Finding out

When I first started writing, and I mean writing properly as opposed to writing childhood fantasies and adventure stories based on books and comics I’d read, all my work was based on personal experience and observation and imagination.

I used to write short stories and I actually had five of them published in a woman’s magazine called Honey, now defunct. One story was about a relationship between a young woman and the man she loved, who didn’t love her but relied on her in times of crisis… which gave her false hope of a future together; another was about a young couple who moved into a haunted house; a third was about a shy young woman who was asked out by the most popular boy in the school.

Another was based on holidays spent in Menton in the south of France, with that lovely town as the backdrop to the break-up of a relationship, and one story was about a cleaner who worked at an airport. Both of these were based on personal experiences – of being in Menton and of working in an airport – although I wasn’t a cleaner but was on the information desk.

I began to write novels and the first couple were pretty dire. One charted the complicated family relationships of a the step-children of a famous actor (embarrassingly awful!) and a second about a young man who goes back to the family farm of a girl he met in the South of France (Menton again) as the farm is engulfed by devastating floods. This one had a little more merit, but nothing salvageable! The next was set in Manchester where I had lived for a long time, and much of the action (and there was action in this one, rather than people talking and arguing with each other!) Finally… another better novel… one which I may rewrite but with a different and more dramatic and unexpected ending, about a young woman artist who returns to her family home having been estranged from them for many years, and tries to unpick the past relationships with her two step-brothers.

As I mentioned, these short stories and the four novels, were all based on personal experiences and imagination. When I was writing these it was before the internet was the wonderful gift we have since received. I have now written and published five novels which are still based  on my experiences and imagination, but have been enhanced by research I can do from home. (I have also published three children’s novels, based on my experiences teaching!)

Up until recently, while I was writing, I  worked full-time and had a young family; I was not financially free to travel  to research, or to visit archives in different towns and cities. On-line research has been the only possibility. With my three published Radwinter books, my genealogical mysteries, the internet has featured almost as a character, as the story revolves round research done to trace a family history. (I have three other finished but not edited novels, and two unfinished novels – so I have plenty of work to do!)

I am very careful with my research; I read, I think, I digest the information. I look at different resources, I check facts; I don’t copy, I don’t plagiarise, I don’t steal other people’s work. If for some unimaginable reason I no longer had access to the internet for whatever reason, I would still write – I can’t imagine ever not doing so, and once again, my stories would be based on what I remember, what I have experienced and what I can imagine

Here is a link to my published work:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

Frustration!

I hoped to be making an exciting announcement about my children’s books which I am publishing as actual hold-in-your hand books but grrr…. things are not going according to plan! There have been unforeseen complications and although the books are there printed and looking lovely, I can’t promote them yet. This is so infuriating and frustrating but I guess I’ll just have to be patient, and not waste my time and energy being annoyed or irritated.

I wrote these books as stories for my students because there didn’t seem to be anything commercially available for them; my students were 15-16 years old and perfectly competent readers, fluent and literate, and intelligent. However they just didn’t want to read, they had no interest in it and saw no point in it. They needed to read because they needed to be practised for their forthcoming exams, so how to get them to do it? They didn’t mind reading for a purpose so I presented them with what they thought was a comprehension exercise… but the passage had a cliff-hanger ending. Why were three men chasing the boy? What was in the envelope he took from his secret hiding place? Where had his dad disappeared to? The following lesson I presented them with what appeared to be another comprehension with grammar exercise, but was in fact chapter 2 of an ongoing story.

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They twigged straight away but they didn’t mind because they wanted to know what was going to happen. The story ended up as twelve chapters, and when we had finished it, they asked what was next… so another story was devised!

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These two stories became my books ‘Run, Blue, Run!’ and ‘Screaming King Harry’. Another thing they needed to practice was writing in different ways, for different purposes and in different styles; so again I wrote something especially for my students, a short novel told in a variety of  ways, a diary, a news report, a children’s story, a myth, a TV broadcast… all went together following a narrative which became ‘The Story of Rufus Redmayne’. These stories are not easy readers; they are not meant for kids who can’t read, but kids who won’t read!

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My students were the first to suggest I published my three short books, and after a few years of lulling it over, that’s what I did… It is so frustrating now that I can’t properly launch them yet…

Watch this space, they will be coming… and if you’re interested, get in touch, I might have a special offer for you!

