Friday, December 18, 2009


Very happy to see our Denver SWWJ member, Elizabeth Wallace’s book CHRISTMAS PAST IN ESSEX is still selling very well – now in its third year - in all the Waterstone’s Bookshops that I’ve visited over the last few weeks. In fact, many of our Society members’ books are on display nationally as well as in their regional local bookshops.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


It doesn't seem long ago that I was promoting this year's Essex Book Festival launched in March. Yet, within a week or so, the promotional brochures showcasing the Book Festival for 2010 will be available, free of charge. There is the most fantastic line-up of award-winning writers and personalities - something for absolutely everyone! Top names include Germaine Greer, former spin-doctor Alastair Campbell, BBC news presenter George Alagiah, top broadcaster and journalist, Francis Wheen, and poets Andrew Motion and Martin Newell.

They will be appearing at venues across the county as so many of our best-known authors, journalists and poets have over the eleven years that the Essex Book Festival has been running. It gets better every year and, as well as the most famous names known nationally and internationally, there will also be new and up-and-coming writers.

Also listed among the luminaries are my favourites, Margaret Drabble, Rose Tremain, Penelope Lively, Alexander McCall Smith, Mike Gayle, Joanne Harris, Barbara Erskine and Reggie Perrin creator David Nobbs. As ever, the Essex Book Festival will cover a huge range of themes, from history to health, and creative writing enthusiasts will be more than happy with the choice of programme. The box office opens on January 7th 2010. For more information visit or pick up a festival brochure from your local Essex library from the end of December.

This year I am again a Patron of the Festival along with Germaine Greer, Francis Wheen and Barbara Erskine. Press enquiries: Lorna Gott, Account Executive, Communications 07879 116381

Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

Sunday, December 13, 2009


It was so interesting listening this morning to one of England's most famous inventors on national Radio 4. Trevor Baylis OBE is a fascinating personality whom I met and interviewed a few years ago. He created the clockwork radio, among many ingenious patents and lives in that fascinating place, Eel Pie Island in Twickenham. A much sought after speaker, Trevor has some connection with our home town of Billericay and with the famous Rosaire circus, members of whom still live here and are our good friends. I used some of his early life experiences in one of my books BILLERICAY VOICES and he has reminisced about my friend, Joan Rosaire, in his autobiography. Nice picture of him here as a boy (pictured right) practising his circus skills.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Just a few pictures to remind some of our expat friends and former colleagues, of our time working in the Westminster offices. Looking forward to meeting some of you in February 2010. This image is by courtesy of Jason Hawkes and his fabulous photographic books

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Unfortunately just a little late for the Brentwood Writers’ Circle party yesterday, but when I finally did arrive, found that I had won first prize in the 2009 Nancy Meggs’ Annual writing competition. A lovely certificate, cheque and beautiful silver cup accompanied the good news. The theme was ‘entertainment’ and it was one of those topics that once you start thinking about it, you just can’t stop writing. Almost had another book on the go, but the stipulation was just a thousand words, so had to call a halt. Really enjoyed this exercise, though!


Yesterday paid a visit to the Brentwood branch of Waterstone’s. Already with an official book-signing of his own, I met author Eric Bartholomew whose two books make fascinating reading - will try to review asap. How on earth did he manage to produce two in the same year! Eric is soon off on his travels to Thailand and upon his return, we’ll hear of his adventures and maybe he’ll turn them into his third book? Anyway, it was a pleasure to meet another writer who is achieving great success in this rather difficult book-producing world.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE is coming to Ingatestone Hall on 11th and 12th December and once again, Myriad Productions are expecting a full house. Ingatestone Hall is such a gorgeous place and a perfect backdrop for this Christmas play with my favourite local actors, the talented Joanna O’Connor and James Kingdon, who always provide superb entertainment. Performances start at 7.30pm Tickets £12/£10 concs and Box Office: 01277 353010.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


This blog is with Carol and Barry Pardue in mind. Some may be interested in our little book-signing at the huge Waterstone's store with the lovely Jo at the Bull Ring bookshop in Birmingham over the weekend. Our first trip to this city and how big it is! Many of our SWWJ members live in the Midlands and can pick up their signed copies locally. I will be taking signed books with me for sale at the SWWJ Christmas party to be held at The New Cavendish near Marble Arch next week. Also book-signing in London today in Westminster.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


We all enjoyed the gathering of the writers' clan in Brentwood yesterday. Our good friend, Town Crier, James Shrubb came along to promote our MEET THE AUTHOR event and many travelled from around Essex, Surrey and London to talk about books and writing. It was lovely to meet up with so many friends and the Library staff were particularly helpful and hospitable. Here are a few snaps to illustrate the afternoon.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Here is a photograph of our first multi signing session in Brentwood Library last year. We have another coming up on Saturday 21 November from 2pm to 4pm. This is another special free event in Brentwood Library. Twelve authors will be gathering with their latest published books to meet their readers and fans from around Essex. Elizabeth Lord will be there with a selection of her superb books; Frances Clamp likewise; Samantha Pearce, Jim Reeve, Steve Crancher, Cecelia Pyke, Patricia Pound, John Roberts, Helen Finch, John Cassidy, John Cannell and I am looking forward to meeting lots of our friends and fellow writers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


