Sunday 21 December 2014


Happy Winter Solstice - the light is coming
In a previous post I spoke about the importance of showing not telling so a reader can experience the story. I also mentioned that one way of doing that is through dialogue. There is an art to dialogue though and these are some of my thoughts on it. Baggy dialogue that doesn't move the story forward and bogs it down could mean the reader may well just switch off. What you want to achieve is dialogue that shines and draws the reader into the story. It is worth considering speech as another form of action.

When writing dialogue don't write it the way we speak it in real life. That would be so boring!  It shouldn't waffle. What dialogue can do is reveal information that is important. *WARNING* Not in great chunks - the old adage less is more applies here* It can be done through narrative as well of course. Be careful how you do it of course. It mustn't be obvious to the reader that that is what you are doing though. There are times when you need to trust your reader to work things out. Remember also that information can be gleaned by what is not being said as much as by what is. Now there is a contradiction for you to think about. Don't underestimate the importance or impact of silence either.

You can use dialogue to set the tone and to allow readers to experience a scene. Also dialogue can be used to reveal information about characters and their relationship. Think about distinct voices for your characters, consider vocab, peer groups etc. Use conflict and tension (including fear and barriers) in their dialogue while remembering that all characters will have an agenda regardless of how small their part may be in your novel.

I am often asked about 'said'. It is recommended that it is your default attribution. It becomes invisible the reader doesn't see it but it gives them enough information without them having to work hard and allowing them to focus on the other words.  'Said' disappears yet gives direction. Use other words such as 'whispered' and 'asked' sparingly and with reason ensuring it does what you need it to. The same with adverbs attached to speech tags. Ask the question could I show this better? If not keep it in. Again less is more at times.

On a personal note I don't tend to put internal dialogue or thoughts in quotation marks or italics. Again I find it distracting. I have been writing a lot of dialogue from the end of the Second World War and I have had to make sure that contemporary phrases don't slip in. If they did it would mean the whole narrative would lose credibility for the reader I believe. It just wouldn't feel real. Something to bear in mind when writing historical fiction or even fiction that is set a few years ago. Think about what might or might not be said. Make sure you do your research.

Try and practice writing dialogue. Take a couple of your characters out of your novel and put them in situations and write dialogue for them just to see how they would react, what would they say. One thing to avoid when writing dialogue is the 'talking heads' scenario. Watch people having conversations. They never just talk. People are always doing things at the same time. You need to convey this too to make it feel real and to break up blocks of dialogue.  When you have written it read it out loud so you can hear it. Does it sound real? Dialogue should be short and sharp unless there is a good reason for a character to be verbose.

There we go some thoughts on dialogue. I hope they are useful. Today is the winter solstice. The shortest day. What a relief we are heading towards spring again and the light and sunshine. It has been a tough time for many reasons and I need to thank a lot of people who have supported people. They know who they are.

This song is for no other reasons than it has some very happy memories connected to it and because I am looking to the future now.

Sunday 14 December 2014

Make every word count

Writing is a long and sometimes lonely journey
When giving feedback this is something I often talk about.  Making every word count and ensuring that each word moves the story forward. It sounds easy doesn't it but it can be a little difficult and easy to forget when you get wrapped up in your story telling and the sound of your own voice. We all do it particularly in that first draft when we get excited about our subject. I personally killed three chapters out of my latest WIP. They were great but they did nothing for the story. They were fabulous if you wanted to know about horses though!

It is all about keeping the writing tight. Lots of unnecessary words end up slowing your story down and taking your reader away from the main point and main thrust, Impacting on the pace and therefore potentially losing the interest of the reader. How do you spot it? That can be the hard part. It is looking at sentences and paragraphs and asking yourself. What am I trying to say? Does it say what I want it to? Am I showing it the best way I can? And yes I am sorry often it comes back to that show not tell too (see previous post).

But and there is a big BUT it is not all about making the writing so tight there is no colour to it. When a reader reads your writing they need to feel your story. They need to experience it and become part of the narrative so they forget everything else that is going on around them and live it. You remember those stories that stay with you for days after you have finished reading them? That is what you are trying to create with your words when you are making every word count.

No one ever said writing was easy. Writing is a long and sometimes lonely journey.

I would suggest you can't do anything about making every word count until you have finished your whole story. I wouldn't try and do it while first writing the story because you might stop your creative process. Get the story down first. It is part of the editing process because until the story is finished you won't know which words are important! You won't know what is at the heart of the story you are trying to tell. Be patient and listen to your gut it is inevitably right. Go on have fun writing over the Christmas period.

