Monday, 31 March 2014

Cleckheaton Writers Group meeting 31 March 2014

Another productive meeting of the CWG this evening where D, A, L, P and myself were in attendance, N and V having sent their apologies.

A informed the group that he has been doing a lot of editing since the last meeting and feels that he has his first three chapters of his story almost ready for submission.  I have also been editing and told the members that I sent the first three chapters and synopsis of T, my children's fantasy novel, to Jenny Savill, Agent at Andrew Nurnberg Associates.

Prior to the meeting I emailed the group details of the Wakefield Literature Festival (19-30 Sept) where Carol Ann Duffy will be in attendance, along with details of a funded projects/events possibility.  It was agreed that we as a group should apply for one of the £200 grants so the members should discuss this at a future meeting when we are all in attendance.

I also informed the members about a short ghost story competition that is being run by Saga magazine.  I gave all the details to the attendees, but for those not in attendance, the competition is in the March edition of the magazine.

We then had a timed writing session where we could choose from the following options:

1) Choose five words from the following ten to write the beginning of a story (whalebone, foxglove, Djinn, orphan, lollipop, casket, hermit, hound, acid and topaz)
2) A short story containing cyberpunk/steampunk/diesel punk (these 2 were from a fellow blogger)
3) Use the opening line 'The City burned, lighting up the night sky'
4) He'd never noticed a door there before

We then shared the pieces that we came up with.  Mine was a combination of the 1st and 2nd challenge with a dystopian world.  A's was hilarious, he had chosen the 4th option.  L chose the same option, but hers had an Alice in Wonderland feel about it.  D chose the 3rd option which was modern and quite dark, as was P's who also chose the 3rd option.  We all had felt that we had the beginning of a piece that could be worked on.

The next meeting takes place on 14 April.  New members always welcome.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

HLF2014 Meet the Agent/Editor event review

Attended this fascinating and informative event as part of the Huddersfield Literature Festival, featuring Jenny Savill, Agent at Andrew Nurmberg Associates and Antonia Hodgson, Editor and author at Little Brown.

Jenny started off by revealing her 12 years of personal experience as an agent.  She feels an agent is a facilitator of writers and an enabler so that they can get published, stay published in any and all media and as many languages long term.  She takes the author on (signs them up for representation) only if she feels absolutely sure she can launch/improve their career.  She has to meet the writer and see their work (a couple of chapters, synopsis and full manuscript (MS)) and find out what the author sees themselves writing long term, the genre (where they would like to be, other ideas if they have any) and vision for their writing.  A letter of agreement is signed (a contract) which that can be altered after a certain amount of time if things don't work out, but she hopes that they stick at it for as long as it is working.  It does take time; Jenny revealed that she first met a children's author that is being published this year in 2004 when a first picture book was not placed.  This author then worked on a middle grade novel that took elements of it and last year managed to place it.  This has taken eight years in total.

Agents are not fairy Godmothers and there are a lot of factors that need to be aligned.  Getting the deal is next.  She knows a lot of editors and publishing is a mobile process where people move around a lot.  Agents take a project and match it to the right editor.  They then get an offer (MS presented to editor is submittable but not publishable) and improving it can take quite a long time.  For instance, she has an author she is thinking of representing but the whole second half of the novel needs completely rewriting but the first half proves that she can do it.

Being an agent involves a lot of negotiating with editors, as they go to the author with offers and then the author chooses who to go with.  It is a very human process, then they work with the editor on improving it.  The agent then services the contract, e.g. monies paid, tax issues, foreign rights and the engine of the agency takes off at this point, so make sure that any you approach have a solid track record across the board in these things.  Translation, audio, digital, TV, film, stage and dramatic rights, agents look after and try to exploit.  Agents can respond to queries by authors either by phone or email, but explanations, corralling and handholding does occur to keep an author on track with deadlines or the lure of the new idea.  The agent is there for the author if they cannot deliver on time to negotiate with the editor and various miscellaneous support, for example an author who lives near her writes at her house to stop her going on the web and over the years, some authors become good friends.  You are always on call as an agent.

