As we come towards the end of the decade I wanted to take a moment and say thank you for sharing my journey thus far. This year has been particularly tough in so many ways, and your kind words and thoughtful messages have held me up when I’ve been ready to crash and burn. I take none of it for granted, and am thankful for each and every one of you who takes the time to buy my books, read my posts, offer advice, post a comment or simply thinks of me.
We all lead such busy lives and can easily drown with the overwhelming amount of ‘stuff’ there is to do. It is easy to forget to say thank you but it is so important. So, from me to you this holiday season a very big heartfelt thank you for being there. I value everything you do for me, from a simple smile to a wonderful review of one of my books. I may not know you all by name but I do appreciate you 🙂
Here’s wishing you all a very happy and healthy holiday season x
According to the Cambridge Dictionary to update is to~
“Make something more modern or suitable for use now by adding new information or changing its design.”
That is a lot to live up to, but I’ll give it a go!
I live in a continual state of updating, whether personal or professional. I think the key is to keep pressing forwards – a blog post here, a red pen edit there, a finished novel here, another red pen edit there, a new blend of coffee here – coffee, did someone say coffee? I’ll admit I am not the best blogger in the world, and as life crowds in my blog gets pushed down the list of ‘to do’s’. The frequency of my posts leaves a lot to be desired, but like any good cookie will tell you (digital not edible), there is always something going on in the background. Continue reading “Update”
I have to admit to being a tad excited and a little overwhelmed.
Today see’s the release of Nativity, a collection of outstanding stories by very talented authors under the Bridge House Publishing banner. I am very lucky and honoured to have my short story ‘New Shoes For Christmas’ included.
Many of the stories featured take place at or around Christmas time. Mine is a dark tale of birth and rebirth, but like the proverbial box of chocolates there is plenty of choice! It is available as an e-book, with the paperback expected within the next few days, with the film following… haha only joking about the film, but hey that would be something wouldn’t it?
I would love to know what you think of the anthology. Feel free to purchase a copy from the link below… reviews would be most welcome 🙂
My latest adventure…. An absolute privilege to feature in an anthology so packed with artistic talent! Devon authors, poets, painters and photographers all together in one book. I can be found on page 3!
If this sounds like your kind of read then grab yourself a copy…
These are the days that seem to vanish into clouds. Days when each past moment is forgotten and only now remains. Am I talking nonsense? Quite possibly, but as fellow writers will affirm the moment really is ‘the moment’ and on a good day it lasts forever.
I apologise if I have lost you, I am of course talking about writing. It has been the best of days, it has been the busiest of days and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Now time is precious so I won’t spend hours talking about writing, because the more I spend chatting the less time I can devote to actually writing or reading or doing whatever I’m supposed to be doing which is embarking on another adventure… So here’s a re cap…
Imagine – you have 1 day to go until your holiday, a holiday you have looked forward to, planned for, I mean really planned for. It involves the whole family, boats, lists, internet searches.
You finish work (your day job), you pack the dogs off to their holiday home, you pick up dinner and now its time to pack. But wait, what’s that? A thought, an idea? You shake it off because you don’t have time, not now, not today. Today is all about planning, being organised. The idea refuses to leave and renders you incapable of rational thought. OK, so it will only take 10 minutes to write down, then you can pack and feel smug. You won’t be the one holding everyone up, you’ll be ready…
Six hours later, you crawl into bed. You’ve have 4 hours sleep and still haven’t packed. If you could go back and change things would you? Hell no! Because that’s what it’s all about, that’s what’s so glorious about writing and I love it!
Libraries have always been an integral part of my life. They are about so much more than books. They provide knowledge, ideas, creativity, space to think, time to breath and so much more. They are free to all, which is a rarity.
Today sees the start of ‘The Big Share‘, and I would encourage you, if you can, to participate.
Little Free Library is a non for profit organisation that inspires a love of reading. It is known that children growing up in homes without access to books are generally 3 years behind children in homes with lots of books , but Little Free Library is not just for children, it is for everyone. The free book exchange libraries help to build better access to books for everyone.
This weekend ( May 17th – May 19th) is a celebration of the organisations 10th anniversary.’The Big Share‘ is an invitation to book lovers everywhere to participate. Here’s how:
Stop by a Little Free Library (they are in over 90+ countries)
Take a photo of your visit
Share on social media with #LFL10
You’ll be entered into a prize draw for a $20 e gift card for the LFL store
Spread the word!
