By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-06-27
Hopefully either the Echo or the Western Mail will post this in full:
"It began as a campaign to oppose the closure of our local school and from the outset we resolved not to become embroiled in local politics. Ironically it has resulted in the forced resignation of the Minister for Education and Skills, Leighton Andrews, who also happens to be the Assembly Member forRhondda.
First Minister Carwyn Jones was quoted as saying, The ministerial code aims to define the boundaries between the two roles and, on this occasion, I believe those roles were confused."
How were they confused?
The Assembly Government has a clear policy relating to surplus places in schools. School closures are invariably sensitive and emotive issues and therefore under the directive of Leighton AndrewsLEAs were required to refer to stringent guidelines set out in The School Organisation Proposals. Indeed, as of 1 st October they become a legal obligation for each and everyLEAwhenever they propose a closure of a particular school.
It is transparent that the letter of objection Leighton Andrews wrote to theLEAmerely draws theLEAs attention to the fact they have not complied with the guidance set out in theWAGdocument. In fact in many instances they have totally disregarded the guidance. This, in fact, forms the basis of the legal challenge presented to theLEAby the Pentre Action Group.
We fail to see how this can be construed as undermining his own policy, when in essence his actions were intended to ensure that the policy guidelines themselves were given due and proper regard. Where is the conflict? We have grave concerns that in not supporting his Education Minister the First Minister has given carte blanche to local LEAs to proceed without due regard toWAGguidelines. Is it a case of, If you tolerate this then your children will be next?
Amid all the political and media frenzy it is easy to forget that at the centre of this debacle lie the concerns of parents for the safety and well being of their children. Should the proposal to closePentrePrimary schoolbe ratified children will inevitably be placed at risk given the distance they will have to travel to their new school along a heavily congested route. This, I know, was one of Mr Andrews concerns as someone familiar with the geography of theRhondda. It is to his eternal credit that he was prepared to demonstrate those concerns regardless of the consequences.
Surely, the safety of our children should transcend all other considerations whatever the colour of our political allegiance. How we protect the most vulnerable in our society, the elderly, the infirm and the young, defines us as a nation, not what particular policies hold sway at any given moment in time. As a group we feel that political opportunism has taken precedence over the interests of our children to the detriment of us all.
With regard to our local council we feel that whatever directives they have received to ensure the reduction of surplus places their first priority must always be the safety and welfare of the children in their charge. The fact that they have not undertaken a safety assessment of walking and cycling routes prior to bringing forward the proposal to close the school is indicative that this has not been their primary concern. Currently these are guidelines laid down by theWAGthat will shortly become a statutory code of practice forLEAs acrossWales. However, given the proposed development of a new Tesco store and filling station adjacent to the route children must take any meaningful safe route assessment can only be undertaken after the development is complete. TheLEAcannot abdicate its responsibility for the welfare of our children by hiding behind the surplus places policy. It has a duty of care in respect of our children that it has palpably failed to discharge.
The issue of surplus places in the case of Pentre has also been exaggerated. Currently the number on roll in Pentre is 104 and not 73 as stated by theBBC. This discrepancy within the proposal was pointed out to theLEAat an early stage in the consultation process but has not been amended. While we realise the issue of surplus places has to be tackled theLEAoffered no alternative proposals to closure although more cost effective solutions exist which, crucially, would not place children at risk.
We have also been dismayed by the way our campaign has been callously manipulated by political opponents of the Minister and sections of the media. Interviews we gave to theBBCin good faith on the assurance they would not be used in a political context merely demonstrated our naivety. Not only were they used in a deliberate attempt to embarrass the Minister but inaccurate statistics were broadcast nationwide to the detriment of our campaign. We were incensed to learn that theBBChad been working on this story for two days prior to the interviews.
As a group we feel the consultation process has now been prejudiced beyond recall at both local and assembly level. For us the primary issue has never been about surplus places or ministerial policies but the valid concerns for the safety and well being of our children. This is still the urgent and pressing issue that should not be lost upon all concerned."
