Wednesday, June 28, 2017

OUR GREAT SUMMER GATHERING


Celebration day tomorrow for the AGM and gathering of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists - hard to believe we look back on 123 years of continuous membership. 





Members, visitors and special guests will meet, as usual, in the stately National Liberal Club and enjoy a special meal, with the well known speaker Richard Combes, Head of Policy at the Authors Licensing & Collecting Society.  It's always a great pleasure meeting new and long-standing members who share our fascinating  craft of writing and publishing.  For details of more of our events and useful links:   www.swwj.co.uk


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

NEW BOOK ON THE HORIZON - THE HOUSE OF SILK

Anthony Horowitz is my current favourite author and my thoughts on his new book are summed up by most of the well known literary reviewers.  He is also one of the UK's most prolific and successful writers. His novels The House of Silk and Moriarty were Sunday Times Top 10 bestsellers and sold in more than thirty-five countries around the world. He was recently commissioned by the Ian Fleming Estate to write the James Bond novel Trigger Mortis. His bestselling Alex Rider series for children has sold more than nineteen million copies worldwide. 

As a TV screenwriter he created both Midsomer Murders and the BAFTA-winning Foyle's War; other TV work includes Poirot and the widely-acclaimed mini-series Collision and Injustice. 

Anthony has recently joined the board of the Old Vic and regularly contributes to a wide variety of national newspapers and magazines. In January 2014 he was awarded an OBE for services to literature.

THE GOOD LIFE STARTS AT HOME AND IN OUR GARDENS

I'm just starting to write copy for the September edition of this really rather wonderful monthly journal, for as you know, research, interviewing, reporting and eventual writing absorbs quite a lot of time.  In my case, because my work is so varied and covers many aspects of history, books, folklore, healthy living, eating and drinking, the list grows longer.  However, it is wonderful to find so many like-minded folk around the world and receive their thoughts, advice and even recipes which are offered with permission to use in my various writing outlets.  Many thanks to you all. 

Next edition (August) of Home Farmer will be published around the lst July. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

MARGARET'S DAISY - BUT WHAT IS IT'S NAME?


Keen gardeners - I need your help!  This pretty tallish daisy has been growing in our garden for many years, given to me by the lovely Margaret.  Have asked so many gardeners about is name - no one has been able to help so far, but have now posed the question to the RHS Plant Finding team.  Will let you know when I receive an answer.  In the meantime, you can see it in bloom at the Cater Museum, Billericay, Essex.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A LITTLE PIECE OF PEPYS

Currently reading the Reverend Smith's 1912 version of The Diary of Samuel Pepys is probably the most famous diary in the English language. This is research I am carrying out for a commissioned feature.

Pepys began documenting his activities on January 1660 and finished in May 1669, a relatively short period. I am enjoying learning first-hand about some of the most turbulent events of the nation’s history, including the coronation of King Charles II, the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London. Pepys was an extremely observant commentator and his diary is an important historical document. Written in his own special shorthand, it is now housed at Magdalene College, Cambridge. I also learned how to write shorthand - in my case, Pitman's New Era which took years to reach 140 words per minute - but well worth the effort. 


Pepys’ diary entry for 22 February 1664 is typical of his blending of domestic details with affairs of state. It begins with an account of Pepys shaving and setting off on his daily business, but goes on to focus on an issue of immense political concern: the acute financial shortages that were a feature of Charles II’s reign. The revenue granted to the monarch by Parliament fell short of the amount actually needed in order to run the country, and the Anglo-Dutch wars of 1664-7 and 1672-4 – coupled with Charles’s extravagant lifestyle – were a further drain on his income. The extravagance of the Royal household was resented by many, and the introduction of a Hearth Tax as a means of raising additional money caused a significant amount of dissatisfaction. Research continues (many thanks to some of my more academic friends for their advice).

LET'S GO TO MARKET - BOOKWISE



Marketing your book

Just finished off a feature about the next stage of writing.  Many writers feel a great sense of relief when their book is finished and their precious manuscript has been safely received by their publishing company. Their job is done – or is it? It’s true that publishers have marketing departments whose job is to sell as many books as possible, but it is a well known fact that the majority of books are unlikely to earn large amounts for the publishers. It’s up to the author to do all he/she can to market his book and generate sales both to the trade and potential readers.

