Wednesday, 16 November 2016


img_0494No, I haven't gone down the route of cosmetic correctives, Botox or the like.
img_0497'Fillers' in the context of writing are the shorter articles that magazine editors slot into gaps between longer pieces of copy and adverts. Because of this they are usually chosen at the last moment, once the major components of an anticipated edition are agreed upon and a judgment is made as to what space needs to be infilled.
img_0496My first published piece of writing was a filler in The People's Friend over 2 years ago. Since then they have published several more of mine, the most recent in the Christmas Special now on sale. The current article is about Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean which I first discovered as a child when looking through my father's stamp collection. 
img_0495Stamps give an overview of a country featuring as they do pictures featuring geographical, historical, anthropological, mythical and natural interest. It is from these stamps that I learned of the spectacle of the island's red crab migration. If you've never seen photographs then do take a look online.
img_0498My favourites from my late father's collection though have to be a set of 5 stamps issued 30 years ago in which an artist imagined Santa Claus holidaying on the island which bears his name. After the busy-ness of Christmas Eve, who would deny him a restful holiday in the sun?

Monday, 7 November 2016


While I'm writing this, there is in the background a gentle buzz of noise. People are chattering, there is an occasional burst of laughter from the table in the corner, the explosion of a grind and hiss from the machine being used by the baristas as they complete the next order for a skinny latte with a caramel shot, or whatever it may be. All the normal sounds and comforting hubbub that comes from sitting in a cafe whilst tapping away at my keypad.

You may think that I am writing in a cafe, as many other writers choose to do. Except I'm not. I'm in the warmth of my own home listening to 'university undertones' from the cafe menu on Coffitivity. As it's pouring with rain outside I really didn't want to leave the comfort of my desk this morning!

Cafe bars are a great place to people watch and many an unsuspecting customer has found his or her way into a short story of my composition. Just why has the otherwise elegantly dressed and perfectly maquillaged old lady sitting by herself have dirt incongruously entrapped under her fingernails? What happened to the brusque workman this morning to put him into such a foul mood that he snapped rudely at the young barista serving his tea? And the smartly suited businessman in the corner working at his laptop in the corner keeps glancing furtively around the room, leaning forward to cover the screen whenever anyone walks by - what is he hiding?

Here is a piece of flash fiction of mine that was published last month on Paragraph Planet. Enjoy!

Do you find writing in cafes a distraction or a source of inspiration?

Saturday, 8 October 2016


Every picture tells a story, so it is claimed. What story do you see when you look at this painting?

'Fidelity' by Briton Riviere
What happened to the young boy that led to his imprisonment? How did he injure his arm? What is the significance of the graffiti on the cell wall? What will happen to him next? Above all, what emotions does the painting evoke?

I have a fondness for 19th century narrative art. I was brought up in Liverpool where the Walker Art Gallery, and the Lady Lever Art Gallery in nearby Port Sunlight, have an excellent selection. As a child I would examine the paintings and find myself asking those simple questions – who, why, what, where?

Story writing begins the same way. We start with the questions and then we provide the answers: introduce the characters, explain their motivation, describe the situation, identify the setting. In so doing we aim to create a credible and well-rounded plot that will evoke emotion in the reader.

My focus in Riviere's painting is the dog. He has such expressive eyes, full of concern and love. The droop of his tail indicates empathy with his master's sorrow.
I no longer have a dog of my own but provide regular doggy-day-care for those belonging to family members. Here are my three loyal and loving friends. They have already inspired some of my short stories. Do you find pictures and animals a source of inspiration?
Why is Ziggy so sad?

Who has caught Henry's attention?

What has Freddie found buried amongst the leaves?

Thursday, 15 September 2016


They aren’t everyone’s favourite, but even the most ardent arachnophobe can’t help but be awestruck by the beauty that these misty autumn mornings reveal. The hedge in my back garden was covered in silver when I opened the door this morning.

I must pay tribute to the tenacity and patience of the spider who lives in my car’s nearside wing mirror. Despite regularly having his web destroyed when I brush past, or attempt to wash the car windows, or drive at speed, by the next morning the web will have been rebuilt.

Maybe I can learn from him how to be persistent? In writing terms, if I submit my delicate manuscript and it is destroyed by rejection, I need to practice that same determination: pick up the threads and reconstruct my story, one strand at a time, until it is stronger and better and ready again to be submitted.

The same lesson can be applied to overcoming life’s setbacks, silken thread by silken thread. OK, maybe that’s a bit deep and pushing the analogy too far.

On a lighter note, here’s a little something I prepared earlier which was published last year on Paragraph Planet. Hope you enjoy it.


