Hello, and thank you for visiting my site. I hope that you'll return often and always find something of interest about my world and what inspires me to pick up a pen. (This is a figure of speech, unfortunately. My handwriting is terrible!) Here's what I've been up to recently...
Memories of my own participation in nativity plays and then watching my children in theirs inspired me to write the above, which has just come out in the December 2022 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads. As well as providing exposure for its contributors, this great free online magazine. can always be relied upon to provide beautiful illustrations. Here is the link.
7 December, 2022
In a traditional magazine crammed with festive stories…
…I’m very proud to say that one of them is mine. It was inspired by memories of a Christmas present that not only gave me great pleasure but also the very first opportunity to see some of my writing in print. Thank you, John Bull!
11 November, 2022
As a regular delegate since 2006, I’ve written a great deal about the School but still find it hard to explain succinctly exactly what goes on there. According to fellow Swanwicker Elizabeth Horrocks, it’s rather like an Edwardian house party but with the focus on writing rather than shooting, and I don’t think I can top that. Much new building has gone on since The Hayes was converted from a gentleman’s residence to a conference centre, but many original features have been retained. The main lounge offers a quiet retreat at most times of day, although the staircase is thought by some to be haunted. I’ve never felt anything untoward there myself, but who knows?
On Saturday 13th August, around 200 of us started to gather mid-afternoon. I was very happy to take on an ‘ambassadorial’ role again, welcoming first-timers before dinner and hosting a table. Thereafter, I kept an eye out all week for anyone looking lost or lonely.
The drought had taken its toll, but the grounds were still lovely and I took myself off for a walk most mornings before breakfast.
Although the formal gardens are colourful and well kept, I prefer the area around the two small lakes. There are plenty of places to sit and meditate or think up stories. This year, a red balloon trapped by the water lilies caught my attention and a theme started to develop.
One of the joys of Swanwick is not having to sign up in advance for any of the sessions and thus being able to dip in and out at will. I enjoyed all the courses I chose and have a notebook bulging with ideas for long and short fiction, creative non-fiction, self promotion, designing book covers and improving my chances of success in writing competitions.
This year’s prize winners in the poetry, short story and writing for children competitions organised by Writing Magazine had their own slot in the programme and listening to their entries was also very instructive. I was pleased and proud to see fellow Riponian Ian Gouge among them, seen above receiving his trophy from Chair Cathy Grimmer.
Privileged to be included in the Swanwick Success Stories, I am very grateful to all those who bought copies of my various books. The latest, a memoir of my years as a TV/film ‘extra’, had come out just in time for me to take along a few copies to the Book Room. (I’d also signed up to do some shifts there, which was only fair.)
Our speakers were novelist Erin Kelly, Wolverhampton poets Emma Purshouse and Steve Pottinger and the inimitable writer/performer Rob Gee. All are excellent in their different fields, but Rob Gee was my particular favourite and had me helpless with laughter at his outrageous anecdotes. As ever, there was plenty of other evening entertainment on offer, including quizzes, prose and poetry open mics, Buskers and the five-minute plays, barely rehearsed, performed in Page to Stage. Time keeping is of the essence in some of these activities and Jen Wilson had brought along a special hook to ‘encourage’ participants not to over run.
The theme for this year’s fancy dress evening and disco was ‘Another Night at the Movies’. As ever, Swanwickers had pulled out the stops when it came to their outfits and there was much hilarity. I quite enjoyed looking louche and had to keep reminding myself not to smile for the photographs. In any case, I didn’t want to lose my ‘cigarette’.
Thursday saw Prinks (pre-dinner drinks, I was told) on the lawn, followed by the Swanwick Farewell.
All too soon, it was Friday morning and time to leave The Hayes behind. The Writers’ Summer School will rise again though, Brigadoon-like, in August 2023 and I for one certainly intend to be there.
20 August, 2022
I’ve often written about my work as a very small cog in the wheel of different productions, but now I’ve brought many of my memories together. Covid 19 put a stop to my participation early in 2020 and, after much soul searching, by the time the studios reopened and started to get back to normal, I’d decided to call it a day. Twenty years isn’t a bad run and there is plenty that I’ll miss, particularly the people I met along the way. Those who became friends, though, will remain part of my life and I’ll look forward to keeping in touch.
The back cover sums up the essence of the job, supporting artists or SAs being the unsung heroes of television and film productions. It’s hard work sometimes, but a lot of fun is to be had and, for a writer, the experience is invaluable. Why not give it a go? Available from Amazon as a download or paperback, the book will tell you how I got started and some of the pros and cons of having an ‘extra’ life.
9 August, 2022
It was a real pleasure yesterday evening to join a session hosted by Harrogate Writers’ Circle. Tutor Della Galton, top right and long known to me from Swanwick (Writers’ Summer School), thoroughly deserves her reputation as the ‘Queen of Short Story Writing’ and was as entertaining and informative as ever. With other Swanwickers also on screen, it was the closest I’ve been to a proper meet up for far too long. Thank you, HWC, for sending me the invitation.
The two hours passed swiftly and, although the evening was a hot one, I managed to complete the writing exercise Della set us. It was amazing what the others came up with in such a short time (six minutes) and their ‘opening paragraphs’ were many and various. Mine, I confess, was somewhat tongue in cheek, but it gave everyone a laugh.
23 June, 2022
It gave me enormous pleasure to speak to Ripon Writers’ Group, currently approaching its 40th anniversary, on the subject of writing ‘fillers’. Having been a member for around half that time, I didn’t even consider charging a fee for the presentation, but it feels now as though my wheels are back in motion.
The little handbook has always been my best seller and earned squillions for readers who’ve followed its advice. The market changes, but the principles remain pretty much the same.
22 June, 2022
The Giant’s Causeway has an irresistible pull for me when I visit Northern Ireland and so it was inevitable that one day I’d set a story there. Once my work has been accepted, I have no say in how it’s illustrated, but Tracy Fennell has done me proud this time. Lucy, who didn’t watch her step, and Connor, who came to the rescue, look exactly as I’d seen them in my mind’s eye.
4 May, 2022
Well, reviewing ‘Oliver’, actually. It’s always a relief to see a piece only lightly edited when it appears in the press and makes sitting up into the early hours to meet the deadline very well worthwhile.
In this case, I was particularly happy to volunteer my services and very much enjoyed attending the dress rehearsal in order to get the review written in time to help with marketing the show. It’s been 16 years since I trod the boards with RAOS (as one of the mamas in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’) and almost as long since I helped out backstage as a chaperone, but I have very fond memories of the people I worked with at that time and the fun we had. Quite a few of them are in the current show and it was good to see them again.
21 April, 2022
The Stray Ferret isn’t, as some people believe on first sight, an animal charity. It’s an excellent media outlet for local news – local being Harrogate (hence the Stray) and district. With Ripon situated only eleven miles from Harrogate, we get a good amount of exposure and our local correspondent, Tim Flanagan, has done me proud this time.
19 April, 2022
Tulips from Amsterdam? Well, not exactly, but the Delft vase they’re standing in was bought over 50 years ago for my mother. She loved it and so do I, as it’s very much associated with my memories of happy times spent in the Netherlands.
By coincidence, my latest published story also features flowers. Inspired by news stories of individuals and groups taking it upon themselves to beautify neglected areas, I wrote about two doughty retired gentlemen’s transformation of a derelict ginnel/alley/snicket (or whatever you call it in your part of the world) for the benefit of their community.
Baffled by the accompanying illustration? Well, so was I, but that is none of my doing. Once a story is sold, how it is presented is up to the editorial team.
17 April, 2022