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...
It’s always good to be featured in a new magazine and the latest issue of Connections has done me proud.
A double-paged spread features general information and then there are excerpts and reviews.
28 November, 2021
Tickled to see this in the December issue of Writing Magazine. If you’ve never had a Fat Rascal, you really should!
Originally published in The Weekly News, the story that came from my enjoyment of this delicious confectionery can be found in my ‘Swings & Roundabouts’ collection, available to download separately from Amazon or as part of an omnibus edition that is also out in print.
26 November, 2021
My attention having been caught by a post on Facebook and, always keen to meet fellow writers, I’ve just attended the first meeting of a new group. It didn’t hurt that the chosen locale was The Hive, set up as part of the also relatively newly established Halls of Ripon. Excellent coffee, delicious cakes and the prospect of a couple of hours spent with like-minded people. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, the answer to that is absolutely nothing. There were seven of us at the inaugural meeting, only one of whom I’d met before, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time getting to know each other and discussing what we liked to write. After an ice-breaker, when we were all encouraged by Dion, the creator of the group, to scribble down a few random thoughts, friendship was suggested as the main theme.
This fledgling group is planning to meet every Tuesday afternoon from one o’clock to three, the theme for next week being ‘Moving/Moving On’. I’m looking forward to it already.
9 November, 2021
Reading from the pulpit was something that I hadn’t expected when told that this year’s anthology launch would take place at Allhallowgate Methodist Church. However, contributors and audience were directed into the building through the front door and took seats in the pews or up on the balcony. It was a good evening with poets, including four of my fellow members of Ripon Writers’ Group, ranging in age from well under 11 to – let’s just say – considerably older!
There was a wide range of themes, with many reflecting the ‘looking glass world’ of the last eighteen months. Styles ranged from traditional forms to free verse, with some of the shorter pieces taking less time to read than their creators took to reach the pulpit. My own contribution was ‘Pantoum Promise’, the first and, so far, only pantoum that I have written. If you don’t know what a pantoum is – neither did I until recently – and would like to read it, it’s now available in the Stories & Poetry section of this website.
The following day saw me at four more sessions, this time at Ripon’s historic Thorpe Prebend Hall, just behind the Cathedral.
RWG member Sheila Whitfield launched her first poetry collection
and then joined other members for Ripon Writers’ Group’s own showcase session, introduced by Carol Mayer. Left to right in the photo above are Carol Mayer, Sheila Whitfield, Kate Swann, Christine Summers, Lindsay Trenholme and yours truly. There was time for each of us to contribute three of our own poems
and for Christine, accompanied by her husband Dylan, to sing two of the songs she’d written. In the much regretted but unavoidable absence of Peter Page, Carol and Sheila each read out one of his poems.
I attended Olivia Mulligan’s very entertaining session, which gave plenty of inspiration for unique ways to create a collection. (Extract from the programme above, as I wasn’t able to secure a good vantage point to take my own photo.)
The final session of the day was ‘Poetry and Music’ from Christine and Dylan, in collaboration with other local folk singers Simon Strickland and Dawn Bramley.
In summary, I had a fabulous afternoon, including tea and chocolate cake at the Claro Lounge, which I also managed to fit in!
11 October, 2021
It’s always good to see one of my stories in print – OK, this is an e magazine, but you know what I mean, and I think the illustrations provided to accompany it are absolutely spot on!
3 October, 2021
This week I was invited by her husband Joe to read the eulogy for Daphne Peters, founder of Ripon Writers’ Group and a good friend to us all. We lost Daphne eighteen months ago, just after the first lockdown, and were thus unable to attend the funeral, so this was a long anticipated opportunity to honour her memory. RWG members past and present attended the service in Ripon Cathedral and mingled later on over refreshments to reminisce.
During the course of the service, several of us read poems written by Daphne, who was widely published in anthologies and often asked for permission to broadcast her work. She specialised in writing for children, with animals and her love of the sea as frequently recurring themes. Daphne shared my love of cats and, out of all her poems, my favourite is ‘Friday Night in Finkle Street’. It tells of a group of cats hanging around a fish and chip shop in the centre of Ripon in the hope of feasting on the customers’ leavings. ‘They lick their lips over fish and chips’ will continue to come to mind and remind me of Daphne whenever I pass that shop.
NB Daphne’s poems can also be found under her maiden name of Lister.
30 September, 2021
It’s always good to have a piece of my writing feature in a magazine, but I was a little disappointed this time not to see the photograph I sent in with it.
However, and just for the record, here it is! Pistachio has long been my favourite flavour and it’s not easy to find in my neck of the woods, so I make the most of every opportunity when I’m on holiday.
