Sunday, 29 May 2016

Out of my Comfort Zone at Diggerland

This is not my usual writerly blog post but I think it's nice sometimes to break away and talk about something else... in this case dumper truck racing!

We bought this as a Christmas present for the (adult) children and it took place at Diggerland in Kent and we had to drive one of these beasties.

There were about thirty of us with four people in each heat. Alongside me in my heat was my step-daughter and two boy racers! Here's us lining up for the start.

What I can tell you, is it was NOT easy! The controls were really sensitive and the dumper truck seemed to go every way except the way I wanted to go. Also, my helmet was so big it kept falling over my eyes (maybe I can use that as an excuse for going the wrong way).

We had three heats with a variety of tasks (most of which involved weaving through tires or reversing). I did both these things but not necessarily in the right places... as the video shows!

This is the moment I crashed into my opponent. As you can see, it was quite obviously not my fault ;)

I was relieved when we finished - and so were my opponents (they considered themselves lucky to still be in one piece after racing against me).

Of course, it is the taking part that counts. I even got a medal... for coming last with minus 18 points (how is that possible?)

I was going to make this a post about how being out of your comfort zone can be good for your creativity (or something along those lines) but, you know what, I'm just going to leave this as it is, in the hope that you'll enjoy seeing another side to the author me. I'm now off to write a short story about it.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast and a Publication

If you're thinking this blog post is going to be all about food... then you're probably right. I love food and what better place to eat it than in Italy. We've been gallivanting again - this time to Sorrento and then on to Positano on the Amalfi Coast.

This is a picture of the breakfast room in our hotel in Sorrento. We stayed three days and the hotel was very quiet as it was still early in the season. We never saw anyone else at breakfast and it would have been rude not to have tried a bit of everything, wouldn't it? 
Our room looked out onto a lovely little square with a church on the corner. The balcony was a great place to watch the wedding that took place there on our first morning. 

While we were in Sorrento, we visited Capri, Pompeii and Herculaneum. What fabulous places. We also ate gorgeous food like the gnocchi and clams below. Hmm... it's making my mouth water just remembering it!

We then spent four nights on the Amalfi Coast, staying in the gorgeous town of Positano. As you can see, it is built on a steep terraced hillside - all narrow streets and many, many steps. We were staying right at the top of the village so every day we had to walk back up the hill. The view over the rooftops to the sea was stunning but we certainly felt our calf muscles by the end of the holiday. 

We visited the charming village of Ravello and the town of Amalfi, whose cathedral (and especially the crypt) was so richly decorated it took our breath away.


While I was away, I missed Bonnie. Luckily the bed and breakfast's resident dog Dylan was on hand for a cuddle.

It was a wonderful holiday and when we came home, I found I had a story in The People's Friend Special which was a lovely surprise. Now it's back to some serious writing as my stock of stories is running low. As always, I have a story in my head inspired by my holiday -
it was something I overheard on the beach in Positano. Before I do that though, I have a novel in need of some serious edits so I'll sign off now.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Pick 'n' Mix - Guest Post Elaine Everest

Today, I am delighted to welcome Elaine Everest to my blog. Elaine's novel, The Woolworths Girls, was published by Pan Macmillan on 5 May and I decided to find out a little more about it.

How long did it take you to write The Woolworths Girls?

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Wendy.

It took around nine months. The Woolworths Girls (it had a different working title at that time) was taken to my agent, Caroline Sheldon, as a few ideas on one sheet of paper. We discussed my previous writing and Caroline signed me up at that point and I started to write the book. With three chapters and a synopsis she secured me a two book contract with Pan Macmillan – and a deadline. I feel very fortunate to have such a lovely agent and publisher. I think they are the best - but then I would!

What was the inspiration behind the novel?

I’d already written a novel set in my hometown before the idea for The Woolworths Girls popped into my head. I wanted to keep my sagas in the area of North West Kent where I was born, grew up and knew so much of the local history. I felt it was ‘my patch’ and once I had my character in my head I knew she needed a job – where else but the very Woolworths where I shopped since an early age.

Your first novel, Gracie’s War, was also set during the second world war.  What is it that attracts you to this era?

The romance of war and men in uniform! The uncertainty of a future for couples and knowing one had to live for today is always very much in my mind. Saying that, I hate to kill off my characters and wept buckets when it happened in The Woolworths Girls.

I remember going to Woolworths with my mum for a bag of Pick ‘n’ Mix. Do you have your own memories of this shop?

I have many memories of Erith Woolworths, where my book is set. It is as much a character in the story as my girls. Mum bought my first bra in Woolies – white with embroidered cherries – I can still feel the embarrassment of wearing it to school and changing for PE. My younger sister and I also shopped at Woolies for our parents' Christmas presents. It was a safe walk from where we lived and we would often go to Woolies after our ballroom dancing lessons in the town where we were taught by Len Goodman’s in-laws.

Which of the Woolworths Girls’ characters is your favourite and why?

I like them all and tend to change my mind. I like a woman who has struggled in her lifetime and at the moment that would be young Freda who ran away from the Midlands to look for her brother who has escaped from prison. Fortunately she went to work in Woolies and made friends with Sarah and Maisie who took her under their wing from day one.

