F12FC4A2-A1B9-4D85-9CFC-3A86118ADCE5At what point can you refer to yourself as a writer? For me it is when you write because you want to, because you need to, because the urge to do so can’t be contained any longer. Competition success, having an agent, being published, none of these matter. If you write then you are by definition a writer. Not necessarily a good writer, probably not a famous one, almost certainly not a wealthy one, but a writer all the same.

I don’t think of myself as a poet although I have had a few frivolous pieces published in magazines. Slightly more serious efforts have appeared in Mslexia’s subscribers’ only newsletter and in an anthology in support of the Koestler Trust charity.

FFB75517-0893-459C-A6F4-AAE006E3A04AMslexia once called me a poet when they used four lines of my doggerel in their magazine. Success indeed – although they didn’t pay me for that one!

I ought to write more poetry, if only for my own benefit. Emotionally they can be cathartic and healing, and even a bit of fun. And, if any are worthy, maybe I could submit them to competitions or magazines.

April is a good month to start by signing up to the NaPoWriMo Challenge

B76A4523-DC70-4C3C-8940-3C919BA5245BI never think of poetry as a money-spinner – in total I’ve earned only £140 and a tea caddy for my humble offerings. However (and with thanks to Patsy Collins for the lead) a recent poetry competition offering a top prize of £2,000 may force me to rethink the financial benefits.

But then, writing is its own reward. Isn’t it?


Open Online Learning

I count myself fortunate to live in the Internet age with so much information readily available. My father left school at 14. (He was more fortunate than his older sisters who went into service at 12 years of age.) Denied the educational opportunities that we take for granted, he never lost his thirst for knowledge. He was a voracious reader, interested in a wide range of topics. We had two sets of encyclopaedias at home and were encouraged to look up the answer to any queries we raised. Nowadays, Wikipedia provides that service online, with updated information instantly available at our fingertips.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are another facility which I’m sure my father would have embraced. Check out Future Learn and Open Learn for a list of what is available – all of them free of charge.

I have two courses on the go. The first is aimed at international students and is about writing in English for academic essays. As I do some part-time work proofreading for foreign students, helping them with their spelling and grammar, I thought this course would be of help to me.

The second course is about the soldiers who built and patrolled Hadrian’s Wall – research for a short story I am working on about a ghostly legionary who is still at his post today. (If it sells, you can be sure I’ll share the news here!)

New Year, New Start

And so 2017 has reached its end. At times I have found it a difficult year, but there have been many positives too

IMG_2180On the writing front, I had a handful of pieces published – enough to remind me what a thrill it is to be acknowledged in print and online – enough to spur me on to want to achieve more in 2018.

  • 1 short story in Ireland’s Own
  • 2 short stories in this anthology (proceeds to RSPCA)
  • 2 poems in Yours
  • 3 shout-outs in Mslexia and Writing Magazine
  • 4 news items in Writers’ Forum (winning a free subscription)
  • 5 pieces of Flash on Paragraph Planet
  • 11 letters in various magazines, including the iconic The Lady

Open MicI’ve done things too. I’ve been places. I’ve met people.

  • I read at my first Open Mic night
  • I met up with three (previously online only) writing buddies
  • I had a three week tour of the UK which I used as a personal writing retreat, blogging daily about my journey, including three nights at the beautiful Gladstone Library and another three in glorious Hay on Wye, and a visit to Dylan Thomas’ boathouse
  • I went to the Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard and made new writing friends there

IMG_2223On reflection it hasn’t been such a bad year. I hope to achieve even more in 2018. I shan’t set any specific goals or targets, but this time next year maybe I will be able to report yet more positive writing news.

Thank you to all those who have supported me with words of encouragement along the way. Happy New Year to you all. I hope that 2018 will bring you every happiness and joy.