Antonia started by discussing her editor role.  In 19 years she has published a whole range of books and she reads submissions from agents to decide if it is right for the company, then she takes it to an editorial meeting to think a lot about the projected sales, marketplace, how much they can offer the author (there is a Sales, Marketing and Publicity team) which is the hub for the whole process of production.  Editing covers the brief (designer is about the visual), marketing, champion of the book in the office before even thinking about further afield.  Is this the book/author the one you want to enthuse about.

As a child, Antonia read Which Witch by Eva Ibbotson and encouraged all her friends to read it so feels she was an editor at an early age.  Fundamentally it is about taste and judgement in the world of books from years of experience.  It involves structurally editing the book, telling the author what they already know but don't want to hear sometimes, but an editor is the most positive, supporting but objective reader you can have.

She started doing literary fiction, but has done non-fiction as well and has created a list of her taste, but most focus on one area.  The book has to be best served by the right editor and it is very personal even within a genre.  As part of the contract an author can have consultation, but not approval, on the cover of the book.  She also writes the blurb as an editor, but could not do if for her own book as she was too close to it.  Titles are so important as that's what sells.  It can take a few months to a year from submission to offer because of deadlines and they are particularly busy at this time of year with Book Fairs.

The floor was then opened up to questions where Jenny revealed that she worked as a PA to get into the agency and she suggests something similar to make yourself indispensable to the agency in some way if you wish to become an agent long term.  She worked her way up from part time, to full time, then assistant agent to MD, then agent.

She recommended sending the first three chapters (the true ones) to your book as it introduces your main character, but not give too much backstory and include a hook to draw the reader in.  Send a synopsis although she feels this is rarely read by agents (more useful to potential editors when it gets to that stage) and a covering letter.  She suggested doing a 1-10 list of events in your novel if you struggle to write a synopsis.

Jenny felt that if a writer writes in different genres, this does not make things awkward for an agent, you can publish different genres under a different name; don't feel limited.

Antonia revealed that a general editorial letter back to the author lists what is working, a chapter by chapter breakdown, theme or characters - revisions, then more deeply and line editing, then minor tightening and tweaking.  This is three fold.  She finds that mistakes in first author submissions can be too much telling not showing, too much emphasis on external rather than internal, not incorporating backstory (info dumping which can slow a text down) and rushed endings.

Jenny's response time is 3 months and she takes on 2-6 new authors a year (she has 30 authors on her books at the moment).

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Upcoming Hebden Bridge Writing Courses April, May, July and August

Received the following information from Louise Marr regarding some writing courses coming up at Hebden Bridge:

There are many WEA writing courses - have a look at the website to see the variety. Here's information about three that are coming up soon in Hebden Bridge.


Also, look out for a five day residential course on novel writing in August. 






Wednesday 23rd April 2014- World Book Night FREE

We will be giving away books to people who don’t usually read for pleasure at Todmorden Library, 7-8pm. If you are a keen reader, you can share your love of reading by giving away a book to someone who doesn’t usually read: pick up a bookplate from your local library, register on the World Book Night website as a community giver and give away any book you already own. Be part of this international event!


Saturday 24th May- Daughters Across Borders event, 2pm Todmorden Library FREE

Ahead of Fathers’ Day, we will be hosting an author event at Todmorden Library.


Thursday 10th July - Char March, Mandy Sutter and Keith Hutson: a short story writer, a novelist and a poet

Hebden Bridge Library, time TBC FREE

Well-known local author Char March will read from her new short story collection alongside other local talents Mandy Sutter and Keith Hutson.

For further information contact:

Louise Marr
Reader Development Assistant

My usual office days are Mondays and Fridays, 9.30am-5pm
(01422) 392606

Central Library
Libraries, Museums and Arts

Friday, 28 March 2014

HLF2014 Joanne Harris event review

Attended this event as part of Huddersfield Literature Festival 2014 (HLF2014) and was particularly interested as Joanne was discussing her latest YA fantasy novel The Gospel of Loki.