An excellent way is to approach bookshops – preferably the larger chains - and offer to put on a book signing. A good, sharp photo of yourself attached to a short press release with illustrations of front cover and quotes could be sent to local newspapers and radio stations, which will generally attract media attention.


Sell your latest book or non-fiction articles by posting the work on your own website (which usually has to be paid for) or a blogsite  which is an effective marketing tool and is offered freely by Google. Don't forget local and regional radio - national, too, if you can interest a producer (and we do have a few connected to SWWJ), but do get into the mood and 'go off to market'.  Check out the Society of Women Writers and Journalists www.swwj.co.uk and study our list of great opportunities provided for SWWJ members around the world. 


SWWJ Chairman and new Council Member Rebecca Harding


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WEATHER IS PERFECT FOR GATHERING IN THE FRUIT AND MAKING A FEW GALLONS OF WINE



Friends and family (plus my readers in HOME FARMER) know that I enjoy creating my own wines from fruit and veg grown locally in Essex, England.  Currently picking pounds of strawberries; freezing some for sorbets and flans and others for the fermentation bucket.  Everything is ready, sterilized and off we go.  

Do check out current edition of HOME FARMER (June) which is a mine of superb features on everything from keeping chickens, making best use of your allotment bounty and, of course, making a lovely organic wine from your own home-grown fruit (and vegetables). 



Friday, June 16, 2017

BILLERICAY HAS A FABULOUS BREWING COMPANY AND A GEM OF A VICTORIAN MUSEUM

When I am stuck for a prezzie for one of the chaps, a visit to Trevor Jeffery's Beer Shop always solves a problem.  Helpful and knowledgeable about the brewing industry, Trevor and his team are always happy to show customers around their mini brewery. Super atmosphere! 

There is a very nice article about Trevor in this month's glossy Essex Life and we learn a little about the maestro and how he left his job as a teacher to learn about the intricacies of making good artisan beers.  And if you look carefully around his shop, on the counter, you may even find one of our books published by the one and only Cater Museum at 74 High Street, Billericay. 

We, in the Cater Museum, have a fine collection of books authored by some of our present and past curators. The latest is BILLERICAY'S ZEPPELIN which was published following last year's centenary of the shooting down of the L32 Zeppelin on 24 September 1916.  So do pop into see Trevor at his Billericay Brewing Company at 52 Chapel Street, Billericay CM12 9LS
T: 01277 500121/07788 373129 and maybe even buy one of our books.  

Thursday, June 08, 2017

GENERAL ELECTION - NOW OFF TO VOTE - 50 YEARS SINCE BEING THE FIRST RESULT BACK

VOTING PAPERS AT THE READY!

 We are all turning out today to place our votes - just as we have done for all general elections.  Look at this photograph taken over fifty years ago in Billericay.  

Did you know that little old Billericay in Essex was regularly the first constituency in Britain during the late '50s to return the vital voting figures to Parliament? No longer, however, as this was so long ago, but doubtless our name will crop up in the news much as it has done for every general election ever since.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

HUGE SADNESS IN BRITISH PRINT PRESS AT PRESENT REGARDING THE MANCHESTER OUTRAGE

With such current awful news experienced by people in Manchester, a place I have visited a few times, there's too much sadness in the news at the moment, so really not in the mood to write frivolous and unimportant posts, even in such an apolitical weblog.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

NEW MAGAZINE "VISION" BILLERICAY EDITION

Monday morning chat with editor Nik Allen whose new journal  VISION  has just arrived in Billericay homes.  A nice slick little monthly magazine which, although obviously carrying a great deal of adverts promoting local firms, also promises to be interesting and will be focusing on upcoming events with lots of information supporting our local community.  Welcome!