Melancholy baby

It’s how I’m feeling at the moment. Last Christmas was poignant but I coped. Stoical. Yet this year I’m really struggling. I’ve spent all morning trying to decorate the Christmas tree. Every little thing seems too much. Lights not working, batteries to change, all result in tears.
At what point does grief become self indulgent? I don’t know the answer. I spent time yesterday looking at Christmas cards for ‘my husband’, knowing I wouldn’t be buying one.

I want to write. I ought to write. Writing is a good therapy. Let the thoughts and emotions spill out onto paper – get it down, get it out. And this is as good a place as any to start. 
Does writing things down help you?

Letter writing

It’s often said to be a lost art. Which is understandable. As a means of communication there are now many alternatives which didn’t exist when Cicero was writing to his daughter, or Daudet from his windmill. For immediate conversation we are more likely to telephone or video call. We use email, text and messaging apps.

A letter on the other hand is entrusted to a third party for delivery. One of the most inefficient methods is ‘pupil post’. A cousin of mine managed to convince her parents that her school didn’t produce reports at the end of term, meaning they never found out about her school day misdemeanours or dismal exam results!

I had an article published sometime ago by The People’s Friend focusing on the First World War postcards in my late father’s collection – a few words of news and love from home to a loved one.

My husband and I sent a postcard to ourselves from each place we visited as a pictorial journal of where we had been and what we had seen. Those two very full albums are a great joy, each card triggering happy memories of our life together.

I’m glad that magazines and newspapers still publish letters from readers – particularly when they pay the writer or send out a gift! It’s a good exercise in the general skills of writing – choosing a topic, using prose which fits the magazine’s style, starting with a good hook, engaging the reader, a pithy ending. And writing to a specific word count.

Brief is not always easy. The French philosopher Pascal said, “I have made this (letter) longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” It does indeed demand effort to concentrate one’s thoughts into a few words.

My creative writing muse is currently silent, probably the result of a difficult month. And so over the next few days I intend to write letters to various sources to exercise my writing muscle and force myself into the practice of writing regularly. And, hopefully, writing well.

Keep it going

“The big ship sails through the alley, alley oh… On the last day of September”

IMG_240630th September – how did that happen? It feels like only yesterday I arrived home from my travels. But I’ve checked the calendar and there’s no escaping the fact, September is at an end.

IMG_2412And as always happens on this date I catch an ear-worm of this rhyme which takes me back to my childhood.  It involved a group of us holding hands and weaving through an arch made by two other children. One of the classic ‘thread the needle’ games.

I came back from my travels ‘Journey’s End’ determined to renew my writing. I’m pleased to say that I have! I made 12 submissions in total, of which one piece of flash fiction has been published on Paragraph Planet and four news items were published in Writers’ Forum magazine, which awarded me a year’s free subscription. Success!

IMG_2349I have yet to hear about the other 7 submissions and competition entries, but I shan’t keep my fingers crossed – it stops me typing. Like the childhood game, I have to keep on moving – write, submit, write, submit. And wait (and hope) for more successful publications.

All together now: “The big ship sails…”

Journey’s End

Day 23 – our heroine returns

I’m home! It’s a little over three weeks since my adventure began. I’ve had a wonderful time visiting different places and meeting so many wonderful people. I’ve travelled 1,500 miles. But I am ready now to return to normality.

Which begs the question: what is normal? Over the next few weeks I am going to discover the answer to that conundrum as I work out a new rhythm to my life, hopefully with a greater focus on my writing.

I was chuffed to see that Mslexia had picked up my suggestions for two new words, submitted whilst I was in Hay and published today in their Littlems newsletter. There’s no money for the publication, just the glory (ha!) of having my name connected to such an august magazine, but I’m very happy to see Beatrice Charles in print again. I shall take it as a promise of things to come.


…when only a new word will do

partache (n.) the sorrow experienced when an actor fails to portray a character in the manner you had imagined when reading the novel

direlogue (n.) badly written conversation

Thanks to Beatrice Charles for the first two contributions