Book Reviews

Three new titles from Mantle Lane Press.

A Far Cry by Valentine Williams Reviews
Night Swimming by Garrie Fletcher Reviews
Kaleidoscope by Sarah Leavesley Reviews

These pocket-sized volumes feature original cover images by a range of visual artists, making them unique, collectable and ideal gifts. Buy your copy small-books-leaflet

States of Independence March 11, Leicester
Mantle Lane Press will be launching 3 new books at States of Independence: ‘Night Swimming‘ by Garrie Fletcher; ‘Kaleidoscope‘ by Sarah Leavesley, and ‘A Far Cry‘ by Mary Williams

Garrie Fletcher
Part of the Tindal Street Fiction Group and Room 204, Garrie writes short stories, scripts and novels about the gaps between lives, the pauses between stations, the static hiss of the city and the thick knuckles of the earth.

Sarah Leavesley
Sarah is an award-winning poet, fiction writer, reviewer, journalist and photographer, as well as an occasional playwright and editor at V. Press, poetry and flash fiction imprint. Kaleidoscope is the fragmented tale of a young mum, Claire, who is struggling to come to terms with the loss of her baby. The writing style is poetic and fragmented, from an unreliable narrator. Each section/fragment is introduced with an item listed in the Perfect Mothers’ Accessories catalogue.

Valentine Williams
Prize winning poet Valentine has published a number of dark fiction novels. In this work she gives space to people who’s voices are often not heard. When change happens in far-away communities, the consequences may be unexpected and far reaching, as well as heartening and thought provoking. The unknown, distant and foreign elements have to be taken on trust; we all rely on one another in the end.

Sneak previews…

Night Swimming Garrie Fletcher
Twenty Miles South (excerpt)
Danny was surprised that more people didn’t steal pensioners; it was easy; if a kid like him could do it anyone could.
“Where shall we go then,” he leaned over and fastened the seat belt around the old man sat in the passenger seat, “anywhere you want.”
“South? Where’s that?”
“What do they teach you kids? South. Out of Birmingham.”
Danny did his best trout impression.
“Go down the Alcester Road,” the man scratched the white stubble on his chin,“away from the city.”
It had been easy. All the staff knew Danny, he visited whenever he could, nobody questioned him; the softer staff even let him walk the old man up and down the street. So when he’d turned up that morning and escorted him from the day room, he was virtually invisible.
“This car’s a bit big for you isn’t it?”

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Kaleidoscope Sarah Leavesley
The crying WILL stop – it has to. The baby in Claire’s arms is still and silent, but she can still hear it crying. She rocks backwards and forwards against the wall, sings to herself:
“Baa, baa, black sheep…the wheels on the bus go round and round…like a diamond in the sky…have you any wool…round and round…how I wonder what you are…”
Splinters of plastic gleam on the floor. The jagged edge of the cracked kaleidoscope smiles up at her with sharp teeth. The tiny shapes that bled from it – flowers, triangles, rectangles – have clotted into a sparkling pool of tacky gems: red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue… More colour than she can cope with. But still no diamonds; only shaped beads, the kind of mess created by a girl rummaging through her jewellery box. But there is no girl, no child, only Claire and the baby: the motionless, silent baby that still keeps on crying, while pink sheep dance on clouds and flying fish swing round and round on the mobile above her head.

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A Far Cry Mary Wiliams
A Gift from Tohora (excerpt)
Grandma was sitting by the window and light bounced off the cars as they came down the coast road. She watched them go past. The moko on her face really stood out in the light. She turned her head when I came in. I meant to ask her about her moko, but something always stopped me. If she told me I’d probably forget it and get into trouble. Anyway, people my age don’t have moko. It’s old fashioned. Grandma says it’s the history of the tribe, so we don’t forget how we came here from Hawaii.
I’ve seen the waka; been to Cape Reinga too. Dad took me. Grandma was looking at me:
“Grandma, Dad says you have something for me.” I went closer to her. Her brown hand which had once been so strong, reached out and hooked my shirt.
“You’re a good girl, Chance. I want you to have something. You see that box up on the shelf?” I saw it. It was a metal cash box, and it was locked. “Don’t get it down. But when I die, it’s yours. Remember.” I wanted to see inside it of course, but Grandma didn’t want to show me. She changed the subject: “What’s your father having for supper?”

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ROB GEE ‘Forget Me Not’ The Alzheimer’s Whodunnit

Over the last 18mths Rob Gee has been bringing his own brand of sparky creativity to schools and villages in NW Leicestershire, as part of our Red Lighthouse programme of literature- based events. We are absolutely delighted to hear that Rob’s show ‘Forget Me Not’ has been confirmed for New Zealand, Canada and the US. Go Rob Go! If you didn’t get to see the show in Leicester last night, you can buy the book, published by Mantle Lane Press, here and find out what all the fuss is about.


