Sue Hampton

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National Poetry Day – did you miss it?

28 September is designated National Poetry Day – at least in the UK. At TSL, we don’t see one day as a special day – all days are special, so below are the our authors who also write poetry. TSL doesn’t specalise in poetry but we do have some poetry either as part of a collection or to support a charity.

Playwright and author Barbara Towell has a book of poetry Patchworks.
Kat Francois and Robbie Cheadle also publish poetry, albeit not through TSL.

To purchase a book, click on the image below:

first published 5 October 2017, updated 2024

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I wrote a letter…

Letter writing has somewhat gone out of fashion today having been replaced by emails. I don’t know about you, but I still get a bit of a thrill when a letter arrives, not one from a bank or some other formal organisation, and especially if there’s an indication that it’s handwritten or done on what I call an old ‘tick tick typewriter’. Believe it or not, TSL sometimes gets such letters as a few of our authors have avoided all things technology-oriented which arrived after the old ‘tick tick’ machine. We’ve also had to get manuscripts re-typed so they can used in the electronic age – and can you imagine trying to explain how marketing now works through social media to people who have no idea of what the internet looks like, let alone anything like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest? This is digressing, back to letters.

I’m not a great fan but was taken with the frank honesty of Vanessa’s letter to her brother when I was looking up some links for Great Barn Poetry which had been run by Hillingdon Libraries in 2017. Vanessa seemed to capture the essence of sibling relationships and inspired this post.
I’m wondering though if I shouldn’t change my statement about not being a great poetry fan to rather say, ‘I’m not a great reader of poetry’ because hearing poetry read or recited brings it alive in a way my reading of it fails. So, here’s a Youtube performance of A Letter to You by Vanessa Kisuule.
Then in 2018, I discovered Kat Francois who summed up a day’s conference talks on the First World War in Africa in a poem at the end of the day – wow. (Kat has subseqently published with TSL the play about her relative Lazarus who served in Africa during the First World War – it includes poetry and mention of letters).

I’ve never read any of Maya Angelou’s work but know that many people regard her writing as significant and I’ve been taken with the odd quote attributed to her, so it seems appropriate to include her third book of 28 essays written to the daughter she never had, Letter To My Daughter (2009), in this post.

Twenty years earlier, in 1988, Kurt Vonnegut felt the need to write a letter to the people living in 2088. Nearly thirty years from when he wrote the letter, we seem to have stagnated or perhaps even regressed. Will those in 2088 be thinking the same or will a difference have been made?

TSL books which feature letters (or more like emails) include:
Anna Ryland – A Second Chance
Sue Hampton – Woken
Leslie Tate – Love’s Register

And here’s a selection of poetry by TSL authors in case your appetite for poetry was whet:

first published 14 June 2017, updated 2024

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Prologues

Have you ever wondered what a prologue is? or whether to use it in the book you’re writing?
Below are a few thoughts by others on the topic, including a definition.

Prologues: what are they and how did they originate?

Some more on prologues.

A very useful post.

Why not to have a prologue.

I’ve noticed in recent years that the word Prologue is being substituted with Foreword (common in academic/non-fiction writing but becoming more popular in fiction) and Introduction. I suppose essentially ‘pre-story’ is the best substitute for the prologue whereas foreword and introduction generally provide other information the author thinks the reader should know, such as the reason for compiling a collection of short stories. As a reader, it depends on what I’m reading the book for as to whether I read the pre-story sections, as a minimum they all get a skim through. And for some of the information which is often included in the pre-writing section, it could work just as well at the end as an after-word. Here I’m thinking in particular of historical novels where the author sets out what they changed/adapted from the historical account – very useful for those of us who like to check historical accuracy…

TSL books which stand out as having a prologue/pre-story (other than historical books) include:
Alexander Crombie’s So Long Henry Bear.
Jitendra Kumar Mishra’s play The Cobbles of Kanke
James Martin Charlton’s historical fiction script Divine Vision
Ezra William’s short story collection Selected Pieces and Sue Hampton‘s various short story collections.

first published 25 September 2017, updated 2024

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The author’s journey

If you’re wondering about the writing process and how it works, here are a few posts by different authors.

David Vann on becoming a writer and how he does it.

Adam Rabinowitz explains his writing process.

In Heaven’s Rage, Leslie Tate explores the aspects of writing and the creative process. He shares more along with Sue Hampton and Cy Henty in The Dream Speaks Back.

George Saunders on what writers really do when they write.

Finally, while not on writing, I found reading 13 Ways of looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley very helpful in understanding the book and its relationship with the author, reader and publisher. Here, another reader on a writer’s journey shares her thoughts on the same book.

first published 7 August 2017, updated 2024

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Breaking the Mould

Why follow the crowd? I don’t understand authors who insist on writing to formulae. Yes, there is a place for formulaic writing – for those who don’t want to concentrate. I remember as a teenager spending many a Saturday morning in the bath with a Barbara Cartland or Mills and Boon. I knew within an 90mins I’d be finished the book and would have some peace and quiet before the onslaught of family life again. As a younger adult, television programmes such as Poirot and Murder She Wrote, allowed me to get on with other things whilst keeping an eye on what was happening – I knew I was not going to miss a vital clue. But when it comes to reading, I want to break from the mould. I want each page to be a discovery and to challenge my thinking. I like writers who break the mould.

