Thursday 24 March 2011

Application Now Submitted

The final tweaking of the proposal was quite tricky. This project sits between two disciplines really. It is historical research but it is historical research in order to write a novel. Some fund-providers would not be happy with that. However, if I went for purely creative arts funding they would say that the project was too much of an historical one.
All of this misses a bit of a trick. Fiction is an excellent means for examining fact. It can bridge inevitable gaps, often very accurately.
Another unusual aspect of this project is that the dissemination is partly through the novel – as well as the more normal journal and conference papers. In addition, I’m offering a web site, this blog and a series of school visits, all of which I feel quite confident about and all of which may be unusual enough to be interesting.
I pressed the submit button yesterday and had an acknowledgement at one minute to four.
Now it’s just a matter of wait and see.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Application Complete

I have now filled in my application for funding, though I still don’t feel it is ready to be sent off. I haven’t yet confirmed my referee. I’m not sure whether I’ve assigned the expenses correctly. I’m sure I haven’t worded everything the best way I could yet.
The amount of time I’ve assigned to everything is a little scary, though I’m actually quite sure that even though I’ll be away form home, I’ll get plenty of time for writing and other writerly activities. In fact I often find that I get more done when I’m out of my normal environment – as long as I can be focussed enough to get down to it in the first place.
What I’ve planned looks a little like this:
August 2011 Planning visits and consultation of on-line materials. This will involve confirming times to meet the people to be interviewed, making travel arrangements, booking time and help with the museums and archives listed below and familiarising myself with the content of the girls’ letters.
September 2011 Interview with German women (10 days). This will involve five half-days of interviews in Stuttgart. The interviews will last 45-90 minutes, though several pauses are envisaged and some set-up time. It will be useful to allow a day between interviews. This gives time to do some analysis of the outcomes and also to establish where a recap may be needed.
September 2011 Visit to Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin (5 days), in order to examine documentation of civilian life during World War II. This visit will probably follow straight on from the visit to Stuttgart.
October 2011 Visit to Caen / Université de Caen, Basse Normandie and the Mémorial Museum (10 days) to examine documentation and realia of civilian life.
November 2011 Imperial War Museum London (5 days). Time will be spent examining some of the records in the special collections to do with civilian life during World War II. In particular the collection of German official papers will be of interest.
December 2011 Discussions with former students and personnel and current personnel of the London Steiner School (5 days) It may also be possible to visit the site to which the school was evacuated at Minehead.
January 2011 Research on new questions (10 days)
The days around the visits will be used for analysing the data, writing the first draft of the novel (already 46,000 words) and completing the blog.
February 2011 onwards will involve continued analysis of data obtained and converting that into text, in the novel, in the papers to be delivered to journals and at conferences and for the web-site.
The way I’ve described the project is thus:
I am writing a novel for early teens, but actually need a grant to pay for some travel to do some research including:
 Interviews with some German women who were young teens at the outbreak of World War II
 Uncovering the history of the Waldorf school in Stuttgart and the evacuation of the Michael Hall Steiner School to Minehead during World War II
 Consulting accounts of civilian experience of war from Caen – Memorial museum, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, and Imperial War Museums, London and Salford.
The research is of historical nature but unusually part of the dissemination will be the novel. I’ll also be creating a web site and conducting several school visits based on my findings as well as the usual academic papers and conference attendances. Part of the project includes exploration through writing fiction.
This is all triggered because I have in my possession the letters written in exercise books between 1941 and 1943 from a group of school friends and their teachers. The letters were actually written form 1938 when the government closed the church school the girls attended and 1947 as they all began to recover from the war. One of the girls disappeared as she came to England on an unofficial version of the Kindertransport. She only found out two days before that that she was Jewish.
The novel tells the girls’ story in Germany, the story of the girl who came to England and a third story of how the Jewish family left behind was looked after. I am half way through the first draft and can only continue when I can find out more.
There are many parallels between writing this and writing science fiction, actually.

Tuesday 8 March 2011


Applying for funding is scary. It’s good, however, that I don’t need to replace my salary. The sabbatical is a given. I’ve covered my colleagues in the past – they’re covering me now. But I do need to get some money for some bits and pieces. I need to get over to Germany, I need to make my visits to the war museums and I need to find out about evacuation of the Steiner school from London. It’s good, anyway, in my position to be seen to be applying for funding.
Yet it’s not easy project to justify for funding. It’s been recommended that I apply for for a British Academy Small Grant. The first hurdle is knowing how to describe the project. I’m trying to get a novel finished. Yet specifically these grants are not for allowing time for writing a novel or producing a film. It’s more in this case that the outcome of the research is a novel.
So, is it a historical project and in particular, women’s history? It is, and it isn’t. I’m certainly looking into history. I’m also trying to understand some attitudes that were present at the time when war broke out in Germany. Those of us who write fiction know that it can be a very useful tool for allowing us to work out what might happen in given circumstances. After all, the fundamental question behind any fiction is “what if?”
How do I get all of this into a proposal? Is that not being truly creative with writing?
I only have a few days now to complete this bid. It will have to become a priority. I want it done and dusted by the beginning of next week.

Tuesday 1 March 2011

The Project

And so I start yet another blog. I had thought of just keeping a private journal but actually putting this on line increases its impact.
I have a sabbatical coming up in the first semester of next academic year. I shall be working on my novel Potatoes in Spring which gives a slightly different perspective on the Holocaust. It is three stories in one:
- the story of a young German Jewess who came to England only a few days after she knew she was Jewish
- the story of the friends she left behind
- the story of how her best friend’s family tried to help her grandmother.
I have a most extraordinary resource: the letters written between 1941 and 1943 of some early teen girls whose friend disappeared suddenly.
I’ve actually written 46,000 words of the novel. I’m now at a stage where I can’t take it any further forward until I do some more research.
I’ve written a to-do list. I need to:
apply for funding
visit the Imperial War Museums
visit the Caen Memorial
start a journal (which is what I’m doing right now)
contact Stuttgart
find out about evacuation during the war
find out about Michael Hall school
reshape novel – and I must also reread it.
contact schools
Starting this has felt good.