I finished lecturing on Friday on what turned out to be a strange and difficult semester for me. Not one I ever want to repeat. I have never felt so disconnected and yes that favourite word discombobulated. My colleagues and friends have been brilliant and kind and generous with their support. They have touched my heart. My body has gone into melt down now as I have pushed it too hard. I really should know better. I have been disabled long enough to know what I can and can't do but apparently not. However it is the build up to Christmas which I love so much that has to make everything better.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Show don't tell

If there is one thing I am constantly being asked about it is 'show don't tell.' Showing is all about allowing the reader to experience and emotionally engage with the story rather than just telling them what happened. I should add there is always a place for a small amount of telling but the majority of times you can show it better. This is something I tell my students/writers - ask your manuscript 'can I show this better?' If you could do so. If not tell it.

Showing helps the reader believe in the story and live vicariously through your main character. They become part of the story. I am sure you can all remember stories where you've become so involved in the story it has become real to you. Well that is 'good showing.'

When you are telling you are instructing the readers what they are thinking and what they need to believe about the story. It is passive. Showing is all about personal interpretation. You are actually making the reader work, engaging with them and it is most effective if the reader identifies with your main character. When you are showing what you doing is leaving clues and hints on the page as to how the characters are feeling and what they are doing. It is then up to the reader to pull them all together to create the images you want them to. For example:


Paul was angry.


Paul slammed the door when he came in. His eyes were cold and hard as he stared at me. Pounding his fists on the table he shouted, 'What did you think you were doing?'

See you haven't actually mentioned he was angry once but hopefully the reader knows the fact without being told. As a reader you are involved in what is going on.

You can use action, dialogue, thoughts, description, body language and feelings when showing. Remember to use all your character's senses too don't just rely on sight and hearing. Importantly these all add up to scenes. Scenes need to move the story forward  all the time. Telling may occasionally be used to slow the pace down however. Don't info dump if you can avoid it that tends to stop the story dead. Weave those details in. Showing is all about convincing your reader that your world is real and believable. You have to ensure that your reader will also care about your main characters.

Dialogue must always serve a purpose too. It must move the plot forward or give more information about the character. Don't have a wasted conversation about nothing to fill space or use up words. Do not use dialogue for exposition either. If you do you are likely to lose your reader.

One thing to avoid are those wonderful 'ly' words - you definitely need to show that rather than telling the reader. Also work on the details. These are things that can make your work come to life. They can really lift the narrative. Don't just say it is a car but give a specific one because it immediately creates an image and that image also gives clues. For example and taking the car- the story is going to be very different one if your character is driving an old mini with one door that is missing than one that is driving a sleek red Ferrari - don't you think?

As a writer telling a scene is much easier than showing it and often in your first draft there will be loads of telling but don't worry you can go back and sort that out. It is hard work to show a story. Get the story down first and then work on it. We all do it.

I was asked once whether 'show not tell' even applied to children's books too - YES it most certainly does! Children love to become totally lost in their stories. They are passionate about their characters. Show them good stories.

This is just a very brief post on a what is a very large topic but I hope it gives you some answers and something to think about.

On a more personal note I went back to work this week after a long period off. I have a had a huge amount of support from some great friends. It has been wonderful. I have had some lovely emails, messages, cards and a some total surprises through the post - CDs, a hug in a scarf, a diary full of poetry,vouchers champagne and a fox. All totally unexpected and so delightful. I cannot thank you all enough. You helped me get through an incredibly difficult time.

I love this and it is for all my friends. 'I am just glad to be here and glad to have you by my side'

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Reading again

I know three posts in quick succession after so few but I had to write this one following reading yet another article where an author boasted about how he never read children's book but loved writing them! Why would you say that? I really don't understand it. Don't get me wrong I don't ONLY read children's literature but I see no shame in it. I love the children's and young adult fiction I read and as I write young adult fiction I feel it is an important part of my life.

As I have said before I also read poetry to get the creative brain going - thank you to Tim Bowler for my latest find as he introduced me to the poet Gunnar Ekelof. I have a book I read in the bath. I have books I read for research and I have a book I read before I go to sleep to relax me. My life is all about reading. (Even more so when you take into the assignments and manuscripts I read) Sometimes I escape into books because I need to, because everything around me is going wrong and I need to get away.  It must be better to go to a book than a bottle surely?

I find it so sad that an author thinks it is appropriate to say things like this in an interview that is basically a bit of PR for his new book which is aimed at young adults. What message does it give those teenagers? 'Oh I might write for you but the stuff I do is not worthy of being read as I don't bother reading the stuff...' It is hard enough to them to read without giving them an excuse not to I would have thought.

I find it almost impossible to look aspiring writers in the face when they say to me that they don't read or they can't remember the last time they read a children's book or piece of young adult fiction when that is exactly what hey are writing. These sort of comments don't help that either. You cannot write if you don't read....well that's not true obviously you can write but you will probably be a better writer if you read. I thought I ought to add that caveat in there before someone hauls me up on a technicality.