If you would like to keep updated with and support our campaign please visit our blog http://pentreprimary.blogspot.com
By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-05-16
As I was lying around, pondering the problems of the world,
I realized that at my age I don't really give a rat's ass anymore.
.. If walking is good for your health, the postman would be immortal.
.. A whale swims all day, only eats fish, drinks water, but is still fat.
.. A rabbit runs and hops and only lives 15 years, while
.. A tortoise doesn't run and does mostly nothing, yet it lives for 150 years.
And you tell me to exercise?? I don't think so.
Just grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked,
the good fortune to remember the ones I do, and the
eyesight to tell the difference.
Now that I'm older here's what I've discovered:
1. I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.
2. My wild oats are mostly enjoyed with prunes and all-bran.
3. I finally got my head together, and now my body is falling apart.
4. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
5. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
6. If all is not lost, then where the heck is it ?
7. It was a whole lot easier to get older, than to get wiser.
8. Some days, you're the top dog, some days you're the hydrant.
9. I wish the buck really did stop here, I sure could use a few of them.
10. Kids in the back seat cause accidents.
11. Accidents in the back seat cause kids.
12. It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.
13. The world only beats a path to your door when you're in the bathroom.
14. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he'd have put them on my knees.
15. When I'm finally holding all the right cards, everyone wants to play chess.
16. It's not hard to meet expenses . . . they're everywhere.
17. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.
18. These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter . . .I go somewhere to
get something, and then wonder what I'm "here after".
19. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
20. HAVE I SENT THIS MESSAGE TO YOU BEFORE..........? or did I ?
By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-03-01
Perhaps Id better explain before any SWAT teams or FBI agents break down my door. This is not an incitement to violence of any kind. No, Ive not been watching too many gory horror movies but if you are a struggling writer who wants to become successful there is one thing you should very seriously consider doing. Create your own series of books.
Lets be honest writers write because they love writing but thats not the sole motivation for everyone. Shakespeare and Dickens wrote to make a living and did it very successfully! The majority of us dream of being as successful as J.K.Rowling or Amanda Hocking whatever we might say to the contrary. One thing these writers had in common was they were all pretty good at story telling and they werent bad wordsmiths either! I dont know how you compare but I do know that creating a series and building a brand is almost essential for ongoing success.
When I was a boy the Just William books by Richmal Crompton were my favourites. On every cover there was a picture of a scruffy boy with a striped hat. He was instantly recognisable. Enid Blytons Famous Five and Secret Seven series were hugely successful. They were constructed around:
- Distinctive and engaging characters who appeared in each book.
- Story lines within the same genre.
- Story lines that were often progressive or developed a recurringtheme.
- Easily identifiable cover images.
Fast forward and we see these same elements within series like Harry Potter and Lemony Snickett. In both cases the authors have built an easily recognisable and memorable brand. Readers who enjoyed these books would immediately want to read more and this affords authors another opportunity. It is now possible to create links within your eBooks directly back to your authors website where you can create an interest in the next book or refer readers to the complete series. Alternatively why not include a chapter from your next book at the end.
Hold on! you cry, I havent finished my first book yet!
Not a problem. Having decided to embark upon writing a series of books your brain will subconsciously begin to identify:
- Possible future story lines.
- Characters and their potential for development.
Rather than a hindrance the decision to write a series can provide creative motivation. I have to mention the possible downside of course.
The authors already referred to happen to be very good authors. The danger is if your first book sucks then the concept of a series becomes counter productive. But isnt that the risk we all take when we put our work out there? I dont know if anyone will consider Billy and The Pit ofShadows worth reading but it wont stop me writing it. Even if it doesnt sell one copy I will have enjoyed the experience tremendously and feel a great sense of satisfaction at having completed it.
The other thing that might be considered a downside is the cost of creating a cover for your book. It is absolutely vital you have a compelling and striking cover. Many people purchase a book because they are attracted by the cover alone. It is also important you find someone right for your book. This is a process I am currently engaged in. Elance provides a list of artists and graphic designers who display a showcase of their work. It is worth taking a good look until you find someone you feel can create the image that reflects your work. A Google search will also throw up a list of graphic designers and artists.
I hope I have encouraged you to get cracking on your killer series.
