On a poetry workshop at Woodbrooke

I haven’t posted for an age and was reminded that this would be a good use of my blog whilst I’m away on holiday at the Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham. Hopefully it will mean that all the amazing creativity that I’m hoping for won’t get forgotten in the weeks to come.

So this is the first evening of ‘Voices of the Earth’ – messing about with arty stuff to get inspiration in different ways. I headed out into the walled garden and by the lake in the sunshine on arrival – beautiful.

World Book Night

Ventnor Library hosted a World Book Night and as ever, an enjoyable evening. I picked Confessions of a GP, a light-hearted volume of short observations of the ways of the world (well patients) by Dr Benjamin Daniels.

We did some reading and swopping. I read from Stoner – a Vintage Classic – by John Williams, a piece from fairly early in the story when Stoner is asked to voice an opinion on a Shakespeare sonnet, and he’s physically so overwhelmed he can hardly speak. Seemed fitting since 23rd April is taken as Shakespeare’s birthday I’m told.

Someone read from Roger Deakin’s Waterlog and I have that now on my list to acquire or quite possibly borrow from Ventnor library. It’s fantastic to be read too and to discover another novelist that I’ve not come across before.

I’ve also been given The Help by Kathryn Stockett to read.

So all in all a superb evening.

Bus travel and writing

After a bit of an internal struggle in coming to terms with not being able to drive, I can see the positive aspects now. Main one is on my writing, what an opportunity to hear and see, to be in a moment and to share a bit of yourself with others and they with you. I feel a poem coming on, still germinating and will have to remain in that state until my marking mountain subsides……

Eyesight is a precious thing, not enough eyesight is a different precious thing.

Review: Ghost Town by Catronia Troth

I couldn’t have read this book at a better time for two reasons:

1. I read a new chapter of my own book to my writers’ group and one of the comments came back was that I had two strong central characters and in doing so the sympathy for both characters is diluted. Food for thought. So when I read this book, it had two such characters – and that’s exactly what happened. Sometimes the voices of Baz and Maia are quite similar, both on the edge of belonging but both forced into the centre of the action (riots, racism, homelessness).

2. It’s a great book though and resonates with me as my own book has rioting as a kind of historical backdrop. Mine is historical, this is for real – the book set in the early 1980s and it’s been useful to remember the features of the riots then – often racial and violent – so perhaps different to the riots of two summers ago – but maybe the roots – inequality and poverty – are similar. Glad to have read it.

Ghost Story e-book link

Have all the words – consider the shape

It felt like a huge achievement to have written a whole novel and I knew that editing (in a strategic rather than nit-picking way) was my next stage.

There are so many choices to make. I’ve printed out 130+ pages and shuffled them so that I have contained Amy, Mel and Amy’s Nan pieces. When I read them in this way I can see the development and changes in each character, I can see the shifting and adjusting that the characters do between each other.

The teenage voices are those I’m most interested in, so it’s likely that Nan will fall by the wayside in having her own voice. I’ve poured over a timeline, producing a table that tracks the major events for each character and at the same time provides me with a helicopter view of my book.

I seem to be discarding as much as I keep. The jewels will shine more brightly without clutter.

Council House Kids or Tower Block Amy

More than two weeks have gone by since finishing the first draft of my novel. I’ve rearranged some of the chapters to fit the timeline, inserted some page numbering, printed out all 137 pages (83,019 words) – it’s an amazing wadge of paper. It looks like the possibility of a real book for the first time.

I could shuffle the whole lot up so that chapters in the voice of Amy, Mel and Amy’s Nan are separate mini books or maybe a whole chapter for each. I will probably do that to check for consistency in voice for each main character. Then re-shuffle back into the timeline order – we’ll see.

But first, I’m reading through each chapter – marking up where I need to increase/decrease pace, provide a sense of place, insert some social history (perhaps) – not sure about this last element.

I’m enjoying this as much as writing. It’s going to be a superb Christmas….

A day in the life….. Ventnor

Our piece on an ordinary day in Ventnor, just at the end of the tourist season is written and rehearsed. It’s been interesting to view Ventnor from other perspectives and realise the virtual and physical crack between Upper and Lower Ventnor, the tourist vs local, the longevity and passing through, the quaint and whimsical, the mad and daft (lots of that), the children and the less young.

And tonight we read/perform our work – I’m out of my comfort zone. It’s quite possible that Manic Mavis, super-gran who during the day abseiled down the Trinity Church Tower in aid of the Street Pastors and has been asked by Bitter Bill to perform at his gig in aid of the rare Swivel-kneed Swallowtail whose only habitat is the Mayweed Hawkbit, found in Ventnor and one or two other places, will be the star of the show.

It’s just soooooooooooo Ventnor.