I know I only wrote about reading in February I think but this irritated me so much I couldn't just ignore it. Please if you are a writer or an aspiring writer READ! You will be better for it.

And just because here's Lars Eriksson - The Lonely Journey Called Life

Saturday 18 October 2014

My Love Letter to Liverpool Libraries

Cathy Cassidy leads a protest against the closure of Liverpool's libraries
Authors fight to save libraries
Authors Cathy Cassidy and Alan Gibbons have started a campaign to save Liverpool libraries. This is a campaign backed by many, many people including myself. This is just a small blog but I wanted to add my thoughts and my love letter to Liverpool libraries. I will email the link to Mayor Anderson as I beg him to change his mind.

First of all here is what Cathy has said: 'Eleven much-loved and well-used Liverpool libraries are about to be closed, and as the council are not listening to protests or petitions, a campaign to bombard Mayor Joe Anderson with love letters to the libraries has been launched. The letters will show how much the people of Liverpool - and beyond - care. Schools, colleges, teachers, families, businesses, individuals...we can all write letters to Mayor Anderson to ask him to change his mind.'

We have support for our campaign from over 500 authors, poets, actors, musicians, academics & creatives of all kinds including Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman and many other big names. Could YOU support us too by writing a 'Love Letter to Liverpool's Libraries'? Send your letter to Mayor Anderson at the Town Hall, High Street, Liverpool L2 3SW or email to:
http://cathycassidydreamcatcher/ '

Here is my letter:

Dear Mayor Anderson

Do you have children? Have you spent time reading to them? Last night I sat with my three year old grandson on my lap and read stories, one after the other. I lost count how many we got through. He lived every single one of them. He loves stories. He is lucky we are able to give him books but he also loves nothing better than a visit to the library as do his brothers and sister. 

In a recent article it was stated that 4 million children have no access to books in their homes. Can you imagine that? No chance to escape into different worlds. To explore and imagine. Those children may not own a book but they would have access to them if they can go to a library close by. If you close any libraries you are taking away those chances. You are taking away the opportunity for a child to let their imagination develop. 

I write young adult fiction. Young adult fiction allows teenagers to ask questions of the text and of the world they live in. It can help them to work out who they are and just as importantly who they are not. It is all about the vicarious experience as they think how they would react in any given situation. Once again by closing these libraries you are taking away opportunities for some teenagers to have access to books. To give them chances to read about others like them or maybe not like them but to help them understand how the world works. Why would you do that?

Liverpool has such a name for culture and for nurturing that culture. Being supportive of the underdog and believing that anyone can do anything. Libraries are the linchpin of all these beliefs. Why close them? Why take away these opportunities? These dreams? 
Please reconsider. 
We love libraries. 
We love Liverpool libraries. 


Dr Vanessa Harbour

Senior Lecturer - University of Winchester
Mentor - Golden Egg Academy
Writer - YAF

Seems only appropriate to use one of Liverpool's own as my musical message. We are all going to stand together

Wednesday 15 October 2014

The book map - my nemesis but my writing would be lost without it.

A few sheets of my current book map
Writers have many tools to help them write and focus on their plot/story but at the Golden Egg Academy they use the book map. This is a tool that Imogen Cooper created and introduced me to several years ago. I have used it on two novels now and I love the map. Actually let me rephrase that there are times when I love it, there are also times when I hate it. There are moments when I am wrestling with the plot and trying to get all the various aspects of the novel to work together and into the map when it becomes my nemesis. It is when you see all those columns and think 'I can't do this' but you can and you do. It is always for the better.

It is a tool that allows you to spot that inevitable baggy middle bit - for example I have just ripped out two chapters in my own WIP. It was easy to do because you could see in the book map that they didn't actually move the story forward. Off they went into my 'darlings' document (yes  I have a kill your darlings one). Immediately the story is tighter.

My map is hugely detailed in that it has a column for the moon. I needed to know what the moon would look like each night through a cycle. You can't have a full moon when you only had one two days ago! Very important when the majority of the first half of your story takes place at night. I also have a column for my horses. I have so many of the animals that I needed to know who was dealing with what and where. This helped me keep track all the time. I could look at the map and double check. Everything is there you see. My character descriptions and yes that does include the horses. All my settings - fictional and real. It is all there.  Importantly my editor can see it too so that when she is looking at my novel she can check back to it as well. It makes communication easy.

I have worked with Imogen in the past on the Introduction to Book Mapping session that we run and inevitably there will be someone there who thinks this is really easy. I can almost guarantee that within a few weeks maybe a couple of months they will be saying, 'Actually it is really hard!' And it is. Doing a book map takes time, makes you ask questions of your manuscript so that you know it inside out. You really have to get to the heart of it and you will hate the process at times but I know from experience it is worth it so I put up with the pain now. I welcome it. Embrace the map, that's what I say.

