In the press: the short route to success

I met with Neil D’Arcy Jones from The Essex County Standard/Gazette on Wednesday in Tymperleys tea rooms in Colchester. The interview felt like more of a chat about our current writing projects and he wrote the article that night.

I didn’t have a recent picture and thankfully my friend Polly came over in the evening and took a few. Quite a few. I’m not a selfie-making, posing, even smiling-for-the-camera kind of a person… but she really put me at ease.

I was so pleased with the result. I know that Neil writes stories and plays amongst his other creative activities and felt as though he knew what I was talking about. Polly and I chose a couple of pics and the article came out on Friday. Just in time to advertise the event I’m doing at Red Lion Books tomorrow with Stephen May. I’ve just got the last chapter of his book Stronger Than Skin to read and I’m ready…


Gold Adornments: short stories for short shifts

The books are here with me now and it’s really exciting to see and feel Gold Adornments in print. Hard to believe when you send off a group of stories, and they are approved and come back for edits, that they will ever turn into an ACTUAL book.

These stories were all written last year, apart from The Little Green Lamp, which is slightly older. I am developing many of the ideas and characters for my next book, My Own Private Ida Show. Ida pops up several times in Gold Adornments. She is a funny character, who has been to every one of her pop star idol’s performances. Since she was 16.

Many of the stories in Gold Adornments were trying to represent emotional shifts – rising anger and frustration (A Little Piece of England), grief (Lollipop Man), empathy (Milanese Feast), healing (Little Green Lamp), ageing and grieving (Gold Adornments), revenge (Unlikely Deposits) – and finding and creating surface stories to represent them.

My publisher, Patricia Borlenghi, liked the stories and we began work on getting the book into shape. She soon came up with a cover and I loved the artwork, painted by Charlie Johnson. I have the original on my desk (whoop!).




Now the books have arrived though, it’s time to put my selling hat on. Where did I put that one?

Aside from having a go through social media, I’ll be selling the old fashioned way: standing at stalls (Bazaar at the Minories); at the Patrician Press launch of Refugees and Peacekeepers, Wivenhoe Bookshop; and at the Essex Authors event for Essex Book Festival in Chelmsford. I have some short fiction workshops coming up this year, including one for the fabulous Felixstowe Book Festival, where I’ll be reading, explaining where I get my inspiration, and providing writing activities. Please keep an eye on my diary for upcoming events.

You can get hold of a copy yourself here:

Patrician Press



Red Lion Books, Colchester

Wivenhoe Bookshop, Wivenhoe

And if you do buy one, thanks SO much again. Feedback always welcome…

A multi-author multi-activity WriteNight at Essex Book Festival

This was a special WriteNight for us, held during Essex Book Festival as part of their Place weekend, at Firstsite art gallery in Colchester.

I invited three local authors: Sarah Armstrong who comes to WriteNight and has just had her second book, The Devil in the Snow, published by Sandstone Press; Liz Trenow who has been to WriteNight as a guest author before and has just published her fourth novel, The Silk Weaver; and Nicola Werenowska, playwright, whose play Silence is in progress, and Hidden is showing at the Mercury Theatre in April.

I started by introducing WriteNight and I’m going to do that again now – just in case you haven’t been along yet.

We all know that people write for many reasons – to be J. K. Rowling, for creativity, for fun, to earn a living, just to get by…

WriteNight is a fully inclusive group, it’s a community group. So the writing activities we share are suitable for anyone, experienced or not, writing in any genre or for any reason.

The sessions are once a month and stand alone as an event in themselves. Most people share their work at the end, not because they have to – but because it feels like it’s an okay, safe place to share.

We’ve also interviewed authors, an artist, had a guest talk about self-publishing, written and produced an anthology and last year had several ‘genre’ based sessions. Some of the WriteNighters have led an evening based on their specific interests.

Aside from this, we talk. We all have a starting point from which to chat – we’re all writing, or interested in writing.



Nicola Werenowska sharing a piece about place


I asked our guest authors about place, the theme of this weekend at the book festival, and because I knew all of them had powerful places in their current books/plays. What became apparent in their discussion was that the places they had all chosen led them to the family tales and stories that threaded through the fabric of their work.

