To Boldly Go…

I have been deeply moved by this article from Wil Wheaton.   It does take courage to speak out about our mental health issues – and it shouldn’t.  We wouldn’t be worried to tell someone we’ve strained a muscle or that our hayfever won’t let us leave the house, so why should we be embarrassed to say our brain is affecting our ability to go out or take part in a specific activity.  Sometimes our knees won’t let us go running, sometimes our anxiety does the same thing.  Thank you, Wil, for your hugely comforting speech/article.


I’m about to go speak to NAMI Ohio’s statewide conference, Fulfilling the Promise. These are the remarks I prepared for my speech. Before I begin, I want to warn you that this talk touches on many triggering subjects, including self-harm and suicide. 4,484 more words

via My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic Depression, and I am not ashamed. — WIL WHEATON dot NET

Welcome to 2018 – Zero Draft

Holly leaves and berriesThis is where I should be wishing you all a very happy new year and listing all of my good intentions for 2018. Sorry – not happening.  Not today.  You see, despite reading lots of lovely inspirational posts on my social media and really believing this was going to be the start of a great year, it hasn’t started out like that.

I was determined that this year I would make more of an effort: be kinder; be positive; be supportive; be less judgmental; get fitter; write more often… you know the kind of thing.  And I really meant it when I thought it.  I still do. But, after a long night of trying to settle dogs made hysterical by fireworks, then being woken at irregular intervals by drunken revellers slur-singing their way home, I was a bit grouchy when I got up this morning.  My mood wasn’t improved by almost falling on my face when I stood up and found my knee was swollen and very painful.  Even then, I was determined to try harder and do my best.

Two small dogsIf the dogs and I had taken a different route on our walk, I may still have clung on to all my good intentions but, when we reached our destination, the footpath was blocked – by Park Runners.  Now, I know that keeping fit and socialising are great things.  Making active and regular use of public spaces helps stop them being built on.  But it’s a MONDAY.  That’s not Park Run day.  And that’s when all my good intentions went out of the window.  I watched the sea of lycra and exposed flesh jostling their way down the footpath and my chest was a seething knot of resentment.

Perhaps I should explain that, over the years, the dogs and I have had some rather unpleasant experiences with Park Runners.  The majority of them, I’m sure, are lovely people but there are some who are so intent on shaving a millionth of a second off their best time that they think nothing of barging, kicking, spitting and swearing at other park users.  For this reason, we usually avoid that particular park on a Saturday, as do many other dog walkers.

As we waited for a chance to get on the path and continue our walk, sweaty people I don’t know smiled at me and wished me a happy new year.  Did I smile back and return the greeting?  Did I heck as like.  I snarled and grunted and glared.  When I spotted a gap we leapt onto the path, walking against the tide of runners and I almost wanted someone to knock into us or shove us out the way so I could vent my spleen.  Not good.

I couldn’t shake the pent-up Grinch feelings, even when we were free of the runners and striding over the soggy grass into the public orchard – definitely not helped by spotting the remains of a firework display someone had set up on the Old Common and not bothered to remove when they had finished.  Even when we were nearly back to the safety of home, I was still seething.  You may know that I have a pathological dislike of litter.  Whenever we go for our walks I pick up as much as I can and drop it into the bins in the parks.  Today, just a few doors up from our house I spotted an empty Budweiser bottle, abandoned by the aforementioned revellers.  Did I pick it up and bring it home?  No.  I growled at it and said “Why should I?”

Some of my writing friends say the first version of a story they write isn’t the first draft – it’s the Zero Draft.  All the ideas they’ve been mulling over in their minds spewed out onto the page, just to get it out of their head.  That’s how I feel about today.  It’s the start of 2018 – Draft Zero.  So, please ignore me today.  Tomorrow I fully intend to smile as I wish total strangers a Happy New Year.  It can’t be that hard, can it?



