A Christmas Miracle

In a change to the advertised programme this blog will now be reporting some good news! As regular readers of the blog (ok, just humour me) will only be too aware, posts on here are usually ‘sob-sob, nobody wants me or my writing’ or worse still ‘boo-hoo, poor me, I don’t have time to write’… but today, drum roll please, I am trying out a new theme… I don’t have a name for it yet.

*There can be miracles, when you believe*

A few months ago I responded to a call for submissions on the HI-Arts website… From Hairy Bikers To Horrible Histories – The Search Is On To Find Scotland’s Best New Nonfiction! Well, I know quite a lot about being hairy so I sent off a few chapters and a carefully crafted (thank you Nicola Morgan) pitch.

And, as is usually the case in these matters, I received an email along the lines of ‘Thank you for your submission… blah blah blah, due to the high number of high quality entries… yeah, yeah yeah…’ I didn’t need to read the rest. I knew it would say: ‘Unfortunately, on this occasion you have been unsuccessful.’ Except it didn’t.

‘We have now selected the authors we would like to work with and would like to invite you to a meeting.’ Em… I beg your pardon? A meeting? And did you somewhere in that last sentence just call me an AUTHOR? Well, despite the overwhelming urge to run outside, throw my hat into the air and shout ‘The Man from Del Monte – he say YES!’ I did nothing. I waited. I pinched myself. I waited. I looked for emails about cruel hoaxes and clercal errors. I entered a state of suspended disbelief.

The Man from Del Monte – he say YES!

Only now, after attending a meeting at the Creative Scotland offices in Edinburgh this week (get me – dah-ling!) with Peter Urpeth of HI-Arts and Jenny Brown of Jenny Brown Associates (I know, I know, if I wasn’t me I would hate me too) am I allowing myself to believe a little. They read my stuff. They like it. They want to read MORE! Who knows what will happen, where this will lead… if anywhere. But right now – Santa, baby, slip a sable under someone else’s tree because all my Christmases have come at once.

Anyway, I didn’t come on here to boast (ok, maybe just a wee bit) I just wanted to say that last year, after a crushing disappointment (boo-hoo nobody wants me or my writing) I almost gave up. It is indeed a Christmas Miracle.

So, what are you waiting for? Another Virgin Birth? The truth is you have to put yourself about a bit, you have to knock on all the Inn Keepers’ doors you can find, you just have to keep sending out the crates of satsumas so that somebody, somewhere can say ‘YES’.

Wishing you miracles, merriness and writerly success for 2013.



Rock. Paper. Resolutions.

Jan-u-ary - sick and tired you've been hangin' on me...

Well, since it is nearly the end of January and my New Year’s Resolution has been reduced from “Write everyday” to “Write once a week” to “Write something – ANYTHING!” I thought I’d get back in the saddle of the blog.  So here goes… *blows dust off the saddle and climbs on* Whoa… is it just me or is it cold and stiff for you too?

Anyway, starting with a roundup of local writerly news from the Rock (aka the Isle of Lewis) this week I braved the gales to drive into Stornoway to visit our lovely local library for local people. The Western Isles Libraries’ very own Writer in Residence, poet and author Ian Stephen, is holding a series of workshops entitled Read, Listen, Create, to discuss reading and writing – and all for free. Where do I sign?

I attended the first session on Wednesday evening, held in the cosy library café, and as I pulled up a chair was at the same time delighted and dismayed to find plates of biscuits (including Jammie Dodgers!) and bowls of Pringles adorning the tables. I won’t even go into the Diet Resolution; suffice to say just as I’m progressing on one resolution (writing) the other one is about to be ruined (dieting).

However, once our little group assembled and Ian Stephen began to regale us with traditional tales from the Western Isles and enlighten us with the processes and considerations of storytelling and re-writing oral traditions, I didn’t think about the Pringles once.

