Thursday 30 December 2021

In conversation with Pam Line


Today I welcome to my blog, Pam Line, whose flash collection, Between the Lines  we published recently. 

So Pam, can you tell me why you write?   

Why do I write? I have asked myself this many times as it can be a cathartic occupation. For many years life has been hectic making a living keeping the wheels on the cart and generally enjoying the world of discovery. Now that I have some spare time the urge to chronicle my roller coaster existence is something that I want to share.Assuming that anyone is interested!
Do you have a dedicated work space? 
My work space is at the dining room table looking over the valley towards Burley Woodhead, and the moors in one direction, Bradford the other and in the far distance Haworth, with red kites and kestrels entertaining me with their acrobatic skills. I'm easily distracted.
Tell me abut your writing process
When a tale or idea comes to mind words tumble out in a slapdash fashion before the impetus leaves. Friends offer gentle criticism and advice especially when it comes to punctuation, the learning of which seems to have passed me by at Oaklands School for Girls. It was more of a place to prepare one to care for a husband, domestic science, how to iron a shirt, speak correctly and play a mean game of hockey.
Do you have any plans for any new work?  
Writing a novel wouldn't be me. There have been one or two false starts but when reading Steinbeck, (I cry buckets) and Hemingway, (whom I admire) I realise that, what I have done and seen is my metier. Kate Atkinson is one of the few modern writers who has managed to avoid extraneous back stories that distract the reader. (and gives me a legitimate reason to use parenthesis.)
Book two of short stories is almost ready and my memoir Unhappeningness will shock one or two,[Mother would have a throm] and will have to start looking for a publisher
And now can you tell us about Between the Lines? 
Between The Lines  available from Chapeltown Books and Amazon and with reviews on Good Reads, came into being through the auspices of Gill. Seven of the stories are true, one a tribute to Hemingway and the remaining four are hearsay.
I decided to write to my hero, Alan Bennett:

"16th October 2021

Dear Mr Bennett,
   My Mother is 99, her sole purpose being to clog on until December, get a letter from HM Queen and keep Sanatogen wine in business.
   The enclosed book/pamphlet, of which I am inordinately proud, I thought she might enjoy reading.
   ‘Oh, what a lovely cover. I’ll read this when I can find my glasses.’ She said and went back to watching an episode of Cash in the Attic.
   A few days later I arrived at Mothers, with the usual hugging of shopping and a carrier bag full of lotions and potions. Having cleaned, made her lunch and meals for the coming days, I asked tentatively if she had enjoyed my stories.
   She sat up ramrod straight, placing her hands on the arms of her wheelchair, and rather like the Queen said,
   ‘I am disgusted with you. Your father and I did not bring you up to speak broad Yorkshire, and as for, ‘She was up the duff,’ were you talking about me? I have never heard such disgusting language.’
   And with her nose in the air, she did a swift three-point turn and glid towards her bedroom.
   I thought that I would share this with you.
   Kindest Regards,
   Pam Line.
 p.s. A few years ago I was early for a talk that you were giving for Script Yorkshire. I was in the bar underneath the Carriageworks and had settled down with a drink when you came by looking for the route to the box office. I dashed after you, made a fuss getting you to the right place. You said that the train was late, and you felt discombobulated, so was I, as it is the first time in my life that I’ve abandoned a pint of Tetleys." 

I’ve received a postcard from Mr Bennet.

Flower, Background, Watercolor, Floral

"This is a thank you for your very enjoyable stories, the dialogue of which makes me laugh. [You can tell you’re your mother] and you’re better at plots than I am

Thank you, Alan Bennett.

A more encouraging response than from the local librarian:

At my local library I mentioned that I had a book out if they were interested, thinking that it could lead to me giving a talk and selling dozens of copies. The librarian said, 'Really.' and went back to whatever she was doing on her computer?
Time, then now, to don a warm coat and furry hat to walk Blossom the Dog to Otley via the Chevin; there's bound to be a story waiting to happen.


Or see in our store 

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Mixing it up: do we need to be so hung up on genre?

 Book, Indoor, Library, Woman, Girl

When I completed my PhD 2003-2007 I found out something very interesting about novels written for young adults: they defied genre.  In fact, what gave them unity was that they were written for young adults. Even that is debatable. Lot of people who are not young adults, myself included - and I had my 70th birthday recently, read books aimed at young adults. These texts, on average have seven different “traits” – a combination of themes they present and “genres” to which they might belong. 