A while ago Judith Heneghan posted something on Twitter – I can’t remember exactly what it was now – but it made me really miss being at college and studying for my MA. It wasn’t just the brilliant friends I’d made or the totally supportive critiques they gave. It wasn’t even the lectures and speakers. It was all of those, plus the driving impetus of having to produce some words every week and doing so as part of a writing community. I sent a tweet back, suggesting she set up a group or forum where graduates of Winchester’s Writing for Children MA could get in touch and maybe even meet up every once in a while. We both thought it was a great idea but, between the University and the Writing Festival, she couldn’t contribute more than support, encouragement and a few email addresses.

That’s how it started.  I set up a closed Facebook group and called it Ex-Machina (EX-MA CHildren In Absentia) – probably not the best name, but it was all I could come up with at short notice.  There seem to be some quite unusual groups with the same name.  Oops!  I added all the people I knew on Facebook who had completed the course and emailed the people Judith had suggested.  A couple of posts later we are up to 16 members without really trying.

So – did you graduate from the University of Winchester with an MA in Writing for Children?  Would you like to be in touch with other people who did the same course?  If you are on Facebook, please ask to join us.  If you avoid social media, please contact me via this blog and I’ll add you to an irregular email update.

I hope to make contact with some more of you over the coming months.  Writing doesn’t need to be a solitary occupation.

24 Things Women Over 30 Should Wear

I love this response to all those articles about what woman of a certain age should do or wear. I’ve never taken them very seriously as I didn’t do/wear most of the things they list when I was younger. Don’t follow the crowds or the fashions. As long as your actions cause no harm do/wear whatever pleases you.

Warning:Curves Ahead

This morning, as I was perusing through my Facebook timeline, I happened upon an article that a lovely friend shared. It was entitled “24 Things Women Should Stop Wearing After Age 30”, and it triggered Maximum Eye-Rolling from everyone who took the time out to read it.

Written by Kallie Provencher for, this “article” (I use the term loosely) highlighted things such as “leopard print”, “graphic tees”, and “short dresses” (because “By this age, women should know it’s always better to leave something to the imagination”). Kallie, it seems, has a number of opinions on what women over 30 should and shouldn’t be doing, having also penned “30 Things Women Over 30 Shouldn’t Own” and “20 Pictures Women Over 30 Need To Stop Posting Online”. (What is this magical post-30 land where women are suddenly not allowed to do or own so many things?!)

Motivated by Kallie’s “article”, I decided…

View original post 302 more words

The UKYA Book Blogger Awards Winners

Congratulations to you all, especially my friend @bookloverjo

Luna's Little Library


Without further ado let us unveil the UKYA Book Blogger Awards winners:



2nd Place – Queen of Contemporary
3rd Place – TeenBookHoots



2nd Place – YAYeahYeah
3rd Place – The Dark Dictator



2nd Place – Tales Of Yesterday
3rd Place – Hello I Am Miriam



2nd Place – George Lester
3rd Place – The Pewter Wolf



2nd Place – Bookish Brits
3rd Place – The Big Book Project



2nd Place – Serendipity Reviews
3rd Place – Queen of Contemporary



2nd Place – Tales Of Yesterday
3rd Place – Luna’s Little Library



2nd Place – George Lester
3rd Place – SableCaught



2nd Place – Hello I Am Mariam
3rd Place – YAYeahYeah



2nd Place – Ninjas Reads Too

View original post 244 more words

Winchester Writers’ Festival 2015 Writeup

Damon has written a really great write-up of the Winchester Writer’s Festival. I was there as a student host again this year, so only get a restricted view of the activities. Hopefully I will be able to attend next year as a fully-fledged delegate. I’ll have to save up as, unlike Damon, I won’t be able to apply for the scholarship scheme. I’m far too old for that! Thank you for a fabulous insight into the three days, Damon.

Damon L. Wakes

Last weekend wasn’t my first time at the Winchester Writers’ Festival, but thanks to a scholarship from the University of Winchester, it was the first year I managed to attend the entire event. That really made quite a difference, since the full range of day courses, talks and workshops offered far more variety than I could have got from any individual day. It was particularly useful to be able to get advice on both writing and publishing. Here’s how the weekend went:


Each day of the festival starts (if you get up early enough!) with coffee and an opportunity to chat to other delegates. For the first two days, this was also an opportunity to wander around the Book Fair. I was really keen to make the absolute most of the weekend, though most people didn’t turn up until a little later.