Wednesday, 24 August 2016


It’s back today! Judging from Twitter I’m not the only one struggling to keep my excitement under control. I refer of course to The Great British Bake Off which returns to our television screens tonight. Weeks of fun lie ahead. Expect to see plenty of hard work and effort, creativity, histrionics, disbelief, despair and finally exultation. Just like writing really.

Last year I had a 75 word flash published on Paragraph Planet which was inspired by The Great British Bake Off. Today is as good a time as any to share it again. If you haven’t heard of Paragraph Planet pop across and have a look at their site. They publish a new piece of flash fiction every day, the only requirement being it has to be exactly 75 words, no more and no less, including any title. I find it an excellent way of warming up for a day of writing. Why not give it a go?

Now to get back to my own literary efforts, mixing up words and phrases in just the right proportions to create a tasty manuscript. Hope I can avoid the flabby middle and soggy bottom.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Alan and Bea

I said in my last post Bea-ing Zed that I would be taking time out from blogging because “Real life sometimes gets in the way of the virtual world”. Sadly it did in the cruellest way. During the last few months I nursed my wonderful husband through his final illness before he slipped away on 23 June. No, that is wrong. Alan didn’t so much slip away; it was more that he chose his time to leave. Sometimes the bravest thing is to let go of what we know and to face the unknown. Alan did that.
Thank you, Alan, for the time we spent together and for your inspiration.
Which leaves me to carry on. I intend to resume my writing. Alan was my greatest supporter, always encouraging: he suggested topics for articles, he danced with me when I celebrated a sale and he picked me up when I received a rejection.
Knowing he would support me still, last week I attended the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School just six weeks after he died. I’m so glad I did: informative courses and workshops; inspiring speakers; refreshing meditation sessions; beautiful grounds (with a little WW2 history thrown in); an abundance of food and coffee; evening entertainment. I met with virtual friends and made new ones. Stimulation and relaxation in equal measure, just what I needed. Thank you to all at Swanwick for a week of renewal and inspiration.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Bea-ing Zed

Z. It’s the 26th letter of the alphabet and is an indication that you’ve reached the end. Except this isn’t an end, just a temporary halt. A pause. Used in a series, zzzz, is an indication that you've fallen asleep.

I began blogging in February 2015 and each of my posts has followed an alphabetical prompt. This is the second time I’ve been through the list. So I’ve completed 52 posts to date. Not quite one per week but close to it.
I like blogging. It’s an interesting discipline, forcing me to write even when I haven’t always felt like sitting at a keyboard. I suppose in that sense I write mainly for myself but I love it when others stop by and leave a comment. Thank you to those who take the time to read my posts.
I may not update this page quite so frequently in the near future. Real life sometimes gets in the way of the virtual world. I hope to return soon. In the meantime I shall catch some zzzz.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Bea-ing Yellow

It’s such a beautiful colour, isn’t it? It’s reminiscent of spring: daffodils, crocus, primroses.

I find it strange therefore that the colour has negative connotations. A yellow-belly is a cowardly person. A hospital in quarantine would fly a yellow flag. For many years there was a xenophobic fear of eastern races labelled the yellow peril. Someone with a yellow streak has a tendency to dastardly behaviour.

An older meaning, and not one I recognised, was that yellow can mean sensational. A yellow-back was a cheap, sensational novel common in the 19th century.

Yellow press meant newspapers abounding in exaggerated and sensational articles. I can think of many magazines today which fit that description, albeit not many of them use the colour yellow as part of their branding. I’ve recently taken out a subscription with Readly which provides access online to hundreds of different publications. Some are highly sensationalised, others not so.

They may not all be magazines I would choose to read but a little research reveals many will pay for readers’ letters, photographs and helpful hints. So on the days when I find it difficult to focus on longer pieces of writing, I intend to send in my contributions. I may even win some prizes for doing so. Now wouldn’t that be sensational!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Bea-ing Xenial

Xenial means being hospitable, especially to strangers. Which is exactly how I find the writing fraternity to be.

It is often observed that writing is a lonely occupation. It is not a group experience. Even if we choose to write surrounded by other people, such as in a coffee bar, we nevertheless must exclude from our consciousness the world around us and focus only on the words we are writing.

In a normal office environment people pass by one’s desk, and there is a staff room or canteen to share coffee and chat. As writers in our metaphorical lonely garrets we do not have the benefit of that interaction.

Which is what is so great about social media. On both Twitter and Facebook I meet fellow writers who form a welcoming, supportive, informative and fun group. Facebook is my lunch hour chat; Twitter is my coffee break; #writingchat 8-9pm each Wednesday night is my weekly after-work social.

