Saturday, 18 March 2023
Today I talk to Allison Symes - a self-confessed huge fan of writing prompts
Friday, 17 March 2023
The Big Book of Prompts - Amanda Jones talks to me today about working with prompts
They are easy to find and don’t require research.
Everyday life and things I am actively doing.
Writing keeps me thinking and creative. Prompts ensure I have something there when I write.
Thursday, 16 March 2023
Dreams and Challenges
The two dreams had always been there: be a writer, work as a university lecturer. Yet I was stuck in my role as teacher of modern foreign languages. And after all, that was the fulfilment of another dream – to be fluent in two foreign languages.
Yet even when I got the kick-start to taking my writing seriously I still dabbled in the foreign language scene. Another ambition was to become a head of modern languages. I did that for six years and finally left full-time high school teaching in 2000.
My eureka moment about writing led me to establishing a routine, which led me to Writers’ Register, part of the continuing education initiative of the University of Southampton, which led me to doing an MA in Writing for Children and the University of Winchester (at that time rather charmingly named King Alfred’s College). A few weeks after I graduated I received my first publishing contract.
I missed university life, however, and soon found myself applying to do a PhD. Winchester didn’t offer them at that time but on my tutor’s recommendation I applied to the University of Wales, Bangor and was accepted.
Then came a life of a 600 mile round trip most weeks, living in a house share (postgrad at least), post-lunch coffees in the postgrad room with the theologians, teaching undergrads and postgrads and the challenge of writing a YA novel that aligned with the definition of what a YA novel is, a definition I was trying to pinpoint by studying numerous texts (in many languages and in other Englishes), publishers’ guidelines and the opinions of educationalists and young adult themselves.
As the period of study drew to an end, I began again to realise that I would miss the university way of life, so I started to look for posts in higher education. I secured one at the University of Salford so reduced my round trip to 300 miles. I’m glad to say we have since moved to the North West and I’m really glad we did; we’re near to Manchester, a vibrant and culturally rich town, the cost of living is considerably lower here than it was on the south coast and we’re pretty well bang in the middle of the UK, so nowhere is too far away.
I’m retired now but I’m still doing a little work now and then for the university, and a lot of writing and publishing. My languages are still bubbling away there in the background – I’ve joined U3A conversation groups for French, German and Spanish. And I’ve now also become a publisher.
I gained my PhD and started my new career in higher education when I was 55. When I was very young and we used to go on seaside holidays to Colwyn Bay I used to dream of going to the teacher training college at Ross on Sea. I sort of got there but overshot a little; Bangor is just up the road form Ross on Sea and it has a university rather than a teacher training college.
Tuesday, 14 March 2023
The Big Book of Prompts - Dawn Knox talks to me about Writing Prompts today.
Do you use writing prompts yourself?
I never have a problem finding ideas to write about. The problem I have is finding the time to write about all the ideas I’ve got! So, no, I don’t deliberately use prepared writing prompts. However, there have been several occasions when I have used them, and the consequences have been quite surprising. Each one has resulted in a book – The Basilwade Chronicles, The Macaroon Chronicles and The Crispin Chronicles. I’ve just embarked on a new set of short stories about the members of a zany club who make post box toppers and I suppose they all started from having seen one of the amazing, knitted toppers in my town. So, I rarely search for writing prompts, but they certainly find me.
What are the advantages of using prompts such as those included in the books?
On the occasions when I have used writing prompts such as when they’ve been set as a task in one of my writing groups, I’ve found the resulting story is something I would never have come up with on my own. Before I start a story, I usually like to have the beginning and end sorted out but with a writing prompt, I’m more likely to ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ and not worry that I might ‘write myself into a corner’. I suppose at the moment, I’m doing that with my post box topper society stories. In the first story, I set up a ‘villain’ who is believed to be sabotaging the toppers. At first, I had absolutely no idea who he or she might be, but if I’m going to carry on, I need to have an identity for the mysterious A. Godbin, who is quick to complain via email! Have I given them an identity yet? Watch this space!
Where else do you find prompts from?
Anywhere and everywhere! An overheard snatch of conversation, an unusual item in a news report, a bizarre or touching historical story, or interesting photographs. There are too many prompts and not enough time to take advantage of them all!
Have you a prompt for today?
If anyone is lacking inspiration, here’s a photo I took in a churchyard in London just before the first lockdown! I don’t know why, but this image always comes to mind when I think about writing prompts. Perhaps it will inspire you too!
Anything else you’d like to add?
If you’ve never used a writing prompt, it’s definitely worth giving it a go and seeing if you agree with me, it’s likely to lead you into places you most probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise. Happy writing!
Thursday, 2 March 2023
News 2 March 2023
Inspired by a local artist
With my Talking About My Generation hat on, it was my privilege to visit last Saturday the Harold Riley Gallery at the Lowry Outlet Centre in Salford. I talked to the artist’s daughter Kate, and granddaughter Hannelore.