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

BRENTWOOD WRITERS' CIRCLE CHAMPION WRITERS IN JACK KENDALL SHORT STORY COMPETITION

Cindy, Dawn, Patrick and Carol - all worthy  champions in the Jack Kendall short story competition. The missing lst prize winner was Denis Ahern but we will catch up with him at next gathering with a special photograph






It was great to win this award last year, so have been dusting this pretty glass bowl since 2016!

Sunday, May 07, 2017

HOME FARMER JUST GETS BETTER! JUNE ISSUE


As a freelance writer, I have contributed to many journals, magazines and newspapers for more than twenty years, often concentrating on the topic of the British countryside and the wonderful history, folklore and plants. 

My favourite regular magazine HOME FARMER really is the best on the bookshelves at present and the editorial team are so professional. This journal is full of information on all aspects of growing and self-sufficiency and I particularly enjoy writing about fruit, vegetables, herbs and other natural materials that can be turned into fascinating fermentations. Once you learn the rules, this really is such an interesting hobby.  



Wednesday, May 03, 2017

EDWARD THOMAS AND THE CENTENARY OF HIS DEATH


One of my favourite writers (and a poet) died just over one hundred years ago on 9th April 1917

Thomas was born in London in 1878 and attended St Paul's School and Lincoln College, Oxford. Married to Helen while at university, he worked hard to support his family by accepting a wide range of prose commissions; he wrote many books and was in demand as a reviewer, a biographer and a topographical writer. Despite his fluency he despised much of this work; his marriage was marred by periodic bouts of depression and his restlessness led him to leave home for periods of several weeks at time.

During the Great War, Thomas had trained in the Artists' Rifles at Hare Park, near Romford which was then classed as Essex, now East London.  He'd been a poet for little more than two years and his collected works amounted to only a slim volume. Nevertheless he is regarded as among the greatest of English poets. His thoughts and words on the English countryside (particularly our county of Essex) are beautiful. 

The BBC Radio Four programme editor, Matthew Hollis, who made last week's programme, followed one of the  journeys  that Thomas made by bike in the spring of 1913 from London into south west England. It was a journey that produced a prose book for Thomas, In Pursuit of Spring, but it was also a journey that turned him towards poetry.  This is where I discovered the work of Robert Frost, the American poet who was a close friend of Edward Thomas during the last years of his life. Fortunately, the BBC was able to supply more information at the beginning of April, which was in perfect time for the production of my essay. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

APRIL 23rd ST GEORGE'S DAY SO HERE WE HAVE THE MUMMERS' PLAY

There's nothing like a good old fight on St George's Day in a very traditional manner. The ancient Mummers' play performed yesterday in Billericay was, as usual, a huge success.  Here we have the good St George with some of our famous Mayflower Morris Men in the High Street. We are all so fond of this fabulous Morris side which has been dancing and performing in Essex since their formation in 1973. I am particularly grateful for their support and inclusion in one of my earlier books FOLKLORE OF ESSEX. During yesterday's performance, as the audience numbers built up, there was a magical, feel-good atmosphere, with some lively music and dancing and a little bellowing from the noisy audience -  especially when the nasty green dragon made his appearance. 
 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

CATER MUSEUM GARDEN IN BILLERICAY ESSEX

A DOORWAY INTO THE PAST

Just one of the beautiful shrubs coming into bloom this Easter weekend. It is Spirea (bridal wreath) in the Cater Museum garden at present. And our lovely Maureen was on duty that day.  Our Curator is Katie and she is soon bringing our garden up to date with numerous Victorian herbaceous plants and shrubs. Our visitors to the Museum love walking around this pretty garden - many are surprised at the variety of plants already in situ.

Do pay a visit to this little gem in Billericay High Street (No.74), view the fascinating artefacts on several floors and then pop outside to see the garden.  Check out opening times at www.catermuseum.co.uk. We are-open on Tuesday after the Easter holiday. 

Opening Times
Mon-Fri: 2pm-5pm
Saturday: 1pm-4pm
Sunday: Closed
Other times by appointment
Free to enter

Saturday, April 08, 2017

STUART WALLACE'S ARTWORK ARRIVES IN BROOKLYN


Congratulations to the Denver-based fine art specialist artist Stuart Wallace whose latest dynamic collection of artwork arrived in Brooklyn Galleries in New York a few days ago and is now on display.


