Time to Read Blog

Wirral Free Bookfest

Posted Wednesday 13 September 2017 by Ian Anstice in Latest Libraries News

Wirral Bookfest returns to Wirral's with some fantastic events in Wirral's libraries between from 3 to 30 October.

All of the events are in libraries and they are all free, featuring local authors who have made good, local authors making good and those who are experts on authors.

Find out more via the Wirral BookFest website

There’s nothing odd about the Squad: Steve Dearden on the Writing Squad

Posted Wednesday 13 September 2017 by Ian Anstice in Opinion

WS Logo

I recently met up with Steve Dearden of the Writing Squad to try to get a handle on what they did and how they could work with libraries. My thanks to Steve for so patiently explaining things that it became a blog post. He's a lovely guy and the Writing Squad clearly do great work. What do they do? Well, strange you should ask ....

What we do …

Our mission is simple, to create the next generation of writers in the North.

Every two years we recruit 30 writers aged 16-21 who live, work or study in the North of

England and offer them workshops led by professional writers as well as 1-1 support from our Core Team. Making up that team along with me are poet Helen Mort, novelist Jenn Ashworth and writer/artist Stevie Ronnie.

Steve DeardenAfter the two year programme we continue to offer writing and professional development as our ‘grads’ begin their careers.  We help them establish themselves as individual artists, collectives or new start up companies. We link them with the literature industry and independent sector, while encouraging them to produce and distribute work themselves, and of course they become part of the wider Squad - a community of artists who support each other's development.

We also set up projects with partners like Read Manchester, Manchester Literature Festival and Hull Libraries to give our grads the commissions and work experience they need to get a track record, build their CV and secure further work. Increasingly we have become the go to organisation for people looking for emerging writers - this is perhaps not the happiest example, but the day after the Manchester Arena attack, Le Monde got in touch to ask us to find a writer to capture the city’s mood.

How have we done?

We have worked with 179 writers in 8 Squads since 2001 and are still in contact with 123 of them.  Over the last year we have given support to 93.

33 of the 179 currently make all, or a substantial part of their living through writing or cultural activities as theatre/TV/film scriptwriters, theatre makers, band members, performance artists, journalists, copy and content writers, a game writer, a translator, a radio drama producer.

29, while not making significant income, have become recognised as emerging poets, prose writers, playwrights, film writers and makers, songwriters, publishers and performers.

Visit our website to meet some of our writers, see where they have ended up and even buy their books, songs and magazines.

What distinguishes us from other writer development programmes? 

Our support is rigorous and long term, we can work with a writer over a period of 2-12 years as and when they need it.  What we offer is shaped by the constant renewal of their needs, ambitions and circumstances. We work around their life circumstances, where they are, what they are up to, their physical and mental health.

We are early adopters, fleet of foot, a virtual organisation enabled by technology.  For us building is a verb, not a noun, our assets are people and time, so our Arts Council England National Portfolio funding goes into activity rather than overheads.

If someone comes to us with new challenges or interesting partnership ideas - we tend to say yes.

What can we offer libraries and librarians?

Passionate writers and readers with experience of working with the public. Writers and readers who can be role models for young library users and offer fresh perspectives to adults or all ages!

As more of our grads are published or produced we can broker visits to readers and book groups.  They can share their own work with you, but also talk about their reading. I am constantly being nudged away from the known, familiar and already well promoted else by their eclectic tastes, as well as re-exploring the classics I read at their age, but in the context of today.

We are always on the look out for projects that give our writers experience - whether that is simply offering a workshop for your users, or something more creative - for instance we have set up and run library based young writer groups in Manchester and Hull, made a film as part of an intergenerational workshop in Leeds, spent a weekend at John Rylands Library exploring what it is like to write on things other than paper - glass, bone, china for instance. We have supplied menu poems for a restaurant, made online soundscapes for the Amy Johnston Festival, and been writers in residence in a bank.

Obviously we know our writers and will only recommend people up to the job! And it is a job for them, they are emerging professional writers, so this isn’t a free service, we would want them to be paid unless there was a significant advantage - a guaranteed sale of their books, or a professional development experience they could not get elsewhere.

So if you have an idea you want to talk through or are looking for exciting writers at the beginning of their careers, then please do get in touch.

Steve Dearden

Director, The Writing Squad

www.writingsquad.com

Get yourself addicted

Posted Wednesday 6 September 2017 by Ian Anstice in Opinion

Addiction

Get yourself addicted

There’s a lot of addictions in this world and most of them are pretty bad for you. I for one eat far too many biscuits that are advisable for a man of my age. But there’s one addiction that I’m proud of and isn’t bad for you. And that’s reading books.

Can you read too many books? I don’t think you can. The worst that can happen to you is that your knowledge increases and you’re suddenly able to spell more words than you could beforehand. Employers will gaze in wonder at your applications and relatives will bow down to your knowledge. Moreover, a good novel – or, hey, any Captain Underpants title –  will allow you to get into the mind of someone in a way that a film or anything else does not. A story gives you the very thoughts of a person in a way that even the best actor finds hard to convey. You see their feelings. In fact, in the hands of a good author, you become the character, at least for a little while. Fancy being a pirate? Or want to understand what it’s like being from a different culture or country? Well, now you can. And, today, when it seems all about “us” and “them”, this ability cannot be over-rated. Empathy is the thing.