What a super group of ladies to brighten up the dullest of November afternoons! Just enjoyed a great lunch with these "Red Hatters" from this part of Essex. They embody everything that is fun and delightful about growing older. Their 'Queen' Pat is in the front row, second from left with Janet (last year's Queen) next to her. Princess Philippa stands out in her customary 'pink' just behind. You see, you have to reach the grand old age of 50 before you can wear the famous red hat and purple outfit. Actually, I love the combination. See also Geraldine who looks stunning in another permutation. Huge coincidence that last week in London I met the poet Jenny Joseph at Somerset House at the Royal Society of Literature lecture. It was her poem written in 1961 entitled "WHEN I GROW OLD, I WILL WEAR PURPLE" which is the inspiration and philosophy behind this local Red Hat Society chapter and thousands of other groups around the globe. More on this at a later date.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


With the launch of the new book THE WOMAN WRITER, interest is coming in rapidly. Gave three interviews on BBC Essex, Gulf Radio and Phoenix FM in the last few days. Signings will be taking place at various venues and copies of signed copy of the book are being despatched to those interested. Check out the SWWJ website to find out more information. Appreciation to Michelle Ward, the Phoenix FM presenter of the Saturday morning programme PITSTOP (sponsored by Essex Ford) who kindly invited me on to her regular spot.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Can you believe that Essex has the highest number of reading groups in the land? More than 450 of them. Our local reading group is still going strongly as we exit our first decade. Audrey Tampkins was our first leader of the Billericay group in 2000 and some of our very first enthusiasts still come along on the first Tuesday in the month. Our current organiser is the lovely Eileen Meyer who arranges for copies of the books we have chosen to read to arrive at the local library. Of the 120-odd books on our past reading list during the last ten years, many have been classics, crime, chick lit, in fact we give them all a chance. Last month we studied Somerset Maugham's The Moon & Sixpence written in 1919 and currently we are reading Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence published around the same time. The authors chosen since 2000 range from Charles Dickens. Oscar Wilde to Margery Allingham, P D James to Hilary Mantel, Stephen King and Stephen Fry (his biography) - now that one should be interesting. Reading really does matter to our fifteen keen members.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


This is for all the ex pats who 'drop in' occasionally and wanted me to take some photos before this morning's service outside St Mary Magdalen, Billericay. Our MP John Baron was there, as usual, along with hundreds. Also our superb trumpeter, Graham Baguley.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


Superb evening at Mayflower High School in Billericay on Thursday evening when a team of three was chosen at the local heat to go on to the regionals to be held at The Ramada Hotel in Colchester, Essex, in February 2010. All six formers taking part were of excellent standard as agreed with my fellow judges Captain Beverley Beale and Alison Deakin. The evening was organised by the Business and Professional Women UK Limited in Billericay with support from George Pontikis from the Mayflower High School. The winning team is pictured with Jean England, Chairman of BPW.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Saturday December 5th
Number One
Hurst Green


Spend a day learning about the traditional art of oral storytelling with Essex’s master storyteller

For more information
Ring 01268 767770
Or Email carl.tale- spinner@blue

Price: £50 including a delicious lunch

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


This is especially for Nicola at the History Press - my publishing house - as it isn't often I am able to gather so many of her Essex authors in one spot. The occasion was the autumn lunch of the SWWJ, at which Lady Williams - our Hon Life President - was our speaker. It was also a good opportunity to meet face-to-face some of our new SWWJ recruits. We usually communicate by web-chat and email. Also pictured is Chairman Jean Morris and competition Judge Solange Hando.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


SWWJ members are currently enjoying an 'Indian summer' in Britain. Spring flowers are starting to bud during this mild Essex weather. Let's enjoy it, but spare a thought for Elizabeth Wallace in Denver, USA, who yesterday experienced her first snowfall of winter 6-14 inches!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Joan Moules, a long standing member of our Society of Women Writers & Journalists, is one of our most inspirational authors. She's been so successful with every one of her books (more than 20 titles including romance, sagas, non-fiction and journalism). One of Joan's most famous books is the authorised biography of Gracie Fields. Now, of course, she has ventured into crime, a completely new writing genre for her. Her new title is SCRIPT FOR MURDER, a super who-dun-it set in the '50s. (ISBN 9978-0-7090-8808-080 £18.99 published by Robert Hale.)