If you wrote books like this for any other demographic they would probably be rejected. “We wouldn’t know where to shelve them in a book shop,” is the publishers’ complaint. 


Is this partly because the reader gets stuck on one genre? “I like mysteries but I don’t like the supernatural.” Why shouldn’t we let ourselves be amazed sometimes? 


It was really surprising when I interviewed some emergent readers (infant school, off the reading scheme but still not all that fluent and tending to use texts that still give them a little help with reading) about which sort of texts they enjoyed and what they would like to read that wasn’t available? Harry Potter often figured. “I don’t like school stories. I like Harry Potter.”  “I don’t like stories about magic.  I like Harry Potter.” “I don’t like quirky stories. I like Harry Potter.” Can there be anything more multi-genre than the Harry Potter books? And doesn’t each reader just see what they want there. 


One of my writing friends has had publishers hesitate because there is a supernatural trait in her novel.  For me this is the most important part of the plot in this one. Another who combines horror with detective stories thinks that neither type of reader will be satisfied.  Another writing friend describes his works as “international thrillers” and many of his books look like “boys’ books” with military figures on the cover.  Yet he often has a female protagonist and his stories are often emotionally charged. 


I am not naturally attracted to horror yet I love Steven King’s work. He writes so well. 


Perhaps that is the key to it all. We enjoy a novel if it is well written and if it tells a good story. This is one of the great advantages of belonging to a reading group. Sometimes you are asked to read something you would not normally choose because you’re not so keen on romance, adventure, mystery etc. You find you’re reading something that doesn’t quite fit into any of those genres and you are pleasantly surprised.                 

Friday 10 December 2021

Why I’m still here - it’s all about the stories we tell


Rutland, England, Village, Sunset

Many of you know that I’m passionate about Europe. I spent from 1974 until 2000 teaching young people foreign languages and even more importantly to see other Europeans as “us” rather than “them” and this as a stepping stone towards global citizenship, much maligned by the previous P.M. as being for “citizens of nowhere”.  I prefer “now here”, but there you are.

We had dreamt at one time of retiring to Spain. We have lived in the Netherlands. I’d even go for German citizenship; my husband is partly German – his mother was a German Jewess and came to England in 1938 – I speak fluent German much of my writing is about the Nazi time and seeks to discover why basically decent people were pulled into something so terrible.

I am a writer and though I speak four other European languages well, I can probably only write in English and need to interact with an English-speaking readership. The US? After Trump? They still have capital punishment, so, no thank you.  Canada then? They’d have us, surely? Cold in winter though and don’t you have to learn how to shoot wild animals?

Politically there are some disturbing things happening here. And yet we stay. It seems worth holding our ground and fighting.

I’m writing a lot of historical fiction about feisty women at the moment. Yes I’m continuing as well with my novels set in Nazi Germany.  No doubt I could write those in Germany. But maybe not so much in the hot climate of Spain. I used to write fantasy for children which was ideally suited to that landscape.  In fact, it was being in the south of Spain that got me writing in the first place. Perhaps I could manage my YA SF there.

There are other things I would miss about the UK though. Excellent drama for one thing. I love the cosiness of such TV programmes as Midsomer Murders, Lewis, Poirot, Endeavour, Call the Midwife and All Creatures Great and Small. Then there are the greats, including on stage. I’m a member of a theatre discussion group. We watch plays, either live in the theatre or via You Tube and we discuss them, often on Zoom. We recently watched a BBC film version of An Inspector Calls. It worked really well presented this way.  It’s a story I never tire of. I experience something similar with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

I read fluently enough in other languages to know that we have a unique section of literature that sits somewhere between literary and genre.  I label it “middle brow”. It includes the likes of Maeve Binchy, Sally Gardener and many children’s writers.      

We have of course our beloved Shakespeare and Dickens. Other countries have their greats, that is for sure, but they’re just not quite as great. So, it’s a real privilege to be here. So, let’s keep this place good.                            

Friday 3 December 2021

News 3 December 2021

 Letter, E-Mail, Mail, Hand, Write

A new regime  

I have made a slight change to my writing routine and the results have bene very rewarding. Now, my first task of the day it to submit a piece of writing. This will involve another edit / proof read and the due diligence about finding the right publisher. It’s an exciting start to the day. I’ve been doing this now for a couple of weeks and already it’s paying off. Okay, so I’ve had two rejections (from older submissions) but also two acceptances, for work submitted this week.

