Author Talk: The Sinking of RMS Tayleur – as part of Warrington Literary Festival, 25/4, 7pm

[NB - I copied this from  Free grin to anyone who brings me caramel eggs or Nutella!]

Date(s)/Time: 25 Apr 2014, 7:00pm

Ticket Price: £3

Location: Pyramid


Gill Hoffs Author Talk: The Sinking of RMS Tayleur


Join Gill Hoffs for this evening’s talk on RMS Tayleur, how this book came about and how Gill, inspired by a visit to Culture Warrington’s Museum & Art Gallery, researched this. Gill will also share insights on the practicalities of writing nonfiction including structuring the book, research, overcoming difficulties and deadends, approaching publishers and agents, editing, sourcing illustrations, and promoting the finished product and finish with a Q&A.

Bio: Gill Hoffs was raised on the Scottish coast but has considered Warrington home for the past ten years.  Her nonfiction book “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’” (Pen & Sword, 2014) was written after a conversation with a curator about the Tayleur artefacts in Culture Warrington’s Museum & Art Gallery, and her short fiction and nonfiction pieces are widely available online and in print.  Please see for further details, find her on twitter as @GillHoffs, or email


Irish launch events – RMS Tayleur

Following on from the success of the Warrington and Glasgow launch events for “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur”, I’m delighted to announce that come May I’ll be in the Dublin area visiting key areas featured in the book, paying my respects at the memorials in Rush and Portrane, and giving talks in Dublin and Howth.

The schedule currently looks like this:

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic

Talk and signing event, 6.30pm on Wednesday 14th May at Hodges Figgis, Dublin.  Everyone’s welcome!

Weather permitting, on Thursday I’ll sail to Tayleur Bay to see the wreck site and view the cliffs survivors climbed while talking with people who’ve dived on the actual Tayleur wreck.  In the evening I’ll be giving a talk to Howth Sailing and Boating Club and their guests.

On Friday I’m visiting the (very) Grand Hotel in Malahide, where the first inquest took place amid much skulduggery (and being interviewed for RTE), as well as the Tayleur‘s anchors which serve as memorials at Rush and Portrane.  If I can master the DART and bus service, I’ll also visit the Maritime Museum where the artwork featured on the cover is located along with artefacts recovered from the wreck, and St Stephen’s Church and Herbert Place which also play a part in the book.  I’m REALLY excited about all this, especially since I’m meeting up with other people who share my passion for the Tayleur.

If you have any questions about the schedule, suggestions for the trip, or information about the Tayleur and the people involved with her tragic voyage, please contact me on twitter (@GillHoffs) or email me at

Typing tag – My Writing Process, Q&A

My Writing Process is a series of blog posts in which authors ‘tag’ each other to answer some questions about their work.  The award-winning writer Victoria Watson asked me to take part.  Here’s a bit more about the lovely Vic:

Victoria Watson is a writer, teacher and proofreader. She has a Masters in Creative Writing and her latest short story “Dangerous Driving” is available for download now at  You can follow her on Twitter as @vpeanuts. And if you’re looking for a proofreader, check out Victoria’s website at

What am I working on? 

I’m currently writing the last few stories in a series of 12 about a Mancunian sex worker and what she gets up to on the 9th of every month of 2014 for Pure Slush’s “2014 – a year in stories”.  This is an ambitious project masterminded by Matt Potter, PS creator, editor and publisher extraordinaire, involving 31 writers each allocated one day per month for the whole of 2014, their stories anthologized in a set of 12 books – for further information, click here  I’m fond of my character and will be sad to see the back of her when I’m done – I have that in common with her repeat clients.  For the sake of my dad and brothers who might be reading this, I shall state for the record that any resemblance between she and I is purely coincidental etc. etc. m’lud.  Apart from that, I’m writing articles and guestblogs to help promote my current book about a Victorian shipwreck, organizing talks on it, and preparing to research another shipwreck for my next nonfiction book.

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic - OUT NOW!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The other 30 story-threads in the 2014 series are each wildly different from their sibling pieces.  Mine is a raunchy, explicit, tongue-in-cheek (and often elsewhere) account of an unnamed escort in the North-West of England who has themed pubic hair – e.g. a heart for February, a Christmas tree, a maple leaf – and a crush on her agency’s secretary.  It’s a world away from what I’ve spent the last two years working on, a nonfiction book called “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’” which is out now from Pen & Sword.  That had me crying over my laptop, this has me giggling as I type.