Exciting news!

I am almost ready to launch my children’s ‘can read, won’t read’ books – aimed to encourage reluctant readers! More details later but here is the flyer I’m sending out:

Can’t read, won’t read… a problem… but CAN read, won’t read?

I solved the problem of KS4 students who were perfectly capable of reading but had got out of the habit of doing so by writing my own stories for them… quick, pacey, relevant and with each chapter ending on a cliff-hanger.

I was teaching bright, clever but disengaged young people not in main stream education; we had one year to turn them round and get them through their GCSE’s, but how to re-engage them? How to prepare them for the work needed to pass English with a good grade? Get them reading.

They might not want to open the set texts, but they did want to know who the sinister men in black were chasing Blue, they did want to know who shot the head of English, Harry King, and they did want to know what sort of monster lurked in Camel Wood and abducted young girls.

Blue is a fifteen year old in ‘Run, Blue, Run!’  Someone has trashed the trailer home where he lives with his father, someone is after him and it’s not the evil Goode twins after rent.

Jo-Jo has seen her English teacher taking money from a dodgy-looking man with a pony tail, then she finds him shot and bleeding on his classroom floor. Graffiti across the front of her parents pub warn her to keep quiet… she’s in danger. ‘Screaming King Harry’ starts with a shooting and ends with a deadly chase across town as Jo-Jo searches for answers.

Young people who are willing to opt back into GCSE work may struggle with the set tasks in examinations. ‘The Story of Rufus Redmayne’ is told through newspaper reports, myths, diaries, first and third person narrators, one-scene dramas, and conventional story-lines and offers different examples of pursuing a narrative, of telling a story.

Something is lurking in Camel Wood, something is killing local farmers’ sheep, ripping their throats out and leaving their entrails scattered in the field. Someone or something has abducted Rufus’s grandmother, and has chased him and his friend Naimh through the woods. Something has taken Naimh…

 

I have been head of department in an inner-city Manchester school, head of faculty in a large comprehensive in Oldham, and for the last ten years teaching in a KS4 PRU in Weston-super-Mare. I wrote these stories for my students, and now I am able to share them with you.

Your advice needed….

I have mentioned before that I am going to publish my stories fr reluctant readers and I am now thinking about the sort information I need to give to anyone (especially teachers) who might want to buy them for their young people, young people who can read but don’t want to do so.

I would be most appreciative of any comments on the following, which I have written as a sort of introduction to my work which I would send to schools or other people who might want to buy and use my books:

Can’t read, won’t read… a problem… but CAN read, won’t read?

I solved the problem of KS4 students who were perfectly capable of reading but had got out of the habit of doing so by writing my own stories for them… quick, pacey, relevant and with each chapter ending on a cliff-hanger.

I was teaching bright, clever but disengaged young people not in main stream education; we had one year to turn them round and get them through their GCSE’s, but how to re-engage them? How to prepare them for the work needed to pass English with a good grade? Get them reading.

They might not want to open the set texts, but they did want to know who the sinister men in black were chasing Blue, they did want to know who shot the head of English, Harry King, and they did want to know what sort of monster lurked in Camel Wood and abducted young girls.

Blue is a fifteen year old in ‘Run, Blue, Run!’  Someone has trashed the trailer home where he lives with his father, someone is after him and it’s not the evil Goode twins after rent.

Jo-Jo has seen her English teacher taking money from a dodgy-looking man with a pony tail, then she finds him shot and bleeding on his classroom floor. Graffiti across the front of her parents pub warn her to keep quiet… she’s in danger. ‘Screaming King Harry’ starts with a shooting and ends with a deadly chase across town as Jo-Jo searches for answers.

Young people who are willing to opt back into GCSE work may struggle with the set tasks in examinations. ‘The Story of Rufus Redmayne’ is told through newspaper reports, myths, diaries, first and third person narrators, one-scene dramas, and conventional story-lines and offers different examples of pursuing a narrative, of telling a story.

