Monday, 25 June 2018



I attended the Winchester Writers' Festival earlier this month having missed the previous year.  It was every bit as wonderful and helpful as I remembered.  I had a full day's workshop on writing YA fiction with Patrice Lawrence which had some gems of information I shall be using to structure my own work.  I also went on a How to Write a Killer Opening session which, again, was full of really useful tips.  Patrick Gale gave the keynote speech which was interesting, funny and thought-provoking.  Always great to hear published authors' experiences. I had four one-to-one agent appointments regarding my new YA novel.  All of them were very positive.  Two of them were so enthusiastic I spent the rest of the Festival with  huge grin on my face. Just one week later I have signed with one of them and am currently looking forward to working with her.  I will keep you posted.

So, all very positive on the writing front.  Again, I can't express how invaluable Literary Festivals are to writers.  If you meet with an agent you get the opportunity to sense how they feel about your work and their feedback is extremely helpful even if they don't go on to represent you.  I have also made some great 'writing' friends which is a lovely bonus.

The Year Ten creative writing project I am doing et at Stourhead is going well.  This morning I was blown away by a story idea one of the students came up with.  I can't wait to read the finished version!



Sunday, 11 February 2018


So it's been ages since I last did a blog post.  What have I been up to?

I moved house three months ago.  I now having a 'writing' room.  Yaay!  This makes my writing life so much easier.  My own desk.  My own book shelves.  My own walls to stick post-its all around. 

I have been working on a new YA book which I have recently finished editing.  I have sent it to my agent and now comes the waiting.  Of which there is an awful lot in the 'hoping to get published' world.  The main character, Joe, has been in my head for some time.  I just hadn't managed to find a story to for him to tell.  I looked at current media events and how they affect teenagers.  In November I had my big idea and after sending a synopsis to my agent I ran with it.  I managed to write the story pretty quickly as Joe fitted into the story so well.  My first edit consisted of writing down the key points chapter by chapter on post-its and sticking them around the room.  I found this tremendously useful to check my time-line and narrative arcs.  Four edits later it was finished and I'm happy with how it's turned out. 

I am fortunate not to have worked for a while so have been writing full time which makes a huge difference.  I found myself writing for hours on end which was great, especially when I was on a roll with the story.  But I will be going back to working with special needs youngsters later this month which I am looking forward to.  I have been asked if could work on embedding creative writing within a local school.  A very exciting venture!  I feel very fortunate to doing something I love.  I have been putting together ideas to show how the key elements of writing creatively can enhance all subjects as well as help students to be more confident in their speaking and listening skills.  I will up-date you in a future blog.

As far as writing goes, I am planning on a major edit to a book I wrote a year ago.  It's a good story, with strong characters but it needs more work to move it into an 'I can't put this book down' category. I have done some research and will hopefully be in a position to start work on it next month.  More of that at a later date.
The Winchester Writers' Festival is coming around again and I have decided to book a place this year.  It was such a fabulous experience the year before last not least because that's where I was taken on by the amazing Lorella Belli.   The whole place buzzes with people who love to write.  If you've never been to  writing festival before I fully recommend it.  Check out what's on offer in your area and go along even if it's just for a day. 

Well, that's it for now.  One project finished and awaiting feedback.  And two others ready to be tackled.  It looks like I am going to be super busy.


Sunday, 9 July 2017



 The last two books I have written took a long time coming to me.  I looked at current media coverage and how it related to young people and then worked on a few ideas until I found a story that I wanted to tell.  Cous Cous and Kippers, the book I recently finished, took so much 'thinking' time I wondered if it would ever materialise.  Then I suddenly found 'Gramps' and his story became the focus for mine.

This time around I wasn't even thinking of ideas when an image came to me.  Clear, distinct and the end of someone's story.  I have never worked from the end of a book to the beginning before so knew this was going to be a challenge.  I had no idea who this person in the image was but the scene was so powerful I started jotting down ideas.  Slowly, I discovered who she was and the story she needed to tell.  This character now has a name, a place to live, friends and a family.  I am juggling ideas as to how her story will be told.  First or third person.  Present or past tense.  Lots to think about.  But the most important thing is that I don' t lose sight of that image that grabbed me and pulled me in.

