Showing posts from 2017

Happy New Reading!

It's almost 2018, and here I am with my Christmas/birthday book haul. Possibly the best ever. I thought I'd post this now, at the threshold to a new year and revisit it later when I've read all the books in the pile, so you can hear my verdict on them. So, here's the list: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child.  Strange things happen when a husband goes to explore the interior of Alaska and his wife is left behind. At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald, author of my beloved Phantastes . Classic Victorian fantasy about a boy and a cab horse. The Paper Magician by Charlie N Homberg. First in a series about a student magician. The Iron Age by Arja Kajermo. A fairy-tale memoir of Finland and Sweden. Recently mentioned by booktuber Jen Campbell. The Less than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote by Dan Micklethwaite, one of my fellow Fogotten & Fantastical authors. A modern fairytale of the inner city. The Travellin

Holidays with Hitler: The Seduction of Nostopia

Travellers in the Third Reich, Julia Boyd This week, I have been reading Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd.  It might sound like a grim read, but actually it's fascinating.  According to the blurb: Travellers in the Third Reich  is an extraordinary history of the rise of the Nazis based on fascinating first-hand accounts, drawing together a multitude of voices and stories, including students, politicians, musicians, diplomats, schoolchildren, communists, scholars, athletes, poets, journalists, fascists, artists, tourists, even celebrities like Charles Lindbergh and Samuel Beckett. Their experiences create a remarkable three-dimensional picture of Germany under Hitler – one so palpable that the reader will feel, hear, even breathe the atmosphere. And it's true.  You really do feel like you're there, all the way from 1919 to 1945.  What may seem incredible to some is that foreigners (especially British and American) kept on holidaying in Germany and sending

Prizes Galore at Swanwick!

I'm always excited when the week comes around for my annual pilgrimage to Swanwick Writers' Summer School.  But this year was extra-exciting because I'd won 2nd Prize in the annual Short Story Contest. As regular readers of my blog will know, this story was about 19th century abolitionist and showman Henry "Box" Brown, about whom I read in David Olusoga's magnificent book Black and British: A Forgotten History.  And, oh yes, I might have mentioned once or twice that I met David at Bradford Lit Fest and told him all about it.  I don't think I will ever get sick of this photo: I was a little disappointed that only 1st prize winners got a reserved slot in the Prose Open Mic, meaning that, while I did get to read my story, my 5 minutes ran out before I reached the closing line, "Henry Brown will never escape the box," and I was so late in the programme that most people had left for the bar/Wild West Disco.  However, it was enjoyed by the faithful few

Bradford Lit Fest: Past, Present and Future

This is my last day at the festival, as I have responsibilities tomorrow.  Looking at my planned line-up of events, I expect to have my mind blown! I begin in the Old Building of Bradford College, which feels like a fascinating journey into the past.  I took a course here once, but have never been in the Sir Henry Mitchell Hall.  It feels like one of the theatres from my Angelio Trilogy.  I'm here for  Jerusalem: The Anthem , although we have to wait a while for all the speakers to be ready.  One of them is Ben Okri, who I had to study at uni, so this should be interesting, since I studied Blake as well. We are given some background to the poem, which originally appeared in the preface to two handmade copies of Milton .  We learn of Blake's pacifism, his unique but strong brand of Christian faith, and his sense of himself as a prophet, who saw a landscape infused with the spiritual.  We also hear how Hubert Parry was commissioned to write the music for a rally in 1916 to renew

Bradford Lit Fest: Nearly Infallible

I start the week tired, but excited to see Bradford Lit Fest on the Channel 4 News.  Added to the fact that AA Dhand is on the cover of Writing Magazine , and that the David Hockney celebrations also make the national news, I feel that Bradford is getting some amazing positive exposure. I hope to return to what I've dubbed "Bradtopia" on Wednesday, for Lunch Bites: Fantasy Fiction , but unfortunately it is cancelled as speaker Naomi Foyle has broken her ankle.   So, it's Friday again, and I'm going to A Nearly Infallible History of the Reformation . I approach with some trepidation.  As a Christian who is committed to ecumenism, and whose spiritual DNA is part-Baptist, part-Catholic, there a few events in history I feel more conflicted about. It turns out to be an enjoyable and informative event.  Author Nick Page manages to inject humour and a balanced view into an incredibly complex history.  Our whirlwind tour takes in Playmobil Martin Luthers, Top Trumps of Re