National Novel Writing Month – finished


It’s been hard work but as 30th November got closer, I got more determined. I’ve been following on the Southampton group on Facebook and that’s what’s kept me going. The graph as it stands today for Southampton shows that we’ve written 4 million words between us. I’d like to start an Isle of Wight group next year.

It’s amazing to have written over 50,000 words in one month. With this new 50,000 + the 30,000 I already had, it’s now time to get into editing – still a creative process, well that’s how I’m seeing it. The order may get jumbled, there may be flashbacks or there may not. Phew!!!!

National Novel Writing Month

The idea is to write 50,000 words this month and knowing that many others are doing the same in my locality is surprisingly motivating. I realise it’s only Day 2, but I have written some 3,300 words already and the ideas seem to be flowing. Going it alone, I doubt that I would be able to stay motivated.

Each day, we load up our increased word total to the NaNoWri website and these are added to Southampton total word count – a massive spillage of words onto paper.

So Tower Block Amy is progressing kind of. With feedback earlier in the year from Winchester Writer’s Conference, I’ve wound back to a slightly earlier timeframe.

Late afternoon on a Friday….


It’s Friday afternoon on the council estate, kids limp home in stiff duffle coats. Debbie thumps jam jars down onto the table, butters a pile of white Mother’s Pride. She and her three siblings sit down, grubby hands unwashed and eat quickly.


Get down from the table.
You take the plates to the sink, put away the jam.
You shake out the cloth. Outside you dumbo.
You switch on the telly and all sit still til Mum gets home.


Debbie takes two stairs at a time, flits into Mum and Dad’s bedroom, sprays herself with Mum’s scent, brushes her hair with the silver backed hairbrush, strokes some mascara over her lashes. In the bathroom, she strips down to her bra and pants, skims a stale hardly wet flannel under her arms, drops her knickers to the floor and does the same down there. Back on with her school shirt and into her and her sister’s bedroom.


What shall I wear?
Something nice but not so nice it looks too nice.
So jeans but not my new jeans.
God, these stink, forgot to put them in the wash last Friday.
New jeans it is then.
My T-Rex t-shirt, got nothing else.
It’s a bit tight, that’s a good thing.


There are boys who play football and boys who preen. On the scrubby triangle of grass on the corner of Yeovil Road and Williton Road, Brian and Trevor chuck their school bags down for goal posts, Rob arrives with a football and three other lads join in.


Pass it over here.
What game are you playing?
Am I invisible?


Shut up and play on.


It’s a team game.
Just because it’s your ball….


Debbie’s Mum walks down the long curve of the hill. She’s spots her two youngest children, Sarah and Jimmy, climbing out of a bedroom window onto the porch roof and she breaks into a run. She shouts to the children to stay still and runs to the back door shouting for Debbie.

The phone rings and Debbie grabs it just as her Mum appears at the back door.

Debbie: Yes Maggie, I’ll be right round in 10 minutes.

Maggie: What are you wearin’?

Debbie’s Mum: Maggie, she’s not coming. Goodbye.


A posse of 10 year olds arrive on the chalk hill, some on bikes, some on scooters and some on foot. The same game is played every night after school, longer on Friday nights. One of them is “it” and has to chase the others until they tag them and they’re “it” and so the game goes on.

Mrs Lacey at no. 5 lets her mongrel out of the house and it bounds over to join the game of tag, barking wildly.

Craig scoots out from under his Ford Escort, greasy hair, greasy face and black oily hands.


Hey, Mrs Lacey your dog’s shat on the pavement next to my car again.


Tracey and Melanie clump by on their 6-inch high platform shoes. They both look disdainfully at Craig and continue making plans for their Friday night out in town.


Wanna lift into town later girls, I’m going to the Hat and Bonnet.


The girls ignore Craig and he can’t work out why. Debbie’s Mum runs up to the front bedroom and makes sure Jimmy and Sarah climb carefully and safely back inside.

Jimmy: Why does Mrs Lacey always wear a flowery apron that fits all around her? Doesn’t she have a proper dress Mum?

Mum: That used to be the fashion, so women could do housework without messing up their best dresses.

Jimmy: What about next door then, why does she wear pale green hot pants and white leather boots? Can’t do much housework in that can she.

Sarah: I’m not going to be a housewife when I grow up, I’m going out to work every day in dead modern clothes like those two girls who just walked by.

Mum: You won’t get to grow up if you keep climbing out of upstairs windows my girl. Whatever did you think Jimmy, letting your sister do such a thing.

Jimmy: But she’s older than me, she said we could do it.

Mum: That’s the back door slamming, Debbie doing exactly what I asked her not to do.

Sarah: What age can we start doing what you ask us not to do Mum?

Writings and scribblings about and from my published fiction and chit chat about literature.