Thursday 25 April 2024

Illness and creativity

I used to notice when my children were little that after a bout of illness there would be a spurt in their physical growth and perhaps more intriguingly there would be a sudden deeper understanding of something, an increase in their intellectual capacities and better mastery of a skill.

Recently I caught a bug that was going round. This meant a few days of fever, tiredness and coughing. The fever disappeared after three days but the cough and tiredness went on for ten.

I wasn’t ill enough to stay in bed and it was fortunate that it coincided with the Easter break so many of my usual people-facing activities had been suspended for a while.

I did continue with my writing and my routine marketing, editing and book-designing.

But I couldn’t bring myself to organise my book launch, a meeting for the editors I work with or some applications for funding for some projects.

As soon as I felt better I was able to complete those tasks more joyfully and with more inspiration than normal.

Illness seems to give us a useful pause. I wonder whether we become ill because something big is brewing. Or whether illness happens because we have overdone it.  Whichever is the truth, and I’m suspecting it’s a mixture of the two, it does seem that after illness we become more proactive and more creative.           

Thursday 18 April 2024

Sally Zigmond talks to us about her writing and The Story Weaver.


Tell us about how you came to write these stories.

When my two sons started school, my days were more free so I enrolled in a daytime adult learning course called “ Writing for Publication and Profit.” The ability to make money from writing had never occurred to me before. (Naive or what?) Anyway, I found I enjoyed writing. My first published piece was about the facts, fiction, myth and magic about Dandelions. Then, with my husband's photographs, I wrote about our caravan holidays and did quite well financially. But although fact always pays more than fiction, I soon grew bored and wanted to use my imagination. I was a total ingenue and it took a lot of practise and study for my fiction to be published.

Then I had a stroke of luck – or was it finding myself in the right place at the right time or something to do with stars aligning? Who knows but, in a writing magazine, I saw a small advertisement from someone called Jo Good (now, Jo Derrick), the editor of a small press magazine called QWF: Quality Women's Fiction. I liked the look of it. To cut a very long story short, often happy, but more often sad, Jo and I became firm friends. We still are today on social media but have not seen each other face to face for a very long time.


The Story Weaver is such a lovely title.What was the inspiration behind that?

When I sat my A level in Fashion And Fabric I was struck by how many words and expressions for weaving were used metaphorically in everyday life: that old man in the pub spinning his yarns about his life as a plumber; that man with the pop-star looks and winks who wove a tapestry of lies that entertained all the young girls but made the older women laugh. And what about , "What a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive."? (Sir Walter Scott). 


Tell us something about  your writing routine.  

Like must of us, I have to fit my writing into my daily life. Usually I begin the day with a cup of black coffee checking overnight emails. Then it's the Guardian daily Sudoku, a quick update on Twitter and Facebook, then breakfast. I download my current writing projects and fit them in to the rest of the day.


 Do you have a dedicated writing space?

My desk and PC are in the passage/hall between the kitchen/diner. I have a widow but it it is just above my head. I see the sky and tree trunks across the road and but can only see high vehicles such as tractors, dust carts and lorries.


 Do you have anything new in the pipeline?

I am currently nearing the end of what I hope will be the final draft of a medieval novel. I have yet to proofread and find all those pesky typos I missed before. Then I will submit it to the many agents I have earmarked. I am not over optimistic but am determined. If all else fails, I will self-publish with help. 

Find your copy of  The Story Weaver here

Monday 15 April 2024

Some Fun Things about Being a Writer


Only today at breakfast I talked to my husband about how fortunate I was that for the last eleven years of my working life I was in effect paid to do my hobby. I was paid to write, research and talk to other people about writing. I had a job at a university as a lecturer in Creative Writing. I even had a sabbatical in order to just write and research and out of that sabbatical my Schellberg Cycle was born. I shall be starting the seventh and final book soon.  Already it is clear there is some fun in writing.

So here is a list of ten things I like about being a writer.

1.      Reading , watching TV, going to the cinema or theatre or even gossiping in the pub all add to your understanding of story.

