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...
I’ve never considered poetry to be my strong point, although I’ve had a few successes over the years. My first blissful week at the Writers’ Summer School in Swanwick, for example, came about when I was awarded the first prize – a free place – in the poetry competition that year with a quirky sonnet about friendship. To My Writing Partner can be viewed on the Stories and Poems page of this website.
However, I’ve recently learnt a valuable lesson about writing poetry for the commercial market. The example above has just appeared in print and is a heavily adapted version of a much longer poem written in free verse some years ago. I was delighted when an adjudicator at that time, a highly respected local poet, awarded the latter second place. The magazine that liked the theme but not the form requested a version that rhymed and had a conventional metre. For the free verse poem I received kudos; for the adapted version I received cash. Go figure! Up to you to decide which you prefer, of course. The former is available to read on my Stories and Poems page, should you so wish.
6 January, 2017
December 2016 saw the publication of my ski holiday story in TPF but was otherwise a month full of distractions – OK, maybe some of them were excuses – to keep me away from my normal writing routine. Now that we’re into a more sober January, I aim to do much better. However, here are a few memories of the month that has just gone.
On the bright side were the York Writers’, Strictly Salsa and Ripon Activity Project’s Christmas parties, as well as socialising over meals with friends and family.
Unfortunately, December also saw the deaths of a dear friend from Ripon Writers’ Group and a much loved cousin. The latter was my hero as we were growing up and I’m still struggling to come to terms with the fact that he’s gone. Oddly enough, a poem to be published in the 4th January 2017 TPF Special was inspired by Joe’s appropriation of his mother’s washboard for use in a skiffle group!
I didn’t do any filming during December, but I did take my younger son to The Emmerdale Experience at the old studios in Burley Road and enjoyed it far more than I expected to. For me, of course, it was something of a busman’s holiday, but the photo of us both behind the bar at the Woolpack is certainly one for the family album. It’s a rare example of yours truly beaming directly into the camera, something which we humble ‘extras’ are generally forbidden to do.
Whatever 2017 has in store, I’m sure that there will be plenty of ups and downs and I can only hope for all our sakes that the former will outweigh the latter.
1 January, 2017
30 November, 2016
Our fledgling group, formed earlier this year, dipped its first toe into the water last night at the Christmas Fair in Poppleton near York and took it in turns to man our well stocked stall. (Wrapping all those items for the lucky dip reminded me very much of ‘pass the parcel’ at birthday parties in years gone by.)
The atmosphere was very festive, although the lighting made it difficult to take decent shots with my phone.
There was certainly plenty of choice for all ages and in several different genres.
Other members of the group had worked very hard on the promotional materials. We hope to welcome other writers in the New Year. Please click on the link to the right for more details if you might be interested.
Whoever is responsible for the decor is certainly to be congratulated. What is a sports hall by day can be transformed by clever use of draped fabric into something that looks just like a marquee for special events. (Our stall, one of many, is just visible back left.)
19 November, 2016
Obeying the adage above, my life has been full of play lately. As only an occasional visitor to London, I found myself there on two consecutive weeks in October with a theatre visit at the heart of each excursion.
First came the opportunity to give my younger son a treat. Having seen Matilda a couple of years ago, he was keen to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Did it live up to expectations? Well, for me at least, the first act dragged with rather with too much emphasis on Charlie’s poverty stricken life before his discovery of the golden ticket. However, it was redeemed by a sparkling second act in which only the staging of the ‘chocolate fountain’ disappointed. As we combined our visit with seeing family members not fortunate enough to live in Yorkshire, we felt that we’d had our money’s worth.
The Book of Mormon, seen in the company of my elder son, was hilarious from start to finish. Anyone who’s opened their door to a pair of clean cut young Americans brimming with religious fervour will be able to relate to this. Of course the musical lampoons one of the Christian world’s newer movements, but we found the humour gentle rather than vicious.
That the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, rather than mounting a violent protest outside the theatre, took out advertising space in the programme seems to underline that.
Salsa has taken rather a back seat lately, but I couldn’t miss our class’s Halloween party and here I am in action! Undecided whether to go as a witch – the pointy hat makes dancing difficult – or a zombie bride with trailing garments that could lead to a ‘wardrobe malfunction’, I settled on the outfit originally bought to publicise my collection of murder stories. With the addition of a pair of impish horns, it seemed appropriate.
I also took to the floor with Bruce, of course, who was glad to dispense with his costume after a few numbers. It was a hot night in more than one respect!
The prize for best outfit went to Kate (front row, third from the left), but Mick, in the centre with the green face, would have been another worthy winner. I’m still wondering if his make-up came off in time for work the following day!
Speaking of work, it’s about time that I got back to mine!
1 November, 2016
Where have the last couple of months gone? It seems only last week that I was having tea on the lawn with my Swanwick friends and visiting York Maze before the maize was harvested. Now we’re in mid-October.There’s a lot to be said for this time of year, especially when living in a glorious part of the world like North Yorkshire. I consider myself particularly fortunate to have Fountains Abbey/Studley Royal on the doorstep. When Antonia Hodgson was researching her novel A Death At Fountains Abbey, she had to rent a cottage. I live a four mile drive away – less if I choose to walk and cut through the fields – and have my favourite bench. There is nowhere better to sit, pen in hand, when wrestling with a tricky piece of writing.
The trees had just started to turn when another solitary soul and I took up temporary residence by the Moon Pond in the Water Gardens. By now the autumn foliage will be glorious and I plan to return very soon.
Different aspects of my life came together when I was asked to speak to the Rotary Club of Ripon Rowels about what makes working as a television/film extra an ideal job for a writer. The answer to that question is twofold; the inspiration I get from all the interesting people I meet and plenty of time to write during the long hours waiting to be called onto the set.
In common with many writers known to me, I find promoting my books harder work than writing them in the first place. However, last Sunday I was doing just that at the Ryedale Book Festival in Malton.
Another aspect of a writer’s life can – and maybe should – be passing on expertise to others. I’ve run workshops for adults before but this creative writing session for visiting French pupils was the first time for many years that I’ve taken on a group of teenagers. I’m very happy to report that they were a great bunch of young people and everything went swimmingly! With Halloween not far away, I took as my theme the ghostly Roman soldiers in the Treasurer’s House.
The workshop came about following a request to York Writers and fellow member David Dale, whose novel Night Witch was published this year, ran a parallel group. David chose to focus on Guy Fawkes, arguably York’s most famous – or notorious, depending on your point of view – former resident.
The feedback from both groups was very positive and David and I wish the youngsters every success with their own writing.
13 October, 2016