The Carriage House – Review

The Carriage HouseThe Carriage House by Louisa Hall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book – it was so interesting how the writer switches between viewpoints. I love the detail in the descriptions and the slow gradual change in each character. Getting so many characters to move through an arc is fascinating to see. It was totally absorbing and lovely to go back to. I often read during a coffee break or after lunch and it was a nice feeling that I’d be back with the Adair family to see how their struggle with identity was coming along. It was also interesting to see how each character dealt with their changing ambitions and reflections on their individual pasts. Highly recommend it!

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Goodreads giveaway completed!

While I spent a wonderful ten days back in England visiting my family, my goodreads giveaway was happily ticking on. Despite a powerful temptation to log on to goodreads and see how it was getting on, I deliberately didn’t check to see how many people had signed up to get my book. I was delirious when I got back from holiday to discover that a dazzling 1291 people had done so! Thank you to everyone who took part. I’ve sent my book, The Hand-Made Plane, all over the world. I really hope it produces some interesting reviews.

I have five copies left which I’m happy to send out to anyone who promises an honest review of it. Any takers? Please leave a comment on my blog or contact me via goodreads.

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Goodreads giveaway

I have taken the plunge and put my novel up on goodreads as a giveaway. Already more than 200 people have applied to get it and around 90 others have put my book on their bookshelves. Wow! After all that work and stress and revision and re-writes, readers are starting to notice my book! Very exciting.

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Teaching EFL to Dyslexics

medHaving finished my novel and discovered a lot about self-publishing, I’m now embarking on a new project. I’ve taught English as a Foreign Language for around 16 years and during that time I kept getting students who had real problems with English. When I looked at the notes they made translating English into their own language, I saw that they weren’t spelling their own language properly. I noticed a lot of other issues with those students too, usually to do with their attention spans. I started to investigate dyslexia.

At first, I read general books aimed at teachers, and then I got so interested in it, I decided to do the full qualification here in Austria. That was really interesting as I had to teach German to German speaking kids. Boasting apart, I was dazzled by how successful I was. The “guinea pig” kids I taught had never been taught outside of mainstream schooling. They were delighted to be encouraged to play with play dough again, form letters properly, go right back to learning the alphabet and all the other things you do with dyslexic kids.

I found this was really useful in my English teaching. I’ve always used games, music, role-play, toys, and what TEFL teachers call “realia” – which is just physical things to take into lessons to illustrate a point. I’d particularly used these methods with those students who found it really difficult to get through an hour alone with me.

I’ve gradually built up a library of ideas and a room full of toys and games for my lessons. It was when I was discussing teaching the comparative and superlative with a colleague that I thought I should write a book about it. I told this colleague that I always take a bag full of plastic animals into the comparative/superlative lesson. She looked pretty surprised – I explained that I got the student to order the animals into “big – bigger – the biggest” or “dangerous – more dangerous – the most dangerous” etc. which she thought was revolutionary. Having done this sort of thing for years, I decided I could possibly contribute something useful to the literature on dyslexia.

I intend to finish it before the end of the summer – so watch this space!

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Minor hassle, major setback

We all make mistakes – we all miss typos – but this time it was really annoying.  I live in Austria and therefore have a German language  keyboard with Umlaut keys like “ä” and “ö”.  When I insert a contents table into a document it has the title “Inhalt” which is German for “Contents”.  I completely failed to see this when I submitted my novel to CreateSpace and only saw it when the paper version arrived through the post.  Everything else about the book was perfect – just that screaming error.  It made me feel really stupid and incompetent.  I was so impatient to see the final version of the book that I paid the extra postage to get it here quickly.  Then that.  Impostor Syndrome set in big time.  Total wally syndrome too.  I then read Michelle Campbell-Scott’s book “Make Your Book Work Harder” in which she walks you through the various processes to get your book published and sold.  She said you don’t necessarily have to see the physical copy on CreateSpace, especially if you know what it’s going to look like.

Big relief!

Having left my paperback on the shelf for a week, I bolted back to CreateSpace and have corrected the offending “Inhalt” to “Contents” and re-submitted.

Easy.

Thanks Michelle!

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Where the idea for my novel came from

I worked out the four characters in my novel when I was working in a mainstream school. I live in German-speaking Austria and was teaching English as a foreign language. I found the text book I had to use was far too easy for the group. They had all done English for four years already and usually laughed all through my lessons as there was very little challenge coming from the book.

There was a chapter in the book entitled something like “Describe Your Bedroom”. I read through it on a Sunday afternoon wondering how I was going to persuade fifteen year olds to work through the exercises. Obviously the point of the chapter was a revision of prepositions of place – “my bed is under the window, the wardrobe is next to the door” etc. But I knew that they’d all just list the furniture in their rooms, put a full stop at the end of the list and declare their homework finished.

There were sixteen students in my class, and I needed a discussion lesson with them working in groups. So I came up with an exercise in which four totally different teenagers wake up in their respective bedrooms. One was a millionaire and slept in a four poster bed, one was in prison with very little furniture at all, one was homeless and slept under a railway bridge and one had a converted plane for an apartment.

As well as the texts, I created a PowerPoint with four photos which they had to match to the stories. I told the class that these four really diverse teenagers get to know each other. I then got them to write short stories describing how that happened.
It was a really good lesson because it sparked a discussion about homelessness – none of them really realised that there could be homeless teenagers in the developed world. And they all wanted to know what happened next in the story.

That was all the motivation I needed to get on and write an entire novel around that idea. At the moment, I’m trying to find the courage to publish it on KDP…

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Who do you ask to read your novel?

I asked my sister to read my final draft. I know it’s not a good idea, but all my friends are Austrian and although they can all speak some English, none would really have been able to read an entire novel in English.
My sister was highly complimentary and encouraged me to get it published. She said it read like the sort of books she always reads and that she was really sorry when she had finished it. She offered a couple of suggestions for minor changes but her overall opinion was positive.
It did me a lot of good to hear that but I still don’t know if it’s good enough to release onto the unsuspecting reading public. Where do I go to get a more objective opinion?

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