So today, I wanted to say hello to my writing buddies in the virtual staff room. Even though we’ve never met, thanks for being xenial.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Bea-ing Wicked

Most of what I write is intended for the women’s magazine market. Generally those stories are warm and uplifting. They are ‘nice’ stories, intended to make the reader feel better for having read them. Even the murder stories they publish are classified as ‘cosy crime’.

In contrast, I have recently written two short stories as competition entries. In each case I have chosen a wicked main character: one is a thief, the other a murderer. They both get their come-uppance in the end.

Getting the balance

Of course, people are not wholly good or entirely evil. We all have shades of good and bad. So as writers our challenge is to create characters who display that real life balance, whether the story be a wholesome tale or a crime thriller.  

The baddies should show some good traits - the gang boss who loves his mother. And even the sweetest character in the womag should demonstrate a failing or weakness - the loving grandmother who has no patience with other people’s children.

Any thoughts on writing realistic characters?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Bea-ing Vain

We writers are insecure creatures, aren’t we? It’s partly because an inevitable part of our working life is rejection. When we submit a piece of work we have to wait and see if anyone else likes it enough to buy it for publication or to shortlist it in a competition.

Perhaps it’s those rejections which make the successes when they come so sweet. Today is one of those golden days for me. I have two short stories on the newsagents’ shelves, one in The People’s Friend and the other in Yours. I’m really chuffed about this week’s double success.


But before I get too big headed, I would do well to remember my adult daughter’s opinion of one of these two stories. ‘It’s a bit boring.’ (I shan't tell you which one, of course.)

Oh well, that will help keep my feet firmly on the ground!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Bea-ing Uncertain

One of my New Year Resolutions Bea-ing Resolved was to join a writing group. So far I have discovered three groups that meet locally. I have visited one, am due at another next week and still have to decide whether to look at the third. What seemed like a good idea at the beginning of the year doesn’t feel that way now. Why am I so uncertain? And how will I know when I find the right one?

One of my reasons for being part of a writing group is to socialise with like-minded individuals; the other is to seek advice on whether a particular piece of writing is good enough for submission. I already achieve both of these online.

I am a member of an online writing group, Fiction Addiction, which is wonderfully supportive. Mostly the stories we share and critique are intended for the womag market. Because they understand that market, I trust the members to tell me whether a particular story is working.

Socially, I ‘attend’ a weekly Twitter meet-up with fellow writers. (Each Wednesday evening, from 8pm to 9pm UK time, use the hashtag #writingchat to find us.) We talk about writing topics generally. There is usually a theme to start the conversation. It’s rather like walking into a crowded party where there are dozens of conversations happening. With Twitter you can flit in and out of them all. It’s fun, interesting and usually makes me laugh out loud.

So if I already have a critique group and a social circle, what extra benefits am I looking for by attending a local group? It would be good to meet real people who understand what it is to be a writer; to know that I am not alone with my computer; to be challenged and stimulated; to stretch myself and my writing beyond its narrow genre confines. I know it will take me time to feel comfortable with new people, enough to lay bare my sensitive writing soul.

I’ve never been a member of a local writing group before so am not sure what to expect. Are you a member of a writing group? If so, what benefits do you find there? Any advice for me?

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Bea-ing Tutored

I have some exciting news to report this week. I am a runner-up in The Writers Bureau 2016 Writer of the Year awards! You can find the link here.

I became a student of The Writers Bureau by chance. In November 2013 I entered a competition on their website to write a 500 word factual piece about Guy Fawkes. I won, and my prize was a free subscription to their Non-Fiction Writing course.

Completing the various assignments and taking on board the feedback from my tutor (the excellent Simon Whaley) has helped to improve my writing skills, not just limited to non-fiction writing. I am grateful to The Writers Bureau, and to Simon for his patience.

But being taught how to write is not enough. It has to be more than a passive exercise. The challenge is to apply those lessons: to write and submit, to accept the inevitable rejections, then to write and submit again.

The great thing is, the more I write, the more I learn. And if I have fun and earn some cash whilst I’m doing it, then what’s not to like?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Bea-ing Successful

I enjoy writing my short stories and articles and flash fiction, I really do. Selling a piece of work and seeing it published is such a thrill. I celebrate each success, no matter how small, as each one spurs me on to write more.

But sometimes a little variety is good. So if the writing isn’t coming so easy to me, I do something different. I write letters to readers’ pages of magazines, I send in cute photographs of the family pets, I submit gardening tips, I enter competitions.

It’s a bit of fun and provides light relief from the intensity of research and drafting and editing. It can prove quite lucrative too. Last year I won several cash prizes, free magazine subscriptions, tea caddies, pots and pans and also some high street and gardening vouchers.

I didn’t do any writing during the Christmas period but I did enter a competition on Facebook for a camping themed Christmas decoration and was delighted to win. Look what arrived today!

My prize!

What is the best prize you’ve ever won?