Nicola shared a great piece of writing about a stay in hospital, and explained a short activity to encourage thinking and writing about a specific place. I wrote myself, but I also watched the audience – they were all writing. She asked people to share and three people, new to the group, stood up and shared what they’d written.

After a biscuit break we reconvened and Liz led the activity on talking with a partner about family stories (we adapted this to fit with what the authors had just said!), and then writing one of these stories, from another perspective. People wrote and people shared. People that were nervous, people that hadn’t dared the first time.

We finally took questions from the audience: What are the difficulties of writing about family/people you know? How did you get an agent? What keeps you writing? Our panel gave us lots of practical and interesting advice based on their experiences.

And although we were a much bigger group than usual, in a much bigger space, the sharing of ideas and producing and sharing of writing felt informal and intimate and that is exactly what WriteNight is always all about.



Sue, Jo, Sarah, Doug, Sarah, Mary


Many thanks to our guests, the WriteNighters that helped as usual (Sue redirecting people from Queen Street, Sarah pointing them towards Learning Room A, Tom bearing biscuit gifts…) and to everyone that came along. Thank you Essex Book Festival and Firstsite, and everyone who shared details of our event.

Join the Colchester WriteNight community on Facebook, like our WriteNight page or follow us on twitter @ColWriteNight

Nicola Werenowska is appearing here, Sarah Armstrong here and Liz Trenow here during Essex Book Festival, Doug Smith will be here, I will be here along with some of the other WriteNighters, and here with Patrician Press. See you there!

#newwriting #writinggroup #writingcommunity #amwriting #writenight #colwritenight

The Enemies Project: collaborative writing and performance

There’s no better subject to write my first ever blog about than The Enemies Project. Last night’s event took place at Rich Mix in London. Poets from universities countrywide had been challenged to compose a performance piece collaboratively with another writer – someone they’d never met before.

I was paired with Imogen, and we arranged to meet in London for the first time. We had conversation over coffee, an introductory chat and a few thoughts about what we were both working on, trying to find a germ of an idea from which to start.

We had a go at writing something on our own, sharing it with the other in turns via email, each time working on ways to fit our ideas together, finding a shared story that we could tell. We chatted, met, emailed until we had a piece we were happy with, and kept changing small parts, words, even on performance day. Practising reading aloud what had become ‘our’ work together helped.



We were both nervous on the night, but the performance went well. Better than that, we were part of a large group of pairs that had been through a similar experience, and were also sharing their work. The group was so diverse in age, nationality, style – and the beauty of the language (and accents!) we heard convinced me of the multi-layered success of this project in bringing artists/writers/people together. I would do it again in a flash.

The Enemies Project is expertly curated by Steven J Fowler.


23 January 2017 hosting Colchester WriteNight

25 February 2017 The Enemies Project spoken word collaboration at RichMix 

February 2017 Publication of Gold Adornments and other stories, Patrician Press

3 March 2017 Essex Book Festival – hosting WriteNight event

15 March 2017 Patrician Press launch of Refugees and Peacekeepers at Wivenhoe Bookshop

18 March Essex Book Festival Authors Event with Patrician Press




27 March hosting Colchester WriteNight

24 April hosting Colchester WriteNight The Lyric Issue with University of Essex LiFTs Adrian May as special guest




27 April reading and chatting at ‘meet the authors’ event at Red Lion Books. With Stephen May, hosted by Anthony Roberts, organised by Jo Coldwell




22 May hosting The Art Issue at Colchester WriteNight and our new venue Firstsite gallery




26 June hosting Pure Ed Gold at Colchester WriteNight – looking the pictures and stories of Ed Gold’s exhibition at Firstsite to inspire our own storywriting

July 2017 Felixstowe Book Festival – running Short Fiction Workshop and reading at the evening open mic event with Mark Brayley

24 July hosting Colchester WriteNight

9 September reading at the launch of Creel 3, an anthology or writing by University of Essex LiFTs students at Wivenhoe Bookshop

25 September hosting Colchester WriteNight – The Photo Session

16 October reading at the University of Essex Lifts department, Creel 3 anthology launch

23 October hosting an A L Kennedy Colchester WriteNight at Firstsite!!!!

November is NaNoWriMo – Colchester WriteNight host ‘write-ins’ on Saturdays at Firstsite

16 December Colchester WriteNights annual birthday/Christmas bash – readings and partying!


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