There is a map on the website of where the LFL’s are. If you can’t find one you can start your own!
Now more than ever I feel we need to find ways to encourage reading for all. Little Free Libraries are one way to improve social equity – in my book (pardon the pun), that is a very good thing indeed!
With The Brits oh, I mean The Bryts (I’m so old school…) held last night, I got to thinking about how powerful and inspiring music can be.
Music connects with me in a way not much else can… except…books!
Music reaches into my soul and shines a light into places that are often left in shadow. Maybe it evokes a memory or a feeling. It plays around with parts of me that don’t surface as often as they should.
Recently I set myself a challenge to create a soundtrack for each piece of writing I either completed myself or read. It has been an entertaining and enlightening experience! My musical taste is eclectic to say the least, and I have spent hours pondering whether a character in one of my short stories is more into rock than jazz! If truth be told I would probably want all of my characters to like jazz, but that’s a whole other blog post!
So, what pieces of wisdom did I manage to garner from my quasi experiment? Above and beyond the obvious fact that both mediums tell stories and the sheer good fun of it all?
I’ve learnt that in order to be brave you must be vulnerable. It could I suppose apply to any art form, but my drugs of choice are books and music. They are as interconnected in me as blood and DNA. They exist to compliment each other not to compete. Buried within the words of both is a truth, shared just with me. The wordsmiths have been brave. They have laid out their vulnerability for all to see. The least I can do is try to hear and understand.
When I was young I desperately wanted a doll for Christmas. Not just any doll, a special Tiny Tears doll. It’s quite profound to think the doll I was taken with was a doll that cried.
We never had much money, and the doll was expensive. I prayed Santa would make it happen. I didn’t hold out much hope, I had not been the perfect child!
Christmas came, and low and behold, the baby was born – I had obviously behaved better than I gave myself credit for! Alongside my treasured Tiny Tears, I was given books by my grandfather – Ant and Bee, and The Cat in the Hat. I was 5 years old. I named my doll Trudy. I washed her, played with her and read her bedtime stories. I was in Christmas heaven.
My euphoria lasted all of about 3 days. My naughty little sister decided it was time for dolly to have a ‘makeover’. She poked out her eye and gave her a nasty red pen rash! It was time to take dolly to the hospital – the prognosis was not good. After my initial hysteria, I grew accustomed to my unsightly doll, who was now rocking a funky eye patch, and freshly cut hair. I would sit for hours reading books to her. I even took her to the library! Over the years my love of reading increased – my doll playing not so much!
I loved that doll, but I loved reading more. It was the year my love affair with books began.
I couldn’t tell you what happened to Trudy, but the books are safely here with me and always will be.
Giving a book for Christmas is so much more than giving a present. Books have staying power, you don’t discard them for the next best something or other – they are the best. Sometimes you re-read them, sometimes you pass them on. Books hold so much power, sometimes I think we forget just how amazing they can be. They have the power to change our opinions, the power to make us feel, the power to open up new worlds, the power to teach, they can make us laugh and cry… I could go on and on, but you get the idea – books are powerful!
Giving a book is as personal as it gets. You are giving over a piece of yourself and saying ‘this speaks to me, I hope you enjoy it.’
This Christmas I challenge you to think about a book you wished more people knew about, then gift it to a friend. It is the season for giving after all.
If you’ve read a book you wished more people knew about, please pop a comment in the box below and share the love…
When Gail Aldwin and I met on Twitter we were keen to share the experience of living and writing in the South West of England. I am pleased to welcome Gail to my blog. She answers our shared questions below, followed by mine. First, let me introduce Gail.
Gail Aldwin lives and writes in Dorchester. She is Chair of the Dorset Writers’ Network and works as a visiting tutor to creative writing students at Arts University Bournemouth.
1. Have you always lived in South West England?
Dorchester in Dorset became my home in 2007. At the beginning, I wasn’t particularly pleased to be moving from my lovely life in south London but my children and me had to up sticks when my husband got a job in the county town. I soon came to appreciate the benefits of living in a county area and it certainly extended the childhood experiences of my son. He spent his summers building camps and swimming in the river where his London friends thought a good day out was visiting Chessington World of Adventures.
Although I was brought up in London, I spent several years travelling overseas and have lived and worked in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. I do like a remote and beautiful location but living in one is not always easy. There are stories set in Australia and Papua New Guinea in Paisley Shirt, my recently published collection of short fiction. Something of a place remains with me from all the different locations I’ve experienced.