Speaking of over-rated, sure, a film has a lot of special effects but that’s nothing compared to a good book. Read and you get full surround-sound 360 degrees vision and the best special effects you can have, because they’re not on your eyeball, they’re in your head. Even virtual reality is only as good as the designer, while there is some sort of strange magic in the book that connects directly to the imagination neurons on the brain.

And that’s a thing, books may be one of our older forms of communication but they’re still one of the best. Time travel is possible in a book. Instantaneous travel anywhere in the universe can go on amongst its pages. Fall in love on a spaceship or discover a new way of thinking over a couple of bits of paper.

So, today, take up a book. You should have one or be able to buy one. Or, if not, borrow one from the library, either by going there or online these days, and grab yourself a moment. Six minutes is enough to reduce your stress (here’s the research) and if you’ve got a kid, ten minutes can change their life (here’s some more).

So, read a book today. And get addicted. In a good way

.

Why I write and read: Carole McEntee-Taylor

Posted Monday 21 August 2017 by Ian Anstice

Five books written by Carole McEntee-Taylor

My parents both loved books, my father read detective, adventure and espionage stories while my mother read historical fiction and romance so I grew up with a passion for reading most genres and this is reflected in my novels which although set in the 20th Century are a mixture of all these. I write both military history and historical fiction and the inspiration behind my writing was my father in law, Ted Taylor.

Ted Before CalaisTed was conscripted into the Rifle Brigade in September 1939 and fought in the Defence of Calais in May 1940 after which he spent five years as a POW. Although he’d never spoken about it we finally managed to persuade him to talk on tape and received a very sanitised version of the fighting and his subsequent years in a POW camp. In 2008 Ted suffered a crippling stroke and ended up in a nursing home. To cheer him up I suggested writing up his war experiences as a book.

This was quite daunting as I had no background in military history. So I began the long process of reading everything I could about the Defence of Calais, which wasn’t much. The battle was totally eclipsed by the evacuation from Dunkirk and was rarely mentioned, even on the most recent documentaries. I knew even less about the treatment of the ordinary POW at the hands of their captors or their lives, having grown up on a diet of sanitised POW camp films and even one comedy set in a Stalag, none of which bore any reality to the truth. Like most authors I struggled to find a publisher but eventually, Ted’s story, Surviving the Nazi Onslaught, was published by Pen & Sword Books Ltd.

I was now hooked on writing military history and have written several other books, but I also wanted to write fiction because I couldn’t find anything I wanted to read. I have always been a voracious reader. I’d spend hours in the library as a child and spent all my pocket money on books, progressing quickly from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie amongst others. I’d rush home with my latest books, disappear up into my bedroom and not come down again until they were finished. My Dad always used to say they were a waste of money because I could get through two or three books in a weekend but they weren’t. They were my escape from reality and the more I read the more it fuelled my imagination. As I grew older I read anything I could get my hands on, crime, thrillers, historical fiction, occasionally romance and science fiction and of course chic lit! The library was my second home and I would always come out with the maximum number of books I could borrow and they were always returned well before the due date.

I liked big books I could lose myself in, probably to escape my disastrous relationships. Prams, pushchairs and my arms groaned under the weight but it was worth it to stay sane. I often think the most important thing I did for my children, apart from making them independent, was to give them a love of reading and without libraries this would not have been possible.

Having finally extradited myself from the last bad relationship I spent two years on my own finding myself again and then I met David. I no longer needed to escape my reality so I stopped reading. I found books by authors I’d always loved no longer held my attention so I decided to write something I wanted to read and I had the perfect idea.

Whist writing Ted’s story I learnt that Brenda, my mother in law, had been a nurse throughout the London Blitz, and she and Ted were engaged when he went to war. Five long years later he came home and they were married. Their story fascinated me. They did not have the benefit of hindsight. Brenda waited even though she had no idea how long it would be or even if Ted would ever come home. Ted had somehow held onto the belief that he would come home even though he had no idea how long that might be. I decided to write up Ted and Brenda’s story including an element of fiction to cover something Ted did in France.

SeparationI soon realised it was impossible to fictionalise my in laws because they were real people. I couldn’t have them doing things that weren’t in character nor did I want to alienate the family and have my husband not talking to me because I had made his mum do something she wouldn’t have! So I changed their names and although the story is inspired by them and based on something that did happen, all the characters are now 100% fiction. Lives Apart: A WW2 Chronicle is in 5 books and you can borrow them from your library. This was followed by Betrayed and my latest series, Obsession. I have just started another series called Secret Lives and this will be out some time next year.

When I advertise my books on the radio or in blog posts I always suggest people get them from the library. I prefer to try authors out first before spending money and what better way of doing that than via your local library? I still get royalties from books that are stocked by libraries and if my book is on the shelf it introduces more people to my work. Libraries are a priceless resource for both readers and authors and without them I would never have become an author.

www.carolemctbooks.info

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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