Authors break the mould in different ways. I never know what Doris Lessing’s next book is going to be about and in what style, although it does appear that aspects of feminism are a common theme (no guarantee though). (I don’t read the blurb before buying or starting a book – which makes opening a book to read even more adventurous). Similarly, John Samson has not (yet) written two books in the same genre or style. And then there is Sue Hampton‘s collections of short stories. Robbie Cheadle (and here) is another author who experiments with different styles and genres.

Others break the mould through their experiences or have a message to pass on:
Problems faced by African writers – Binyavanga Wainaina
Heaven’s Rage – Leslie Tate

More recently I heard about John Boyne who has written diverse works such as The History of Loneliness and The house of special purpose as well as children’s books. He’s now on my list (thank goodness he was highly recommended to me – I don’t think the covers would have convinced me).

first published 10 August 2017, updated 2024

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Sue Hampton appreciation

Sue Hampton

Sue is what I call an ’emotional writer’. She writes what she feels strongly about and with a passion. This makes her stories come alive – whether a children or young person’s book, a novel or collection of short stories. Sue has been a prolific writer, before joining TSL she had already published around 30 books, and 11 with TSL including a co-authored memoir with fellow authors Leslie Tate and Cy Henty about the creative journey. Most of what Sue has published with TSL have been children’s books and short stories. Her one novel with TSL has been Intact, a love story.
Her children’s books include two fundraisers for Refugees – I am Me which was beautifully illustrated by Paula Watkins, and I am Me 2 using photographs by Abdulazez Dukhan. The money raised from the sale of these books are for People Not Borders. Her other young people’s book is Y4x4 – a collection of 4 fantasy stories for Year 4 pupils. My favourite (and I’m not usually a fantasy fan) is KOOT IN SPACE which tells of Koot’s first mission as a Space Cadet, when he has to forget he’s hopeless, and outwit the colossal creature that left bite marks in an abandoned space station.
This leaves Sue’s short stories which fall in to two categories or themes – general (Ravelled, Woken and Instead) and as a climate activist (Rebelling for Life, Still Rebelling for Life, Rebelling Like There’s No Tomorrow), with a single monologue – Jess – in the TSL compilation Where Human Rights and Mental Health Interact.
Most of Sue’s writings contain autobiographical elements, less obvious in the general collection than in her Rebelling series. While I prefer the stories in the general collections and Intact, I appreciate those in the Rebel collection because of Sue’s quality of writing, her raw honesty, tenacity and the insight it has provided into the life of an activist. Sadly, as a result, I’m not sure we’ll see any more publications from Sue – she made a huge sacrifice in lifestyle and opportunity in becoming a rebel, but not of her values – these come through strongly in all her writing. She’s been a pleasure to work with for the many reasons…and I do hope we see at least another collection or even novel from her, but no pressure…
Whatever your political take, don’t let it stand in the way of a well-written and moving story. Sue has a wide enough selection to appeal to many. And for an insight into an author’s (or three’s) creative journey, there’s The Dream Speaks Back – a book with a difference.

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Waves

The sea is powerful. For some it’s a source of inspiration and relaxation. For others, it’s dark and threatening. Thus it provides a wonderful backdrop for many stories.

Those which spring to mind include:
Albatross by David Stroud
The Goddess in Ravelled by Sue Hampton
Fancy That by Josie Arden in This and That vol 1
Stephen Baker makes waves in his monologue collection Against the Tide
And don’t miss John Samson‘s novel A Donkey Called Oddsock where a young boy goes in search of the sea.
Philip Philmar has a beautiful mermaid surrounded by waves on the cover of Warm and Wet, one of the stories in his short story collection of the same title.
The sea features too in Leslie Tate’s Love’s Register and in Margaret Moore’s holiday reminiscences From Sri-Lanka with Love.

Finally, Dave Robson shares how to be a popular crew member when sailing on the waves.

First published 12 April 2017, updated 2024

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Luke

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars is probably one of the most famous Lukes around. Another being the disciple Luke who wrote the Bible Gospel. It’s a name derived from the Greek referring to a man from Lacania. A few TSL books have characters called Luke:

Mystery at the Manor, in Rodney the Chimney Sweep series by Paul Ross
‘Visiting Miss Lyon’ in Woken by Sue Hampton and also in ‘Lockdown Love’ in Still Rebelling for Life
A Second Chance by Anna Ryland
Lucky Luke gets a mention in Shaka are Dead by John Samson
DCI Benson’s first name is Luke in Death is Waiting by Patricia Simpson

first published 24 April 2017, updated 2024

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Reading and Children

Without writers, there wouldn’t be books to read to children – your own or others. Watching their reactions to what they hear and later hearing them retell the story can be wonderful and a real eye-opener. And conversely, would we have authors if children weren’t inspired by the stories they heard growing up?

Robbie Cheadle, one of our children’s authors is a great promoter of reading to children as she explains. She also discusses whether childen should be allowed to read sad and scary books.

Jane Fallon talks of the books which influenced her as a writer. A number she read as a child.

Sue Hampton, another of our authors, has written over 20 children’s books (Y4x4, I am Me and ,I am Me 2 published by TSL). Clearly Sue sees a point in children reading and being read to.

In case you need more convincing, here’s an article on the 5 Joys of raising bookworms by a bookworm.

Looking for something different for children to read? Try something off these lists.

Christmas Stories recommended by Robbie Cheadle – 5 books

Kenyan stories- 9 books

Children’s Book Review for 2017 and more generally

Little Linguist seems to offer books in dual languages aimed at children – a good way to learn a language and about different cultures.

first published 29 March 2017, updated 2024