18 August, 2021
After last year’s disappointing cancellation due to the pandemic, I had an extra spring in my step when I arrived at The Hayes this year, unpacked and took my wares to the Book Room. As an ‘old hand’, it was my honour and privilege to help new Swanwickers (White Badgers) find their feet by co-hosting a guided tour and a table at dinner on the first evening. The opening speaker was Toby Faber of Faber & Faber, grandson of the founder, who provided an interesting outline of the history of the publishing firm. Afterwards, as ever, there was a choice of activities.
Mine was to head for the bar, catch up with old friends and keep an eye out for any White Badgers looking lost and/or lonely.
My first appearance at ‘Swanwick’ was in 2006, when I was lucky enough to win a free place through the Poetry Competition. (‘To My Writing Partner’ is still available to read on this website.) Seeing the week as a unique opportunity and determined not to waste a moment, I was completely burned out by the Tuesday lunchtime. Nowadays – and this is my 15th time at the School – I know how to pace myself. Taking time out to stroll around the lake or sit reading on a bench is a welcome break from attending courses and workshops. That said, of course, there was a wonderful range open to us all. My first choice was Simon Whaley’s four-part course ‘The Complete Article Writer’, which gave me a lot of new ideas to work on for expanding my range. Second was ‘SHOW Stopping Story Writing’, the block capitals of the first word being deliberate. “Show! Don’t tell!” was Bettina von Cossel’s advice and no one could have dreamed up finer examples of doing just that. Spencer Meakin’s two-part course on writing about LGBTQ+ characters took me down (for me) largely unexplored avenues and gave a lot of food for thought. Ingrid Jendrzejewski’s wide experience of judging as well as winning many writing competitions made her the ideal person to show us how to improve our chances of being placed.
‘Work’ over for the day, I made the most of the entertainment on offer and helped out where I could. At the Prose Open Mic, for example, I was handed the task of sanitising the microphone between participants.
At Buskers’ Evening, I was charged with taking photographs.
However, I did get to strut my stuff at the Poetry Open Mic and dress up for the ‘Roaring Twenties’ evening.
We scrubbed up quite well, don’t you think? The disco that ended the evening included a free Charleston lesson, but I’d been on my feet long enough by then and sloped off to bed. The boa I’d hired from Jolly Jesters in the village left a trail of black feathers wherever I went and I still spotted a few on the final morning!
As a member of both Ripon Writers’ Group and York Writers, it was good to have friends from each along with me. Above with Lindsay from RWG and below with John, Toni and Pam from YW.
The photo above was taken in one of the dining rooms at lunchtime. I used to find three cooked meals a day overwhelming and was delighted this year to be offered sandwiches, salads, crisps and chocolate bars at midday. They were easily transported outdoors on fine days and The Hayes had provided picnic tables and extra benches in its extensive grounds.
I took no direct part in ‘Page to Stage’ this year – scroll down to Swanwick 2019 for my finest hour! – although I very much enjoyed the plays, submitted in advance but cast and rehearsed with breakneck speed. Julian Unthank’s talk on scriptwriting for TV was absorbing and I also enjoyed what Derbyshire writer Sarah Ward had to say about why we love a ghost story. To my shame, I missed Helen Mort’s contribution to Monday evening but heard from others that it was very good. Given the string of awards she’s won for her poetry, it must have been.
Gloom usually sets in for me on Thursday afternoon, knowing that soon ‘Swanwick’ will be over for this year but, sandwiched between the AGM and the Farewell, comes the Dregs Party.
This is an opportunity to share any leftover drinks and snacks. Finery is optional, but some of us really push the boat out and cameras are snapping away the whole time.
Covid19 regulations having banned communal singing indoors, John Lamont led us in his own unforgettable version of the Proclaimers’ hit. ‘I will write 500 words…’ has become the School’s unofficial anthem and is usually accompanied by much stamping on the floor of the Main Conference Hall. It doesn’t work quite as well on grass, but we got there!
It’s hard to part with friends old and new, knowing that most of us are unlikely to meet again in the flesh for another year. (Thank heavens for Facebook, Whats App, Zoom etc!)
However, the School will rise Brigadoon-like from the mist on Saturday, 13th August 2022 and, all being well, I shall be there. The countdown has already begun.
PS Covid19 reared its ugly head right at the end of the week and many of us are now being tested, but I for one wouldn’t have missed a minute of Swanwick 2021.
15 August, 2021
I thought I’d left it too late to be a cover girl until Les Baynton handed me this. The photo is from the 2019 Swanwick Writers’ Summer School when I played Cher to Lance Greenfield’s Sonny. (If you scroll back far enough you’ll find more shots of that hilarious evening.)
Les hosts the poetry open mic session each year and a good selection of his own poems can be read in this collection. Well done, Les! I hope it raises a goodly sum for the British Heart Foundation.
7 August, 2021
After much agonising, the long lockdown locks (note the deliberate alliteration) have finally been banished and just in time for this year’s Writers’ Summer School. Swanwick, here I come!
6 August, 2021