P1000755 EDITED Unless stated otherwise, these photos…

View original post 2,594 more words

The Ernie Tree

In the spring of 2013 a group of people started digging holes in our local park.  We didn’t see them do it.  Whenever we went back, something had changed.  More holes appeared.  On one visit we found heaps of compost and stacks of wooden stakes.  Then trees began to appear in the holes.  Eventually there were four straight rows of Row of young fruit treestrees, all carefully staked and evenly spaced.  More time passed and little wooden posts started to appear in front of each tree with plaques giving it’s location in the orchard, information about the type of tree it was and when the fruit would be ready for harvest.

Map of orchard layoutEventually an information board appeared telling anyone who was interested that this was Incredible Edible, North Hampshire.  A community orchard planted and maintained by volunteers for the benefit of the local community.  The half-dozen paragraphs of text and the colour-coded map of the orchard gave you all the information you could want and, if you felt you needed more, there was a QR code and a web address.  Brilliant!List of fruit trees

When I looked down the list of trees, I got a shiver of excitement.  One of them was called Ernie’s Russet.  I headed across the field to find tree location B3.

Identification plaque for Ernie's RussetThere was a sturdy little apple tree with another information plaque in front of it.  This told me that Ernie’s Russet was a desert apple, ready for harvest in mid September.  “So what?” I hear you ask?  Well, Ernie was the name of my father-in-law.  He was a lovely man with a very sweet tooth.  His favourite part of any meal was pudding.

The idea of a ‘desert’ apple tree with his name was brilliant.  His children were born at the end of August and the beginning of September – the tree was even close to his own personal ‘harvest’ time.  Since then I’ve been watching the orchard with interest.  At irregular intervals I’ve taken photos for my partner so she can see how Ernie Tree is coming on.  It has been a heartwarming experience.Young apple tree in orchard

I have built up a small collection of photographs of the tree, taken over a period of several months.  It now feels like a project.  I plan to shall share the photos I have taken this spring so you can see the progress the tree has made.  I will keep taking photos so that , hopefully, you will eventually see a harvested russet apple.  In the meantime, here is the first photo I took of Ernie Tree.Head shot of Ernie

This week would have been my father-in-law’s birthday.  It would also have been his & Mamie’s wedding anniversary.  Sunday will be Father’s Day.  So, to mark these occasions, here is a picture of the man I called ‘Super-Ern’.  Fancy an apple crumble, Ernie?  More custard?

Where are our manners?

It’s now nearly two weeks since we launched Litmus 2015 and I am still bubbly with happiness at seeing my name in print. Celebrating our achievements with colleagues, family and friends and strutting our stuff in front of guests from the publishing industry was thrilling – and the cake tasted as delicious as it was beautiful.

It may be time to shove the rainbows and glitter out of my head and get back to the black and white business of writing. I have three works in process, two with deadlines attached and I’m looking forward to finally finishing a full book of story rather than just an assignment’s worth. Happy, happy!

Litmus 2015

A copy of Litmus 2015 next to the celebration cakeThe Litmus 2015 launch party was on Tuesday night.  Today is Sunday and we have yet to tell you anything about it.  Please accept our apologies.  It’s not that we didn’t want to share, we’ve just been a bit busy.  We’ve been feeding the hungry Twitter bird, sending thank you emails and continuing with the business of obtaining our masters degrees.  OK, most of the time we’ve been sat rocking in a corner, gently stroking the shiny cover of our very own copies of Litmus 2015; turning the pages to make sure our names are still in the table of contents, our stories in the body of the book and our bios on the back pages.

A group shot of people at the Litmus 2015 launch partySorry, we’re still not telling you anything about the launch, and we should.  It was a wonderful evening.  The room was full of students (aka, Litmus 2015 authors), literary agents, editors, lecturers, journalists, bloggers, family, friends and…

View original post 377 more words