Joanne revealed that the M in her title for the YA books is a marker that it is fantasy, so that readers of her other works know to expect something different from these novels.

At age 7, Joanne was a proud member of Barnsley Library and she took her little pink card to the top floor of the Civic Hall Building to get out her very first book.  The woman at the front desk was clearly there to keep her from books, even though there was a Children's Library, and the first book she borrowed was about Norse Mythology, Thunder of the Gods by Dorothy G Horsford.  She could not get access to the adult library and was given a blue ticket once a month at the age of 10 (up to 16) that entitled her to one book a month.  If she selected an unsuitable book it would be put back and she wouldn't get another one until the month after.  Her mother wanted her to read books that improved her education and the librarian, suitable ones, so they (Norse pantheon of Gods stories) were accessible as in Yorkshire we have connections to Icelandic slang in common use and in nursery rhymes with the Danes. 

These stories were popular in the 17th Century, the Victorian era and now, as these characters are very human and accessible, not especially wise, some are a bit stupid and they pay for their bad decisions and the cruel and practical jokes that they play on people.  Modern heroes are flawed and morally ambivalent. 

When her daughter was 8 or 9, she wanted her to read the book she read as a child but she could not find it at the Library, but it was available on Amazon and it must have been a good luck charm for her, because when the one she purchased arrived, it was the one she had borrowed from the library all those years ago and it still had her little pink library card in it.

Runemarks was written for her daughter and the sequel, and Joanne enjoyed writing YA.  Younger readers are not familiar with Norse myths, only through Marvel, and she wanted to write a retelling of them and to tie in with the Rune books.  So she recreated them and added some details.  Three quarters are from the sagas and the remaining quarter are reinventions of hers. 

Joanne then read from the book, a beginning section where Odin decides to take Loki from the chaos sphere into Asgard.

Joanne feels that all the chapters have lessons about trust, i.e. never trust a relative.

She feels she is a writer concerned with the village/small community under pressure and when she was a teacher at Leeds Grammar School, she wrote Chocolat.  Asgard also seemed a fertile ground for the same themes that run throughout her novels, old men, young boys and the outsider wanting to bring down the Gods, whether they be literal or no.  She writes from the perspective of the outsider and believes it has parallels with the real world, not just fantasy.

Joanne reads a lot of fantasy, sci-fi and horror and at the moment she is reading Jo Abercrombie as he had read her novels and she had not read his.  She believes fantasy speaks directly to the human subconscious and it is a telling and retelling of stories.  We look to stories for solutions to problems that life gives us, for example the fear of the monster, as we enjoy crisis so long as it is hidden in pages.

She feels that short stories are kinds of postcards coming out of a single incident, event or conversation and she can go anywhere in a short story quickly.  She was in Dubai last week so she is writing a lot of stories about the desert.  Short stories are a simple idea, but a novel is a series of ideas, themes and preoccupations that at some point have to become something.  Even when she is writing them, she is not always sure where they will end.

When asked if there are any other themes/genres she wants to explore, Joanne revealed that she is not a fan of categorising, as it is all story.  They all have similar themes as she believes they exist in human society and emotion.

Asked what her characters would think of her books, she thought that Loki would think she had not made him tall enough and that she had altered others.  Her characters are different to Marvel, as were the Victorian heroes from the same tales, but you take whatever aspect you like of them as a writer.  Loki thinks he is far superior, he is narcissistic, vain and delusional.  All the old stories were once written in a contemporary voice and Thor would not approve of this book.

When asked about characters in her other books, she revealed that when she made the Priest the bad guy, large portions of middle America have still not forgiven her and she feels she is better at writing about food than making it.  She believes taste and scent are expressions of sensuality.

Joanne revealed that if she ever felt like writing had become hard work, deadlines etc., she would go back to teaching.  She does not do much social networking by enjoys #Storytime which she first started because her friend Ian Rankin said it would be a good thing and she likes that she can stay in touch with people she wishes she saw more of and is fascinated by the 140 character word limit.  Risk taking in story is the most important motivating factor and she occasionally gets herself out of writers block or uses it to challenge herself, but feels the nature of stories is to find an audience.

