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...
2018 has got off to a good start for me with the publication of the above story in The People’s Friend Special No. 151. Based on an anecdote told to me last year – every writer needs ears like a bat and a handy notebook – it tells of a young teacher trying for promotion. Interviews are daunting enough without half your carefully chosen outfit going missing just beforehand!
4 January, 2018
This week saw some of my fiction featured in a beautifully illustrated double page spread in Love Sunday, the supplement to the Sunday People. If you’d like to read the full story, please let me know. My A4 scanner isn’t up to it, but I’d be more than happy to send you the original Word document.
‘Crocodile Tears’ is a poignant tale that spans almost a lifetime, from Maureen as a toddler astray on Bridlington beach to a confused elderly lady lost in Leeds city centre. We’re often told to write about what we know and those two places are still very fresh in my memory. Most of my childhood holidays were spent in ‘Brid’, as we called it. The mother of one of our neighbours in Leeds used to put us up for the week as well as taking care of me in the evenings to give my parents a break.
The cash office of Woolworth’s on Briggate, to which Maureen is taken when she loses her mum in the Christmas crowds, is where I worked for several years as a Saturday girl and the bargains to be had round the corner at C & A’s January sale were eagerly anticipated all year round. It saddens me to think that both those stores, which once had branches all over the country, are long gone. The latter was always known to my family as C & A Modes, with Modes pronounced to rhyme with ‘roads’. Whether that was through tradition or ignorance of French, I’m not sure. It isn’t in the story, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.
What happened to Maureen in the end was inspired by memories of an aunt who suffered from dementia. Fortunately, the people who came across her early one morning sitting outside a pub in her night attire were just as kind and helpful as the policeman who finds Maureen.
13 November, 2017
31 October, 2017
As the result of the readings at Waterstones (see below), I was invited to run a creative writing session for the Inklings, a long established student society. The choice of topic(s) being left to me, I decided on a three part approach, interspersed with written exercises and feedback.
We began with flash fiction, which turned out to be the most popular. Having read out a few examples, I set them the task of writing a piece that included the expressions liquid lunch (see above image for the general idea), titfer and glitterati. These weren’t chosen at random, but from a Writing Magazine competition that I won a few years ago and, as it turned out, are no longer widely used – at least amongst today’s students. However, once I’d defined them, the Inklings came up with some very entertaining work.
Exploiting incidents in my own life and those of family, friends, colleagues (and even passing acquaintances) came next and I explained how these had led to dozens of short stories and articles, as well as my partly autobiographical novel, Shadows of the Past. The Inklings had no difficulty in finding memories of their own to serve as a starting point for some extended writing.
With time marching on, I was only able to skim over the lucrative opportunities offered by the ‘fillers’ market and then to challenge the students to guess what the main character of my children’s novel Wheels on Fire was planning in the way of revenge on the French. No one came up with the correct answer, but some were very close.
The two hours flew by and I hope that the Inklings enjoyed the session as much as I did.
16 October, 2017
It’s always a pleasure to take part in a literary event with friends and here I am in Waterstones cafe with fellow members of York Writers. We were all gratified to see more people in attendance than seats available! Left to right in the photograph are Toni Bunnell (who organised the evening), yours truly, John Walford, Andy Humphrey and Sarah Dixon. Some of us plan meticulously, whilst others take a more ‘seat of the pants’ approach and we all write in different genres. Toni, a well known local folk singer, provided a musical accompaniment to her reading from The Nameless Children. John explained his own approach to writing and read a story from his Time Machine collection. Andy, a seasoned performance poet, barely glimpsed at the text as he read from Satires and A Long Way to Fall. Sarah read the opening chapter of her children’s book Alfie Slider and shared both her motivation for writing it and how she had succeeded in getting it into print. They all fielded questions from the audience too.
Toni had allotted us fifteen minutes each, which gave me time to read a couple of stories from my Anyone For Murder? collection. I’d deliberately chosen two of the more lighthearted tales and it was good to hear the audience laughing. Only in the right places, I’m glad to say!
20 September, 2017
This is the first of a number of events in which I’m taking part this autumn. Do come along to Waterstones if you possibly can. It would be good to see rows of friendly faces!
11 September, 2017
Many congratulations to Julie Noble, who won a weekend in Austen country for her 500-word alternative ending to ‘Emma’.
I chose ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and am proud to discover that my entry was shortlisted. If you’d like to read it, go to ‘Stories and Poetry’ and see what I dreamed up for Mary, the ugly duckling amongst the Bennet sisters.
4 September, 2017
This was my 12th year at the Writers’ Summer School, generally just known as ‘Swanwick’. Why? Because it takes place each August in the Hayes Conference Centre, which is located in the Derbyshire village of Swanwick. My friend Cathy Grimmer was the Chairman this year and, with the help of her committee, did an excellent job. Nearly 300 writers were present during the week and almost a third were first timers.