I am still at the note-making stage but the story is slowly taking shape.  It is a little out of my comfort zone but that in itself is a good thing.  I am pretty confident about the beginning now so will start the writing process soon and let the protagonist tell her story through me.
My sister is a writer and we discussed some time ago how she sees her characters and storylines as if they were in a picture or part of a movie.  I have always seen mine through dialogue and emotions.  The two totally different inways to writing fascinated me as it was something I had never thought about before.  'Seeing' the final scene for a new book blew me away because it was so powerful and instead of having to write down what the protagonist is feeling or saying I have this crystal clear image  sittting in my head: a wooden bench, a teenage girl and a story she is ready to tell.

I will let you know how it's going in my next blog post.


Friday, 19 May 2017


My sister, Caroline Roberts,  writer of women's romantic fiction spent part of last week down in Somerset.  It was great to spend four days talking about writing, publishers, agents and all things of a bookish nature.  Family, friends and colleagues are all extremely supportive of my writing journey but there is something about spending time with a published author that means you don't have to make yourself stop talking about the process of writing and endless rounds of editing.  You don't get 'that look' that says, okay I have listened and I am interested but can we please just move on?  Unless you have the writing bug yourself it must seem a pretty strange thing to do when you could be doing so many other things in your 'free time' that don't demand your undivided attention to be tied to a laptop for hours on end.  Followed by editing.  Editing.  And yet more editing.

The fact that Caroline and I write in different genres is a GOOD thing.  It means I take time out from reading YA novels and immerse myself in a different world.  Reading a book written by someone as close to you as a sibling is quite an experience.  I guess it's the same for the writer having a sibling read their book and then waiting for their reaction to months of hard work.  Fortunately we have not fallen into the trap of treating each other's work as 'competition'.  We share nuggets of useful information and support one another on a reguar basis.    

The writing business is a strange and often solitary one so I count myself as very fortunate being able to share the journey with someone who understands how it feels to submit a beloved manuscript only to get rejections.  The high point of getting representation from an agent was a massive achievement for both of us.  We are also great believers in getting booked onto writing festivals.  If my sister hadn't kept telling me how fantastic these are and how helpful if is to have one to ones with agents I would never have gone to Winchester last year.   It really was a turning point in my writing career as I had such positive feedback from three agents.  I am now represented by Lorella Belli who is a wonderful hands-on agent with a great passion for her writers.  Having her agency advise me on editing and dealing with the submission process means I can get on with the business of writing which is what I am happiest doing. 


Wednesday, 29 March 2017


I am half way through my latest young adult novel and want to share with you my experience of reaching that point where the characters ‘speak for themselves’.  This may sound strange, a little weird even, but as a writer it makes telling their story so much easier.

Starting a new book involves a lot of hard work and often months of mulling over ideas.  Several come along but there isn’t enough material to create a whole book from it.  Cast it aside.  Think again.  Wait.  Eventually something will spark an idea with plenty of scope for sixty thousand plus words that others will want to read. Then comes the main character.  Male or female?   How are they going to tell the story?  This is when I am faced with the task of giving my protagonist a ‘voice’.   And it has to fit.  Be credible to the reader.  Chapter one is the hardest.  I don’t know this person yet.  I can visualise them but not much more.  So I start to write.  Tentatively at first.  The dialogue doesn’t come naturally at this point because I am having to think carefully about what is going to come out of this character’s mouth.  Jack, the protagonist is fifteen years old.  Choosing his name, hair and eye colour and putting him into a family started the process but writing dialogue for him was a battle at the outset.  I had just finished CHEESE BOY, a book about two teenage boys, and I had to make sure Jack wasn’t like either of them.  How would he speak?  What would his thought processes be?  His likes?  Dislikes?  What will his role in the story be? 

By five thousand words I start to feel more comfortable with this Jack character. He is beginning to lift off of the page, changing from a 2D to a 3D individual.  By ten thousand words Jack’s dialogue is flowing.  He is taking ownership of his ‘voice’.  As a writer this is where things become magical for me.  Jack has evolved into a fully-fledged teenager with his own thought processes.  This may sound a little odd but something shifts in the writing process at this point, from me thinking how he will respond to an incident, to him doing it all by himself.  I love this stage.  The story flows more freely, Jack says things I type without hesitation.  The book suddenly belongs to the characters I have created and they are ready to do their job. 

I am currently at thirty thousand words.  I know exactly where the story is going.  Jack and the other two main characters have got me this far and I am confident they will carry right on to the end.  I have a pretty good idea as to how the story will resolve itself so all I have to do now is keep my characters on track with the plot and steer them towards the resolution.