The event finished with a book signing, where I purchased a signed copy of The Gospel of Loki and had a picture taken with Joanne.

#HLF2014   #JoanneHarris    #JoanneMHarris    #TheGospelOfLoki

Thursday, 27 March 2014

HLF2014 Kate Adie event review

Attended this event as part of the HLF2014 and as I am sure you will agree, Kate is a legend.  Below are the notes I took of the conversations Kate had with Alison Fell and the audience:

Kate was interviewed by Alison Fell who asked her what inspired her to write her latest book.  Kate reports from places where everyone else is leaving and she was once referred to as a 'woman in Northern Ireland' when she was working there, but felt that she was only one in 52% of the population of Northern Ireland and that in all the images of war, you don't see many women.  The violence and the victims are there and some take part, support and help the war effort.  In Bosnia, The Congo, Africa etc. 'the battlefields and front-lines' don't exist, life is fluid and war is everywhere, so it is more likely to be a random bombing or army movements that predict battlefields.

Kate grew up in a house in Sunderland with a sideboard that contained bits of iron in it due to WWII and she is conscious of this when she is reporting.  The first World War was the first big war in Western Europe where everyone was dragged in, before it was foreign lands and expanding empires.  The first action directed at British land was when Hartlepool was shelled from German battleships; in one hour over a 1,000 shells were fired that caused enormous damage and casualties.

In Syria it is figures flitting between ruins, most old men and teenagers, this is war today.  In 1914-18 the stories are great of extraordinary individuals that are so compelling, they needed to be discovered, like Northern working women, but history is mainly written by posh people about posh people due to literacy standards, but in 1914 nearly all went to school 6-12, then it was raised to 14.  Most men would write postcards home and their wives write back.  Not diaries, letters to newspapers, but on the women's side, remarkable little letters that are still turning up in attics today.  There is still the chance that we could have something in our attics, pictures or letters from World War One now.

The class divides were rigid in those days.  Those recruited into uniforms of the new women's auxiliary corps were likely to be women from the suffrage movement or volunteer groups who organised welfare and work, these were the women that asked about it.  It was believed that they could not have Officers that were female and that the women should have men commanding them.  One general said 'Will they mainly be working class?' and the answer was, considering the pay and uniform yes, so he replied that it 'Might be better if women were in charge as he had never spoken to a working class woman.'

There were moral panics, in 1914 women had to replace men that had been called up in great numbers.  The French had terrible casualties in the first three months and thousands of British were back over the channel already wounded.  Trains were coming to Newcastle etc. as London couldn't treat that many.  There were gaps in the workforce, due to volunteering in the first year and conscription after that and women filled these jobs.  Shopkeepers had been men because you had to take money from men (which wasn't done apart from one particular industry), but women had to work on the railways and such like.  She remembers a photograph of women cleaning the steam trains in Bradford which was filthy enough work without the cleaning.  Women were down coke works, electricity and gas stations and as a result, an imperceptible change in ordinary life came about.  Women were getting up at 4am to get on a train to get to work doing things like heavy engineering in factories.  The moral panic was because women were doing hard labour and un/skilled work, even middle class women were going off to work in voluntary groups as more bandages, medical equipment etc. was needed and via concerts, bring and buy sales etc. this was made possible.

Back then, cigarettes were thought to be health-giving and she has seen pictures of nurses forcing patients to smoke.  There were mass camps, poverty on a mass scale where people were hungry by the end of the week if not in the first three days.  Lots of women engaged in prostitution and business was brisk.  When women are doing something that shows independence and want to earn money, it was seen as morally wrong, even if it wasn't in prostitution.  Up to then working women had received a pittance in domestic service and Lloyd George paid them for munitions work.  There was a large workforce and women got paid more - in fact, they got just under half what the men got, but most had never had any money at the end of the week as for the working/middle class woman it was the norm for the husband to work to keep you and it was seen as demeaning if the woman had to go out to work.  So women were getting more money in a pay packet than they had ever received and as a result, they discovered shopping.  There were letters to the Yorkshire Post, The Times etc. along these lines: One sees it in the high street, late of an evening, girls buying trinkets, gloves etc., wasting money in these hard times.'  Women were losing sight of their virtuous behaviour and going into pubs and buying themselves drinks - this was a social revelation that set tongues clacking through society.