Bradford Lit Fest: Hopes and Fears

It's day two, and I have considerably less energy than yesterday.  Still, I manage to drive down the hill and park in the Broadway.  (A considerable acheivement for a nervous driver!)  To do this, I have had to leave partway through a sermon entitled: "Are you in prison?"  The question resonates. Today, I have my 1-1 Meet the Literary Agent with Kate Nash.  Bizarrely, I find this less helpful than my impromptu chat with Lisa Milton yesterday, as Kate is clearly expecting less experienced writers.  I  feel somewhat dispirited as I eat my jacket potato in Esquires. I am now pinning considerable hope on the experience of hearing  David Olusoga speak to his book,  Black and British: A Forgotten History.   I have brought my own copy from home, in the hopes that he will sign it, and maybe allow a selfie.  I do my lipstick, just in case.   Mercifully, David does not disappoint.  I am completely starstruck as he talks through themes and issues from the book, the most important of

Bradford Lit Fest: Meet and Greet

          The Arabian Nights panel.   Abdul-Rehman Malik,  Robert Irwin and SF Said. It's the first full day of the festival and I can't wait to get going.  I even do my nails! My first event of the day is Book Bidding Wars , which takes place in City Hall.  One of the panellists is Kate Nash, with whom I have a 1-1 tomorrow, so I am listening carefully.  The panel take us on a fascinating tour of the inner workings of publishing, such as:  What makes a bestseller?  What makes for a distinctive authorial voice?  What happens in acquisition meetings?  The impact of cultural trends (both platforms like Netflix and YouTube, and values like kindness and self-care). And the struggle to achieve diversity in publishing.  A lively Q & A time follows, and the festival volunteers have to evict us from the room to set up the next talk. I then miss my next event on  The Arthurian Legend because I am asking panellist Lisa Milton for advice on my novel-pitching problems.  The conversatio

Bradford Lit Fest: The Kick-off

400 Writers. 300 Events. 10 Days. One City. Bradford Lit Fest is here again! It's truly incredible how this world-class festival has been built up in only three years by Syima Aslam and Irna Qureshi. In true Bradford style, it's a cutting-edge festival that reflects our city's diversity and desire to discuss religion and politics openly. It's also an intelligent festival.  There are serious academic discussions with serious academics, alongside fun, family events. And on the menu for 2017, a whole stream on Fairy Tales, Myth and Legend! This year, I have been offered a feedback pass by the festival organisers, which means I will be going to LOADS of events!  And I'm going to attempt to blog about every single one of them. My first event is Mastering Eloquence with linguist David Crystal.  I've heard David - and his actor son Ben Crystal - speak more than once at Swanwick Writers' Summer School, so I know to expect something good. David doesn't disappoint

The Stones of York

Earlier this week, I had a short break in York.  And I did something I've been meaning to do for years - go around the Minster in an attempt to identify the statues Susanna Clarke brings to life in her novel of quarrelling Regency magicians, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I'm probably not the first fan of the book to do this, and I'm sure I won't be the last.  But I'd like to share with you my candidates for the identities of those marvellous statues.  You may disagree.  After all, nothing comes more naturally to magicians! The Cathedral of York, from a window in High Petergate, home of Mr Honeyfoot. Peering up into the gloom of the chancel, where little stone figures jut out.  One begins to speak... "...this was the man who had murdered the girl...We know where he is buried.  In the corner of the south transept!" One of the fifteen stone kings.  (With other, smaller statues above). "...a little group of queer figures with linked arms...atop an an

Tales from the Hidden Grove

Coming soon to an eBook store near you... Tales from the Hidden Grove Elizabeth Hopkinson has had over 60 short fantasy stories published. Now for the first time, 12 of them have been collected in this charming slim volume. Booksellers and emperors learn to fly, fairies deliver the milk, and horses, knitting needles and the Houses of Parliament are not what they seem. Sometimes funny, sometimes moving, always imaginative, this book will take you into the magical world of an author Black Pear Press called: "Amongst the finest short story writers in the UK right now. " This book also contains the previously unpublished "Paper Prince", and a brief "About the Stories" describing the inspiration behind each of them. It will soon become available on iBooks, Kobo, Amazon etc.  But if you can't wait for that, you can buy it direct at:  Here I really hope you like it.  There are stories that have previously appeared in the likes of Byzarium, Vitali

Have You Heard the Whispers..?

Just to let you know, I now have a subscriber-only newsletter, Whispers from the Hidden Grove . Subscribers receive updates about my books, stories and author events straight into their email inbox. If you would like to subscribe, just click on this link.  There are exciting things afoot, including a new short story collection... Listen out for those whispers!