The former gentleman’s residence has well kept and extensive grounds, including two lakes. The swans are no longer there, but there are plenty of fish. No swimming allowed, unfortunately.
Anyone wishing for solitude can generally find some.
The area around the Main House, though, is generally thronged with writers in between sessions. We are, after all, there to work and learn. There’s no need to sign up for courses in advance and dipping in and out is allowed. This year, I attended part or all of the following: Writing Popular Fiction with Sue Moorcroft, both Script Writing and Life Writing (memoir) with Paul Dodgson, Short Stories with Della Galton, The Swanwick Standard (photo journalism) with Simon Hall, Writing Intimate Scenes with Liz Hurst, Grammar (and punctuation) with Geoff Parkes and Writing for Competitions with Ingrid Jendrzejewski.
Most evenings saw a speaker: Derbyshire crime writer Stephen Booth kicked us off and was followed by Sophie Hannah, doyenne of psychological crime fiction, children’s author Cathy Cassidy and the Golden Egg Academy’s Imogen Cooper. New for this year was ‘In Conversation With…’ in which Simon Hall grilled authors Sue Moorcroft, Jon Mayhew and Steve Hartley.
These two gallant gentlemen, window cleaner Eddie and head porter Steve agreed to be interviewed for my article in the Swanwick Standard. I chanced upon them when I was taking a break from heading a ‘Procrastination Free Day’ session and they provided me with a mine of information. My other ‘duties’ this year included being an ‘ambassador’ with the brief to look after new Swanwickers (White Badgers), run one of the guided tours of the site with Veronica Bright, co-host a dinner table on the first evening with Julia Pattison and the Prose Open Mic with Jennifer Wilson.
That overlapped the Wild Wild West disco and, with no time to change in between, I helped Jen to run a tight ship (in my case, in a very tight costume). Participants, apart from the winners of the short story and writing for children competitions, were limited to five minutes each and I had an egg timer as well as my axe! Other entertainments include the Poetry Open Mic, Buskers’ Night and Swanwick Page to Stage performances.
All too soon it was the last full day. The conscientious amongst us attended the AGM and everyone assembled on the lawn for the annual Dregs Party. That’s always an occasion for donning whatever finery could be squeezed into the luggage and polishing off left over drinks and/or snacks before going in for dinner.
Cameras clicked the whole time and many hugs were exchanged with friends old and new. Only the hilarious Swanwick Awards and Farewell remained, with another farewell the following morning as those departing by coach were waved off by the rest of us.
So, that’s it. Next year is the 70th anniversary of the Writers’ Summer School. Early booking from 1st February 2018 is strongly advised. If you’d like to join us, keep an eye on the website: www.swanwickwritersschool.org.uk
Here I am being interviewed. Skip to the two minute mark. When you’ve finished, don’t forget to take a look at the photo gallery underneath.
19 August, 2017
It’s always exciting to bring out a new book and this one is hot off the press, so to speak. As a veteran of many school trips abroad, most of them to France (although Germany may well provide a future setting), it was inevitable that some of my own experiences and those of my colleagues will have crept into the story. However, the character of Karen (Kaz) Russell, wheelchair bound after the accident that has killed her mother, popped ready made into my mind. Furious that no one in authority seems to care enough to pursue the driver responsible, Kaz decides to take matters into her own hands and the school trip to Paris will provide the ideal opportunity.
I hope that the book will appeal to the 10-13 age group and also strike a chord with their teachers. Comments and reviews will be very welcome.
4 August, 2017
It’s always a pleasure to review a show for a local group and last Tuesday evening saw me at Harrogate Theatre for Ripon Amateur Operatic Group’s dress rehearsal of 9 to 5 The Musical. Sitting in the centre of the front row of the Circle and armed with a clipboard, torch and copy of the programme was an interesting, although far from relaxing experience. It’s always an odd feeling to see the cast acting, dancing and singing their hearts out to rows of mostly empty seats and so receiving minimal feedback for their efforts. Wishing to do justice to the performance, I was also acutely conscious that turning my attention away from the stage in order to write notes might cause me to miss some of the action. However, I did my best, sat up until 2.30 a.m. to finish the review in time for the press deadline and kept my fingers crossed that I hadn’t made any major mistakes or omissions.
Delighted to receive some complimentary tickets, I was in the theatre again for the last night of the show and enjoyed it a great deal more. Relaxing in the Stalls, with no decisions to make other than which flavour of ice cream to buy in the interval, was an undiluted pleasure. There were indeed little cameos that I’d missed first time round and the enthusiastic applause from the audience at the end of each big number was very well deserved.
1 May, 2017