Thursday, February 25, 2010


A dawn start (well almost) today and off to the Five Lakes Resort at Tolleshunt Knights, near Maldon, Essex, to set up our ESSEX WRITERS stand in this huge hall in which around one hundred exhibitors enjoyed a great day. Our team was busy all day talking to visitors and our books, on display, were popular. I certainly enjoyed it all and, along with fellow writers, was able to meet and network with so many people linked with Essex and many other counties. Lots of fun, gorgeous food and a chance to take photographs which are being sent off to new friends tomorrow. Here are a few, starting with Carol Jolly the excellent organiser of the event, with Elli Constantatou, Tourism supremo and a couple of visitors with rather long legs!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Millions of girls remember 22nd February - known as "Thinking Day" in the world of Brownies and Girl Guides. As a former Brownie, Guide and now freelance writer - I've used this term as a topic. This year is special as it is the centenary of the Girl Guiding movement.

However, in the future, the 22nd February will be another important 'thinking day' for me. Last night at a superb evening organised by the Royal Society of Literature at London's Kings Place, more than 700 people were spellbound by Nobel prize-winner for Poetry, SEAMUS HEANEY, for more than two hours. The two halls were packed (live relay was used for Hall 2). Thanks go to Colin Thubron, President of RSL and The Bloomsbury Hotel, too, for organising such a happy evening. Oh! and the goodie bags were much appreciated. The superb Rachel Page and her team worked hard to make the evening so memorable. I met poetry lovers from around the world and think we have a few more recruits for our own SWWJ as a result.

To top the evening, I met Seamus Heaney, himself as he was leaving and told him how much I had enjoyed his performance. He grinned and seemed pleased - said 'thank you very much - glad you liked my choice'. Then off he was whisked by his minders out into the rainy night, but what a moment! Help! - I've turned into a Heaneybopper!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Although I'm no longer SWWJ Overseas Liaison Officer - eight years in post and now handling publicity and archives - I still like to keep in touch with our members overseas I contact Maggie Van Ostrand from time to time to see what she is up to.

Maggie was born in New York but due to a strong westerly wind, she now lives in California. She gets an abundance of column fodder from the entertainment industry, her two dogs, kids, and especially the U.S. Congress (than which nothing on earth is funnier). She stays busy ghostwriting for TV sitcoms and stand-up comics, judging various humour contests like Erma Bombeck Humor Writers and Arizona Press Club's Best Humour Column, writing for hard-copy and online magazines and newspapers. Her columns appear in numerous newspapers, and run the gamut from teen movie fans to political satire to expatriates to senior citizens.

Maggie’s career took off following an account she wrote about a trip from Mexico, where she was then living, back to California to buy doggy treats. The scent of the treats wafting from her luggage throughout the L.A. airport, attracting the attention of security's drug-sniffing dogs. The result was so hilarious that she was asked to write about it for an English-language Mexican newspaper, following which the editor asked if she would like to pen a regular column. It was so popular, people clipped her column out and stuck it on their refrigerators. They suggested she send clips to big time U.S. newspapers. Can you imagine how much it cost her to mail a refrigerator? Her work was subsequently published in The Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe amongst many.

She has the gift of making you smile while getting her point over. She did a two-hour interview with Horace J Digby for his radio show in Michigan, a show which has featured the great Bob Newhart and Dave Barry; did a pilot for a Lifetime series, "You're Not The Man I Married;" did a documentary for award-winning producers which will be submitted at Sundance; and was selected as a Woman of Significance, recording a podcast in the midwest. To read more about Maggie, visit

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Admission is free to visitors to this special show which takes place on Thursday, 25 February, 2010. 10.00am -3.30pm. Venue: The Five Lakes Resort, Colchester Road, Tolleshunt Knights, Maldon, Essex CM9 8HX. It showcases up to 100 destinations and attractions. Apart from Essex, the areas represented will be Kent, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire Sussex, London and beyond. Do stop and talk to some of the Essex writers who will have their latest books on display. They can advise how to get started in writing, find a publisher, agent and generally help aspiring writers to get going in the craft of creative writing. Writers are invariably avid readers too, and Essex is proud of its 500 reading groups, probably the largest number in England.