Wolves and Apples 2016 programme launched.

Wolves & Apples is a conference for aspiring writers producing work for children and young adults. It’s a chance to take part in workshops and attend talks and discussions by professional authors, publishers and agents from the children’s book industry.

The full Wolves and Apples 2016 programme is now available. See details here:
Wolves and Apples Programme and Timetable.

October 15th. College Court Conference Centre, Leicester.

Or buy your ticket here: Wolves and Apples Tickets



‘What Haunts the Heart’ event at Birmingham Literary Festival

Our anthology, What Haunts the Heart is featured in the programme of the 2016 Birmingham Literary Festival. The event takes place on October 9th at 2pm in Waterstones, High Street Birmingham.

Many of the writers featured in the book will be present at the event to read their work, including William Gallagher, Liz Kershaw and Fiona Joseph.

More information and booking details here:


And in other news…

We’re delighted to be working with Rob Gee as our Writer in Residence in the villages of Castle Donnington and Moira. Rob’s workshops for our schools’ writing project Act Out… Write Up, were a great hit with the kids, who enjoyed seeing their work directed and performed by professionals at Curve Theatre. Rob is currently touring Canada with Icarus. As if that isn’t enough, we’re publishing more copies of his book Forget Me Not, due to high sales after his tour of the show earlier this year. At the heart of Forget Me Not is a detective whose tool of the trade – his mind – is failing him, making the most important case of his life something of a challenge to solve. By turns hilarious and thought-provoking, this is a one-man comedy poetry theatre show that has a lot to say about how we treat and perceive people with dementia. So much so that, since seeing the show, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust have recruited Rob to work with healthcare staff, using Forget Me Not as a training aid in the areas of compassion and whistleblowing. Buy your copy here

BOOK NOW: Wolves & Apples is back on October 15, 2016
Liz Flanagan will be running a session on how to kickstart your book if you have a great idea but aren’t quite sure how to get going. Throughout the day there will be exercises designed to generate exciting ideas and characters, and help you structure your story. Whether you are writing for teenagers or younger children, a detailed planner or like to wing it, this session will equip you with the tools you need to make a start.

We are delighted to add Elys Dolan to our list of guests at this years Wolves & Apples, a day offering lots of tips, advice and guidance for anyone writing for children and young people. Click here to book your place.

How can authors can promote their books online, a question that has loomed large ever since online self-publishing started to take off. Anyone can get their book out there – but without the backing and budget of a publishing house, how can they market it effectively?

OPPORTUNITY: Call out for performers and aspiring radio techies. No previous experience required!
Working with BBC director Martin Berry we’re producing an audio dramatisation of William Wordworth’s life in North West Leicestershire. He wrote a number of poems at Coleorton and, with his sister Dorothy, created the Winter Garden. The contrast between his poetry, his love of beauty and the reality of working life in the area – which was dirty and dangerous – make this a fascinating chapter of history, highlighting aspects of class


‘Wolves and Apples’ panel discussions.

Two panel discussions will top and tail our ‘Wolves and Apples’ event on October 3rd.

The opening discussion will introduce the event and our guest speakers and touch on some key aspects of creating work for children and young adults.

Possible Areas of Discussion.

  • How and why did the panel begin writing for children and young adults?
  • What are we trying to achieve by creating work for young audiences?
  • What are the pitfalls and advantages of working in this area?
  • More girls than boys read. Does that matter and how does it affect the choices one makes as a writer?

Q and A.
The panel will end with an opportunity to ask questions of our speakers.


The closing discussion will be focused on professional development for writers. Collectively the panel has experience of publishing, writing, producing, directing, show running, and representing writers.

Potential Areas of Discussion.

  • Developing a viable career: not putting all your eggs in one basket.
  • Understanding how different industries (e.g. Theatre, publishing, TV) operate and work with writers.
  • Presenting and submitting your work – best practice.
  • Where to get further advice, support and help.
  • Dos, don’ts and next steps.

Q and A
The discussion will end with a final opportunity to ask questions of our speakers.


3 question interview: Debbie Moon

Here is the fourth micro interview with guests who will be speaking at our upcoming  Wolves and Apples event. Wolfblood’s Debbie Moon answers our three searching questions.

1. What was your favourite book when you were a child, and why?
The Grey King, by Susan Cooper. A heady mix of Welsh myth and legends in a 1970’s setting, full of dark lords, strange boys with golden eyes, magical creatures, and a powerful sense of the landscape of north-west Wales. It had such a profound impact on me that I ended up moving to Wales as an adult!