If you want to see how others use the book map check out Sue Eves' blog

And especially for the Eggers in particular Andrew Wright who always says that the book map does this for him

Sunday 5 October 2014

Are you STILL writing that book?

It's a long and lonely journey
'Are you STILL writing that book?' are words that weigh heavy for any writer and cause much pain. They are often said by a well meaning non writer who has no concept of the process. No doubt that first draft was written rapidly to great delight but that is only the beginning.

A first draft is a shell of a story. It shows the basic form of it and gives you a chance to see whether the story does actually work. No doubt it will have a baggy middle and you may well have started in the wrong place. We all do but only by writing that first draft are we able to work these things out. What comes next is probably several rewrites. The rewrites may well go into double figures and that is not to be ashamed of as each one will be better than the last. I am currently on the sixth rewrite of my WIP. Rewriting is all part of the editing process. It gives you a chance to iron out all those parts where you can ask the question 'could I show this better?' It allows you to get to know your characters inside out. Work out your settings. I have in the past as I have mentioned on in this blog previously totally changed settings. Not this time though.

Writing is a long and lonely journey. This can be eased by working with the likes of the Golden Egg Academy  (GEA) where you have the chance to work with an experienced editor. You can be part of a critique group, where you develop a real trust for all the members and you can provide support for each other as you are in the same situation.

Don't give it to family and friends for feedback. However much you ask them to be truthful in their feedback they won't. They care about you and they are going to want to like it and not hurt you. Feedback is always a tricky thing. You don't always have to agree with it. It is there for you to ask questions of the manuscript. If several people are coming up with the same thing then there really is a problem but you have to remember all feedback is subjective.

Writing, rewriting, rewriting again however many times is necessary to get it right and editing all takes times and cannot be rushed. You cannot put a time limit on it. People often ask me 'How long until you think I will be finished?' I cannot give them an honest answer because I  don't know how long their personal writing journey will take. I don't know what their writing processes are but also you never know when life might get in the way. For example my own life has been turned upside down by a simple total knee replacement. I was supposed to be back at work last week. I am not and I still can't drive. It is quietly driving me potty particularly as the pain is very distracting and making it very difficult to concentrate. I couldn't have planned for that.

Those who do not write expect that you just write your novel, send it off and it is published. Oh how wrong could they be? As mentioned in my previous post please do not send your MS off to an agent or a publisher until it is as good as you can get it. There is a caveat to that though. There is a risk of spending too long tinkering for fear of sending it off. Sometimes you do have to bite the bullet and say enough is enough but only you (or if you have the support of the likes of GEA they will help you) can decide.

So next time that well meaning person asks 'Are you STILL writing that book?' reply 'Yes I am!' with pride not with embarrassment because you are doing the best job you can.

This seemed apt today

Saturday 23 August 2014

Adhere to submission guidelines - they do apply to YOU!

I am going to write about a pet hate of mine and I am sure that of many agents and publishers out there. I know I have mentioned it previously on a post but I am going to mention it again because it is important and it is REALLY irritating when people can't be bothered.

What is it? I hear you ask. It is nothing ground breaking. It is nothing that difficult or complicated. Firstly please when thinking about submitting your manuscript anywhere ensure it is the best it possibly can be. Don't think, it's ok you'll make it better once they've taken it on. It doesn't always work like that. You may not get a chance and you may have blown an opportunity. I would like to hope with Golden Egg Academy you want to submit the best thing you can. If you submit something half hearted it often comes across in the writing. If you don't care about it why should we?

Submission guidelines are there for a reason and yes we do notice and mind if you flout them. What happens is we probably just won't bother reading that extra chapter that you have tried to squeeze in on the end of the third chapter. Or the three chapters you  have included in each chapter submitted on line so you appear to have actually submitted six chapters. I know there are going to be people saying 'but my story doesn't get going until chapter 4 or chapter 5'. Well I know a lot of readers (children in particular) who will not wait until chapter 4 or chapter 5...The story needs to grab our attention early on.

If it asks for a synopsis make sure it does the job. Tells us the age range you are aiming for if you are writing for children. I often get the feeling if someone doesn't include that it is because they don't know and they probably don't really understand their story because of it. It shows. We will know.

Most importantly (and again) follow the guidelines on what sort of synopsis is required, if there aren't any don't use that as an excuse to put a ten page breakdown in. Be professional, show what a great person you would be to work with. Don't waffle and don't worry about giving away the ending that's what you do in a synopsis. Quick tip: Read Nicola Morgan's excellent book on how to write a synopsis.

That's it, that's all I have to say. ADHERE TO THE GUIDELINES. DO WHAT IT SAYS. Yes they do apply to YOU.

