Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New imaginative writing to mobilise action on climate change

cover for e-book Weatherfronts: climate change and the stories we tell

An 8000 word story of mine about the future of Britain and Barcelona is included in a new e-book published this week by Cambria Publishing.


Weatherfronts: climate change and the stories we tell is an anthology of specially commissioned work by 12 writers and poets featuring their imaginative and very different responses to the topic of climate change.

The book will be launched this Sunday at the Llandeilo Litfest and on May 25 at the Hay Festival.


The question of how to mobilise public opinion to do something about climate change using imaginative fiction and poetry was behind two weekend-long events that resulted in the works contained within it.

These were attended by over 130 writers and 50 scientists at London’s Free Word Centre and resulted in two sets of commissions for 12 very varied writers. The idea was – to reach the parts of people’s brains that scientists and politicians cannot reach!

The project has seen writers’ and indeed all artists’ responses to the subject of climate change grow far more sophisticated and extend in range and scope.

Reading this collection one can see this progression, from the sometimes didactic to the much more considered examination of particular times, places and aspects, greater use of imagination, and even of humour, in writing for children.

Different writers are also writing for different audiences.

So this collection presents twelve very individual approaches. The authors’ experience of the subject is very varied, but all have committed themselves deeply to their own interpretation of the theme.

All have also benefited from meeting and talking to scientists, social scientists and geographers to whom they have been introduced by TippingPoint.

The collection combines two publications only available previously as PDFs into one e-book.

From the first collection come contributions from writers Sarah Butler, Dark Mountain’s Nick Hunt, Stevie Ronnie, Dan Simpson, and a group of three activist poets, all with a deep commitment to social and climate justice, Zena Edwards, Sai Murray and Selina Nwulu.

From the second collection come Darragh Martin, with a delicious children’s story about ‘the shortest private detective in her school’, Emma Howell’s warm tale of the 1970s, Sarah Thomas’ exploration of her neighbours’ experience of recent floods, David Thorpe’s near future in which adapting to climate change has unfortunate consequences, and Justina Hart’s poetic evocation of the earlier inhabitants of what is now the North Sea forced off their land by the melting ice cap. Sound familiar?

If there is a common theme to these five powerful pieces of writing it is that their scale is personal.

As Peter Gingold, Director, TippingPoint, says: “This most grandiose and abstract subject is experienced at a very personal level, making its demands on the way we live with partners – or with friends, neighbours and communities. This must be fruitful.”

The pieces in this collection were commissioned by TippingPoint, Free Word and partners from 2014-2016. TippingPoint has since morphed into the project Climate Cultures.

Download Weatherfronts: climate change and the stories we tell.

Featuring work by:
Sarah Butler, Zena Edwards, Justina Hart, Emma Howell,
Nick Hunt, Darragh Martin, Sai Murray, Selina Nwulu,
Stevie Ronnie, Dan Simpson, Sarah Thomas, David Thorpe

Forewords by:
Peter Gingold, Director, Tipping Point

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Brexit: we blamed the wrong people and are now on the wrong track

Today Article 50 is triggered and the UK begins the process of leaving the EU. How and why has this happened?

Last night Nick Clegg could be seen interviewing pro-Brexit voters in Ebbw Vale on BBC2's Newsnight.

These voters said they voted for Brexit because they didn't like the way EU money was spent on ridiculous dragon street sculptures and shiny buildings they didn't want.

What they wanted was their old steel jobs back or proper training and apprenticeships in new trades that were real.

Fair enough. But they blamed the wrong people.

It would have been the great and good in Wales who decided what the EU money was spent on, not Eurocrats.

And the jobs these steel workers lost went to Chinese workers, with whose wages they couldn't compete without subsidies.

It's the same in the US for steel and coal workers. And Trump's response is to repeal Clean Power legislation – as if it could give back those jobs.

But the train is going the other way, towards a clean energy future, and that is where the training of workers should be subsidised by the state if it wants to create real jobs that have a meaning and give back dignity to people and communities.

UKIP has lost its only MP. All the Brexit cheerleaders have vanished, abdicating responsibility for the decision they persuaded the nation was best – with a cocktail of what we now know were untruths.

No one had a plan – or intended to carry one out.

The real task all along behind Cameron's decision to call the referendum was the unification of the Tory Party.

That is now job done with the Tories set to rule forever in England, all opposition wiped out or in disarray.


