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A dress for all panels

So, what have I learned from my first two panel appearances as a soon-to-be-published author?

Don’t wear a dress that is straight and above the knee, that’s what.

The first panel was at the trendy Pot Kettle Black in Manchester and as soon as I spotted the lofty, steel, boy-band stools, I knew I was in trouble.

At just a tad over 5ft, launching myself into the air onto a small half-circle is not an elegant manoeuvre. Then I had to shift to one side to be able to entwine my feet round the low bar, revealing the knees I inherited from my lovely, Hobbit dad.

It only took one glance along at my fellow panelists and at the audience in front of me to realise I was undoubtedly the oldest in the room. Being a ‘newly-discovered’ author at this stage of life qualifies me as the diversity element of the evening.

Anyway, it was great fun and I found I loved it although I did hear my mother’s voice saying ‘Sit down, Shirley, it isn’t your turn,’ but oh, for once, it really was.

Yolklore and Waterstones talk in Manchester
Wirksworth Book Festival with Tricia Durdey, being interviewed by Carol Taylor. I think I look better blurred!

Just two days later, I was in a much lower chair at the wonderful Wirksworth Book Festival with friend and fellow-author, Tricia Durdey -great book, The Green Table, but this time I was in front of people who knew me and that was scarier than any high stool, I can tell you.

But, both went well, I think and yes, Hay, I can fit you in next year… I’ve always wanted a long stemmed rose.

And who knows, maybe I’ll have sold some books by then and will be able to afford a dress that covers my knees.

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First gigs!

So this week, I’m doing two panels in my new official role as an author apparent. I’m not sure I’m ready for this. I mean I don’t get published for another nine months so I feel a bit of a fraud really, but at least I have nine months from now to convince people I’m a brilliant writer before they find out any different!

The first is this one
https://yolklore.co.uk/events/dontkillmyscribe

It’s on in Manchester when I’m joining a prestigious panel of writers ( yep, I’m the new girl…and the oldest!) as part of a celebration of International Women’s Day when I will be talking about the wonderful WAAFs I talked to for ‘Lily’s War’ and, OK, it’s possible I may mention the book.

The second is as part of a panel with the wonderful Tricia Durdey ( The Green Table) chaired by Carol Taylor, at the Wirksworth Book Festival
https://en-gb.facebook.com/events/wirksworthfestival/wirksworth-book-festival-2019/2358489734383466/

I’ve roped the family in because it’s a birthday weekend. I’ve just warned them…no heckling!

So, do come and say hello if you’re in the vicinity of either of them.

And wish me luck!

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Shirley Mann-published author-apparently

So, the toe in the water of getting an agent ( the wonderful Kate Barker) very quickly led on the exciting but terrifying offer of a two-book deal from Bonnier Zaffre publishers. The first one, ‘Lily’s War’ will be published in January 2020 and the second one, “Bobby’s War’ will follow a year later.

This has thrown me into a new world where I stumble over the words when people ask what I do for a living. I sort of mumble a conglomeration of the words ‘journalist’ and ‘author’ and no one is any the wiser- let alone me.

Anyway, I have nine months before the first book- about a WAAF in Bomber Command and a soldier in the 8th Army – reaches the book shelves, so I’m going live off the assumption that the unsuspecting public will love it. I’ve got 9 months before anyone reads it and anyone knows any different so I’m going to make the most of it!

I’ve just finished the first draft of the second one, about an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot and I’m ridiculously excited about this new career.

I’m thrilled to have been taken on by Bonnier Zaffre- they publish Wilbur Smith and Lynda La Plante for heaven’s sake! I’m going to be part of their Memory Lane branding with authors such as Rosie Goodwin and Sheila Newberry. I feel famous already!

So, I’ll keep you posted, hopefully more regularly than I’ve been doing recently but come on, I’ve been frantically scribbling…a proper author’s got deadlines, don’t you know!

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A leap towards publishing my first novel?

 

So, I’m feeling a little dizzy. I have had some lovely feedback and advice from a publisher and I now have an agent. I can’t tell you how exciting this is. It is as if I’ve been given validation as a writer. When I made that leap from factual, journalistic writing into fiction with a  Second World War novel, I found it terrifying. I was without my safety blanket of facts. The way I got round that was to go to meet wonderful WAAFs who shared their amazing stories with me. I used real stories that I tracked down in museums, libraries and on the net and hey presto, I had a narrative with credible scenarios.

I have a long way to go and certainly a huge amount to learn but suddenly, I feel that being published is an actual possibility.

I am looking forward to getting it right and am reading advice, listening to my very experienced agent and reading other novelists who have sussed it out already. You may have to share my journey with me. I don’t want to do it alone…..

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An inspiring story from the Mary Rose Museum

So, we’ve just finished our latest film for the Heritage Lottery Fund – the inspiring story of navy parachutist, Neil Clements, who was horrifically injured when his parachute failed to open. He had to re-learn how to speak and walk but is now a volunteer at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth.