Article Writing Day:
Tuesday 17th November 2009
Joan is running a day course on article writing on 17 November 2009. This will take place in Selsey, West Sussex. Telephone Joan: 01243-607587.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Elzabeth Wallace is back in England on a trip from her home near Denver, US. She has been signing copies of her latest book CHRISTMAS PAST IN ESSEX. Some of her previous titles have been re-published particularly COLORADO SPRINGS which is going great guns in the US. Details

Sunday, October 11, 2009


So pleased that one of my favourite authors, Hilary Mantel,CBE has won the Man Booker Prize for 2009 Her novel Wolf Hall, about Henry VIII’s minister Thomas Cromwell, was published in 2009 to huge critical acclaim. Hearing the good news, she said: "I can tell you at this moment I am happily flying through the air". Judges voted three to two in favour of Wolf Hall for the prize, with Mantel being presented with a trophy and a £50,000 cash prize during an evening ceremony at the London Guildhall. The panel of judges, led by the broadcaster James Naughtie, described Wolf Hall as an "extraordinary piece of storytelling". Leading up to award, the book was backed as the favourite by bookmakers and accounted for 45%of all the nominated books' sales. By winning, it subsequently became the first favourite to win the award since 2002. Hilary is now working on a short non-fiction book called The Woman Who Died of Robespierre, about the Polish playwright Stanislawa Przybyszewska. She writes reviews and essays, mainly for The Guardian, the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books. I enjoyed meeting Hilary some years ago when she came to Billericay to speak to our Literary Group and gave me an excellent interview for my weekly column. Can't wait to read her new book. 


As promised, here are the three musketeers Skye, Amber and Ceri.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


May I introduce Mary Rensten, journalist, playwright and author of TOO STRONG A LIGHT published by Scriptora. Mary is currently a Vice-President of The Society of Women Writers & Journalists and, as Chairman at the time of our centenary in 1994, masterminded that year of celebration. If you live in the Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire area, do pop along to see Mary today and maybe buy a signed copy of her new book which has received excellent reviews.

Too Strong a Light
by Mary Rensten

79 High Street,
Cuffley journalist and dramatist Mary Rensten
launches launches her career as a novelist. Mary's novel is a ompelling story of the unearthing of a fifty year old secret. Starting in Enfield and Hertford, the novel moves swiftly to Malta in 1995, with flashbacks to the Second World War, War as Mary’s heroine, Jane Thornfield, uncovers the dramatic and startling secret of her family’s connection with the war-torn island.
“Too Strong a Light has just the right combination of drama, humour,
romance and intrigue to make it perfect reading at home or on holiday.”
TAR Entertainment
“I couldn’t put this down. I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened in Malta
50 years ago.”
Meg Alexander, romantic novelist
“The story sweeps you along and the characters are so real.“
Suzannah Dunn, best-selling historical novelist
Too Strong A Light is published by
Scriptora in association with the SWWJ.
On Sale from 10th October 2009
ISBN 978-0-9562494-0-1 Price: £7.99

Thursday, October 08, 2009


From The Times July 12, 2009 Photo courtesy of Anne Bolt

Eleanor Roosevelt (seated) in London in 1959 with members of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists

Sue Corbett's article

Curiously, the Society of Women Writers and Journalists was founded by a man, was instrumental in bringing together two of the biggest male names in 20th-century musical theatre, and now accepts men as associate members. But it is for the literary achievements and mutually supportive activities of its female members (novelists, poets, journalists and writers of non-fiction, both in the UK and overseas) that it is most celebrated today, 115 years after being established in 1894by the editor/proprietor of The Gentlewoman magazine, Joseph Snell Wood, a man who was also editor of the Daily Graphic.

With members over the years ranging from Marie Stopes and Vera Brittain to Catherine Cookson and Penny Vincenzi, the society has a rich history, but its archivist Sylvia Kent is obviously not helped by fires, flood and wartime bombs having destroyed many of the society’s records and damaged others. “All too often,” she says, “I’ve found that a fine spray of minute fragments of burnt paper has landed on my cream carpet at home and that what remains of the document in my hands is not very useful either.” As a result, she could do with some help in preparing The Woman Writer, her account of the society’s first 115 years, which will also celebrate the centenary of the society’s long-term president, the entertainer and writer Joyce Grenfell.

As this illustrated book is due to be published by History Press in 2010, the help is fairly urgently needed. “If any kind readers of The Times would be willing to search their memories and their attics for photographs or other archive material linked to the society’s history, and let me know if they come up with anything, I would be truly grateful,” says Mrs Kent.

“It would not be the first help that we have had from the Times connection because Phyllis Deakin, who was the first woman journalist on The Times and one of the first women war correspondents, chaired the society in 1955-57.” Another link was The Times’ proprietor and chairman John Walter V (1873-1968), who was the society’s patron for many years.