2.      Even if you’re reading a book you’re not finding so good you can switch your critical head on and enjoy the analysis.

3.      I enjoy going to other writers’ book events. And the festivals and conferences.

4.      When you write, you can visit all sorts of worlds you wouldn’t normally know. You can be anyone or anything.

5.      If anyone annoys you, you can get revenge by putting them in a novel or sort story.

6.      You can get ideas form the most surprising places and at some interesting times: on a bus or at a bus stop, while you’re walking the dog, from some of the “little” stories in your local newspaper.

7.      It’s fabulous when you get a copy of your book in your hand.

8.      Great reviews make you feel good. And you learn to shrug the others off.

9.      It’s encouraging seeing your sale rank go up on Amazon and when you get your royalties.

10.  Other writers can become great friends.

So definitely: being a writer is fun.    

Saturday 6 April 2024

We Need Fans and Followers, not so much Friends and Family

 I found myself getting quite irritated by a tweet I read decently. Another writer was complaining that at a family dinner no one asked her how her writing was going. I wrote a reply which I then deleted. The writer was already upset; there was no point in my upsetting them more. And I’ve actually got quite a lot to say for which there would not be enough characters even if I had a paid account with X.

Why should we actually expect our friends and family to be interested in our writing? My husband is a football fan and often watches three matches at once via computer and TV screen, and apart form a cursory ”How did they get on?” when I’m really trying to assess his mood, I’m not really interested.  He’s also an IT expert and very useful in that capacity at times. I’m glad he continues to be successful but again, I don’t need to know the details.

So why should your family, at a family dinner, ask how your writing is going? More likely they need to know how you are doing. Are you well? Are managing to pay the rent? Are you happy? Is there anything they can help with? Aha! Yes, they could buy one of your books. But don’t expect them to think of that unless you tell them.

I have a lot of writing friends and I’m always interested in how their process is going, including with marketing. We chat as professionals working in the same filed often do. But I’m still not necessarily interested in every detail of those works – many of my writing friends work in a genre that doesn’t light my fire. 

And there are some writers I adore. I become a fan and if I remember, a follower: I hit the “Follow” button an Amazon.

We probably think we are more emotionally tied to our creative work than people are to other sorts of work.  Are we though?

What about your cousin the nurse who has just had to help a patient who was dying? Or your brother-in-law the plumber who has just had to fit a new boiler in a very old house and the pipe-work wouldn’t play ball? Or your friend at the gym who has just had to give someone the sack because they just weren’t up to the job even though that means that they will no longer be able to pay their rent? Do you ever really want to kwon how it’s going for them? Do you bother to ask? If your answer is no, then you have absolutely no right to expect them to be interested in your writing. If yes, then no doubt you will soon see that they’ll show an interest in what’s most on your mind as well.

Some friends and family may also be or become fans and followers. We need to reach out to our identified reader, make sure we’re visible to them and make it’s easy for them to become followers.

We need to be pragmatic. Sure, there is a deeply emotional side to writing – we probably couldn’t do it well if there wasn’t. But we also have to have our business head on. If people aren’t noticing that we’re writing it may well be our own fault.

Tied up with this is imposter syndrome.

The people closest to us don’t get that we need time to write? And we don’t assert that? Why can’t we be more assertive? The answer is probably because we don’t believe it ourselves. Maybe we need to be clearer:

·         Grab your time to write. I now shut my study door if I don’t want to be disturbed. My family are now trained; sometimes I forget to open it again – and get an apologetic knock on the door.   

·         Be prepared to describe yourself as a writer – even if you have a day job tell people that.

·         Tell people about your writing when they ask how you are.

·         Be proud of what you’ve achieved and be prepared to tell people about it – as long as you don’t get too swanky.  

·         Find the people who can become fans and followers. I network a lot with children’s writers because I sometimes write for children. But my fans and followers are more likely to be school children and those involved in education. So, I befriend teachers and school librarians on social media.

