On Books. And Storytellers. And Trains.

So here I am on my new website. Aren’t I clever? Isn’t this wonderful? Didn’t I swear lots creating it? I can’t quite believe I’m here. And by here I don’t just mean here in this little area of cyberspace I’ve allocated myself to do a bit of storytelling, but here. Here as in today. Now. World Book Day actually, which is profound, because I’m thinking a lot about books. And storytellers. And trains.

20160225_113234-1 (1)On the train from Hull to Leeds.

The last few months have been utterly bookish. I feel I’ve travelled the world, both in cyberspace and physically. Cyberspace is perhaps easier to tour but far less rewarding than the in-the-flesh meeting of others. Plus you don’t get to go via train, as I have to Leeds, London and Durham this month. I love trains. So much people-watching to do. We see how folks really are on a train – how they eat, how they sleep, and most of all what they read. If you’re going anywhere on one in the near future look out for a little something I left on the 11.49 from Hull to Leeds…

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I went to Durham with English PEN to do a Life Writing workshop at a prison with inmates. These prison writers – and they are writers, because they write – were passionate, honest and direct. They shared with me incredible pieces of poetry, proudly showed me detailed and gorgeous sketches, and let me read short stories brimming with profound imagery and gorgeous metaphors. I’ll never forget my day there.  I also went to Leeds for the northern TBC (The Book Club) meeting, where I mingled with other authors, bloggers, and readers, many of whom had read How to be Brave. There are too too many wonderful people to mention, but I must thank Helen Boyce for hosting it, and being a delight. Books were shared, discussed, won, signed and gripped. As was wine. (Perhaps not the signed part.)

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Last week I took the train yet again to London for the launch of Amanda Jennings’ beautiful novel In Her Wake. Free wine is enough to draw anyone to an event, but it could have been in a cold field without a bottle in sight and we (readers, writers, bloggers, reviewers) would have gone to celebrate Amanda’s incredible third book. I was a complete fangirl (my 15-year-old daughter will chastise me for using teenspeak) when I met authors whose books are on my shelf and Kindle – Jane Isaac, Gill Paul and Katie Marsh.

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On a non-physical trip – via my dear Uncle Lapwim – I visited Australia, where a Tasmanian book group had been reading How to be Brave and were overjoyed when he took in a signed copy of the book.

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I haven’t been to Ireland since I was thirteen, but long to go again – properly, physically. My maternal grandmother’s family originally hail from that land of story. Alongside folktales and legends, stories have been told around Irish firesides at night, forming the backbone of entertainment and imagination there forever. Lovely Irish friend Fiona Mills – radio superstar on the airwaves of Hull – says that you can’t go into an Irish home without sharing a story or two. She predicted years ago that I’d eventually get a book deal and the logo would be a tree. Take a closer look at the Orenda Books logo.

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And so I end my World Book Day blog in Ireland – spiritually not physically. Because my proudest cyber travel has been via the Irish Times. Assistant Literary Editor Martin Doyle has been a huge supporter of How to be Brave, publishing my article How to be Somewhere Else and then calling it his favourite piece that week. Irish friend Fiona said that the Irish Times was ‘really something’ when she was growing up, and that were her beloved mother still alive she’d have got out the best china for me for being featured within its hallowed (cyber) pages.

 DSCN7493Me and my lovely friend Fiona

Happy World Book Day. As Rose says in How to be Brave – “But don’t you know? It was never the diary or the newspaper bits or what anyone else told you. It was always you. Just you. You’re the storyteller and I love you.” Big love to all the storytellers. You rock our world.

 

 

An Outstanding Debt

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With my mother at my first book event, long after the age of thirty.

When I was fifteen I bet my mother ten pounds that I’d be published by the age of thirty. Ten pounds was quite a bit to me then. I felt like it was a fair deal, one where she’d have to pay me. After all, I’d always been a writer.

I wrote stories in notepads from as young as seven. I wrote a sequel to my favourite book Heidi when I was ten, with diagrams and chapters and everything. I completed my first teen novel at fourteen. Everything inspired me. My sound of my father’s guitar playing. The smell of my mother’s lap, her yellow dressing gown, as I tried to soothe her tears. The sight of clouds against blue sky.

So I knew my mother would have to hand over ten pounds on my thirtieth birthday.

I continued writing in early adulthood but never quite dared send my work anywhere. Thirty approached. I sent a few articles about being a mum to our local newspaper. When the editor called me, I thought it might just be for feedback, but he wanted me to write a weekly column for them. I was overjoyed.

My first piece was published two months after my thirty-first birthday. I had to smile. Better late then never; because this gave me confidence, and I began having more faith in my writing, and haven’t looked back since.

I do however still owe my mother the ten pounds….