Three Magi, Three Marys

It's Easter, the happiest time of the church year.  And I've discovered a lovely correlation between the traditional Three Magi of Christmas and the traditional Three Marys of Easter.  It makes for a beautiful balance, particularly in Matthew's Gospel, where the story of the Magi is recorded. The Three Magi... Came from the east Brought incense and myrrh "Where is the boy born King of the Jews?"  Went to the wrong place first (Jerusalem) Real answer was in Bethlehem, "for this is what the prophet has written" "When they saw the star, they were overjoyed" Bowed down and worshipped him Sent back to their country by another route The Three Marys... Came at sunrise (east) Brought myrrh and spices "Tell me where you have put him" "Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here" Real answer had been foretold by Jesus. "Remember how he told you..." They were "afraid yet fil

Beauty and the Beast: King of the Wood

She asked for a rose.  Her father reaches out to pluck one.  Suddenly, a Beast appears, furious, accusing him of theft.  The penalty is death.  Or the surrender of his daughter. But why such a harsh penalty for plucking a rose?  Much has been said - or invented - on the possible meaning of the rose.  When the last petal falls, the Beast's fate is sealed eternally.  It is the first thing he has learned to love.  It symbolises virginity; the plucking of the rose mirrors the deflowering of the daughter; the aristocratic Beast is excercising his  droit du seigneur  over Beauty, the merchant's child. But why should the plucking of a flower carry such a heavy penalty?  And why does the same motif occur in other fairy tales?  For example, Rapunzel , in which the father must sacrifice his child as payment for picking herbs from the Witch's garden. One answer may lie in ancient mythology.  Most ancient polytheistic religions have sacred groves, where it is forbidden to break the bra

The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3

Image Last Saturday, I had a wonderful night out in Nottingham, at the launch of The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3, an anthology of fairy tales for grown-ups. As one of the contributing authors, it was great to meet my fellow writers, sign books together and listen to readings from each other's stories.  It was particularly special for me, as I missed last year's launch for The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2 due to illness.  It was also great to spend Sunday's journey home reading everyone else's stories, along with notes on the inspiration behind them, and of course the wonderful illustrations by Emma Howitt. I'm not going to go through every story here, but I will mention some of my favourites: The Web and the Wildwood by Lynden Wade I LOVE the Lady of Shalott, and medieval romance, so this story was ideal for me.  It has a woman in a tower, a unico

10 Under-used Bradford Stories

This week I read Bradford: A Centenary City by Tom Montgomery  , written 20 years ago in 1997.  Tucked away between the familiar tales of Lister's Mill, Saltaire and the Bradford Pals were less familiar stories from the history of Bradford - stories ripe to be retold, adapted and used as springboards for fiction. I can't possibly write them all myself.  And, even if I did, I wouldn't write the same story you would.  So, for your delight and delectation - and for your inspiration too - here are 10 stories from the history of Bradford that deserve to be told: 1770s-90s: The move from the piece-work of cottage industry (spinning, weaving and wool-combing) to the very first machines and mills.  A key player here is the Quaker John Hustler, after whom the street Hustlergate is named. The "Wild West Riding" of the 1820s-40s, when Bradford was a "lawless frontier town."  Before the Incorporation Act of 1847, Bradford was a squalor of mills and slums,

King Kong and the Nightmare of Xenophobia

King Kong: RKO pictures, 1933 I have recently finished reading Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga , an excellent book, which accompanied a BBC TV series of the same name.  I can't praise this book enough, and I'm not going to say everything that is to be said about it here.  Instead, I'm going to talk about something that came out of my reading of this and another book: The Anatomical Venus by Joanna Ebenstein.   It concerns a recurring image of paranoia, racism and sexism that ends up as the much-remade RKO film, King Kong. Before I start, let me warn you that this blog contains images and text that some people may find distressing and/or offensive. It begins with a painting: The Nightmare by  Anglo-Swiss artist Henry Fuseli.  The Nightmare: Henry Fuseli, 1781 There are several versions of this painting, but it basically depicts a beautiful young woman, asleep or swooning, with an ape-like incubus perched on top of her.  This hid

Gender Diversity, Aged 9

I don't normally write about stuff like this on my blog - I hate controversy and arguments of every kind, which I find distressing - but I felt I must respond to the many adults I read of who have expressed the opinion that educating children about gender diversity somehow amounts to "child abuse." To that end, I would like to share with you some extracts from The Fieldway Five , a story I wrote when I was about nine years old.  It is my homage to the Famous Five stories, an improbable tale of gypsies and gold mines, which ends with the children triumphantly pushing enormous slabs of gold home to their parents. In my very un-subtle homage to Enid Blyton, Timmy the dog is replaced by Ann the cat, and tomboy Georgina, who you will remember dresses as a boy and insists on being called George, is replaced by Philip, who prefers to wear a dress while being addressed as Philipa.  As a child, I saw nothing sinister in this; I was just being creative.  Also, my best fr