To get women writers away from their lonely computer keyboards and have them swapping ideas and contact information with their peers, the society runs a programme of workshops, visits to places of literary interest, lunches with big-name guest speakers and a biennial residential weekend conference. Regional events also take place, the largest of them in the North West, and this autumn a new regional group will be launched for writers in Devon and Cornwall.

One vital piece of practical support offered is the society’s remarkable postal critique service, run by members, for members. For a fee of £20, established writers on its panel of critics assess and advise on members’ work — which may be poems, short stories, articles, or the opening chapter and synopsis of a novel or work of non-fiction. Not surprisingly, members’ successes are multiplying. Most recently, the TV rights to member Jennifer Worth’s bestselling non-fiction book Call the Midwife have been bought, for filming next year, by Neal Street Productions, the production company co-founded by Sam Mendes. And Making Jam in July, a poem (translated from the original Russian) by Fay Marshall, one of the society’s postal critique service panellists, was read on Radio 4’s Poetry Please in February.

As for the big musical-theatre names mentioned, these were Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. A long-term member of the society, Sir Tim's mother Joan (obituary, July 7) had been impressed by the publisher Desmond Elliott when he gave a talk to members in the mid-1960s, and suggested to her son that Elliott might be interested in publishing his history of pop music. Elliott declined that opportunity, but did put the young Rice in touch with Lloyd Webber, who he knew was looking for a lyricist. So history was made, and now (along with Lady Healey, Lord Quirk and the Earl of Stockton) Sir Tim is a patron of the society that helped to make it.
For further details, visit


Britain is a poetry nation. Today is our National Poetry Day and the theme is Heroes and Heroines. Poetry celebrates heroes of all sorts from sporting heroes to mums and dads.

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for poetry on the radio, TV or in venues like your local theatre or library. Look at What's On to find an event near you or why not set up an event yourself? Super poetry events all around Essex today, continuing into the weekend.

Our own poetry hero, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, has written a poem for National Poetry Day which you can send as a free e-card from October 3rd. Celebrate in making October 8th a heroically poetic day!

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Lots happening in Brightlingsea, Essex at the moment. My friend, Jan Williams is an oral storyteller, the founder of Essex Storytellers and a star in my last book FOLKLORE OF ESSEX. Jan is always working on new, exciting projects. The booklet she wrote linked to the Essex Witch Trials of 1645 was very well received and her children's work has been published by Scholastic.

Jan is presenting her special tutorial skill within a one-day Autumn Course at Number l Hurst Green, Brightlingsea, Essex. This is a wonderful sixteenth century cottage overlooking the picturesque green at Brightlingsea.

Jan's Short Story Writing Course at Hurst Green takes place on Saturday November 7th and runs from 10.00am to 4.00pm with lunch provided. She will encourage participants to produce an adult short story inspired by a garden and she'll help them develop the structure of a story.

Price for the day is £50 and includes refreshments and buffet lunch. For further information do email Jan Also check out bed and breakfast enquiries

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Here is a great new book, this time for children from THE ESSEX HUNDRED.

The Colouring and Activity Book is the latest addition to the Essex Hundred family. The text has been written by Glenis Summers with the help of Kate and Tom Fewings from Rayleigh. The county of Essex is rich in history and the resulting book is relevant to KS2 local history work. It is just the thing to stimulate young enquiring minds. Magna Carta, Anne Boleyn, jam making at Tiptree and The Mulberry in the River Thames are just some of the topics covered. As usual the book is illustrated with superb line drawings from Elizabeth Summers.

(approved by children)
Written, designed and printed in Essex

ISBN 9780955229534 £4.99

Available now
Also available The Essex Hundred ISBN 978955229503
and The Essex Hundred Histories ISBN 9780955229510
for further details contact Glenis Summers 01702 551846

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


SALT MARSH & MUD by Nick Ardley

I’ve recently reviewed a selection of new books which have come my way. Salt Marsh & Mud – A Year’s Sailing on the Thames Estuary is not the kind of book I would normally choose to read. I’m not the best of sailors, as family and friends know, but I loved this book which is a compilation of interlinked stories about cruising around the lower Thames, Swale and River Medway. Not a lot is known about this area and I feel it has been very much overlooked in the yachting literary world. Yet it is quite wonderful, embracing history, wildlife and seemingly remote anchorages and is beautifully written

Nick actually grew up on the Thames estuary aboard the spritsail barge May Flower, and his stories revolve around a skipper and his mate reminiscing and bringing to life the often barren and empty marshland landscape. We find out about old ports and muddy creeks and dilapidated wharves where ghosts of the past linger, even some with new life oozing from them. As the title suggests, the stories range from the end of a December to the next so we observe a complete year afloat. More than one hundred photographs and drawings illustrate Nick’s super book which is priced £16.99 and published by Amberley Publishing PLC, Stroud. ISBN 978-1-84858-491-1.