Never mind the future prosperity of the country.

May is triumphant and although the Tories make mistake after mistake there's no one to call them to order.

I wish we could hold another Brexit referendum. Remain might well win now we know the emperor has no clothes.

But the right wing press, Paul Dacre's Mail, porn baron Richard Desmond's Express and the Barclay Brothers' Telegraph are still too powerful in shaping the flow of skewed facts to suit their warped agenda... to keep the Tories in power so they pay less tax.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Hybrids tv series is now available for agents / producers to pick up.

Hybrids - we are human too


The pilot script and tv series bible for Hybrids are now incredible thanks to enthusiastic and discerning feedback from Adam Stern, Director of Development at the Gotham Group, one of the top ten Hollywood production and management companies, who called it 'unique' and 'original'. He feels it's best suited for the millennial sf market, cable, and the theme is a 'hot topic'.

This revolutionary SF thriller set five minutes into the future dramatises for the millennial viewer the popular anxiety that we are being taken over by technology.  

Johnny – half computer – and Kestrella – her hand is her smartphone – are hybrids. Together they battle a conspiracy that will lead them to the top of a country in chaos. 

Hybrids is X-Men meets Mr Robot.

A pandemic is terrorising the country by merging victims with their most frequently-used technology. It mutates their cells so the device regrows beneath their skin. They become 'hybrids' – feared, crippled, sometimes enhanced, sometimes dead. 

Are you wedded to your device?

Hybrids is now available for agents and producers to pick up. Contact: info@cyberium.co.uk

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Climate change fiction is coming of age

Literature that touches on the topic of climate change is reaching maturity. This is evidenced by the latest collection of work just launched by the Weatherfronts project, called Realistic Utopias, in which I have an 8,000 word story, For The Greater Good.

Whether you call is climate fiction, cli-fi, stories for change or have your own pet name, it really doesn't matter. It is now such a broad church that this collection includes poetry, a very funny children's story (with illustrations), speculative fiction, human interest and domestic drama.


The book is a free download:

There was a previous collection last year:

The Weatherfronts project, run by TippingPoint and the Free Word Centre (where the launch happened) in London, is about using the arts to broaden the conversation about climate change, away from the scientific, polemical or political. Five stories were commissioned for this collection.

It grew out of an event that brought together fifty scientists and thinkers and fifty writers in a series of workshops. (Listen to it here.)

"One thing we have seen very clearly is that over the 12 years of TippingPoint’s life, writers' responses to the subject have grown far more sophisticated and increased in their range and scope," observed the director of the Free Word Centre, Peter Gingold, as he introduced the writers to this sold out event.


The audience arrives for the Weatherfronts climate fiction book launch.
The audience arrives for the launch event.


Peter Gingold introduces the Weatherfronts climate fiction book launch.
Peter Gingold introduces the authors.
Each of the authors then read some of their work:


Sarah Thomas reading from her story Rainfell, Fell.
Sarah Thomas read from her story based on her friendship with the widow of the one man who died in the Cumbrian floods of the winter of 2014-15, Rainfell, Fell.


Emma Howell reading from Thrift: A Love Story
Emma Howell read from Thrift: A Love Story about her father's attempts to go green in the 1970s.


Justina Hart reading from her poem sequence Doggerland Rising.
Justina Hart read from her poem sequence Doggerland Rising, in which she imagines (based on archaeological research) the inhabitants of islands that used to exist in the North Sea having to leave their homes when the sea level rose around 9,000 years ago.
Then I read from my story For the Greater Good, set in 2084, in which I imagine the possible side-effects of Britain achieving a goal of feeding its population and satisfying all of its energy from renewables.

But as I'm taking the photos there isn't one of me! Anyway, a number of people said afterwards how affecting the story is. Which was satisfying, so thank you.


Darragh Martin reading from Thumbelina Jellyfizz and the Elephant in the Bathroom.
Then Darragh Martin read from his hilarious kids' tale Thumbelina Jellyfizz and the Elephant in the Bathroom, with vibrant illustrations from Euan Cook:
illustration by Euan Cook


illustration by Euan Cook


There was the inevitable panel discussion, with Durham University's Harriet Bulkley introducing Jane Riddiford, the visionary founder of the amazing Global Generation, a club for teenagers and kids in King's Cross, central London. She explained how she got the children interested in nature.