Slightly drug filled post this week as am now truly bionic having had my second knee replaced. Perhaps that is why I am feeling so intolerant of people and their inability to adhere to guidelines. However it has been a good week with lots of good news for people I know and I was sent this song by the wonderful Eggers while I was in hospital and it is certainly true. Such a great community to be part of

Monday 11 August 2014

#TGFW Thank god for writing

#TGFW was a hashtag that Jane McLoughlin and I came up with the other day on Twitter when we were discussing how we use writing to get through difficult situations and to escape into.

I know we are not alone and I am sure this is something many writers can empathise with. I got back into creative writing rather the professional PR writing that I was doing in my 'past life' when I lost my business and my identity when I became seriously ill. I wrote poem after poem trying to work out who I was. Even now if someone hurts me or abuses me or things go badly wrong I write poems or splurge on the page getting it all out there. No one ever sees them and never will. That is never their purpose and I would never claim to be a poet. They are for me and me alone.

I am also very conscious of the fact that my mental health suffers if I do not write on a regular basis. A friend has even said she knows when I am writing as I am really happy. I don't have to be writing new stuff it can be editing or rewriting. I just need to be involved in the process of working on a project. The worse thing for me is if I am giving lots and lots of feedback on other people's work which I do a lot through both of my jobs but it can mean that it almost sucks the life out of me or should I say the words. I don't have the head space left for my own writing which is very detrimental for my own sanity! I need to deliberately create a time and a space to write. I know this but I so often seem to forget it and let life get in the way. I am trying very hard to timetable a set amount of time each day for writing again and already I feel better for it.

Next week I am off for more surgery and yes I confess I am not looking forward to it but I will be writing to get through it. Probably splurging on the page to deal with pain but also working on my WIP to heal my head too so I stay sane.

There is nothing wrong with this. Writing is like a muscle the more you do the stronger you get. No writing is wasted writing. Even if it doesn't belong in your current WIP keep it in another document you never know when it might just come in useful.

So I hope you 'have a nice day...' and have chance to escape into your writing and remember #TGFW

Friday 18 July 2014

The art of procrastination...

I think this post will be one that many of you will be able to empathise with. The art of procrastination. If there was a degree in it I am pretty certain I could get another PhD. I am really, really good at it and certainly at the moment I am. I have two books to write, one novel which is written and I am editing it and another academic book which I am in the process of researching and writing.

I am also supposed to be writing this blog. I haven't posted for over a month. Bad Vanessa! A blog is not much use unless you do it regularly and I used to be so good posting on a weekly basis but then a good friend started doing a daily blog. Another friend and I have discussed this at length because it has had a very strange impact on our own blogs. We have found it very difficult to write them and we have no idea why.Weird or what?

Anyway I have had a couple of ideas. I was going to write about the incredible YALC but then we did a #GEAQA on all things YA and there was a great #YAUKChat on Wednesday and someone did mention that they were slightly fed up of YA stuff so maybe time not to write about that. Plus I had written about it fairly recently. Then there was all the brouhaha about Kevin Brooks winning the Carnegie prize and doom laden books. I mentioned it briefly in a conference paper I did and was going to write a blog but at Golden Egg we have just invited someone to write a post on the same subject and I feel they will bring something new to it and I will only be bringing out the same old arguments that I bring out when I argue about having sex and drugs in YAF. As in, if its right for the story great, books are a good place for them to have the vicarious experience where they can ask questions of the text and themselves. Anyway enough said, see more procrastination, I am not writing those posts.

Instead I am writing about how I am not writing. I am checking on youtube for songs for my playlist to write to - always important. Checking for important little details which will make all the difference to my story that no one else will ever notice but I will. For example do daisies grow on mountainsides in April in Austria? How many different colour grey horses can you get? And that isn't even thinking about the academic book... Don't even mention the pictures I collect (some of you I know use Pinterest) I don't  but I have a file of photos which reflect the book I am writing and I like to look for and collect - more procrastination.

Then of course you do have to check Twitter and Facebook just to make sure you are not missing anything important that is happening in the world and to support any friends that are A) having a really good time or B) having a really tough time. Both of whom need you to be there for them.

Of course I sneak in a fair bit of reading, a great form of procrastination. All in the name of research. Wonderful and something you should all be doing lots of if you are a writer. No excuse.

The best form of procrastination is: I can only write properly if my room is tidy - yeah right! (stop laughing those who know me well) Consequently I have a skip being delivered today. Now that is a serious form of tidying and oh it so cathartic.

Off I go for a glass of water and tidy the washing away, pick up the grandson maybe, check the daughter is ok, talk to my sons and do general real life things before I come back to it and stare at the screen. Any words written? No...but is it wasted time? No it is not actually because despite not writing I have been thinking. Some may call it pre writing. I have been contemplating plot issues, characters, settings etc. Often my best ideas and solutions come while I am procrastinating so don't get angry with yourself for doing this. It is a fine art and cultivate it because you are doing it for a reason. It gives your brain space and time to find the answers you need for your writing.

