Sunday, May 31, 2020


Such joy to hear news of the continuing success of our SWWJ member in Singapore, Josephine Chia first  listed in the 1992 Ian St James Writing Competition.

Josephine has been our girl in Singapore now since moving there from the UK some years ago. It is our Society's loss as she was our Council member and regular attendee of all our wonderful gatherings in London and Weekend Schools held in English universities. 

Josephine commented:  'I`ve a long-standing love affair with the English Language. Ever since I encountered it, its rhythm and poetry, its nuances and extensive vocabulary entranced me no end. Learning the English Language was my Open Sesame password to the world outside my little attap-thatched hut village or kampong. Until then I was a frog under a coconut shell, living the illusion that life under the coconut shell was my entire world. English was the magic wand which swept away my limitations, opening vistas of knowledge to me and later, the wealth and treasures of English Literature. I learnt of adventure, dramas, love and loss which inspired me to write my own stories. Without my mother, her determination and tenacity to send her daughter to school, this brave new world would have been lost to me. 

'To be able to live your dream, you need to hope. Throughout the years where it was impossible for me to dedicate my time to writing, I lived in hope. I scribbled in the closet. I continued dreaming. Then circumstances changed and I was given a choice, to have more and not write or to have less and write. I chose the latter and have never looked back. My journey in writing synchronised with my search for meaning in life and spiritual truths. So I`ve begun to live my dream. Without you, my readers, students, publishers and supporters, this would not have been possible so thank you very much for bringing joy into my life!'

Josephine's thirteen books have met great success worldwide and particularly in Singapore where she spent her childhood. Her last two books published in 2019 are for Young Adult Big Tree in a Small A Pot & Children’s Queen of the Sky. See book covers.  Big Tree won the Singapore Publishers Award in Oct 2019. One of her books Kampong Spirit was translated into Malay this April. The book launch was cancelled due to Covid 19. She runs creative writing workshops in singapore and nurture other aspiring writers. Josephine's adult books are being read by local book clubs. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020



Hugs – A Writing Project Spreading Joy

Designed to bring some much-needed cheer in troubled times, Hugs is a pocket book anthology of 14 original short stories and poems by Essex writers belonging to Epping Forest District Council’s Community Writers’ Group. Organised by the council’s Community, Culture & Wellbeing team, Hugs is being distributed free of charge to people throughout the district.  The aim of the project is to spread joy and happiness. “We want to reach out and share some love and positivity during times of need,” said Victoria Robertson, EFDC Community Engagement Officer, who leads the Community Writers’ Group.
I’m delighted to be one of the 11 writers taking part in the Hugs project.  Two of my short stories are included:  Love You Lots and The Lucky Duck.  The first was written in response to another EFDC initiative, All You Need is Love (March 2020).  It’s about love’s power transcending death and is a tribute to my late mother.  The second is about one very lucky bird.

Wendy Pike, NewsWoozle

Sunshine in the Darkness

Hugs was originally intended to bring solace to people experiencing bereavement but in light of the coronavirus pandemic, it was felt the pocket book could have even broader appeal.  It’s hoped Hugs will be helpful by spreading some sunshine in dark times, especially to anyone feeling anxious, low or missing family they have to be apart from.  Topics for these uplifting stories and poems include memories of loved ones, every day struggles and romantic encounters.
“We hope this book brings comfort and happiness to those who read it.  At this tough time, as people are unable to see family and friends, these poems reminds us that we are not alone and we can reach out to others at times of sadness and worry,” said Cllr Nigel Bedford, Portfolio Holder for Community and Partnerships.
Launched during Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020), copies of Hugs have been distributed throughout the Epping Forest district, including via Epping Food Bank and to members of Epping WI.

Friendly Community Writers’ Group

Ordinarily, when the country is not in COVID-19 lockdown, the Community Writers’ Group meets on Thursdays from 10am to noon at Mulberry House in High Ongar.  The sessions are free and a great way to meet fellow writers, swap ideas and share stories.
“Writing on your own can be lonely.  Come along to our friendly writers’ group.  Whether you’re new to writing or a professional writer, this will be an effective way to stay motivated, help you write more productively and stick to your writing goals,” added Victoria.
It’s true too.  I’ve certainly been more productive and written stories I never would have thought about doing had I not been attending this group.  It’s also a joy to meet up with everyone.  It’s a very friendly, relaxed, nurturing environment.  It’s helpful to experience a variety of different genres and writing styles too.
Mulberry House  supports the Community Writers’ Group by providing the venue for meetings.
For a free digital copy of Hugs contact Victoria Robertson at EFDC:

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Thanks to so many readers taking time to read my nostalgic virtual re-visit to some of my visits to Chelsea Flower Show during past years.  One of the most pleasant memories when visiting Chelsea was to pop into the Royal Hospital to have a chat with one lovely friend who had left Brentwood to become one of our world famous Chelsea Pensioners in 2001. He was James Reddell (Jimmy to friends) who once served on Brentwood Borough Council and did so much for people in the town. When visiting the Flower Show, it was a great privilege to escort him  around the showground where we met many of his soldier pals and quite a few celebrities including some of these familiar faces.  We miss Jimmy very much.
Even members of JLS had a go at arranging flowers at Chelsea - brave boys!

