Old Women in Books: on publishing your mother


Today is my mum’s birthday. Ghillian Potts is 84. Like me, she has written all her literate life, and still has a notebook full of poems written between the ages of about 7 and 12, (of variable quality!)
To celebrate, my publishing company, Arachne Press, is publishing two of her books today. I crowd funded to the family, and my sisters and Dad all contributed.

I grew up with my mum’s stories, bedtime and bathtime we would congregate to hear the next installment in some long running saga (one of which featured a family of five girls whose names all started with R discovering that their headmistress is a witch, which went on for weeks), or demand yet again an old favourite; Jackanory had nothing on Mum, and the Singing Ringing Tree (remember that?) was a very poor second.

It turned out that the publishing world agreed, and three of Ghil’s stories for primary school aged children were published in the 1990’s, including Sink or Swim which made it onto Jackanory and we were very pleased that they had finally caught up with us! However relatively speaking, these were contemporary, girl/boy in the street, stories (even the one with a witch), which didn’t showcase Ghil’s magnificent flights of fantasy… Her agent ‘knew’ what would sell and just wasn’t interested in her magnificently funny and silly fairy tales for younger children, nor in her fantasy novels for the Young Adult market.

My all time most-often-demanded tale aged 5 or 6 was The Very Cross King, although when I asked Ghil to write it out for me recently, it wasn’t at all how I remembered. Unlike the glorious The Old Woman from Friuli, which was exactly as I remember it, possibly because it was written much later, when Ghil was learning Italian and heard this outrageous claim:

The people of Friuli are the most stubborn in the whole of Italy, and the women are even more stubborn than the men, but the old women… well!

As a  4 star review from The Book Bag says: … a clarion call to our daughters… Three cheers, I say!

Mum denies any intention to instil feminism in the young, saying that she was just having fun letting the Old Woman be as rude as possible, but it’s there nonetheless.

I commissioned Ed Boxall to do the illustrations, having worked with him before, and there would have been more if we could have afforded them.

 

The other book Arachne Press is publishing is Brat: Book One of The Naming of Brook Storyteller.

I don’t have many shared interests with Ghil, we suffer from being very alike in personality but very different in outlook. Writing is our meeting place and touchstone.

Years ago I wrote an extended critique of the three books that make up The Naming of Brook Storyteller for Ghil, probably just before she offered them to the agent, I can’t recall now. And Mum did likewise for me on my novel The Dowry Blade. If there is one person it is difficult to take literary criticism from, it is your mum! Don’t try this at home! I’m sure she found my comments equally difficult, but we were both right. However, it meant that I know these books pretty well, and love them, although they have inevitable evolved over the interim, in fact I realised that some of the cultural peculiarities I had included in a early attempt at a fantasy novel (never to be published!) were swiped from Mum.

Gorgeous cover by Gordy Wright

The decision to publish now was almost spur of the moment, but once made it felt absolutely right. Ghil’s writing inspired me to write, and these are fantastic stories that deserve a wider audience that they have had so far. Neither of us is getting any younger, and I want Mum to see these books published while she can still enjoy the process.

The trilogy tells the story of Brook Storyteller, orphaned and alone, befriended by outlaws and rulers;  trained to remember, exactly, what happens, and sworn to always tell the truth, in a way that the listener will understand, and with the power to raise or destroy people by the names she gives them. Her own name is precious, and changes over the course of the three novels through the success and failure of her own actions.

This is absolutely a series based on the importance of acting and speaking truthfully and the consequences for those who don’t.

So when I sat Mum down and suggested I might publish some of her work, the choice was pretty much already made as to which books to start with, although I did look at one of her other Young Adult books that I remember her writing when I was about the age to be her target market, but these are the stories I grew up loving.

The second in the trilogy, Spellbinder,  will be published in December, and the final one, Wolftalker, in June next year.

Happy Birthday, Mum!

 

 

 

 

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out and about with Carmen


I’ve not been on here much recently, there’s been too much happening.