Sinister Mavis Trott explains what teachers do in the holidays.
By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-02-22
I must admit the idea of joining a writers group or circle had never really appealed to me. My most recent experience of a writers group on Facebook served only to reinforce my negative attitude. The title of the group was what attracted me as it purported to be authors helping out other
authors. It proved a misleading title.
Some, and I hasten to add not all, groups and forums bear a striking resemblance to life in a pond. Every inhabitant has its own place in the social hierarchy and protects their social status jealously. I must have really muddied the waters when I jumped in to this particular pond with both feet blazing. I had the temerity to place a link to a promotional video I had created for Google+ eXplosion a book I had written to help other authors get to grips with Google+. Incidentally it was not long before I was giving it away for free on my blog.
Apparently I had committed a social faux pas akin to breaking wind during the exchange of vows at somebodys wedding. Self promotion! You could hear the communal gasps as the ripples of outrage spread across the communal waters. One author asked what the heck else I had written anyway. Soon other members of the group entered the fray. My motives for joining were thrown into question and my humorous attempt to defuse the situation only seemed to make matters worse.
XXX, Thanks for
the welcome. I feel like a kid who just started a new school. Just hope you
are not one of the milk monitors. Hmm. I have participated in this group prior
to uploading the infomercial. Posts mainly from my blog.
It didnt help!
However a certain lady Patricia Reed did rush to my defence and appeared to be as confused as me
regarding the groups remit.
I was under the impression that this group was for "authors helping authors". . .
The reason I felt compelled to share this experience is that another writer suffered the same fate at the hands of the same group only this week. (You can visit her blog here .) I was able to reassure her that she was not alone. The groups' response was predictable and at one point I was accused of flouncing.
Anyone who knows me personally knows I do not flounce, have snit fits, or take kindly to bullies of the physical or literary variety.
It was with certain misgivings therefore that I attended the Writers Group in my local library this week. My reservation proved foundless. I spent two hours in the company of some of the most supportive and inspirational people I have met for a long time. The quality of their writing left me feeling humbled.
The group is run by Frances Berry the daughter of that great Welsh author Ron Berry. It is literally
two hundred yards from my home. I would never have stumbled upon it if I hadnt been actively looking for groups so that I could tell them about Eto .
As much as I love the internet for the way it has opened up the world to me and allowed me to make many new friends and acquaintancest there is nothing quite like personal interaction with real people. So my advice would be, if there is a writers group near you, join it!
By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-02-15
This is a blog for Indie writers everywhere, right? you
Absolutely! I reply looking sincere.
So why is this Eto magazine you seem to be spending so much
time on exclusively for Welsh writers and not everyone then? a hint of
accusation in your voice.
I can best answer that by telling you a true story. I
So here it is
The story takes place back in the dim distant past when I still
had black hair and computers hadnt begun to roam the earth. I was head teacher
of a small village school at the top end of the Rhondda
Valley called Blaencwm. Blaencwm
nestled snugly among the mountains and if it snowed there was no way in or out.
It truly was a very close knit community.
At one time a tunnel had been driven through the mountain at
the top end of the village to provide easy access to places like Aberavon, a
staggering feat of engineering. When the government instigated cuts to the
railway network in the 60s Blaencwm was left stranded on the economic beach
with no hope of the tide ever turning. My years spent in this vibrant community
were among the happiest of my life.
All very nice. I hear you say. But whats the point?
One day during a drama lesson a little girl said to me. My
Uncles a writer. My response was something condescending like, Thats nice.
While secretly hoping it wasnt the school wall he had daubed with graffiti.
The little girls name was Elaine Berry. Her uncle was Ron
Niall Griffiths has described Ron Berrys novel SO
LONG HECTOR BEBB as one of the greatest novels to come out of the twentieth century.
Ron Berry was probably living in Blaencwm, or very close by,
at the time. It frustrates the hell out of me to think I could have actually
met him. Here was a writer ignored by the world at large and relatively unknown
in his own community. Having just read his book for the first time I realise what
an opportunity was lost. Never in a million years could I hope to write
something like that!