2. Is there one particular place in the South West that is special to you, if so why?
My husband is from Cornwall and we spent many summers on the north coast when my children were little. Our favourite beach is Chapel Porth near St Agnes where a river meets the sea. Out of season, my husband and son spent many hours damming the river in order to flood the beach but that wouldn’t make them popular in the summer when it gets packed with visitors. My novel The String Games draws from my experience of losing my son when he was three years old on a crowded beach. While I was busy smothering my daughter in sunscreen, he wandered off. I started searching for him by heading in the wrong direction. In spite of a tannoy announcement, he was lost for forty minutes then I eventually found him way down the beach jumping over the ways and completely oblivious to the panic he had caused.
Closer to home in Dorchester, it’s possible to walk across the water meadows and experience Thomas Hardy country. I love going to the cottage that is the place of his birth in Higher Bockhampton. I usually take a detour to visit the great writer’s gravestone in the churchyard at Stinsford. Although it was Hardy’s dying wish to be buried there with his parents, the executor of his will had other ideas and Hardy’s body ended up in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey while his heart was buried in Dorset. Along the shaded riverside walk, I imagine how this place sparked ideas for Hardy and try to generate a few myself!
3. What’s it like to be a writer in the South West?
Dorset has a thriving writing community with literary events scheduled across the county. I am Chair of the Dorset Writers’ Network and work with the steering group to inspire writers and connect creative communities. We do this by putting on workshops and talks to support writers at different stages of their writing journey. The South West is full of creative people and I love to link up with writers in different counties. I have taken steps to achieve this by joining activities in Devon. I delivered a spoken word performance at the Sandford Y Festival book event and participated in the Chudleigh Dragons pitching competition as part of their annual festival. I would love to see better links for writers across the South West so that we can celebrate the creativity of the region.
The short answer is no! I started my journey towards living in the West Country as a ‘grockle’ (tourist). The children were small back then and we would set off at the crack of sparrows and head west. Like many who’d travelled before us, we would wind our way slowly down the A303 for two glorious weeks in North Devon come rain or shine! We promised ourselves that if we ever got the opportunity to relocate we would grab it with both hands. Well, that’s what happened. In 2010 we relocated because of my husband’s work. It was a big decision. I am so proud of the way our kids adapted. It was a big shock initially, but within a few months they were taking everything in their stride – even school lessons delivered on the beach – now that was a first!
Until our move to Devon I had lived mainly in big cities such as London and New York. My work in international PR and marketing took me all over the world, and I know I draw on a lot of those experiences when I write.
I now live betwixt the villages of Iddesleigh and North Tawton. Iddesleigh is famously the home of author Michael Morpurgowhilst North Tawton was home to the late poet laureate Ted Hughes. It is a place of isolation, and I love it. There is something quite profound about my small hamlet which runs along the river Taw. Perhaps it is the ebb and flow of the river. I’m not sure, but I know it has worked its way into my bones. Living in a farming community the effects of late harvests, early harvests, failed crops, all subconsciously inform my thinking. I seem to draw on the landscape especially with my short stories.
2. Is there one particular place in the South West that is special to you, if so why?
I find myself drawn back to the River Taw time and time again. When we first arrived in Devon, it was the first place I discovered within walking distance of the house. We would spend many a happy hour skimming stones, swimming or sitting on ‘the beach’ (a patch of sandy shingle by the river’s edge). There are many ‘hidden’ parts of the river and every time I walk there I find something new.
Further afield I would say it would have to be the North Devon coastline. It is wild and structurally stunning. The rock formations you see are dramatic and magnificent. I have a story in mind for that coastline! Peppered in between the ancient stone cliffs are sandy coves and big expanses of golden beaches. My favourite beach is Westward Ho! The only place in the UK to have an exclamation mark as part of its name – fact!
3. What is it like to be a writer in the South West?
Devon is a superb place to write, and if someone were to do an audit or something clever like that I believe they would find a writer present in every village! There are a wealth of literary festivals and events across the county, which provide fantastic opportunities for support and collaboration year-round. It is such a positive community. I belong to a group called the Sakura Positive Press Writers Group; we hold open mic evenings in our local pub for storytelling. It’s great fun. It would be great if we could roll this out across the region. Stories were initially told that way, and it would be great to see this form reignited.