Something is lurking in Camel Wood, something is killing local farmers’ sheep, ripping their throats out and leaving their entrails scattered in the field. Someone or something has abducted Rufus’s grandmother, and has chased him and his friend Naimh through the woods. Something has taken Naimh…

 

I have been head of department in an inner-city Manchester school, head of faculty in a large comprehensive in Oldham, and for the last ten years teaching in a KS4 PRU in Weston-super-Mare. I wrote these stories for my students, and now I am able to share them with you.

A big adventure!

I went to meet my publisher, Raye at Honey Pot Press today. I am going to publish my two stories for reluctant readers, and my story which forms a guide to writing for young people, or anyone really who wants to look at different forms of narrative.

There, I said it! Quite calmly as if it was something I did frequently “I went to meet my publisher”… whoohoo! I am so excited! I have self-published four novels as e-books for Kindle, but my children’s stories will be real  in my hand, actual, with pages, made out of paper, books! they will be for sale in books hops! I will try and get them into schools! I will be able to pose with them, write dedications in them, send them to friends and family… It really is the beginning of a thrilling adventure, and if in ten years time, I am sitting here with piles of unsold copies of ‘Run, Blue, Run!’, ‘Screaming King Harry’ and ‘The Story of Rufus Redmayne’, even if they end up in the remainder pile in a bookshop, or on a shelf in a charity shop, I won’t mind, because I will have published my work!

Visit Raye’s Honey Pot press site here, it’s really interesting!  http://hpp5.moonfruit.com/

 

Reluctant readers 2

I wrote recently about my books for reluctant readers, those young people who can read very well, but choose not to do so. I’m hoping they will be published in early summer, so excited!

The first book I wrote which I used with my students was ‘Run, Blue, Run’ about a lad who found himself pursued by three men in black; he goes on the run with his best friend Netta  a girl from a privileged background, very differnt from Blue;’s poverty-stricken life in a mobile home.

My second book had a girl as the main character, Jo-Jo, who found that she and her family were being threatened, possibly because of something she had witnessed in the back yard of her parents’ pub. An arson attack on the pub forces her to take drastic action. The book is called ‘Screaming King Harry’ and here is the first chapter:

Chapter One

You would think it would be difficult to concentrate on listening when someone is screaming their head off.

It might be difficult to concentrate when that someone is lying on the floor holding their hand and screaming.

It was Mr King lying on the floor and the reason he was lying on the floor was that he had two broken legs. That was enough to make anyone scream; but Mr King was holding his hand because it had been shot clean through.

I’m not joking now.

Mr King, Head of English at St Finbarr’s High had been shot through the hand. This was after he’d had his legs broken.

 

But let me go back to the beginning. Let me tell you how it started. Let me tell you about Mr King, King Harry as he was called.

Everyone loved King Harry everyone except me.

His name was Henry King and when he first met a class he would say “Hiya, I’m Henry King, your new English teacher. They call me Harry King, but you can call me King Harry,” then he would laugh “Or Your Majesty, if you prefer.”

Everyone thought he was really great, all the girls fancied him, all the boys wanted to be him. He was a great teacher, but he was a real ‘I am’ – and I couldn’t stand him.

I though he was ok at first but then something happened which changed that.

My mum and dad have a pub; it’s a good pub. There’s never any trouble; there’s never any trouble because my dad Shane makes sure there isn’t any trouble. He’s very strict on who goes in, no-one under eighteen gets served no matter how old they look he can always tell when they’re under age. Absolutely no drugs, and he gets no trouble.

Also the pubis right next to the police station and is always full of the Law.

King Harry came in one night; he’d never been in before.

“Lesley-Anne!” he says.

Well, that got right up my nose. No-one calls me that, not even my mum Bev calls me that. Everyone calls me Jo-Jo, don’t ask why, it’s a long story.

King Harry wanted to sit down and chat but I was busy. I wait on, serve the food, and I had a lot of work to do. I didn’t pay much attention to him and later on it was quiet and I noticed he was gone.

“Someone’s been sick in the yard!” dad called to me so I got a mop and bucket and went through.

I’d forgotten the rubber gloves so I had to go back to get them.

I went back to the yard, pushed the door open and walked straight in on King Harry.

There was another man standing by the empty crates. The man had a great stack of money in his hand and King Harry had a package in brown paper which he was either giving to or taking from the man.

I walked straight back out but it was too late. King Harry had seen me.