2. What is your top writing tip?
The best advice I was ever give was “don’t get it right, get it written”. A completed story gives you security. You can rewrite, reorganise, throw out whole sections, and yet always have the original version to refer to or revert to. A half-written story can’t be polished or perfected, because you don’t know what it is yet. So get it finished, however terrible you think it is, and then you can whip it into shape.

3. What is the best thing about writing for children?
Probably their enthusiasm for stories. Children experience so much of the wider world through stories, and they embrace them passionately, and get very attached to characters and relationships within them. Adults may treat television as wallpaper, there but ignored: children almost never do.



3 question interview: Jonathan Emmett

Here is the third of our micro interviews with our Wolves and Apples guests. This time it’s the turn of picture book author Jonathan Emmett to answer three questions.

1. What was your favourite book when you were a child, and why?
I had lots, but the one I usually single out is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. As an adult I can appreciate that it’s beautifully illustrated with a deftly written text that reads wonderfully aloud, but as a four-year-old it was the sheer nightmarish scariness of the Wild Things, with their “terrible roars”, “terrible teeth”, “terrible eyes” and “terrible claws” that drew me in. Their wildness was in stark contrast to the tameness of most other picture book characters then and now. The book was criticised by parents and withheld from libraries for being “too dark” when it was first published, but that darkness is hugely appealing to many children.

2. What is your top writing tip?
Always try to finish what you start. You might not be happy with what you end up with, but you will gain useful experience for your next project.

3. What is the best thing about writing for children?
You’re writing for an open-minded audience that has no preconceptions or prejudices about what you should and should not do in a book. So, generally speaking, you can be more playful and creative when writing for children.
And, if you can write books that children will enjoy reading, you’ll be helping to give those children a head start in life. Research has shown that children that read for pleasure do better in maths, vocabulary and spelling than those who rarely read and consequently gain advantages that last their whole lives.


Last few days before Wolves and Apples on Oct 3rd. Last chance to book.

As we enter the last few days before our October 3rd writing event, Wolves & Apples, some places are still available. The event is aimed at aspiring writers for children and young people, across books, TV and Theatre.

The latest version of the programme with some updated information is available here or download a pdf version here: Wolves&Apples Programme V2.0

Congratulations to Debbie Moon, writer on CBBCs ‘Wolfblood’, which has been nominated in the Best British Children’s Television category by The London Screen Writer’s Festival

For more information on Wolves&Apples click here.
To book your place visit: Wolves & Apples on Eventbrite



3 question interview: Polly Nolan

This is the second micro interview with our Wolves & Apples guests to whet your appetite for the event on October 3rd.

We asked Literary Agent Polly Nolan these three key questions.

What was your favourite book when you were a child, and why?
I loved everything that I read so that’s almost impossible to answer!  Sometimes I wanted to read difficult, gritty books and sometimes I just wanted to escape from everything with books that were like chewing gum for the mind.  I haven’t changed as an adult. A tough day at work sends me running for easy escapism. Other days, I want to read something that will challenge me, educate me and make me think.

What is your top tip for writers?
If you’re writing for yourself, enjoy it.  If you’re writing in the hope of publication, avoid sending your manuscript to agents too early. Once you’ve typed ‘The End’, go back and rewrite the beginning. Polish the book. Proofread it.  Work on the bits that you know deep down aren’t right. And once you’re ready to send it out, don’t! Put it in a drawer for as long as possible first (ideally six months, though – understandably – most people find that virtually impossible).  Take it out and re-read it then. You’ll be amazed – and probably embarrassed – by what jumps out at you once you’ve had a bit of distance from it.  After you’ve addressed those problems (and then got people to whom you aren’t related to read it and give you an honest opinion), it’s probably ready to start sending to agents.  The biggest stumbling block for new writers when looking for an agent is that they send their work out too early.  Avoid this at all costs. It’s heart-breaking for the author, and for the agent.

What is the best thing about creating work for children?
As an agent and former publisher, I’m a step or two removed from actually creating work for children.  That privilege falls to authors, illustrators, playwrights, animators and scriptwriters – and I look at them all with envy!  I can still clearly remember the joy of reading a book as a child and then going out to find that door in the hill to another world, that talking animal, that magical creature hiding at the bottom of the garden, that baby bird with the broken wing . . . I still have the same thrill (without the freedom to explore, sadly) when a manuscript lands on my desk and transports me from the 200 unread emails and piles of editing to a different place.  To be part of an industry that gives children that thrill is brilliant, and being part of something that imparts to a child the sheer delight of reading – a gift that will stay with them forever and see them through the highs and lows of life – is humbling.