So many of these Changing Lives films for the HLF leave us breathless in our admiration of what people have achieved and all we have to do is tell their story in a way that will inspire people. It was an amazing filming experience- firstly to meet Neil and hear how he had spent 22 years fighting his way back from a coma to secondly being able to film at the incredible Mary Rose Museum where we saw the evidence of how history had lain undisturbed for 500 years under the mud.

There were challenges in that the Museum’s lighting is subdued to allow the old wood and artifacts to be protected but helped by the lovely staff at the Mary Rose, we were able to come up with a lovely film. But judge for yourself.

 

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My secret life. Am I really an author?

So, I confess, I’m an author. Well, a sort of unpublished author but I’m determinedly optimistic.

I’ve spent four years writing a novel very loosely based on my parents’ war careers. A parallel story of a WAAF and a Desert Rat, to say I created problems for myself, would be an understatement- it took two days to find out whether they had ginger biscuits in 1942.

I am a journalist and I work better with deadlines, so to have an unending timescale to complete my opus was not a good move but hey, it’s done. I’ve been sending it off to agents and publishers and have had, I’m pleased to say, some really nice, encouraging responses. One, in particular, has shown a recent interest. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

But then, I went to Writers East Midlands conference. I emerged from the snow-buried hills of Derbyshire to Nottingham city centre like a mole, blinded in the daylight. It was a mix of inspiration and terrifying dedication. One author made films, did digital interactivity and did podcasts to launch his books. I’m technically reasonably savvy but that may be beyond me.

I’ve dined out for four years on the kudos of writing a novel. Now, I’m revelling in the fact that people are actually responding to my tentative first three chapters but to move onto the point of being published, that’s a whole new challenge and one I hope I’m lucky enough to tackle.

 

That Elusive Butterfly | Blog | harvestcreative.co.uk News

That elusive butterfly

Firstly, I have a huge sympathy for David Attenborough’s camera crews. Go and film a piece about the rare brown hairstreak butterfly, the Heritage Lottery Fund said.

Ok, so off we go to Grafton Woods in Worcestershire. We have half an hour to find the butterfly. Lovely place, full of butterflies.White ones. Blue ones. Tortoiseshell ones.

Hmm, something missing.

Hamish is out there, camera poised.

There’s one!

It flew like a Tornado jet above our heads. Well, I was told it was a brown-hairstreak but you could have fooled me.

Well we got what we wanted but I’m not going to reveal how!  Watch the final film here

We had lots of lovely people to talk to and we made a  film everyone was delighted with but strangely, I’ve decided not to apply to Blue Planet! They spend three weeks under a canopy to get one shot and I’m pretty confident they’ve never managed to film a brown hairstreak!

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We may not have won the jackpot but….

On November 13th, our film about Angela Stearn’s HLF Changing Lives story was chosen to feature on the live streaming of the National Lottery results on Facebook.

It was such an honour.

I was also really moved to have been involved in telling Angela’s story. She lost her husband and then her grandson was killed in a car accident. She found her ‘sparkle’ again, she told me, through a wonderful Heritage Lottery Fund project run by the lovely Triss and Sharon of Create and Flourish.

It made me go out and buy a lottery ticket…I hope it made others do so too.

But just in case I get too above myself, a picture appeared in the Burnham on Sea local paper of Harvest Creative in action. It’s not a pretty sight!

 

 

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Culture Comms 2017

There are days when you need a new scarf to drape casually around your shoulders and the Culture Comms conference 2017 was one such moment.

I’d been asked to chair the broadcast panel with a terrifyingly impressive quartet- Kirsty Wark and Stephen Wright from BBC, Nina Nannah from ITV and Amy Hitchcock from Sky. Last year I was on the panel –and I had a new scarf for that one too!

It was such a privilege and they were so welcoming to all the comms people who were there, telling them how to contact them, what sort of stories they wanted and how to find the best outlets for their ideas. It’s so lovely when people from my sector of the industry are actually really nice people!

Culture Comms is a brilliant day for people in PR and marketing for some of the biggest- and smallest- museums, heritage organisations and the arts and it was a great chance to chat, swap ideas and hear about what’s going on out there. It was also interesting to hear about The Wellcome Trust who hosted the day.

Hope they invite me back next year!

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Changing lives: in the footsteps of York Minster’s medieval…

Going to meet Sam Turner who is a young stonemason at York Minster who has been helped by the HLF’s Changing Lives programme was a privilege. He was such a lovely young man..and so patient with us.

York, England Landmark -York Minster Tower Captured in the Evening.

There was a moment, though, when I was sitting on a stone plinth near the end of the day while Hamish was filming some extra shots when I just turned my head to look at a column next to me. It was exquisite! And for a moment, I thought of the stonemasons of centuries gone by, chipping away at the beautiful Minster to make it a work of art and a fitting tribute for their faith and their superstitions. It took my breath away.

Watch the finished film

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