Conflicts cause violence, unfairness, ruthlessness, ghastliness.  It has been dressed up for years as heroic and necessary, chivalrous even, in order for people to stomach what occurs and women have always been victims.  In Syria women are raped as men always get the guns because women shouldn't use them.  Women are seen as life givers and men as life takers and this is a deep and complex argument that ruffles feathers whenever roles are intermingled.  In the Middle East, women are 5th class citizens, abused, given no voice and get the worst treatment.  In Afghanistan when the Russians invaded (9th century) harsh measures were enforced against women and when the Russians captors came over and randomly chucked land mines and bomblets on houses and mud huts in villages, men had headed for the hills with their weapons, but the women were not allowed to leave the homes without a man present, so more women died than the men.

The Royal Marines are still considering allowing women to try for the Green Beret and there are still letters to The Times about it.  Basic arguments in 1914 when the government declared war, no woman could vote or stand for government, yet the man/woman differences in conflict are repeated in wars the world over.

With middle class women, it was a case of what would the neighbours, husbands think, but only charity work was available previously, so women shot out of the house to do vital war work and effort went into the welfare for the families where men had been killed.  Two groups spread throughout the country, the women's volunteer police reserve and patrols.  They were tolerated by the men, for example women dealt with brawls in pubs by going in and telling the men not to do that and it worked.  There were women in the civil service, banks, clerical and supervisory work, volunteers for hospitals and convalescent homes.  VADs were disliked by the professional nurses, but they were in several counties in big country houses, girls from Harrogate were in canteens behind enemy lines in France, a female doctor from Edinburgh was performing surgeries as she couldn't in England and on the front-line in Macedonia and Serbia.  This showed what women could do next to men in their professions.

In 1918 men began to come back and all the jobs had been held in a contract 'for the duration' so the women were expected to give their jobs back to the men.  There were newspapers in 1919 that spoke of the 'parasites wanting to stay in the jobs the men have' yet some managed to cling on.  But change had occurred and the women did not want to go back to being the 2 million strong domestic servants.  It wasn't like Downton Abbey, only a small proportion, 95% were parlour maids as it was scandalous in the middle class if you had to open your own front door, so lower and lower/middle class had to get up before and go to bed after their mistresses for a pittance.  The war had left a huge legacy and they couldn't say that women could not do it as they had already proved that they could.  In 1914 they had been considered incapable of doing so.  Male MPs in the House of Commons debated on giving the vote to women as 'they'd have to take decisions and they were worried their smaller brains may boil by doing so' (hear, hear would come the call from the benches).  But the next 4 years proved that they were equal in brains, strength, skills and courage to go to work and to war.  They had worked under fire, quite a lot were killed an the next few decades were spent convincing the men that they should do it.  Kate believes that there is still a bit to go, but it's about what they ought to do not what they can do.  Women are expected to be Mothers still today, he goes out to work and she stays at home for certain fixed hours.  Before the industrial revolution it was not like that, but this became the norm and child care and division of duty is still not worked out.

A lot of men had to wait for uniforms in the first few weeks of the war.  There was a factory in Somerset that took strips of cloth to go round boots.  849 miles of length of cloth and it increased its production overnight and this was repeated a thousand-fold all over the country.  The linen mills of Ireland called on women to make shirts but there were still huge shortages even though production went through the roof.  Even the Queen said that we needed to do more for the soldiers and she was never seen without a pair of knitting needles.  There were several million women knitting and millions of knitted goods were left in front of St. James' Palace to supplement the basic uniforms.