I wasn’t tempted by the biscuits because we were too busy writing text messages in our groups to summarise the tale of when the Factor and His Wife Went to Sea in an Open Boat to St. Kilda. Long story – challenging task! I’m not about to attempt to re-create the full version here – but you can have a quick read at the text message version our group came up with:

Open boat sails from Harris to St.Kilda good weather with Factor’s wife onboard sea full of herring sky full of gannets a huge THUD stuns boat half way there

Gannet beak breaches hull crew leave dead bird stuck in boat wind picks up coming in fast islanders catch boat and see beak WOW!

Being the only one with a mobile phone in my group *shrugs shoulders and puts hands in air* I was elected as chief scribe. Not knowing how to save to drafts I sent it to my wee sister. She replied: ? Am confused x

Text Me a Story Jackanory

This morning when I spoke to her I explained that the message was an exciting task – that I’d been doing writerly things and meeting up with lovely like-minded writerly people.

“Oh,” she said, “I thought you were drunk.”

Hmm… maybe I need another resolution.

Read, Listen, Create with Ian Stephen next meeting  29th February 2012 6.30pm at Stornoway Library – All Welcome!

Don’t live in Lewis? Follow Ian Stephen’s Writer in Residence blog here instead.

Podcast Pressure!

Well tonight I had the pleasure of joining the team at www.insidelearning.net as a guest on their podcast. They invited me on to talk about handwriting – is handwriting dead? Do we care? Of course we do – passionately – well I do anyway!

They offered to link to my blog to see some of my…ahem…writing…and I had to confess that I really didn’t have anything to offer. Spurred on by their encouragement and enthusiasm I decided to give one last big push – and give birth to the new blog properly.

So here it is; a poem – I hope you enjoy it.

Prayer for Kinshasa

A white Mercedes crunches in the dehydrated dirt:

Papa Wemba songs waft from the window,

where my casual elbow rests.

I am the hero.

My sunglasses shield my eyes, but I watch them –

the patient pilgrims that snake around the village waiting for me.

Some have come by foot, some by pirog;

braving the stare of hippos along the Congo.  

The barefooted cluster run to the car,

banging the bonnet in a percussion of joy.

‘Ya Godé! Ya Godé!’


I am home at last.


Sleep ends.

I am back in the European cool, the white comfort.

My mother’s face, on fire with pride, stays with me.

A patterned panne wraps her frail, brown body,

holding her together at the seams.

Each year I am here, she is closer to death,

living still in the shell

of a home;

a concrete box, smooth and bare.

My photo hangs in the kitchen;

next to a crucifix.

We both receive her daily prayers.

I am the way, the truth and the light.

They wait for me to end this eternal poverty.

Lord, God, I beg you –

Let there be light.

And electricity.

Let there be rivers.

And running water.

Let there be yielding seed.

And food.

Let there be a genesis of good.

On the Sabbath they will rest,

with bellies full and spirits blessed.

Provide all I take for granted in this world of excess.

Give them more instead of less.

Give me the money to save them; then

the Mercedes.



Thank you Matthew, Jay and Steve for the lovely chat this evening and the metaphorical kick up the bum to ge something on here!

Listen in to their unmissable weekly podcast discussing all things educational at www.insidelearning.net

Published at last!

Ok, don’t get too excited – it’s only 75 words – and you’ve missed it! It was on www.paragraphplanet.com on Sunday – for 24 hours! Paragraph Planet is the brainchild of Richard Hearn, it is a truly inspirational site that publishes 75 word nuggets of fabulous flash fiction or extracts from longer pieces, with a new paragraph published every day.

I submitted my own 75 word extract entitled “Kinshasa Dreams”, based on a poem that I had written. I was overjoyed when Richard tweeted me to tell me it was being put on the site! Thank you Richard!

You can submit your own 75 words directly on the site at www.paragraphplanet.com and you can follow on Twitter too – @paragraphplanet! See you there!

Not another blog!!!!

Well, here it is – my fourth blog! But this time it is not about alpacas, African Pygmy Hedgehogs or education – it is about writing. I’ve been nurturing a secret desire to be a real writer for years now – and have finally decided to try and give it a go! Eeek! I blame it on Mrs Clarke, my Primary 5 teacher, she told me I was a “budding authoress” and her comment is etched on my soul. So, twenty six years later I’d love to prove her right.

Here goes…