Why do I write what I do?

Because it’s what comes into my head.  I read across many genres and enjoy a variety of styles, and I think this is reflected in my work.  Also, I have a pretty infantile, filthy sense of humour – say “fart” to me (as my six year old often does) and I can’t help but snigger – so I tend to write about sex in a way that makes me laugh.  Writing about something relatively lighthearted is a real palate-cleanser after spending so long immersed in the tragic death of hundreds.

How does my writing process work?

If I have a first line – a remark, a line of description, the much-sought-after telling detail – then the rest of the story will flow.  I tend to have the end-line or image or action in mind when I start too.  I like to write as much as I can at once, in one go, but if I have to break off then I find it easiest to rejoin the story if I stop mid-sentence or mid-thought at a point where the piece is flowing easily.  I like to eat as I sit down to write, something tasty and usually bad for me (Nutella is thanked at the back of my shipwreck book for good reason), and sometimes if there’s a particular tune or song or film looping in my head then I’ll put that on in the background on loop so it frees up whatever mental energy I’m using up on remembering those words or images for mine.  Certain films and songs have really strong associations for me as a result, e.g. M*A*S*H* and the Blur documentary “Nowhere Left To Run” are shipwreck accompaniments, and Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon” takes me back to writing a short story for the US-based site Literary Orphans last year.  I find writing a purgative process that’s also great for stress relief and a source of huge satisfaction.  I’m glad my brain derives such pleasure from what’s essentially just word-arranging and day-dreaming.  If my ‘everything is okay’ button was pressed by something risky or expensive or annoying then that wouldn’t be much fun for my family.  Thankfully, indulging my sweet tooth with chocolate dipped in Nutella is as decadent as I get.

These two brave writers will share their own approaches next week:

Matt Potter is an Australian writer born and based in Adelaide, who keeps part of his pysche in Berlin.  He is the founding editor of Pure Slush.  Matt has also been nominated for the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll’s Best Magazine / e-zine Editor.

Shane Simmons writes in between being a till monkey, stuffing his face and having brain frazzles in the middle of the night. He lives in miserable Glasgow, came from miserable London and is willing to listen to strangers talk about their lives if they buy him cakes. He doesn’t like Twitter as there is a word limit but he can be found blogging at

If you have any questions about writing processes, my Nutella habit, or a rude joke to share do feel free to comment or email me at

Launch events and links for The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic – OUT NOW!

The short talk and book signing at Waterstones Warrington went incredibly well – many thanks to all who attended (about 75 of you!), Waterstones staff for staying open extra late to handle sales (and selling ALL the copies), The Village Café for providing such a sumptuous spread, and my husband for recording the talk.  Here’s a link for those of you who want a wee look –

Due to the success of this talk and signing, there’ll be another signing at Waterstones Warrington, in Golden Square Shopping Centre, on Saturday 1st March from 1pm onwards.  I’ll be there with cake, bone dominoes, a fat stack of books and a pen.  I’m happy to answer questions and chat about the people on the wreck, so do feel free to stop by.  For further details, see here –

Before that, I’m in Scotland doing a talk and book signing in Waterstones Argyle Street, Glasgow, on Wednesday 19th February at 7pm.  Do come along for the books, the cake, and the craic! –

I’m also doing a workshop in conjunction with Wire Writers’ Group on research and writing nonfiction at the Pyramid, Warrington, as part of the Warrington Literary Festival in April.  Further details will be posted soon.

If you have any questions about the book, the events, or whether I like Nutella (hint: yes, yes I do), then please find me on twitter as @GillHoffs or email me at gillhoffs[at]

Launch events for “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the Victorian Titanic”

There’s just a few days to go until my nonfiction book, “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the Victorian Titanic”, is published by Pen & Sword, and I’m totally hyped about it.

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic

There will be a launch event at Waterstones in Warrington on Thursday 23rd January, 7-8pm.  The bus station feeds into the Golden Square Shopping Centre where this Waterstones is located, and Warrington Central train station is just a few hundred yards away.  There’s disabled access, plenty of parking, and since it’s late night opening for the shops on Thursdays there are plenty of places to nab a coffee or browse for bargains while you’re in.  Everyone’s welcome, no ticket required, and as well as a talk on the Tayleur‘s origins in Warrington and links to Liverpool there will be cake and chocolate biscuits galore.  Don’t forget to bring your points card and any book tokens you’ve been saving since Christmas!