Write [sic] off to to find some words while I put some detritus from my world into a bin bag.

Happy days crafting your art of procrastination and be a day dream believer

Sunday 15 June 2014

Ramdomness of Writing Research

There is an aspect of writing I love and that is the research. I can get caught up in it. There is always the risk that you are too busy researching that you forget to write the story though. It doesn't matter what sort of story you are writing there will always been some element of research that needs to be done.

I like the details that add credibility to your story - that make it real. Often my research will lead to only a word or two on the page but that doesn't matter. I am infuriated as I write this I can remember reading some where recently but can't remember where that it is vital that your story is credible but not necessarily authentic. I find that small bits of information can lift your story off the page. What is important is that you do not bog your narrative down with detail. All that happens then is you stultify your story and particularly with children and young adults you will switch them off. The story has to be the focus. Everything else hangs off it and adds colour.

This week my research has lead me to have a conversation with a friend about Austrian/German nursery rhymes and quizzing another friend about whether you would potentially know if your helmet had been hit by sniper bullet. My friends love me and the random questions they often get asked. I am eternally grateful for their patience and tolerance. Over the years my children have had to put up with some extraordinary questions usually with the comment do their friends, 'Don't worry, she's writing!'

Books and Google are a wonderful resource as well. My internet history is fascinating. What guns did the Nazis use during World War II? How do horses react to the dead? What does a bullet wound look like if shot by a sniper? Plus Google maps/images if you need reminding of a detail. How spoilt are we these days when it comes to research it is so much easier than it was. I do my utmost to get things right but when dealing with history there is always going to be a risk. We can't know we weren't there and it is always going to be interpretation.

Today is Father's Day in the UK. My own father died in 1996 and I still miss him as I know my children do. He was a strong, proud man with a big heart. My children have made some comments to me this morning that I will not share here but have meant so much, they have truly touched my heart.

Friday 6 June 2014

Lest we forget...

Bayeux Commonwealth War Cemetery
Today is the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the photo to the right is one I took while on a research trip to Normandy. The reason why was because my PhD novel included a school trip to the Normandy beaches. I did a huge amount of research into the D-Day landings at the time and the reason why was because of my mother. She had told me tales of the night before the D-Day Landings where she had handed out sweets and cigarettes to the soldiers waiting to embark. At the time she was a WRN at HMS Daedalus near Lee on Solent. She said you couldn't see the grass for soldiers and you couldn't see the sea for ships.

The Second World War is actually very important to me. Both my parents were part of it. I was an accident and my mother was told I was the menopause - yeah right! As I said my mother was a WRN and as she admitted herself she had a 'good' war and would often regale both myself and my children with tales of her life. Don't get me wrong she also saw some horrendous things - the bombing of St George's chapel for example but she also got thrown over a wall after getting back after curfew.  My Father was an officer in the Parachute Regiment. He rarely spoke about it. I knew he always jumped wearing a white silk scarf and carrying a walking stick but his tales to me were always quite glib. There were the tales of him being dropped accidentally the wrong side of the lines and my grandmother 'seeing him' when she was in church one Sunday wandering up and down the alter. Later they worked out it was at the time he was lost. The tale he and Anthony Farrar Hockley told me of how they won the war together when I was small - I was very gullible then. However, last year when speaking to my brother I heard for the first time the tales he had told him and they were very different. I had always had my suspicions but my father had come very close to death. I knew he had killed people but I also knew he did not want to discuss it. Understandably so, why would you want to glorify it by talking about it. He was a proud man with principles. He wasn't part of the D-Day Landings, he was in Italy at the time.

It seems that the Second World War has found its way into most of my stories and perhaps that is why I am enjoying writing my current WIP so much because it is based in that period. It is an important time that we must not forget. So many gave up so much for us so we could have our freedom. There are times when I look around and I do wonder if we are beginning to forget as people stamp on others but I have to hope that goodness will win out in the end. It is important for us as a family that we don't let their stories go and disappear into the ether. I cannot forget that there were others in our family who also served and whose stories we must also remember. We were lucky everyone came home but they all knew a lot of people that didn't. Both my parents came from the same place - Croydon. They knew whole families who were decimated by war. As a member of the baby boomer generation - just - we are so lucky and long may that last. There have been other wars since then obviously which again members of my family have been involved in and survived luckily.  May our children never have to face a World War and may my parents be the last to face such a thing.

This in a way is a very personal post which I hope you will forgive and this piece of music is because my parents loved it as does my brother

Wednesday 28 May 2014

The Power of Words

A whole world of words to explore
While I was away this weekend a furore started when it was reported that Michael Gove was removing certain acclaimed American books from the GCSE syllabus. There was uproar and quite rightly so. It went viral across Facebook and Twitter within hours and several petitions were set up ranging from wanting the books reinstated to wanting Gove removed.