L2R: Harriet Bulkley, Emma Howell, Darragh Martin and Jane Riddiford,
L2R: Harriet Bulkley, Emma Howell, Darragh Martin and Jane Riddiford,

This led to the following amazing film about their work:



She guides them through periods of silent contemplation and then asks them to write about nature. Three of them came to read their work:

Samika of Global Generation reading her poem on nature
Samika of Global Generation reading her poem on nature.


Aisha of Global Generation reading her poem on nature
Aisha of Global Generation


Rania of Global Generation reading her poem on nature
Rania of Global Generation
Then the audience had to do some work – write their own feelings about what nature meant for them, which was a cathartic experience:


That's me in the middle at the front!
It does feel like writing stories about climate change is no longer weird or unusual. Climate change is here, and all stories now react to it or are situated within a climate changed world.

The stories in this collection are all domestic. They show lives, families, affected by the changing climate and our reactions to it. They help us think about what this means and come to terms with the enormity of it. They let us develop and consider our own emotional responses.

Find out more here: https://www.freewordcentre.com/explore/realistic-utopias-writing!


[David Thorpe is the writer of Marvel's Captain Britain, the sci-fi YA novels HybridsDoc Chaos: The Chernobyl Effect and the climate change fantasy Stormteller.]

Friday, January 13, 2017

Writing for Fun and Profit online course

I'm now offering this new online writing course that is based on successful classes run in the real world.

Who is it for?

This course is for anyone interested in telling stories. The aim is to provide a safe, constructive, encouraging environment in which you can get the best from your story, whatever it is.  

How does it work?

It consists of modules with exercises. Students proceed at their own pace although the recommendation is to complete one module per week. If this is done, it should take about six months. Once the exercises are returned you receive feedback and the next module.

We spend a lot of time at the start on character and structure development because this helps to focus on what is really important in the story and the possibilities for how it will unfold.


The principles of the course are applicable to all kinds of storytelling, since they cover plot, character, suspense, dialogue, structure, imagery, pacing, and so on. These universal rules and guidelines work whether you are doing oral storytelling, writing screenplays, novels, graphic novels, short stories or stage and radio plays.

The course is delivered by email and Skype. 

Course content

The modules are:
  1. Developing characters – since all stories begin with characters – and how characters develop storylines.
  2. The four basic plots and the four possible endings.
  3. Ideas and how to evaluate them.
  4. Structure I: the three act structure, and writing your story summary and logline. 
  5. Character design and the inner conflict. Attitude and style.
  6. Mapping all of your characters.
  7. Theme, moral and imagery.
  8. Using the 'story map' to generate and fix the story's details.
  9. Writing the detailed plot synopsis.
  10. The use of suspense. Storytelling and spell-weaving.
  11. The meaning of 'show don't tell'.
  12. First or third person?
  13. Prose style and the art of writing descriptive prose
  14. Writing convincing dialogue.
  15. Structure II: the monomyth, the cosmogonic cycle and the 12 stage story structure. 
  16. Opening lines.
  17. Beyond plot: slice of life, mood, etc., mosaic structure, allegory.
  18. Subplots and minor characters.
  19. Comic writing and satire (optional).
  20. Pacing (mood, time, transitions, flashbacks, framing devices)
  21. Genres and 'literature'.
  22. Endings. 
  23. Editing your work.
  24. Writing for radio, tv, film.
  25. Writing for magazines and websites.
  26. Having completed your work:
    • Finding an agent or editor
    • Finding markets for your work
    • Publishing and self-publishing
  27. Marketing yourself and your work, including the use of social media, book signings, etc.

Cost

The cost of the course is £260, which is £10 per module. Don't forget, this includes individual feedback on your exercises. 

The fee is payable up front. If at any point you decide not to proceed, you will receive a refund for the modules not taken.

 Alternately you can set up a direct debit of £44/month.

Testimonials

Comments from 'real world' students:
  • "I thoroughly enjoyed last week's session. I know I'm a professional in the script-writing field, but to be honest I think any writer no matter how much they've done can benefit from a 'reboot' as it were." Julian Dutton, professional tv/film comedy scriptwriter
  • "I lack confidence and belief in myself, you have no idea how much your support and guidance is appreciated." Jacquie Hyde, writer of Young Adult fiction
  • "Thank you so much for all your teaching, most enjoyable and I've learnt a lot." Joy Daniels, playwright 
  • "Your classes have provoked some great ideas." Sara Fox, writer of historical romances.