Harold Riley was a friend of Lowry and Lowry was also his mentor. Riley is the only artist to have had Nelson Mandela sit for a portrait. He was given the freedom of the city of Salford in 2017.
A full article will be coming out shortly with Talking About My Generation.
One fact fascinated me and may be of interest to people reading this newsletter. Riley completes two commissions a year to cover his living costs, then he can spend the rest of his time on projects he deems important. Is this comparable with my own experience? And that indeed of many creative practitioners?
For eleven years I worked as a lecturer in creative writing and I still do a little freelance work for the university. I earn a little from my writing. I have a pension from the university which adds to my teaching pension and state pension. I’m not rich, but I’m comfortably off. So, I can carry on with projects I deem important and / or interesting even if they don’t make a lot of money or even make a slight loss.
Thinking about how Riley works has made me see myself as more successful than I’d thought before.
I think I have a title for Peace Child 4: Looking for Butterflies or perhaps even, Finding the Butterflies.
I’ve had a couple of short stories published this month.
You can find my story Out of the Corner of My Eye here: https://medium.com/@gilljames/out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye-1fa307f39641 It’s a bit of a ghost story.
Getting it into Perspective is here: https://medium.com/@gilljames/getting-it-into-perspective-b448be2c040d
I’ve made a book trailer for my latest release https://youtu.be/oYdr_DjlMbo Face to Face with the Führer. Incidentally, save the date. There will be an online launch 18 May 6.00 p.m. to 7.00 p.m.
On Talking About My Generation I have an article about a local exhibition celebrating the 1970s and 1980s. You can read it here: https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/exhibition-celebrating-life-in-the-north-during-the-70s-and-80s/
I’m selling my Build a Book Workshop book on Kofi. This is all about working with children in school to publish a book. This is an alternative way of buying it. You pay what you like: Build a Book on Kofi https://ko-fi.com/s/bdcdcefc85
On My Blog
I’ve had quite a few authors on my blog this month. Liz Cox, Jenny Palmer, Sally Angel Malina Douglas and Allison Symes talk about writing for the Evergreen and about their writing in general. Janet Howson discusses her recently published A Cue For Murder.
If you’re living the dream and spending a lot of your working hours writing do you have time for or even need hobbies? I discuss that here. Do take a look at the photo of my lovely choir.
Do we make a difference? I ask that question here.
The Young Person’s Library
I’ve added three books this month:
We Don’t Eat This by Sue Graves and Alan Brown is an emergent reader text about farm animals.
The Storm Swimmer by Clare Weze is for fluent readers and is set at the seaside. Ginika gets to know one of the sea people. I love this type of fantasy where the new world visits our more familiar setting.
Igloo by Jennifer Burkinshaw is a beautifully written gentle YA romance largely set in the Alps. In fact, this is this month’s recommend read.
I know both Clare and Jennifer and have in fact published their short stories. It’s good to see them making strides through the writing world.
Yes, I’m recommending Jennifer Burkinshaw’s Igloo
This is a gentle romance at the same time as being a gentle coming of age story.
Niv does not like skiing nor does she want to go to university. Her passion is for working with wood. Then along comes Jean-Louis with his one set of problems mainly to do with his dysfunctional mother. Can Niv survive her poor GCSE results? Can her relationship with Jean-Louis continue? Will she regain her mother’s trust and affection? All of this set against a backdrop of snow, mountains and two igloos.
There is pace and tension a plenty in Jennifer Burkinshaw’s Igloo.
Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle. Occasionally there are PDFs. This month I’m offering a Kindle file and a PDF of Other Ways of Being. Mobi-files have stopped working on some Kindle devices, so we’re gradually changing over to the newer type of file. I’m afraid we haven’t updated this to the new sort of file for Kindle yet. You , however, be able to read the PDF on your Kindle.
Other Ways of Being is my second collection of short stories.
Read all about it here: http://www.thebridgetowncafebooksshop.co.uk/2021/05/other-ways-of-being.html
Other Ways of Being is an anthology of stories that ask us many questions about:
- otherness: 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?
- other times: 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?
- other histories: Who was that strange child? How did they manage to feed so many people?
- other worlds: 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?
- our near futures: 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?
- other sexualities and genders: Will we get used to Toni?
Does this collection supply the answers to those questions? That is for the reader to decide.
Find out more. Grab your copy and lots of other freebies http://eepurl.com/hhGHX5
Note, you may have to copy and paste the link.
And please, please, please leave a review, perhaps on Amazon, Good Reads and / or Story Graph, 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 useful to other writers.
I’ve added two posts this month. In The Little Underground Theatre I discuss my progress in planning the seventh book in the cycle. And I think this will be its title.
In Megalomania I compare Putin to Hitler – and one or two others. I’m afraid Mr Putin comes off rather badly.
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. I also invite other writers to provide prompts and work for critique.
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.