Wallace was born in England in 1968 and emigrated with his family to the US ten years later.  They lived in Kansas City for twenty years and from here, he graduated from Shawnee Mission High School, attending the Kansas City Art Institute and becoming a citizen of the United States.

After leaving the Kansas City Art Institute, Wallace began his first successful design company but with the necessity of providing for a family, shaped his life for many years.  However, during this time, he never stopped painting, sketching and creating works of art using water colour, acrylic and oil.  Often, he was able to weave those ideas into his daily corporate life as an executive creative director.

Stuart Wallace’s work is original, intricate and exceptional. Do visit his website  http://stuartwallace.wixsite.com/artwork
 http://dumbo.is/hosting/stuart-wallace-raw/
Dumbo, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
 


Monday, April 03, 2017

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE - JANE AUSTEN COMES TO BILLERICAY ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON SIT BACK AND ENJOY THE SHOW!

I
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s witty and romantic masterpiece is one of the best-loved stories of all time. The novel was familiar, but as it was a such a long long since I'd read it, I wasn't sure what to expect when taking my seat for a performance of Pride and Prejudice at Billericay last night.  I need not have worried, I soon realised that this upcoming version was unlike any I had ever seen enacted, although the storyline was so familiar.

In this 200th year since Jane Austen's passing, there have been many performances of her work around Britain, and those who know some history of our Society of Women Writers and Journalists, will also know of our strong continuing connection with Jane's home, Chawton in Hampshire - population 300.

So, what a wonderful chance to  celebrate the memory of one of the world’s most famous writers by watching the critically-acclaimed Pantaloons Theatre Company as they exercised their Austen powers in their comic adaptation of this well known literary masterpiece Pride and Prejudice?


The Pantaloons are known for their anarchic retellings of classic works of literature having previously put a hilarious spin on Bleak House, Sherlock Holmes, The Canterbury Tales, Grimm Fairy Tales, A Christmas Carol and many of Shakespeare’s plays.

“We are known for being somewhat silly,” says writer and director Mark Hayward. “But with our Pride and Prejudice we stay respectful to the things that people love about the book in the first place. This production gives Austen fans what they are looking for in staging – the romance, the scandals – whilst at the same time providing a great introduction to those who are new to the story and also interweaving the elements that make a show intrinsically Pantaloony.”

So what are the elements that make a Pantaloons show unique? “Live music, audience interaction, physical performances, and a large dollop of humour,” says Hayward. “Austen’s original text is full of funny moments; we capitalise on those and add a few of our own.”

This fascinating group of actors began life over ten years ago as an open-air theatre company, busking plays for donations in parks and on the streets, where they developed an attention-grabbing, interactive and playful performance style.


Currently, the Pantaloons are touring the south east and if you can catch up with them, you will not be disappointed - we enjoyed a super evening.   Check their itinerary on www.thepantaloons.co.uk

Friday, March 31, 2017

CURRENT RADIO PUBLICITY VIA PHOENIX 98FM BASED AT BRENTWOOD ESSEX

          

Thursday, March 30, 2017

THE WOMAN WRITER IS NOW PUBLISHED AS AN E-BOOK

I've discovered that some of my earlier printed books are now available as ebooks from my super publishers THE HISTORY PRESS in Stroud. This is an easy way of reading about the provenance of our famous Society of Women Writers and all the wonderful people who have contributed to its success over the last 123 years.  Hope you all agree.  262,000 page views worldwide.
 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MEETING JENNI MURRAY ON SATURDAY AT ANGLIA RUSKIN UNIVERSITY

Jenni Murray's new book presented at Essex Book Festival on Saturday
 
Dame Jenni Murray's book-signing with my new friend at Chelmsford on Saturday
 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SAD NEWS RE OUR FRIEND COLIN DEXTER

Such sadness today to learn of the passing of Colin Dexter, one of Britain's best authors and screen writers.  Colin became a firm friend who visited Brentwood Writers' Circle some years ago and we met up again at a couple of SWWJ seminars in London.  I certainly remember the warm welcome from Colin and his wife during a special visit to his home in Oxford when I interviewed him for a magazine feature.  Colin's famous Inspector Morse series is still a family favourite.

