The writer is a lonely hunter


Writing autobiography: prompts for prose and poetry

9558910During the latest Lit Up professional development training for facilitators, activities to develop autobiographical prose and poetry were presented. Participants responded to the very structured tasks in a deeply imaginative way and this impressed me so much, that I thought I’d share the activities here.   To create a 10-line poem, respond to the prompts in the centre column by recording your ideas in the third column.

Line 1 Your given name
Line 2 List 4 of your traits
Line 3 Complete the line Daughter of/Son of…
Line 4 Lover of…
Line 5 Who feels…
Line 6 Who needs…
Line 7 Who gives…
Line 8 Who fears…
Line 9 Who would like…
Line 10 Resident of…

Another idea uses free writing where every sentence begins with the words I am…   Have a go with these activities and let me know how you get on!      

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Dorset’s Digital Stories Ebook Anthology Competition

E-BOOK comp FLYERThe Dorset Writer’s Network have secured Arts Council funding to launch a new project with the aim of publishing an ebook which celebrates the diversity of the county. I recently delivered a workshop to support entry and you can read about this here. To have your writing considered for inclusion in the ebook, you are invited to join a competition. Stories must be no longer than 500 words and set in Dorset. Anyone can enter the competition (information for adults appears below) and a further category for  11-16 year olds will be made available shortly. Entrants can live or work anywhere in the country but the story must take place in Dorset (including Poole and Bournemouth). The full rules for the competition appear below.



I do hope you’ll take the opportunity to submit a piece of short fiction. Good luck!

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Public Speaking

In preparation for a time when I might be asked to give book talks, interviews, masterclasses and the rest, I decided to improve my public speaking skills. I was inspired to do this following a recent workshop I delivered for the Dorset Writers’ Network as part of the in the mood programme offered at Dorchester Library. Also at the event were members from the Casterbridge Speakers who did a very good pitch and encouraged me to attend one of their sessions. A couple of months later, I’m now a member of the group and promoting this to you!

The group is part of Toastmaster International based in America and meetings are run along very strict lines. In the past, this would have put me off joining, but I can see the benefit of having a very structured agenda now that I’m used to it.

So, do you wish you could lose the nerves, capture attention and inspire your audience? Join Casterbridge Speakers to find out more! Meetings are held on the first and third Wednesdays of every month at the Wessex Royale Hotel in High West Street Dorchester, from  7.15pm – 9.30pm. If you’d like more information about the group, click here. For further information about other groups around the country take a look at the Toastmasters website and click on the ‘find a club’ tab.

Happy public speaking!


Lit Up with time, place and action in writing



I have joined a course of CPD to support skills in creative writing workshop delivery and facilitation. The programme is organised by Lit Up! with 16 sessions offered by Simon McCormack. With two session already completed, I thought I’d share one of the activities I’ve developed.

Participants were asked to think about time, place and action in writing. Frequently, it is possible to combine two of these elements and Gun fight at the OK Corral was given as an example. The idea made me reflect on product placement as an effective way to:

  • give a timeframe for writing
  • provide an insight into the setting
  • allow readers to know more about the characters

Examples of product placements might include Pressure Cooker, Sherbet Lemons, Vim Scouring Powder.

I was reminded of the powerful effect of product placement when I reread the following extract from The Devil’s Music by Jane Rushbridge.

Janice brings a tray with tea in a teapot and four lemon puffs on a plate. The ritual of pouring – milk jug, strainer, sugar cubes and tongs, the teaspoon stirring – steadies you, but one bite of Lemon Puff and the nausea washes through you again. The teaspoon clatters down in the saucer and you ask Janice where you can go to powder your nose.

Although the story is set in 1958 (before I was born), I can taste those Lemon Puffs.

For the purpose of using this activity in a workshop, I would ask participants to list products that bring time and place to mind and use one or two as a prompt for story writing.

Anyone game to give this activity a go?

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Launch of Dorset’s Digital Stories with Natasha Solomons

The Dorset Writers’ Network is running a competition for local writers. The aim is to produce an e-book with stories up to 500 words each which reflect the diversity of the county. Workshops to support new writing are scheduled at rural locations during January and February. Further details can be found here.

