It's Never Too Late…To Start Writing

Happy New Year! My resolution for 2020 is to connect more with readers and this is my first of what I hope will be monthly communications this year. For me, 2019 was a momentous year, having my first book published at the age of 63 was a great personal achievement – it really is never too late.

I’ve had a fantastic time meeting readers and other writers at literary festivals, conferences and events in 2019 and have particularly enjoyed talking to small reading groups. I think it is my favourite thing to do, so if you would like me to talk to your group about any aspect of my book or the writing process, please do ask. This photograph is of my daughter’s yoga group’s book club!

In 2020 I’m already looking forward to being at York Literature Festival again, this time in a collaborative presentation called Family History: Fact or Fiction with my fellow writers Jane Austin and Yvie Holder. We will be at Explore York Library at 2pm on Monday 23rd March. Tickets are £3-£5 from Explore York.

The Peacemaker

Set in 1938 The Peacemaker tells the moving story of young woman’s struggle to make peace with her father on the eve of the Second World War. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a short extract to whet your appetite…

Violet would like to go back to Thorndale, her memories of it were vague. She remembered it lush and green in summer and white with thick snow in winter. But always with the sun shining in an intensely blue sky. She remembered the row of cottages on each side of the lane which wound up towards the mine. All the men worked there, her father among them. She remembered a tiny house filled with children who came to see her mother. Peggy read from the Mother Goose, while the children dipped sticks of rhubarb into little bowls of sugar set between them. Violet remembered her sitting with her own children in the back field, showing them how to pierce daisy stalks with a fingernail and thread a chain. She remembered how Peggy let them stay up on a cloudless night to look at the stars and showed them how to look for bears in the sky. She was a mother who always heard the birds singing. But Violet also remembered the rain on the window, the howl of the wind down the chimney when the fire would blow out, and her mother weeping when her little brother died. She remembered a dark cupboard where she would hide with Daisy and Frank, waiting for Pop to stop ranting.

The Peacemaker is published by John Hunt Publishing. If you don’t have a copy, you can order it from any major or independent bookshop or direct from Amazon or other online retailer. If you have read my book, and you liked it, please leave a review on Amazon or on Goodreads, it really does help.

Does She Love Us?

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I am also delighted to say that the start of 2020 marks the completion of the final draft of my second novel Does She Love Us? in which a young woman’s buried childhood memories are triggered by the death of her mother. This character-driven novel has the quality of memoir and draws on my own experience as a child living in a mining village in South Yorkshire in the early 1960s. As the world goes through dramatic changes, Does She Love Us? focuses on the drama of everyday lives. It explores the nature of love and the experience of women through the distinctive voices of a quiet but perceptive child and her romantic, emotional mother. Please stay in touch via FB, Twitter or Instagram or my website for updates.

Awakening The Writer Within Retreats and Workshops

If you are interested in writing, or need some practice, do think of coming on one of our Awakening The Writer Within retreats or workshops. Details are on the events page of the website. In the meantime, here’s a writing tip to help your creative thoughts flow.

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You Wear It Well – A Writing Exercise

In The Peacemaker, Violet is a young woman obsessed by clothes. I love writing about what people are wearing as I think it’s a great way to convey character. Use your own clothes to think about how they convey aspects of your own character and use your observations to write a poem or short piece of prose.

Make some notes about significant pieces of clothing:

Try to think about the first piece of clothing you remember wearing – were you playing outside with your friends, had you been taken to buy a new outfit for a holiday or party, were your pyjamas your first clothing memory?

What were your teenage faux pas when it came to clothing – flares or drainpipes? Punk or Pinstripes? Baggy jumpers or crop tops? Whatever your era, which piece of clothing represents the biggest fashion mistake that you loved anyway?

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What’s in your wardrobe now? If your pipes burst this winter, what is the first piece of clothing you would rescue, and which would you happily see rot? Why?

Now look at your notes and let them tell a story. You might find a compelling story in one particular memory, or a thread that winds through your life. If you’d like to share any of your writing, do send it to me, and if you’re happy to see it published online do let me know, it would be a pleasure to feature your writing.

Please let me know if you’ve enjoyed reading this blog. I hope to be back with another in February.

All the best for a brilliant 2020!

Janet

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

As the year draws to a close, I hope you’re all taking time to reflect on the past year, and to count your blessings, however modest or abundant they may be. For me 2019 has been an eventful and memorable year, seeing the publication of The Peacemaker and having the opportunity to share it with readers. In March I was grateful for the launch to be supported by the York Literature Festival and friends and new readers joined me at the Friends’ Meeting House at Friargate. We talked about whether we ever learn from history, and considered how the experience of Violet and Ellis Lowther in anticipating a second world war in 1938 had reverberations for those of us saddened by the prospect of the UK withdrawal from the European Union. I hope after the conflict generated by the election last week , we can indeed hold on not only to those ties that bind us as a nation, but also internationally. It seems so important now to work together to build peace and prosperity throughout the world and to do it with respect and love for our planet, because if we can’t protect it, it certainly won’t sustain us.

As Violet and Ellis found a way to make their peace at the end of my book, so I hope we can all focus on peace in our communities as we approach Christmas. Many people try to do something which makes a contribution to our society, often as an antidote to the ‘getting and spending’ which consumes us at Christmas. That might mean sharing time and energy with others who are sick, or lonely or facing hardship so that over the next couple of weeks people are warm, fed and comfortable. I know people who are involved with food banks, homeless shelters and refugee camps, and am grateful to all of them for giving so much. My wish though, is that we didn’t need any of these facilities, and I struggle not to be angry when I wonder why in a rich country like ours anybody should be hungry or without a roof over their heads. When I wrote in The Peacemaker about the poverty experienced by people like my relatives who spent time in the workhouse or accepted charity to help them survive, I knew that my life had been made so much better because of what had been put in place after the Second World War – the NHS and the Welfare State, good education and a programme of social housing. Without these investments in our communities, we do not thrive and the whole country suffers.

We know that people from poor backgrounds in general experience worse outcomes in terms of education and health. They are also more likely to be involved in crime, or rather to find themselves in prison. This year I have joined the Quaker Meeting at a high security prison and every fortnight spend an hour with men who are serving long sentences. Not all of them are from poor backgrounds, but many are. They value the silence we offer in our form of worship and the conversation we engage in over tea and biscuits. Last week I also attended the Carol Service which brought together prisoners, staff and volunteers to sing carols and songs which most of us knew off by heart. It brought back some of our best memories, from home and school, and even for those whose experience of both might have been difficult, Christmas is often the highlight in our childhood year. As well as carols we sang those songs which have become standards, like ‘Let It Snow’ my favourite ‘Winter Wonderland’ and the song made famous by Judy Garland in Meet Me In St.Louis – ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’

Faithful Friends who are dear to us, gather near to us once more.

Thank you to those of you who have supported me in promoting The Peacemaker this year, whether at events, book groups or on social media. I am so grateful to those readers who have given me such lovely feedback, it is wonderful to hear, please spread the word!

I wish you a wonderful festive season and a very happy new year.