The Five Lakes Resort is the only Five Star Hotel in Essex. Set in 320 acres of Essex country, it offers some of the finest leisure and sporting facilities in the East of England. Carol Jolly, the organiser is expecting over a thousand visitors to the show. Buses run regularly to Maldon from all over Essex and the nearest mainline railway stations are Kelvedon and Witham. Free courtesy buses (Florida Coaches) will run from Witham Railway Station every hour to the venue starting at 9.40am. For timetables ring 01206 562878. Further details and FREE TICKETS to the Show can be obtained from Carol Jolly on 01206 562878.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


TO BE HELD FROM 11.00 TO 16.00

AT THE WRITERS’ HOUSE, 13 HAYDON ST. LONDON. EC3N 1DB (nearest tube: Tower Hill)
 This third day for Journalists and Non-Fiction Writers will be led by Wendy Hughes. It is designed for beginners as well as more experienced non-fiction writers. A factfile on Interviewing and pitching a non-fiction book proposal will be handed out on the day. In this workshop Wendy will cover :
 Interviewing for Journalists and non-fiction writers – whether you are writing a newspaper item, an article, or researching for a non-fiction book, writers need interviewing skills. This session will include setting up the interview, pre-planning, interviewing techniques, questions to ask, problems you may encounter, writing it up, selling your piece or idea for a book.
 Saleable knowledge probe – looking for ideas? Session on finding ideas within your personal knowledge bank - hobbies, special interests, occupational knowledge, life experiences, etc
 Pitching a non-fiction book proposal.
 Sharing work in Progress – for the session to work delegates are requested bring along to the workshop, either a completed article, idea for a piece of non-fiction or the outline for an idea for a book. During this session Wendy will offer constructive criticism and markets where possible.
 Wendy’s Forum –There will also be time for a general discussion and what subjects you would like covered in future workshops or if you would like to visit places such as The British Library newspaper collections, non-fiction publishers, etc, if these could be arranged. Cost of the day is £18.50 per person. Information can be obtained from Wendy email:

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Roy Jenkins Memorial Lecture

Monday evening was wonderful. The Royal Society of Literature organised a super lecture at the Courtauld Institute (Somerset House). Stars of the evening were PD James (Baroness James of Holland Park) and Sir Andrew Motion who presented an unusual theme 'Going Public'. Chaired by Colin Thubron, the new President of the RSL, the question: "Is it possible to combine life as a writer with public service?" produced a lively discussion before a packed, delighted, audience. Later, it was a pleasure to meet many members and Fellows. Here is SWWJ member Anita Marie Sackett, the writer and poet who also paid her first visit to the RSL. We met many great writers that evening including our new friend from Lithuania.

The RSL offers an exciting programme of monthly events, including lectures, debates and poetry readings. Recent speakers have included Philip Pullman, George Steiner, Michael Holroyd, Claire Tomalin, Mark Haddon, Beryl Bainbridge and Hilary Mantel, and highlights of the spring 2010 season include Seamus Heaney: A Life in Poetry, to be held at Kings Place on 22nd February.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Regular readers will find this posting somewhat familiar. Well - I couldn't resist writing about Groundhog Day on 2 February last year and off I go again! As a British folklore fan, I enjoy learning about other countries' traditions. Groundhog Day has been used as a film, book and a play. What does a furry animal that looks like an overstuffed rodent hold such sway every February 2nd? The answer lies shrouded in the shadows of history. Most experts suggest the tradition began when German settlers brought their tradition of Candelmas to North America in the 1700s.

February 2nd is supposed to be the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. According to legend, if the weather was good on that day, the rest of the winter would be stormy and cold. If not, the coldest season of the year would be over soon and farmers could start to think about planting their crops. Eventually a hedgehog - not the more traditional creature used today - was added, and the story of seeing his shadow began.

But Groundhog Day owes its current status not to superstition, but to - what else - commercial reality. A newspaper editor named Clymer Freas came up with the idea in the Punxsutawney Spirit in 1886. It wound up being so popular, the legendary Punxsutawney Phil was born, in an event that's been marked ever since. Knowing a good thing when they saw one, the town of Wiarton, Canada, decided to get in on the act, launching its own prognosticating furball, Willie in 1956. It's been the largest tourist event in the area ever since, and has only overshadowed its more famous American cousin once - in 1999, when Willie was discovered dead minutes before his annual prediction was to be delivered. Groundhog Day received worldwide attention as a result of the 1993 film of the same name starring Bill Murray which was set in Punxsutawney and featured poor little old Punxsutawney Phil.

More importantly, February 2nd is Candlemas Day, the Feast of St Brigid, a time when the church candles were blessed for the year in observance of the Purification of the Virgin Mary.

Follow up to previous posting

Hat trick

Following my latest little posting concerning our super novelist, David Hodges, several readers wanted to know about the derivation of 'hat trick'. Well, in cricket, the term seems to have been coined when a bowler took three wickets in successive deliveries and received a new hat provided by his club.

The term was seen in print for the first time in 1878, describing Heathfield Harman Stephenson's cricketing prowess in 1858. Now, of course, we use the term when describing a trio of achievements repeated three times consecutively.