a brand new title form the library.
This is described as a Gothic novel and certainly there are Gothic tropes in it. Protagonist Maud tells the story of her father who feels threatened by demons. It is not too Gothic, in my opinion, though, and can be enjoyed by readers who are not keen on Gothic texts. We can assign her father’s fears of demons to his failing mental health. Indeed, he is institutionalised. Throughout the novel he dislikes and distrusts the fens.
Maud, however, loves the fens and manages to stop the one near their home from being drained.
Our protagonist’s life is not happy. She suffers badly from eczema. She is plain perhaps even ugly. Her father is mentally cruel to her. He is a misogynist. She falls in love inappropriately. She is not good at mixing with people.
There is a love interest and there must have been some sex because there are some pregnancies but this is all very much in the background. The story is somewhere else. This makes a refreshing change.
Michelle Paver’s writing is engaging throughout. She creates a vivid atmosphere. The text borders on the literary.
Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle. Occasionally there are PDFs.
This month I’m giving away Prompts 2020. This contains 366 writing prompts, one for each day of 2020. Several of my writing friends have contributed to the book. We’re happy for you to use this just for yourself or with your writing / critique group. We’re already working on the 2021 book.
You can download it and lots of other free materials here.
Please, please, please review it if you read it.
Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99, with most on Kindle being about £2.99 and the average price for paperback being £7.00. We have to allow our writers 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 of historical fiction.
This month I’ve added the following:
A post about how I’ve had to invent an invention. I’m including in my novel about the round robin letters the story of the two girls who have to take on their father’s factory after he dies suddenly. They need to invent a new product. You can read the post here.
A discussion of how one of the recurring themes in the letters is a sense of duty. Did this come about because of some form of indoctrination? Read the psot here.
I’m offering another sort of school visit absolutely free of charge: a run through or read through of The House on Schellberg Street play. This would last a couple of hours- though we could make it longer if we wanted some follow up work. It would be suitable for a full Key Stage 4 Drama, English or History class. One of my ambitions for the play is to put it on at a school.
I’m still promoting my more conventional school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’ve now developed a whole workshop for this. It starts off with a board game, includes some role play and creative writing and ends with a discussion.
It is now possible to purchase the kit to work on on your own. Find details here.
Costs for my workshops = travel expenses plus £400 for a full day and £200 for a half day. This includes all materials and some freebies. Two schools near to each other might consider splitting the day and halving the travel expenses and fees. This is open to negotiation in any case.
I also offer a free half day visit, though you pay my travel expenses, if you allow me to promote my books.
I’m continuously adding materials for schools to the site that are different from the ones I use for the workshops. I’ve recently added in resources and books to do with the topic. See them here:
Query for a school visit here.
I’m also happy to tailor a visit for your agreed donation. This can be for either a Schellberg Cycle visit or a creative writing workshop. Any monies raised this way will go specifically to a project I have for a non-fiction book about a journey that will follow the footsteps of Clara Lehrs. I’m hoping to do the whole journey by train, including departing via my nearest Metrolink station. It’s important to feel the rails beneath my feet.
I offer as well standard author visits which include readings from my books, Q & A sessions and creative writing exercises.
Please remember, with these as well, I’m open to negotiation if you can’t afford the full price.
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 I am gradually moving the children’s book catalogue over to this site. Access it here.
Fair Submissions I am gradually moving the Opportunities List to this site. Find it here.
New ones are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I go through it and take out all of the out of date ones. At that point I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.
Happy reading and writing.