Kate was sent to the source of a story, there was no such person as a war correspondent to start with, they were just dished out jobs, e.g. go to the Belfast riots, get on a plane and go to Angola.  They were sent to the place but had no training, they were just a journalist and there was no immunity, they may be/just as likely to be targeted as anyone else as 'angry people may take it out on the twit with a camera who has just arrived and is foreign.'  Kate feels the first thing you need is good manners so you do not antagonise/provoke or make things worse.  Pictures and cameras are quite provocative anyway, so go very carefully and don't upset people.  Then they had first aid training and how to recognise problems such as mines - awareness training like watching an episode of MASH.  Journalists never carry weapons ever.  If you have a gun to your head, you have to get out of it, don't announce you are from the BBC and don't become a casualty as there are limited medical teams in these places.

The difference between WWI and WWII was that there were far more women in manufacturing as more factories, clerical work, medical, lawyers and accountants.  Churchill had the same attitude though, when asked about the women's home defence league being shocked by having seen Dad's Army turn up to act as defence (men who were elderly, limp or too young, therefore incompetent) Dottie Summerkill was enraged as she remembered her Mother in WWI and suggested teaching women to shoot (even though some already could).  Churchill said no as it would demean men as they would be seen to be not defending our women.  Women with weapons training were not recognised until the 1950s.  The RAF, Wrens and ATS, but not to fight as they were denied entrance to the RAF even though there were women who knew how to fly having emulated Amy Johnson) but said no as it was War, but they were allowed to fly newly minted aircrafts out of the factories to deliver them to particular RAF stations.  The men were watching the women, knowing that they had never flown this particular plane before, waiting for mistakes.

In York, ladies worked on anti-aircraft guns and in mixed crews at night in the fields doing sightings of aircraft to calculate height and range, the short movement between saying what it was and being ready to fire, but women were not allowed to operate the guns even though it made more sense as they were the ones spotting/recognising the aircraft.  In 1945 out they went, there were posters of women with their hair done in frilly pinny's and high heels in front of immaculate front doors open to show a gleaming interior with slogans - Make it a house fit for him to come home to.

Kate has optimism for the improving conditions for women in the Middle East, as you should always have optimism.  So many more educated women and men accept this now.  Sweden has a much greater degree of equality that really prospers.  We can educate, teach people to read and write, give them the knowledge and skills to change lives.  Change the law so we are all equal - citizenry - what it truly means, so that we are part of a nation not an appendage.  Look at how far we have come though, we are out in a hall with men wearing trousers, with short hair and it wasn't dictated to you.

Kate Adie's book Fighting on the Home Front is available to buy now.

#HLF2014  #KateAdie

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Writers & Artists newsletter

Here is the latest Writers & Artists newsletter:




Polly Courtney Do your research (and the characters will write your book for you)

Polly Courtney discusses the processes she went through when writing Feral Youth, a novel that tells the story of the London riots through the eyes of a disenfranchised fifteen year-old girl.
Read her fascinating article here.




What are literary festivals for?What are literary festivals for?

Be it a city, town or small village, literary festivals are popping up everywhere. Andrew Burton, curator of the Essex Book Festival, looks at their rise and, more importantly, their worth. Read here.




What services should you be paying for and why?What services should you be paying for and why?

Editor Cressida Downing looks at the services self-publishing authors should consider investing in. To make their book as it good as it can be? Yes. More importantly though, for the benefit of the reader.




How to Write for Children and YA and Get Published conferenceThank you!

Thanks to all those that attended our How to Write for Children and YA and Get Published conference. The W&A staff enjoyed it, our speakers enjoyed it and, judging by the spring in everyone’s step as they left the building and the feedback we’ve received, we’re pretty sure you all did, too!

Two more How to Get Published events are due to take place over the course of this year, so do keep an eye on our
Events page. And if you’d like to see a few more photos from recent events in the meantime, take a look at our Facebook album.




Social Media
We’re always busy on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.


