What I’m Up To Wednesdays: Scargill House

I’m cutting it fine, but it’s still just about Wednesday, so time for a quick update! I spent the weekend on writers’ retreat at Scargill House in Yorkshire.

Retreat: (re-treat) to treat one’s self again. This was, I think, my fifth time at the ACW writers’ weekend – I’m losing count.

I tell a bedtime story to the group on both evenings of the weekend, but usually I get to relax for the rest of the programme. This time, however, Adrian Plass interviewed me about folktales as part of the Saturday morning sessions. It went by in a bit of a blur and I hope I said a few things that made sense: I do remember talking about the history of folktales, Cinderella in particular; whether or not there are only seven plots; and how I’ve chosen and retold the fifteen stories that are going into my new book.

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Storytelling at Scargill. Thanks for the photo, Lucy Mills!

The rest of the far-too-quick time was spent making new friends, talking to old ones, photographing owls, writing some bits and pieces for my book of Advent devotionals, making a small clay pot and enjoying the sunshine.

Now that I’m home, fighting Scargill withdrawal symptoms, it’s on with the Advent book – and fuelled by the weekend’s inspiration, I’m spending this week writing about God as creator and artist.

 

Tuesday, Reviews day: CRT titles

A couple of weeks ago, I attended Christian Resources Together, a conference for those in the world of Christian publishing and retail to network, resource each other and celebrate successes together.  I was there as publicity officer for ACW (The Association of Christian Writers), which didn’t stop me having a good natter with some publishers as well!

As ever, it was fun to meet up and hang out with other authors that I know online, or from their books, or through ACW, but rarely get to see.

There was also lots of book launching going on, and I came away with a pile of free copies, signed by the author – next time I’ll be bringing a spare suitcase for them!  So I thought I’d pop some book reviews here for the next couple of weeks, as I get through them.  I’m also in several book launch teams at the moment, so look out for Tuesday Reviews and I’ll do my best to keep up!

Here are the books from CRT I’ve read so far:

Rebecca and Jade: Choices, by Eleanor Watkins

This was a light read on a heavy topic.  Rebecca and Jade are two girls from very different backgrounds, whose unlikely friendship carries them through a teen pregnancy.  I say it’s a light read because it’s teen fiction, so it’s simply written and I felt that it skimmed over the surface of events rather than taking time to explore emotions and character motivations more deeply.  However, it addresses the issues sensitively and thoughtfully, and includes a convincing portrayal of one of the girls’ encounter with Christianity which manages not to be too cheesy or to provide all the answers in the plot – a temptation not all Christian teen fiction manages to avoid so well.  All in all, I’d definitely recommend it to a teen audience.

 

Still Emily, by Emily Owen

This is the autobiographical story of Emily, who was diagnosed as a teenager with Neurofibromatosis and as a result faced a devastating catalogue of losses.  It’s very well written, full of honesty and a real page-turner as well: Emily invites the reader right into her experience and I was in agonies for her, especially as she described her last day of being able to hear.  But the most remarkable thing about the book is its positivity, encouragement and realistic hope as Emily, experiencing this loss of Job-like proportions, finds the place where she is still Emily and God is still God.  

As well as being lucky enough to hear her speak at CRT, I picked up two books by Emily, and I can’t wait to read the second.

 

Out of Silence, by Annie Try

As it says on the stunning front cover, this is ‘a Dr Mike Lewis story’ about a clinical psychologist who has already appeared as a smaller character in Annie Try’s ‘Trying to Fly’ but now takes centre stage.  We meet him struggling at a low point in his life, grieving the death of his son and separated from his wife.  He is given the case of ‘Johnny Two’ a refugee who so far has not said a word – but why is he so silent?

The double plot of Mike’s relationships and Johnny’s trauma make this a page-turner, and I really enjoyed reading it, though I still felt by the end that some loose ends hadn’t been tied up – left for future Dr Mike books, perhaps?  It was fun to spot the previous character and plotline from ‘Trying to Fly’ making brief appearances through this book, so I’m hoping that clients who got no more than a tantalising mention or two might eventually appear at the centres of their very own stories!