The opera – of course the opera! Each year I’ve done more and written about it less. Barely managing a faint tweet now and then this year. Carmen, under the direction of Chris Rolls had us on stage almost all the time  even when not singing – so no time for gathering thoughts to get on the blog. IMG_4585I’m in the background here somewhere (photo © Lena Kern) foreground Don Jose, Adrian Dwyer and our amazing Carmen Hannah Pedley – so good we tended to get caught up and forget we should sing too. This run sold out weeks ahead of the performance so I know a lot of people were disappointed. You can read a (5 star) review here, and you can catch us singing the choruses between 3 and 5pm TOMORROW (Saturday 23rd July) at Greenwich Park bandstand, and stop to chat while we picnic between sets. (I may not actually be singing myself, as the company throat infection caught up with me as soon as we stopped performing.)

Between performances I hurtled up to Derby to be on a panel (Is high fantasy getting more literary?) and run a workshop (Writing with Your Ears) at EdgeLit5. I’m doing more of that at NineWorlds at the Hammersmith Novotel 12-14th August, with creative writing panels: The Feminine Voice and Writing Female Characters in 21st Century Fantasy Fiction and Writing Queer Characters. I’m not sure of the timings yet, but there’s loads on, workshops, panels, book launches and so on and the finalised timetable will be up soon.

So: writing! Sci Fi Novella turned down by Tor, flash fiction published on line by Spelk, if you like your literature short you might enjoy a free haiku walk (should that be a Haik?) round Horniman Gardens with friends The Museum of Walking on Thurs 4th Aug.

And finally, I got my first ever bit of fan mail – as in hand-written, from someone I don’t know, who loved The Dowry Blade! I think it’s such a fat book that it’s taking people time to read it, but there is now a very nice review on Goodreads too.

I think that’s me caught up for now.

Edge Lit 5


edgelit
I will be on a panel at Edge Lit 5, The Midlands’ premier speculative fiction event on Saturday July 16th.

The panel is at 12 Noon and is entitled: High Fantasy, High Art: Is Fantasy Growing More Literary?

Last I heard, I will be joined by Peter NewmanJen Williams  and Edward Cox.

Venue: QUAD, Market Place, Derby, DE1 3AS kick off at 10, goes on late.

Rebellion: Writing Fantasy


Arachne Press

 Rebellion: Writing Fantasy, author talk and workshop

Author Cherry Potts reads from her new novel The Dowry Blade, and discusses ways of writing fantasy with an opportunity for a short writing exercise for the audience.

World building, weird logic and rule breaking at

Brompton Library

210 Old Brompton Road

London SW5 0BS

Thursday 14 April 18:30-19:45

Attending the London Book Fair?  This event is on the final day and Brompton Library is one stop on the tube/overground away from Olympia, at West Brompton, then a short walk.

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Launching the Dowry Blade – pictures


Launching The Dowry Blade at Lewisham Library last week.

you next opportunity to catch up with me reading from the epic fantasy TONIGHT,  7pm Beckenham Bookshop, high street Beckenham, Kent opposite the church. Get your skates on!

The Dowry Blade, live and in the flesh


Dowry blade arrives

There is nothing to beat a pile of new books, except a pile of new books that you wrote yourself. And this is a big pile, of big books! The Dowry Blade is big! It weighs 620 grams. I hadn’t really thought through the amount of space a 400 page book printed in Royal format takes in bulk. This is just the 100 copies to supply events in places that aren’t bookshops, copies for reviewers and the copyright libraries. Buy one before I have to build an extension!

Julian is delighted at the number of new boxes to play in, and also thinks you should buy a copy so that they empty quickly.

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Support Julian’s plans for a small city of boxes to disport himself within by buying a copy direct from Arachne Press, or at one of the launch events (that’s the ‘live and in the flesh’ thing) – Lewisham Library on 24th February at 6:30, or Clapham Books on 25th February at 7.30.

More events to follow in March, in discussions with three more venues.

Callout for pre publication reviewers


So, experimenting with new stuff, my forthcoming book, The Dowry Blade (February 2016) is on NetGalley, a review site for librarians, bookshop owners, book bloggers and professional reviewers. If that is YOU, you can download a review PDF here. It is UNPROOFED, ok, so no comments about typos!

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