·         Don’t whinge that you’re not getting noticed.  Do something that will get you noticed Whinging will get you the wrong sort of attention.  If you have friends that have been more successful than you, look at what they’re doing and see if you can emulate. Only, of course, if you feel comfortable with that. Hint: there are zillions of promotional activities that work. There are bound to be a few with which you can feel comfortable. Go grab them.  

Enjoy interacting with your fans and followers.


Monday 1 April 2024

News 1 April 2024


Easter weekend 


And April Fools’ Day to boot. And the day we put the clock forward. Two bank holidays in one long weekend. So everything is happening at once. A real boon for people who have demanding  day jobs. 

I note that hot cross buns have been available since just after Christmas – as have chocolate Easter eggs. For me, this dilutes the season a little.  I love both hot cross buns and chocolate Easter eggs – but only at Easter.

Easter is early this year and there has been news about fixing the date. I would welcome that and I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t. Yet neither does it seem all that important.  The third Sunday of April has been suggested. That’s fine with me.

Easter anyway is a time of much promise.  Indeed our garden is looking pretty and should soon be even more beautiful.  



Writing news

I’m still working on edits of Peace Child 6. I’m currently in the middle of one about variety in pace.

You can read my review of Northanger Abbey at Bolton’s Octagon theatre here: I attended the Theatre Club discussion mentioned; we were all a little perplexed by the play. Yet it had its good points.

You can read two of my stories mentioned last month: and    

On 13 March I attended the AGM of the Lancashire Authors’ Association and was rather pleased to find that several of my stories had been placed. In the WILLIAM BARON CUP-  Flash Fiction, Short Story in Standard English, not exceeding 500 words, my piece of flash fiction ‘Gone’ was awarded third place and ‘There is Abundance’ was  commended. In the MERCER CUP – Short Story in Standard English, not exceeding 1500 words ‘Hammering’ was highly commended. ‘How to Be a Friend’ and ‘Ginger’ were commended.   


On My Blog

Yvonne Walus talks to me about her latest book. I discuss food in my peace Child books. I also talk about television I enjoy and how this strengthens my sense of story: My Kind of Television



The Young Person’s Library

I’m afraid I’ve not added anything this month. Not to worry, there are books in my to be read pile that should feature next month.

Recommended read

The month I’m recommending Now Go Tell by Susan Sachon.

Protagonist Jenny Watson has a challenging life anyway. And then she is offered an even greater challenge.

It seems like a dream job - putting on a Shakespeare festival and running a pub but she knows she has to get this right. Then things start to become quite sinister and her life is in danger.  

This novel has well-drawn characters, plenty of pace and tension and a satisfying ending. This makes a good holiday read.

Susan Sachon certainly keeps us guessing in Now Go Tell.  

Sample pages

If you like what you’re reading you can click through and find out ways of buying the book. However, I’m still happy to give you a free copy if you’re strapped for cash and / or you’re willing to review.  Just contact me.  

This month I’m offering 140 x 140


I wrote these stories on the days when I was mainly editing. They offered a chance to do some writing on days that were full of rewriting.  There are 140 stories, each 140 words long.   

Each story was inspired by the first picture I saw when I opened my Twitter feed. They originally had the Twitter handle of the person tweeting as part of the title but I decided I needed to make it all more anonymous, a little vaguer. I've preserved the dates, however. Just in case someone thinks that writing flash is quick and easy. You will see how long it has taken to produce this volume and if you look at the end date and the date this collection is released, you'll realise that it takes a finite amount of time to produce a book, even with all the technology available to us.

I hope you enjoy this collection and will find it varied, thought-provoking, laughter-producing and tear-jerking. I have certainly enjoyed putting it together.

What's up next in terms of flash? Why, 280 x 70, naturally.      

Read more here                  



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.

I’ve added a couple of posts this month.

I look at different types of leadership. This actually crosses over with my YA science fiction. I remind myself of how we should be grateful for our freedom: Be Grateful for Your Freedom



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 books 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.