To celebrate the launch of the competition, Natasha Solomons has been invited to talk about her books and her writing journey. She lives in Dorset and has written novels that are set in the county. Her first novel Mr Rosenblum’s List was shortlisted for the Galaxy National Book Awards, and tells the story of  an immigrant trying to settle in England after the Second World War.  The Novel in the Viola is based in the now abandoned Dorset village of Tyneham, and follows the lives  of service staff at Tyneford House. Natasha’s most recent novel is called The Gallery of Vanished Husbands which shares the experiences of Juliet Montague following the disappears of her husband.

This is a FREE event!

Saturday 24 January 2015 at 2:30pm

Dorchester Library and Learning Centre

Charles Street, Dorchester

Advance booking is required – please telephone 01305 224440

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Social Media for Writers with the Dorset Writers’ Network.

A new challenge for the new year – get to grips with social media!

Saturday 10th January 2015

10.30am  – 3.00pm

Winfrith Village Hall, Winfrith Newburgh, Dorset, DT2 8LR. Click here for location details and further information about the venue.

The morning session will give you the opportunity to explore how to use social media to promote your writing with Liz Gordon of brilliantfish. brilliantfish works with writers through all stages of the publishing process and uses their expertise to provide excellent support for writers entering the world of publication.

Lunch will be provided and there will be time for networking.

During the short afternoon session, the updated Dorset Writers’ Network website will be shared. Please have a look and contribute to the discussion about what your want from the site.

Cost £7.50 (including lunch)

Please book early as this is likely to be a popular session. Further details and a booking form is available from


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FREE short story workshops in Dorset



As part of the Dorset Digital Stories project, a series of workshops will be held in January and February 2015 at rural locations throughout the county. The idea is to encourage local writers to submit a story up to 500 words for inclusion in a new e-book. All stories will be set in Dorset so that the anthology reflects the diversity of Dorset: from the human perspective to the sense of place.

I will be delivering a workshop on Friday 16 January 2015 from 10-12 at Cerne Abbas Village Hall DT2 7GY. Everyone is welcome! To book a place please email or get in touch with me through the contact page on this blog.

For details of other workshops please click here.


Launch of The Swan-Daughter in Bicester

61247Last week, Dave and I travelled to Oxfordshire for the launch of Carol McGrath‘s novel The Swan-Daughter.  This is the second book in the Daughters of Hastings trilogy and it’s great to be back in the company of an accomplished story-teller. Carol’s style of writing is charming, allowing readers to enter the life of Gunnhild, the daughter of King Harold and Edith Swanneck. Based on research, the novel provides a lasting impression of the lives and struggles during the early Norman period. Essentially it’s a love story, starting with Gunnhild’s escape the nunnery at Wilton Abbey and her elopement with Count Alan of Richmond. 

The book launch was held at Cole’s Books in the delightful market town of Bicester. We stayed overnight in the Pentewan B&B  a lovely place tucked away from the main thoroughfare – we even had a dip in the hot tub in the garden!

St Catherine's College

St Catherine’s College

The following day, we stopped in Oxford and Dave and I wandered through the grounds of his old college then spent the afternoon in the Ashmolean Museum. It was great! Now that I have membership at the Bodleian Library, I look forward to returning, research for my studies makes a good excuse.


Creative Writing residency at the University of South Wales

USW-logoNow in my second year of MPhil studies in creative writing, I face each residency with less trepidation. Last weekend was extremely positive. My creative writing supervisor, Stephen Knight, gave an analogy to the present state of my manuscript. Like a self-assembly chair, all I need to do is tighten it with an allen key. Feedback from my peers includes praise for the sex scenes (very worried about those) and agreement that the structure works (alternating narratives including the viewpoint of the main character as a ten-year-old and at 23). Phrases like ‘page-turner’ were even used!

So, with this encouragement, I press on.


Another story published by CafeLit


I was delighted to have a story included in ‘The Best of CafeLit 2012′.  The Shallows is a short story based on the experience of losing my son on a beach in France when he was three-years-old. Although the story ends well the ‘what if’ became the starting point for work on my novel Trying to be Brave. I’m so very pleased The Shallows found a safe home in an excellent print anthology. It is available for purchase from Amazon, click here for details.


While I’ve been hard at work on my novel, I haven’t made any submissions for publication so it was a total surprise when I found I had a piece of flash fiction included in the latest CafeLit publication. (A submission during 2013 was accepted, this time a piece of short fiction about a plumber and a baby.)



You can find purchase details for The Best of CafeLit 3 here.




Happy reading!



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