Mr and Mrs Ringo Starr


Tuesday, May 19, 2020


In the midst of this worldwide epidemic, so many national events obviously have had to be cancelled.  Annually, around this time of the year for over one hundred years, professional horticulturalists and exhibitors have delighted in their wonderful VIP day at Chelsea Flower Show in London, known as the most famous in the world. 

For more than fifteen years, as an amateur gardener with a writing column, I never missed the third Monday in May,  turning up at Chelsea and setting forth to luxuriate in the wonderful gardens exhibiting the most exotic flowers from around the world. 

An additional treat was the pleasure of meeting and interviewing scores of the most famous folk who also enjoyed the craft of gardening. Not only did I learn so much about modern plant species, but what fun to bump into lots of well known faces from the world of entertainment, including actors, sports people and well-known folk from film, theatre and television. I am looking through the archives to find you a few who were so sweet and loved a chat. 

Credit: Sally Kent

Credit: Sally Kent

Thursday, May 14, 2020


Despite the world's current terrible pandemic situation and with most of us in lockdown, the SWWJ  Council team continues to work hard. Take a look at our website  Big changes have recently taken place at the top bringing the super novelist Freya North on to our list of famous Patrons, with Floella, the Rt Hon.Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham working hard as our President. There's a turnaround of positions with Pamela Payne in the Vice-Chairman's chair. Happy that our Chairman Rebecca Harding has now recovered from coronavirus. 

Our new manifesto reflects interesting plans ahead outlining events (when it is permissible) in London, exciting writing competitions covering different genres and a new-look and new name to our quarterly magazine - now renamed the SWWJ Journal. Currently, we are meeting virtually through social media platforms with our Council and members around the world. Why not take a look at our website and join us?

The SWWJ is the UK's longest-established Society for professional women writers. Founded in 1894 by newspaper proprietor Joseph Snell Wood, the Society has grown to become an international association, and is affiliated to women's associations worldwide. In 2004, the Society took the decision to invite men who are published writers to join us as Associate Members. We also welcome aspiring writers and non-writing Friends from across the publishing industry and beyond.
In 2017 Baroness Floella Benjamin agreed to become our new President, following in the footsteps of the late and much missed Victoria Wood.
To learn more about the SWWJ, explore this site and/or check out our Social Media feeds (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram).

Friday, May 08, 2020


Friday 8th May marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

To celebrate this special occasion Brentwood Borough Council has commissioned a commemorative video which features contributions from Brentwood Sea Cadets, Shenfield High School CCF, St. Peter's Church South Weald, Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury, Brentwood School CCF, Brentwood Imperial Youth Band, Royal British Legion and Brentwood Borough Council Leader, Cllr Chris Hossack.
The video produced by the fabulous Carmel Jane Films is now available to all and can be viewed below on Friday 8th May at 12pm. Few little extras showing the super filming team last week in Billericay - Pixie the cat enjoyed the attention. 

Red Arrows this morning over Essex

Saturday, May 02, 2020


Crisis - Lee Bernard, managing director of Caremark Colchester

Wonderful work going on via the Colchester Care Crisis team, coordinated by Colbea tenant Caremark Colchester, who are raising funds to help those who need urgent care assistance during the current crisis.

Caremark Colchester are offering immediate training, support and full PPE equipment for those wanting to help and find employment as a carer. They are also requesting assistance from local businesses and anyone able to donate a service, skill or item that will be of vital importance during this time.

Colbea have offered Caremark Colchester additional office space in one of their currently vacant units and access to the Colbea training room through this challenging time to help Caremark rapidly expand and develop their operations.
Caremark Colchester Managing Director Lee Bernard (pictured) said: “We have seen a dramatic rise in the demand for care in the local area, not just for clients with Coronavirus symptoms, but also with other health issues who are not receiving the care they need.  We want to fill the gaps in the system as soon as possible.
“We have a team of trainers available and clients desperate for care, and we are ready to help in any way we can. If you know of someone who needs help in the Colchester area please call our care crisis helpline 01206 487398 (kindly provided by Zen Systems) or email us at (kindly provided by Weald IT)”.
Local support and services have already been received by the following local businesses and volunteers:
  • Autoenhance services Colchester for air conditioning sterilisation for carers using their own cars
  • A local window cleaner to clean clients’ windows
  • A volunteer helping with social media
  • A volunteer helping with HR and recruitment
Further information about other items required, and how to donate to the cause can be found here:
Colbea are offering extended 1:1 business advice sessions to any businesses in need during the crisis. To access this support call 01206 548 833 or email

Friday, May 01, 2020


We are all aware that there is still a a huge shortage of PPE for NHS and care workers and one thing on that list is scrubs. So super sewers all over the country are busy churning out tops and trousers made from all sorts of fabrics including bed sheets and duvet covers.
Jenni Elliott
Jenni Elliott, our clever creative daughter wanted to join in so she made her first set from an old duvet cover and some fabric from her stash. She said:  "It’s a bit of a random combination but that’s all I had that was the right type and size. I’ve got some lovely fun fabric on order (unicorns and stars) so I’ll be making another two sets when it arrives. All these are destined for my local hospital (Torbay, Devon) and hopefully I can make someone smile."

Then the material arrived (love those little unicorns) and here we are with more medical scrubs (to wear with our gratitude). So proud of you, Jenni.  xxx