Now as a writer myself I feel a responsibility to my own
community. Eto is one of the ways in which I hope to discharge that
responsibility by providing a platform for local authors so that writers of
the future will be less likely to suffer the fate that Ron Berry endured. A
towering talent that very few people knew existed.
So having answered your question let me ask you one.
What commitment are you prepared to make to writers within
your community wherever you live?
As Ron said through one of his characters:
Were each and every one of us shaped for muck and glory,
thank the Jesus Christ All-bloody-mighty for it an all.
By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-02-07
Bernard Cornwall has described writing a book as akin to climbing a mountain. Apparently he gets so far, looks back, sees a better route, retraces his footsteps and begins again. I certainlyidentify with this analogy even if I never get to the summit anywhere near as many times as he has done. One of his preferred tactics is to throw his main character into a situation in the first chapter and see what happens.A bit like real life really
How do you approach writing a book? Are you methodical and organised or do you lean towards Bernard Cornwall's trial and error method? One thing I must mention about Bernard Cromwell's approach is that at least he knows where he wants to end up. In the case of his current novela particularly significant historical event, the Battle of Poitiers. As Yogi Berra once memorably said,
"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you
might not get there."
I think I know what he was trying to say!
Ben Kane, another successful historical novelist takes the oppositeview. It has to be said that this was the result of bitter experiencewhen engaged on his second novel which required a major rewrite.Now he plans his work out chapter by chapter.
El Doctorow used this striking analogy.
Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
A meeting I had with that remarkable Welsh artist Nicholas Evans many years ago perhaps best illustrates my particularattitude to writing.
Nicholas Evans began painting when he was in his late sixties. In his obituary inThe Guardian newspaperPeter Wakelin wrote:
The art world dreams of discovering the genuine original: the self-made, solitary visionary. In 1978 it found one in the railwayman and painter Nicholas Evans, who has died aged 97.
I was afforded the tremendous privilege of being invited by the artist to view a painting he was currently working on. Something, his daughter Rowan told me, he had never done before. We talked and I asked how he planned outhis striking paintings. He told me he didn't. They were already there. He simply approached the blank canvas and began to paint andthey appeared.
Now I understand what he meant. Although he was a painter bordering on genius and I am a simple storyteller our ideas flowed from within straight onto canvas or paper. In fact Nicholas Evans rarely painted on canvas. He order his material directfrom the local hardware store! His wife, particularly unimpressed by his latebrush with fame, told me, "I wouldn't mind so much if he'd paint the house!"
Each writer and artist must find his own way. In the end it doesn't really matter how you reach the summit. What reallymatters is that your writing flows from within. That the route you take is your own.That it is you and not what you believe others want you to be.
Billy and The Pit of Shadows Community
An experiment in creating a community of readers.
Last week our theme was school assemblies. Thanks to Eiry Rees Thomas for her contribution. I would love to know who the noted academic was but she won't tell me!
"It's an early memory actually and happened at our village junior school where we had a gathering twice weekly before lessons for prayers:
A male classmate, as it transpired, had been desperate to use the outside lavvies, but felt obliged to wait. The appropriate sound alerted us to the fact, wherby the teacher in charge of such things switched to sniff mode and made her way towards the row where I stood next to my embarrased classmate. She wore bangles on one arm from wrist to almost elbow level. These jangled in the silence and I felt rooted to the spot, lest she chose the wrong perpetrator.
The 'culprit' was ceremoniously directed to the lavvies, head bowed and blushing. Such a thing would never happen these days, thankfully.
I'm so pleased that my classmate rose through the ranks to become a prominent academic."
This week our theme is Games.
Are there games you once played that seem to have been lost. We'd love to hear about them. Why not join our community and take part in the experiment that will hopefully provide us with a template we can all work from.
"It had been a sunny day in late September and the conker season was already in full swing. Billy and Ross Tudor, encircled by an expectant crowd of children, were eying each other warily. Hector and Achilles preparing for battle before the glistening walls of Troy could not have been studied with more eager anticipation. What Billy remembered most about that morning however was the communal gasp of astonishment that greeted one of the rarest events ever witnessed at Valleys County Primary School."