Social Media posts


Follow us, like us, tweet and re-pin – we hope to inspire, answer questions, provide competitions… and we’ll link you to our latest articles and events, too!




Short Story Competition And finally…

A record 3,000 entries have been submitted to our annual Short Story Competition and we’re busy reading through them all this very second! Best of luck to all who entered and look out for an announcement of the shortlist on next month.




Visit our online shop to browse through a host of titles available to help you on your way to publishing your book.


Crime and Thriller Writing
Writing Historical Fiction

Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2014
Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2014




ListingsOur online listings are also available, enabling you to browse nearly 4,500 entries by category, name, location and keyword. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

20 Feet from Stardom preview movie review

Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013) Poster

Went to the preview screening of this film last night with my good friend C and I was very surprised that it is more a documentary than a true film.

IMDB says: Backup singers live in a world that lies just beyond the spotlight. Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we've had no idea who these singers are or what lives they lead, until now.

Featuring the singers themselves, the names that you will recognise from classic songs are Merry Clayton, the Waters family, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill, Darlene Love and Tata Vega and the big name singers that they back, who range across the decades: Sting, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crowe, Bette Midler, Ray Charles, David Bowie and Luther Vandross amongst others.

It is sadly not surprising to hear of the treatment of backing singers, from big names in the business like Phil Spector and Ike Turner and finding out how women who could have been exceptional solo singers were passed over or cheated out of their futures.  There were some stunning singers and it is so cruel to think that some of the most iconic songs of our times were actually sung by these people who never got the recognition they so deserve.  Especially considering that one gentleman says in the movie that some singers today have to be tuned after they sing because they cannot sing in tune live.

We did enjoy the preview in terms of the singing and the history of the music business,s but did feel that this was a brilliant documentary, not a film.

Tagline: Meet the unsung heroes behind the greatest music of our time.                               7/10

#20FeetFromStardom       #ShowFilmFirst

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Book Thief movie review

The Book Thief (2013) Poster

I went to see this movie with my husband on Saturday evening and what a truly moving, poignant and exceptional movie it was.

IMDB says: While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. In the basement of her home, a Jewish refugee is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.

Sophie Nélisse Picture

Sophie Nélisse (The Family Parent, Monsieur Lazhar) stars as Liesl Meminger, a young girl sent by her mother to Germany to live with new parents.  Unable to write, her new father Hans Hubermann (the excellent Geoffrey Rush of The King's Speech, Shakespeare in Love) helps her by reading with her a gravediggers handbook that she stole at the funeral of her brother and using the basement walls to write new words upon, she soon learns the power and knowledge of books.  Her new mother Rosa, played by the fantastic Emily Watson (War Horse, The Water Horse), hides her heart behind a strict façade but is the strength of the family unit in times of trouble.

Nico Liersch (Blackout, Kokowääh 2 ) plays her best friend Rudy Steiner who seems intent on stealing a kiss, but is there for her throughout, whether it be the local bully or in keeping dangerous secrets.

Both of these young actors held the scenes with aplomb, really engaging the viewer and I predict long careers for them both.

Still of Nico Liersch and Sophie Nélisse in The Book Thief (2013)

When Max Vandenburg (Ben Schnetzer of Ben's Plan, Happy Town) comes to stay with the family, no-one must know that he is there and to keep him entertained in his confinement, Liesl steals books from a local wealthy family to read to him so that he can imagine a world outside the basement.

There are problems with the movie, not least the strange accents that most of the actors seem to be using and the rushed ending, but the style is very reminiscent of classics like It's a Wonderful Life and I found this endearing.

The film is also beautifully shot and Brian Percival's direction lends it a lush reality that enhances both the dark and light moments.  It is fascinating to see the War from the German perspective, the book burning, the turning away when others are persecuted, the false hope that the propaganda gives the ordinary family and the omnipotent narrator throughout, cements the message that our lives are but fleeting on the world, but love is our legacy.

I thoroughly recommend this film to all, whether you are a bibliophile or not, but do take tissues.

Tagline: Courage beyond words                                                            8.5/10