Apart from that, there will be an event sometime in February in Warrington Museum itself, and others in Scotland and Ireland throughout the year - details will be listed here and on facebook and twitter as they become available, or you can always email me at with any questions you might have.

An update on Dr Emma Briant

Author of BAD NEWS FOR REFUGEES - out now!

- out now!

Dr Emma Briant has written here before about the different experiences she’s had as a writer of academic literature [for example, Bad News For Refugees with Gregg Philo, out now from Pluto Press -], a spoken word performer at Glasgow’s much-loved Little Bit of Theatre, and a creative writer.  I’m curious to know how the different modes of writing affect her and whether working in these different ways energises or exhausts her.  Since the internet hasn’t (yet) joined with its users minds in such a way as to let me google for the answer, I’m asking her instead.

God forbid it ever should!!! I’m not sure what scary things you’d uncover lost in the recesses. As for your question, about ‘different modes of writing’, I write social and political commentary, and media critique as well as creative writing, and I feel I need the two to feel whole. I also believe that communicating ideas in creative ways, beyond academic papers, can bring different ideas about society to life and sometimes show us the stories or perspectives that are lost from the media we consume. Creative writing and academic writing, for me, seem not worlds apart. I want my academic writing to be relevant to people and engaging, and I want my creative writing to respond to and comment on the world around me. So with some of my creative writing I hope to provoke the reader to think about a particular human experience differently and to challenge conventional understandings or expectations. My writing (and teaching) on communication and media does a similar thing, in trying to challenge assumptions, misrepresentations and ask us to think about other perspectives that may be forgotten from the mainstream media but of course is empirical analysis.

Do you find it difficult to change from creative writing to academic writing and vice versa, or are you used to switching tracks by now?  Do you have any methods that make this easier for you?

I find it hard at first to switch between the two, to some degree this is just because I am using a different part of the brain! Freewrites, music, art, nature all help jolt me back to a creative mindset. But also, I used to find when I focussed on my academic work, and had a break in creative writing, I lost confidence in myself creatively. I would develop a fear of the ‘blank page’ and my work not being ‘good enough’. My very supportive personal networks and writers’ group (Glasgow Writers’ Group) where I met Gill :) and an online facebook group I use, were hugely important in my overcoming this and building my confidence in my work. I find it much easier now to put-down and pick-up, which is essential for me as sometimes I need to spend months absorbed in academic writing and can’t get the time to work creatively. So I need to BELIEVE I can pick it up again when I have time! If you believe you can do it, you can!

Do you think you would ever marry the two forms and write narrative nonfiction, like Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea (but perhaps without the cannibalism and whale)?  If so, do you think you would tackle social injustice, travel, cultural variations … what?

I would love to – But I don’t have a particular project in mind. A lot of my creative work actually draws on real-life already. Some of it autobiographical. I am particularly interested in doing more feminist writing.

What’s next for you?  What are your aspirations for the year ahead?

Out now from Pluto Press!

Out now from Pluto Press!

Well my new book ‘Bad News for Refugees’ co-authored with Greg Philo and Pauline Donald is coming out this month, and we’re planning to write two articles to accompany publication of that. I’ll also be speaking at conferences and we’ll be having a launch in London. The book is a political, economic and environmental look at how migrants and, in particular, asylum seekers fleeing conflict, have been stigmatised in political rhetoric and media coverage.  We have a number of events coming up in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, the first of which is on 3rd October at the Institute for Race Relations ( All events will be tweeted far and wide from @emmalbriant so please follow and come along! It would be great to speak to anyone who’s interested in hearing more :)

I am just starting a new job at Sheffield University as a Lecturer in Journalism Studies, which I am very excited about and have a ton of publications planned! One will be an academic book chapter for January, looking at the work of the Behavioural Insights Team at the UK Cabinet Office so I’m doing a lot of research for that! I am also very busy working with my publisher on final edits for my book on Anglo-American Counter-Terrorism propaganda, which will be out next year. I’ll be doing more publications to accompany it.

I would really like to get some acknowledgement in the popular press so that’ll be one of my biggest challenges. All that’s likely to keep me very busy in the coming months, but I get more time in the summer to focus on creative work. I have several ideas for short stories and will find time somewhere! I also have a feminist novelette I am trying to find a home for!

Best of luck with it all!  If anyone has any queries for Emma or wants to know more, check out her website at or send her an email via