What was the hardest part of writing this novel?

Knowing that I was with a large publishing house and so many people had great hopes for my story. I still feel that way. As for writing the novel – I loved it and I will always have a special place in my heart for The Woolworths Girls.

Can you describe the moment you heard The Woolworths Girls had been sold to Pan MacMillan?

I was at a funeral. Looking back it feels a little like a movie where a character has to keep dashing from the room to take phone calls. Someone asked what I was doing and it felt so pretentious to say, ‘it’s my agent,’ but I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Then, when I rang Caroline she was in a meeting… Its very hard trying not to wear a big grin on one’s face whilst at a funeral wake. Such a long afternoon but at least I’ll remember it!

Do you think being a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association helped you on your path to publication?

Most certainly. Even though I was a working writer with short stories, articles, and three non fiction books under my belt as well as many charity anthologies I joined the RNA as a member of it’s New Writers’ Scheme. When I graduated with Gracie’s War I was a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award in the year there were fifteen of us. I met my agent via the RNA so will always be a big supporter of the Association.

What next for Elaine Everest?

Gosh! So much is happening at the moment. I feel as though I’ve been interviewed by most women’s magazines and have radio interviews lined up. My next book with Pan Macmillan for 2017, The Butlins Girls, is at the edit stage and as I’ve been working on your questions an email has arrived from my wonderful editor to say cover designs are beginning and asking for my input. I have an outline for my 2018 novel which I’m itching to get started on. Life is very exciting and what I’ve dreamt of for so many years!

Thank you again for inviting me to your blog, Wendy

Elaine Everest was born and brought up in north west Kent, where The Woolworths Girls is set, and was once a Woolworths girl herself.
Elaine has written widely for women's magazines, with both short stories and features. When she isn't writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Dartford, Kent, and the blog for the Romantic Novelists' Association.
Elaine lives with her husband, Michael, and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, in Swanley, Kent.

Facebook Author Page
Twitter: @ElaineEverest

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Waiting in the Wings - a musical inspiration

When fellow writer, Elaina James, asked me if I would like to participate in a blogging event (based around music) to link in with her guest blogs on the Mslexia site, I didn't hesitate to say yes. The only problem was, I was spoilt for choice as music is a big part of my life. I have been a member of my local Choir, Cantatrice, for over ten years and dancing (to a variety of different types of music) has been my hobby for even longer. Not surprisingly, music has featured in many of my stories in some form or another.

It was difficult to choose which to write about but then a piece of good fortune revealed itself. Elaina told me that her blog series was about chasing your writing dreams and that she'd written it from the perspective of a lyricist with stage fright (the final blog post focusing on the accidental chance to turn her words into a song with music). What a stroke of luck, for my story, 'Waiting in the Wings' had just been published in The People's Friend Special. It fitted the theme perfectly as the main character was a lyricist.

The story starts with Chris, a young songwriter, trying to write lyrics for a radio competition. He knows they want something upbeat but, because he has just split up with his girlfriend, the only words that come into his head are sad ones - words they said to each other during the breakup (I drip feed these random lines into the first part of the story). His mother sees the screwed up lines on the floor and tries to encourage him. 'Keep at it,' she says. 'Follow your dreams.'

In the second part of the story we are introduced to an older Chris who is now a successful lyricist for musical theatre. One of his best known musicals is being revived and he has been asked to write a new love song for it but once again he finds the words stalling - this time due to the death of his friend and composer, Ben.

I don't want to tell you everything, in case you intend to read it, but in the end Chris manages to write the new song for the show, using the lines he wrote (and threw away) all those years ago - but which his mother kept. 

This is the final verse:

I never knew that words could cause such sorrow
Don't tell me now, wait until tomorrow
You leave a trail of footprints on my heart
I know I loved you too much from the start

Maybe I should have been a lyricist!

So, moving on to the inspiration for this story. First of all, I love musical theatre - my mother and I have seen just about every musical over the years and some of our favourites are ones with lyrics by Sir Tim Rice (Evita being my all time favourite). In fact Joseph was the first musical I ever saw and I was even in a production of it when I was about eleven.

If you follow this blog, you will already know the story but last December I was adjudicator for the SWWJ short story competition and was invited to their Christmas tea in London to award the prizes. Imagine how delighted I was to hear that the other guest was none other that Sir Tim Rice. (You can read about the day in my blog post here.)

As the society's guests, we sat at the same table and it was lovely to have the opportunity to talk to him. During tea, Sir Tim asked me a lot about my magazine writing and mentioned that his mother had liked The People's Friend. I remember how even then a story idea was forming in my head.

After the tea, Sir Tim gave a speech about his early career and, when he talked about his musicals, I couldn't help wondering how he came up with such wonderful lyrics time and time again. Had he ever had writers' block? It made me think about my story again - what if the main character couldn't find the right words because he had a broken heart?

So there you have it - that meeting was the inspiration behind my story, Waiting in the Wings... Wouldn't it be lovely if Sir Tim read it!

This blog post is part of a music themed blog event organised by Elaina James, a guest blogger on Mslexia. 

Her author page on Mslexia can be found at

Details of participating bloggers in this event can be found on Elaina James’ blog.