So, I’m recommending this approach.        

Current writing

I’m now on the twelfth draft of my fifth Peace Child novel, The Glastonbury Specification. It’s now almost ready for the next stage.   

The Big Book of Prompts, which combines Prompts 2020, 2021 and 2022 is now finished and will be released at the end of 2022. I’m now working on a manual for writers’ group now. It will have fifty-two plans for creative writing sessions. This includes a description of   equipment needed, any activity that needs to be done in advance, timing for writing, sharing work, with suggestions of how to do the latter and suggestions of how to build on the work.

I’ve had two articles published with Talking about My Generation:


The Young Person’s Library

I’ve added three books this month, all fluent reader texts:

October, October by Katya Balen (illustrations by Angela Harding) This crosses over into teen. A young girl lives with her father in a home in the woods.  Both of them love nature. But changes have to be made when her father is badly injured in a fall from a tree.


Gracie Fairshaw and the Trouble at the Tower   My kind of book! This is a well-told and well-written tale. Here The Family from One End Street, meets Noel Streatfield, meets the Secret Seven, with a good deal of quirkiness and a 21st problem thrown in.


A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig illustrated by Chris Mould  Really great for this time of the year. This story contains some familiar tropes, some quirky passages and the sadness that Nikolas loses his father.

I’m reading most books on Kindle these days but I do buy physical books for young people though YA will also go on Kindle. I source most of these books from The Hive. I really recommend this lovely online shop that supports indie bookshops and delivers promptly.   



Current reading recommendation

I really enjoyed the Gracie Fairshaw book described above. So, I’m recommending that one his month.

The story is set in Blackpool 1935 as Christmas approaches. But someone is trying to sabotage the Children’s Ballet Christmas spectacular. A piece of scenery injures a dancer, another dancer has itching powder put inside her costume and a several poisonous-pen letters are sent. Naughty chimps and escaping lions add to the drama.  The damage the chimps do often looks like part of the sabotage.  

Gracie becomes a reporter for the local newspaper. This affords the reader several details about what a writer does – and helps Gracie to do more investigating.  

There are many details of time and place here. We have a glimpse of what Christmas was like back then and in a boarding house in particular. Paper chains feature in abundance. 

Susan Brownrigg is a brilliant story teller.  This is a well-told and well-written tale. Here The Family from One End Street, meets Noel Streatfield, meets the Secret Seven, with a good deal of quirkiness and a 21st problem thrown in.  I hope Brownrigg will bring us many more episodes about Gracie.      

The book is 235 pages long – some forty pages longer than the first book in the series.  The text is blocked but double-spaced. The font has a serif. The chapters are relatively short.  Chapter headings are in a cursive font and are fronted with a picture of an envelope with a question mark on it. At the end of the book there is a glossary which contains a lot more information about Blackpool, a note from the author on her research about the Children’s Ballet, and an author bio.           

Grab you copy here  




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

This month I’m offering my short story collection: Other Ways of Being  

Stories that suggest alternative ways of life.  

Is a stranger a threat or is he just trying to help? It may be as clever as being a fortune-teller but is it helpful?

Is the wild woman really a little girl that she used to know? Will they be safe now or should they worry about the bright soldiers marching? Which horror does the deep sleeper hide?

Who was that strange child? How did they manage to feed so many people?

Can a couple remain together even when their natures threaten to keep them apart? Is a seemingly incompetent wizard cleverer than he seems? What happens when an alien makes a mistake and almost gives himself away? Do animals help each other in their struggle against the damage that humans are doing? Who exactly is the lady in blue? Is Bradley’s the best story ever?

Can a man survive in a dystopian future if he has no more human contact? What can ATMs do when society goes moneyless? What happens when the money runs out? Just how smart will the smartphone get? Or driverless cars for that matter? Where will we find sanctuary when the extremists start winning? What happens to the clones when the blueprint gets sick?

Will we get used to Toni?

Other Ways of Being is a collection of thought-provoking stories that have all been published elsewhere first.    


Find out and grab your copy and lots of other freebies here.

And please, please, please leave a review when you’ve finished.    

Note: 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.  They may also be interesting for other readers of historical fiction.

Sometimes I also write about what might be of interest to other writers.

I’ve added two posts this month. Both of them are really about my plans for future stories.

Find them here:

More stories coming soon

More about Helga’s Story



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.  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 and some other editors 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.