Writing can be a challenging, often frustrating business, but when you reach that point where your characters take on a life of their own, it makes all the hard work leading up to it worthwhile.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

HERE BE WITCHES by Sarah Mussi

Having thoroughly enjoyed Here be Dragons, Book One, of The Snowdonia Chronicles I have been eagerly awaiting the publication of Book Two, Here be Witches.
Ellie and her friends, George and Rhiannon, find themselves caught up in a battle involving witches, dragons and other mythical creatures.  They need to reverse the spell that threatens to leave Wales in the icy grip of winter.  With the help of Davey, a mysterious stranger, and Granny Jones’ charms and potions, they set out on their quest.  They have just three days to complete it.

For me, the best thing about this book, is how Sarah Mussi achieves a totally credible merging of two worlds: the ‘real’ world and the mythical.  Setting the story in Snowdonia in Wales gives it a solid sense of place.  Together with Wales’ connections to dragons and its folklore this merging of real and mythical is seamless.  There is a powerful sense of atmosphere throughout the book with the landscape of Snowdonia as a constant backdrop. 

Ellie Morgan, the protagonist, is a strong and courageous sixteen-year-old in love with the gorgeous Henry, who also happens to be a dragon.   She is a highly likeable and relatable character.  I thought that her scored-through thoughts in the text were ingenious, showing the reader what she is really thinking.  The use of texts and pings in the storyline also give her credibility as a regular teenager albeit one who is in love with a dragon.

Friendship features strongly in the storyline and the one between Ellie, Rhiannon and Sheila is spot on.  The friendship between Ellie and George is full of humorous banter with poor George declaring his undying love for her.  As the story progresses there are glimpses of Ellie questioning how she really feels about him.  A definite pull into Book Three.

Ellie’s love for Henry is powerful, the thing above all else that she is prepared to fight for.  The fact that she may also be harbouring feelings for George as more than just a friend add nicely to the mix.  By the end of the book I am still not sure who she will ultimately choose.

I loved the humour in the dialogue, ‘maybe she is some kind of Gandalf’.   The text is littered with funny comments that lighten the mood and definitely convinced me I was in the company of teenagers.

Here be Witches has great pace.  Firstly the characters have just three days to complete their quest.  And secondly, the action is snappy, no overlong scenes or lengthy descriptions to slow it down.

The book has a strong sense of right and wrong, good and evil.  I thought the ethereal character of Davey alluded particularly well to this theme giving it religious overtones.  Ellie’s thoughts and comments about him are particularly amusing as it takes her a while to work him out.

So, a brilliant story full of amazing mythical creatures, told by strong, credible characters and set against a magnificent backdrop.  I cannot wait to read the final book in this trilogy.  


Tuesday, 28 February 2017


I was intrigued to read this book as we use sign language where I work and I wondered how Sara was going to incorporate this within the story.  First of all great idea with the chapter numbers.

Steffi and Rhys both have challenges to face.  Steffi suffers from selective mutism and Rhys is deaf.  Communication is obviously an issue but definitely not a barrier to the relationship that blossoms between them.  They are introduced at school by one of the teachers as Steffi knows some sign language which is Rhys’ main form of communication.

Tem is Steffi’s best friend but has chosen not to go to sixth form which leaves Steffi having to face school alone.  Their relationship is warm and funny and powerful.  However, as Steffi becomes more involved with Rhys she becomes less dependent on Tem.  Her courage grows through the story as she discovers she can use her voice although it is still a battle for her.

This books touches on so many things teenagers face.  Friendships, old and new, boyfriend/girlfriend, sex and the desire to chase your dreams.  In Steffi’s case, proving to her parents, and herself, she is independent enough to go to uni.  Watching her grow from a timid, introverted individual to a quietly confident one is extremely moving.  There is a lot of talk on social media about anxiety amongst teenagers at the moment and through Steffi the subject is handled in a very relatable and sympathetic   way.    

Tem is an interesting character.  Although Steffi sees her best friend as being uber confident we see a more vulnerable side to her.  Much of her confidence comes from her relationship with Steffi and once she goes off to college she struggles.  This highlights an intriguing dynamic between the two of them and I particularly like how their friendship is challenged through the story. 

Steffi and Rhys are very real and relatable.  They are both equally challenged but rather than let that define them they use it to help one another.  They fall in love slowly rather than having an instant attraction and this gives their story more credibility and depth. 

I like that this is the story of two teenagers who fall in love amidst all the usual angsts and insecurities of teenage years.  The fact they both have a disability doesn’t alter the fact they are no different from their peers other than in the way they communicate.  This sends a powerful and important message to the reader.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a great story.  If you haven’t read it yet I strongly
recommend you do.

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