This was on Sunday the same day as the European Election results. Having been in PR the cynic in me considers this perfect timing. It is easily lost as a headline particularly considering what happened - I am not even going there in this post it is too depressing. Swallowed up by the panic created by the results and therefore totally ignored by the news people. I know the BBC did intend to discuss it on Monday as Matt Haig had been called in but then was told it had been pulled just forty minutes before he was due on. I also fully aware that this happens all too often if a 'more important' story comes in. But it hasn't reappeared. What has appeared is Gove rapidly declaring that he never said that and that he wouldn't do it. Now again the cynic in me thinks that is all too convenient. Perhaps he has seen the reaction and been able to respond by denying it rather than backing down and thereby losing face. For what it is worth as far as I am concerned there are two important points here which should have been and were considered by some: one is that literature does not and should not respect country boundaries and our children should know this. And secondly, there has been a huge amount about the need for diversity in children's literature recently, which is vital we know, but this diversity should not just relate to characters it should also include authors. I will now get off my soap box because if I start on my opinion of Gove I might get banned.

It is all about words and their power. The scriptwriter Peter Bowker in a recent programme on BBC4 about his writing processes was talking about this immediate reaction we get with the internet and he suggested that now the only way we can get to the truth is through fiction. I think he is probably right. Certainly for me that is very true of young adult fiction. I believe it is a place for them to find out how the world really works around them.

Words play an important part of another part of my life. I am aware that at times I make people's day with an email and for other's I might just slightly crush their dreams. It is very hard. I am constantly reading and giving feedback. For some it is for Golden Egg who want constructive feedback with the ultimate aim of wanting to get published, for others it is because they are moving towards an assignment and they want the best mark possible. All of them wanting and waiting for words from me that are going to make their words better.

You can also become blind to words when you spend your time looking at so many of them, particularly your own. I have had to send my own words over to IC because I could no longer see them. I knew it wasn't good enough but I couldn't see what else to do at that stage. I had done so much marking and read so many GE submissions my head was full of words but they were the wrong ones.

A single word can make your day or bring your world tumbling down around you. I personally think it is important to  think about what you are saying to others to make sure you don't hurt people unnecessarily. Verbal abuse can stay with you for many a year and because there are no visible bruises people often assume they don't damage you - I can assure you they do.

Words whether full of joy, truth, rhetoric, spin or venom are full of power, please use with care.

But with all words we never know what is true and what is not so here is a bit of Spandau Ballet for some old fashioned reminiscing

Saturday 10 May 2014

Guest Post by Rewan Tremethick talking about his new book Fallen on Good Times

Rewan Tremethick
I am delighted to introduce you to Rewan Tremethick who has very kindly agreed to do a guest blog post as part of his tour prior to the launch of his most recent book at the end of May. Rewan is an ex student of mine at the University of Winchester where he studied Creative Writing. I was lucky enough to supervise his final year project (dissertation).He would spend a lot of time in my office along with Sonney Stelling putting the world to writes [sics]. We had many a laugh but he was also a good student. Always listening to what I had to say, going away and working hard on his creative pieces. So It is with great joy that I hand my blog over to him. Well done Rewan and good luck

Writing my way to self discovery. And biscuits.

I learned something rather important about myself when I wrote Fallen on Good Times. Originally, I had intended it to be a nice, straightforward adventure. No subtext, no brain work, just something simple and easily consumable, like the pulp magazines of the 1920s; the period in which the book is set.

It was National Novel Writing Month: a time of year that always gets writer types excited. It's the literary challenge equivalent of running a marathon for anyone interested in using their legs. Write 50,000 words in one month, no excuses. It doesn't have to be good - the idea is just to get something out of your brain. Writers have a tendency to avoid writing, which we're allowed to do, because we're artists. If after several months, the people you had hired to build your home had only put two bricks together, because they 'hadn't felt like building', you'd be outraged. Writers, on the other hand, get away with it, hence the large kick up the backside NaNoWriMo provides being rather useful to us.

For me, writing long pieces has never been a problem. I take part in NaNoWriMo for the community. And also because it presented a nice opportunity to get working on my new project - the paranormal adventures of a private detective in 1920s America, down on his luck, looking for something better (and less deadly) to do with his life. It was an action book, and a comedy. You could laugh at it, and people got punched every now and then. All good things.

But at the end of NaNo, I looked back over it and realised it was too empty for me. I needed it to have some substance. I wasn't aiming for ideas as astounding as Decartes 'I am thinking, therefore I exist’, but I wanted the book to be something that made you do a little bit of brain work. Rather like a pile of hot coals, or a porcupine, you shouldn't be able to just hold it for several hours and then forget about it forever. It should leave a mark on you.