Monday, March 20, 2017

DAME VERA'S 100TH BIRTHDAY

Today is rather a special day for  Dame Vera on her 100th birthday.  I have a special reason for my attention as this lovely lady helped me very much when I began researching my latest book  BARKING & DAGENHAM FROM OLD PHOTORAPHS.  The book was duly published a year or two back and I owe Dame Vera much appreciation for the photographs she sent to me. Have enjoyed tuning in to all the special programmes showing what great work she has done over such a long time.

Friday, March 17, 2017

WHAT IS THE REAL ESSEX?


   Time for celebration tomorrow at Chelmsford Library with the launch of:
 
 
                ESSEX BELONGS TO US
 
 
  This amazing 300-page anthology, containing the work of more than one hundred writers who have contributed their thoughts, memories, stories, poems, essays and writing work in general for inclusion in this book, will be on sale. at the Launch.   
       
Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about our county and tomorrow we will  be meeting many of those people who live there now and maybe in the past.
 

This Arts Council England project has brought together a wide range of Essex writers, new and more established.  We show what this amazingly diverse county actually means to them.
 

As our editors Malcolm Burgess and Heather Reyes offer - prepare yourselves to be entertained, moved and surprised in equal amounts with readings from the Essex Belongs To Us compilation and a chance to meet its writers at this special launch tomorrow 18 March. 

The book retails at £8.99 and can be purchased from
Malcolm Burgess 19 Cedar Road  Hutton  Brentwood  Essex CM13 1NB Postage and packing @ £1.00 per book

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Spring Gathering and Prize Giving Tea

Date: 15th March 2017

Location: National Liberal Club, London
Adjudications, awards and readings. Guest speaker: Solange Hando "The life of a traveller writer". Members, guests and visitors all welcome! Bookings by 6th of March. Contact enquiries@swwj.co.uk

Thursday, March 02, 2017

LOTS OF GOOD THINGS TO SEE AND DO AT THE HISTORY FAIR


WORLD BOOK DAY - SIGNING BOOKS TODAY


World Book Day today and celebrations for all writers and readers everywhere.  Tomorrow I'm meeting our team at the Society of Women Writers and Journalists in London to discuss some great upcoming events. For those who don't know much about us, the SWWJ was founded in 1894 by a wonderful chap, Joseph Snell Wood, who was a well known newspaper magnate in Fleet Street at the time.  We have flourished since then and are proud of our members all over the world. I will be signing some of my books over the weekend.

For more information on our Society of Women Writers & Journalists check out our website  www.swwj.co.uk 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

SUPERB SNOWDROPS AT CHAWTON - HOME TO JANE AUSTEN

Looking forward, later in the year,  to joining members of SWWJ and other friends on a trip to  Jane Austen's home at Chawton in East Hampshire.  At the moment, the snowdrops are superb!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

FUN AND FROLICS AT PHOENIX 98FM STUDIO FOR THE FEBRUARY BOOK CLUB - LOVE OUR LOCAL TALENT

Always a treat to meet up with Ros Green, Essex Book Festival Director whose work for this annual gathering all over the county is unstintingly great.  Once again she travelled from Suffolk to Essex to meet us in the Brentwood studio to outline our upcoming Book Festival which starts on 1 March.  More pictures to follow. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

LEARNING MORE ABOUT OUR COMPUTERS AND TABLETS

How very lucky we are still to have our libraries, in our Essex towns and villages and, best of all, our City of Chelmsford Library.  Writers really do rely on their help and support of library staff in their research and studiess and, of course, readers can order any of thousands of new books and computing help, but our libraries provide so much more.  

Last Friday's gathering at Chelmsford Library introduced Anthony and Josh who were our gurus for the morning, helping to iron out some of those silly computer niggles which should have been explained in guidebooks that accompanied our new machines.  However, our two super experts answered many questions and I, for one, feel much more confident in using my Nexus 7 tablet.
A few of our tablet user at Chelmsford Library on Friday