From Chapter 13: The Great Conker Conflict
You can find our community on Google+
Click on the image to visit and join.
Next Week:Countdown To Launch.
By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-02-04
A little silver-haired lady calls her neighbour and says, "Please come over here and help me. I have a killer jigsaw puzzle, and I can't figure out how to get started."
Her neighbour asks, "What is it supposed to be when it's finished?"
The little silver haired lady says, "According to the picture on the box, it's a rooster."
Her neighbour decides to go over and help with the puzzle.
She lets him in and shows him where she has the puzzle spread all over the table.
He studies the pieces for a moment, then looks at the box, then turns to her and says,
"First of all, no matter what we do, we're not going to be able to assemble these pieces into anything resembling a rooster."
He takes her hand and says, "Secondly, I want you to relax. Let's have a nice cup of tea, and then," he said with a deep sigh .............
"Let's put all the cornflakes back in the box."
By philip stephen rowlands, 2013-02-01
In the immortal words ofDel Boy "What a plonker! " If you arewondering who I'm talking about wonder no longer, to quote Miss Piggy, "It's moi!". By the middle of last week I was feeling really despondant. I thought my idea of exploring the possibility of using the Google+ Community feature to create a generic template all others can use to do the same thing (a la G.H.Gaines)was one that some of you might find worth considering. Apparently not. While my good friend Eiry and Mickey Peluso both supported the idea they didn't actually join the Community. What hadI done wrong?
If you want people to come to your party you have to send them an invite right? For some reason my invites were not sent. I looked up Google+ Help, whichI find a bit techie to be truthful, and eventually arrived at this solution. It may be the way you want to go also.
I discovered that if you have a Google+ Page that Page can create its own Community.
If you haven't got a Google+ Page it's easy enough to create one. I decided to opt for my Kindle Authors Page as it encompassed writers in general and not one specific genre.
Next I created a Community - all the links for creating communities and pages are on the left hand side. It's a very simple process. Just make sure when you are creating your Community you select whether you want it to be available to everyone or just a select group as this cannot be changed afterwards.
At the last count the Billy and The Pit of Shadows Community has 13 members. I am starting to feel better already!
There is little point in establishing a community if you do not engage with your members and encourage them to engage with each other. Keeping in mind our primary purpose is to promote our book. How do we start?
IDENTIFY POINTS OF CONTACT - As Billy and The Pit of Shadows has a child as its central character there arepotentially many commonthemes we can explore from within the story.
- School Assemblies.
- School Trips
- Playground Games
- Schools and Teachers.
- Relatives I loved.
- Childhood Myths
- Subjects I Hated etc.
- FriendsI Remember
There is enough common ground there to hopefully inspire engagement and involvement. Although you are essentially promoting your book you are also helping to create a dynamic community that you will genuinely enjoy being part of for its own sake.
We have all suffered , endured or enjoyed school assemblies at one time or another. Chapter Two of Billy and The Pit of Shadows is entitled The Best Assembly Ever . This affords me the opportunity to showcase some of my work and get other members involved. First I post the chapter to the community andask them to post an account of a particular memorable school assembly for whatever reason.
Eiry, bless her , has already emailed an account of what must have been an excruciatingly embarassing experience for one child. Once she has joined the CommunityEiry can post it direct. Later I will also showcase some of the posts on this blog.
There are other ways we can engage and we shall consider and develop these over the coming weeks. So if you have not already joined Billy and The Pit of Shadows why not pop over to Kindle Authors and accept the invite? I look forward to welcoming you.
"Billy stooped down, picked up a handful of gravel and flung it at Nan's window. It clattered against the glass echoing down the narrow street. Billy half expected to see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come charging wildly out of the night just like the Visiting Speaker had told them in assembly. Lots of children complained of nightmares for weeks after. Mr Meredith didn't ask him back, which disappointed Billy. It had been much better than normal assemblies, especially when Kayleigh Williams started to cry."
From Chapter Two: The Best Assembly Ever
Thecomplete chapter is now available in the Billy and The Pit of Shadows Community.
Next Week we consider how we go about planning our novels.