Interested?

Send an email enquiry with some information about your writing interests.
You will hear back very shortly!

The tutor

David is a successful writer of fiction for adults, young adults and older children, who believes strongly that with imagination we can change the world.  He's the author of Hybrids, "a stunningly clever novel" – The Times – which won the UK HarperCollins-Saga Magazine 2006 Childrens Novelist competition.

He co-founded the London Screenwriters' Workshop and has written many short stories, TV scripts, comics and graphic novels, including for Marvel, HarperCollins, Titan Books and Macdonald-Futura.

He has also worked as a commissioning editor for various book publishers, plus as journalist and news editor, is the author of over ten non-fiction books and is a director of Cambria Publishing Co-operative.

He has a City and Guilds Further Education Teachers Certificate and has completed a City and Guilds course in Contracts and Rights.

He is a member of the Society of Authors and the Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators.

What children's books will help you survive the apocalypse?

What stories for children told today will still be around in 100 years? What qualities in these books will future generations find appealing?

What's got me wondering about this is that lately I've been looking at remarkable books still popular now that were written either in or about the 19th century.

Amongst these are Laura Ingalls Wilder's best-selling series of Little House books and Lucy Maud Montgomery's series beginning with Anne of Green Gables. Both are still in print.

Wilder based her books on her childhood which was in the northern Midwest US during the 1870s. She wrote eight titles which were published by Harper & Brothers from 1932 to 1943.

Of the Little House books I've been particularly entranced by the first, Little House in the Big Woods. It tells in extraordinary detail how her family – Caroline and Charles, elder daughter Mary Amelia, and herself, aged 6–7 – survived in the frozen woods of Wisconsin in an almost completely self-sufficient way of life.

Charmingly illustrated, it is almost a 'how-to' manual of survivalism, describing in some detail the making of clothes, gathering of wild honey, butchering of animals, how to birth a calf, how to make butter and cheese, and how to keep warm and travel on a sleigh in deep snow (put hot baked potatoes in your pockets and boots).



Most interestingly it describes the collection and refinement of maple syrup from the sap of the trees which is done with Grandpa and Grandma.



When Pa goes hunting he hauls back a deer and this is skinned, the leather cured and the meat smoked for the winter.

If I were ever on Desert Island Discs I think I'd choose this book to take with me to the desert island because it would be both helpful and entertaining!

For it's not all hard work. Most nights Pa tells the girls a story (which we hear too) with them sat on his knee and plays them a song on his fiddle.



Not only can Pa build a house, hunt and make furniture, he is musical!

Little House in the Big Woods was serialised in the BBC tv programme Jackanory in the 1960s.

Little House on the Prairie continues the story in the same style, describing how in 1869 the family moved via covered wagon from Wisconsin to Indian Territory on the prairie of Kansas. Then they had to build a whole new house.

Little House on the Prairie became an NBC network tv series that ran from 1974 to 1983 and revealed much about the pioneers and settlers and their relationship with the indigenous tribes.

Lucy Montgomery's Anne series is likewise a glimpse into a lost world. Although fictional it is strongly based on the real community of New London, Prince Edward Island in North East Canada.

A key moral message of the books is the need for self-improvement, and the civilising values of respect for others.

As a more sustainable version of Disneyland or Harry Potter World, the location for the story, Green Gables farm, became a visitor centre and the seed for the creation of a National Park.




Nowadays, adults probably read these books now more than children, but they may be reading them to their own children simply because they themselves read them when they were kids.

They are fascinating because they provide a window onto another way of life. There is a nostalgia or a longing for those simpler times and the simple morality they espouse. It seems a marvel that the ways of life described are only three or four generations ago.

And there's a feeling that perhaps, if the apocalypse comes, we or our children may have to learn to live that way again: close-knit, close to nature, relying on our wits, fitness, morality and skills. I think that's why I put some of these practical tips about survival in my own apocalyptic novel Stormteller.

Maybe in 100 years it will be these kind of books that will still be read. What do you think?

[David Thorpe is the writer of Marvel's Captain Britain, the sci-fi YA novels HybridsDoc Chaos: The Chernobyl Effect and the cli-fi fantasy Stormteller.]