Jenny Sullivan


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Useful at last!

By Jenny Sullivan, 2014-10-30

Despite living in France, it's always good to be asked to help out in the Old Country:  just before my last visit home to Wales I was contacted by the Save the Children charity to ask if I'd help out in their "Read On, Get On" campaign.  This is aimed at getting Welsh children reading, and more important, enjoying reading. I wrote a short story for inclusion in STC's book, which will be launched on 30th October at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff, and on the day I was packing to leave for the ferry that afternoon, I was asked to write an article for the Western Mail's Authors' Notes page featured in the Saturday colour supplement. So I sat down in the middle of piles of clothes, teaching stuff (I was going home to visit some schools to workshop and to launch my new book which, serendipitously, was about a dyslexic child) and wrote it.  Which is probably why I arrived in Wales with only a pair of sneakers, one top and no socks ~ that was my excuse for the new stuff, anyway!  The launches, one in Waterstone's bookshop in Abergavenny and one in a Welsh-language school, went brilliantly, and so did the schools visits.  I'm also Patron of Reading to three Welsh schools, which means that I write a monthly newsletter telling the kids what I'm doing, encouraging them to read and setting challenges ~and if there are any Americymru members out there with school links I'd be glad to get involved with a transatlantic school too, though I can't promise to visit!

One of the schools was a Cardiff one that has around 27 different ethnic languages in it, and I arrived the day they were going to have a party to celebrate Eid el Fitr, so all the children were wearing rainbow saris or brocade tunics ~ it was like teaching a cloud of butterflies.  I had my story bag with me, and one of the items in it was a seashell.  I was astounded to learn that the children didn't know that the sea lives in sea-shells, and the shell was pressed to so many ears and produced so many wondering faces that the session became one that I shall remember for a long time to come.

I must apologise that my appearences in this forum are infrequent ~ I'm supposed to be retired, but as most retired people say, I've never been so busy.  As well as writing (that's something I'll never retire from) and the Patron newsletters I also produce another for our little English-language multi-faith church out here and have just taken my first service.   I may recover from the trauma some time in the future...

Now I'm going back to the new book I've just started writing...

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By Jenny Sullivan, 2013-07-18

I'm feeling a bit "down" at the moment because I've just been told that teenagers don't read any more, so there was no point in writing the three teenage novels (including the sequel to last year's Tir na n-Og Award winning "Full Moon") wot I rote. I'm also feeling a bit "up" because I've embarked on a new novel for pre-teens which is up and running with a vengeance. I started with an idea, but the character has (as usual) gone his own way and (as usual) set off running in directions I never intended him to take. I've had to put "Silver Fox 3 ~ The Long Amen" on a back burner temporarily because of it. I hadn't intended to write a third part, but considerable pleading by various people has prodded me into finding the ending of the Glyndwr story. I'll go back to that when I've finished my current project.

Why aren't there more hours in the day? However, the sun is shining, the birds are tweetin', and life is pretty good on the whole.

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Time, Owain Glyndwr ~ and me...

By Jenny Sullivan, 2013-01-28

...and my website is out of date, for which apologies, but I'll get to it soon, I promise!

I think I knew I wanted to write about Owain from around the time I knew I wanted to write. I went to an ordinary Cardiff primary school in the 50s, and it was there that my beloved Miss Thomas told me that, one day, if I worked hard, I would be a writer. Well, Miss Thomas, cariad, if you were alive today, you'd know that your prediction came true. I'm the author of around 30 children's novels and poetry collections, plus contributions to various short story and poetry anthologies.

When I was around 13 I read a newspaper article about Owain Glyndwr. And fell in love. But, being a child of a pair of Victorian parents who didn't believe in educating girls because they only went and got married, my "career", post-high school, was mapped out for me. I left at 15 before taking my GCEs, and my Mum found me a job as a shop assistant in Woolworth's. If not for my brother paying for me to take a secretarial course, that would have been it. But one thing hurt: whenever I filled in an application form for a job I had to write, under "Qualifications" ~ none.

I was lucky enough to marry a kind, supportive man whose motto is "don't die wishing you'd done something". I wanted and wanted to get some qualifications, and eventually signed up for the OU ~ only to find myself expecting my third child. I'm not someone who can breastfeed a child and simultaneously care fortwo others and study for a degree as wellso that went by the board after the first year. And then, miraculously, I was sent an application form ~ right out of the blue, apparently ~ for the first ever MA in creative writing at Cardiff. Which I managed to achieve. I jokingly said to my tutor, who had become a friend, "PhD next, then!". He gazed at me thoughtfully, and then said, "Nah. You wouldn't get it."

I bloody would! I thought, and without thinking too much more, applied for, and was accepted, again at Cardiff, for a PhD, with a proposal to write a novel about Owain Glyndwr. Talk about biting off more than I could chew! I couldn't even close my mouth! But I got my head down, hit the libraries both academic and public, and did two years' research before I wrote a word. And eventually I finished the book, and the thesis, and got the PhD. I did another two years' work on the book before I thought" Silver Fox ~ It begins" was ready for publication ~ but could I get a Welsh publisher to look at it? Dream on. So I tried an English agent, who loved it, wanted to try to sell it for me, but would like her colleague to read it first. Colleague's opinion was, "great book, but nobody's interested in Welsh history, so take out as much of that as you can, and put in more sex". So that was that.

To cut a long story short, I self-published, which is something I said I'd never do. But the story wasn't finished yet. So I wrote "Silver Fox ~ The Paths Diverge" and self-published that, too. Thank you, Amazon! Sales are going slowly, but well, and reviews are pretty good. I still feel sad that I couldn't interest a Welsh publisher in publishing it, but nearly 9 years' work was too much to just put in the pending tray and forget about.

And now I keep getting emails from people who have read the first two books... And I'm about to embark on research for part three.

Right now, I'm living in France, but at the beginning of March I'm going Home for two weeks to visit schools and facilitate workshops to try to enthuse as many children with the joys of writing, and the wonder of Welsh history. I've been doing that for around 25 years, now, and still get a hell of a kick out of it.

Thanks, Miss Thomas!

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At last!

By Jenny Sullivan, 2012-03-29

I'm finally able to report that part one of myhistorical novel "Silver Fox" ~ about Owain Glyndwr's War of Independence ~ is now available for purchase from Amazon as a Kindle upload. Yay!

I'm also delighted to mention (modestly) that I've been short-listed for the Welsh Tir na n-Og Award for my latest teenage novel "Full Moon".

I'm just back from another tour (earlier in March) of South Wales visiting schools and libraries talking about writing and books to and with approximately 700 pre-teens. I'm off again in May and again in July.

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