Considering I originally started on Fallen on Good Times because I was taking a break from the other ideas I was working on, which were much more complex and thematic, this was a bit of a problem. I had succeeded in my goal - make a straightforward book that would (hopefully) put a smile on some people's faces and give them a happy way to while away a few hours. Yet I wasn't happy with what I had produced.

Hence the moment of self-realisation. It was a very quiet epiphany, the acknowledgement that I needed to tell stories that had meaning, that said something. If they made a film of my life, they'd have to crank up the drama somewhat, perhaps by having the realisation come to me in a dream, then depicting me tearing up the pages of the manuscript, shouting at befuddled relatives 'I need something more than this!' As it was, I was alone in the living room at about 1.30 in the morning, which is when I tend to do most of my deep thinking. I was probably eating biscuits; not as dramatic though.

Perhaps that's why Mark Wilson from Paddy's Daddy Publishing, and the other people so far who have read it and enjoyed it, have liked it. It originally started out as a comic action romp. It achieves that quite well, I think. There are plenty of Discworld-esque characters and moments (my style of written humour has often been compared to that of Messers Pratchett and Adams in the past), and some nice action sequences. But what the rewrite added was a few layers of depth. It made the book resonate more, created a stronger purpose for the story, and gave the book something to say.

I never set out intending to ignore my desire to create something that had depth and subtext, I just hadn't realised when I started Fallen on Good Times just how strong that desire was. It's not a facet of my writing, it's the very reason that I do write.

I have long believed that good writing makes you feel, but great writing makes you think. If Fallen on Good Times makes people laugh, smile, and enjoy themselves, I'm happy, but if it also makes them think about their own thoughts and beliefs with regards to the issues in the novel, then I'm something more than happy. I'm fulfilled. Justified. In the film of my life, that'll probably be depicted by me running up a mountain and roaring triumphantly at the world from atop the summit.

In reality, I'll probably just have more biscuits.

Check out the trailer for the book here:

About the author:
Rewan (not pronounced ‘Rowan’) Tremethick is a British author who was named after a saint. St Ruan was invulnerable to wolves; Rewan isn’t. His paranormal detective noir, Fallen on Good Times, is being released towards the end of May. Rewan has already had two murder mystery novellas published.
When not writing, he can be found drumming, reading, and pondering. He works as a freelance copywriter, so it’s hard to find a time where he’s not writing anything. Rewan is a fan of clever plots, strong woman who don’t have to be described using words like ‘feisty’, and epic music. He has dabbled in stand-up comedy, radio presenting, and writing sentences without trying to make a joke.
He balances his desire to write something meaningful by wearing extremely tight jeans.
Click here for more information and to sign up and get chapter one for free [link:].

Other links:

Sunday 4 May 2014

UKYA is definitely booming

Feeling guilty...
I have decided guilt is my middle name. I am feeling really guilty when I realised that it is nearly a month since I last posted a blog post. It has been a long time since I have left that sort of a gap but as you probably realised from my last post things were pretty busy and they got worse. A period of intense marking plus being very ill meant there was no time for anything else. I am only just coming out the other side of it - thank goodness. I am feeling I can breathe again and there is a lightness to my step again as the sun shines and the birds are singing. I am trying not to think of the marking coming in this week, the validation document that needs to be written, the two conference papers and academic book that are also waiting to be written. But let's not talk about that.

More interestingly I wanted to talk about the buzz around UKYA. We all know how much there is to shout about but at last there people doing just that. They are really making a noise. For example check out the outstanding blog Project UKYA run by Lucie Powrie. There was #UKYA day on 19th April which took over Twitter and of course #UKYAChat. Always worth a look in and usually happens once a month. There are lots of other blogs talking about YAF that you should have a peek at too. Just do a google search on UK young adult fiction.

In July there is to be the first Young Adult Literature Convention which is being curated by Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman. Well worth a visit. At least it means that UK young adult fiction is getting the same sort of recognition that young adult fiction gets in the US. It is not surprising considering we keep reading about the number of adults who would rather read YAF and it is a burgeoning area of research within academia too. It has been a long time coming. There are some truly outstanding YA writers in this country and it is about time they are recognised. I am not even going to attempt to list them here. Just trust me and investigate for yourself.

This is all wonderful news for me, particularly as I also write YAF and I am an academic who counts YAF as once of my specialisms.

During all my stress of the last month I have to admit there was a little bit of my own excitement when the wonderful IC was telling me about the buzz that is surrounding my own novel when she took the synopsis up to LBF. Just need to find the time to get it polished. Anyone have  a machine that can create extra time? I need a few hours.

Time for a bit of music - what shall we have...Oh yes I know...Lily Allen's Alfie. Those who know my family might just understand why and thank you CT for reminding me x

Sunday 6 April 2014

Creative Head Space

Edvard Munch 'The Scream'
I was in a meeting on Friday discussing a symposium we are running in June and then a chapter that I had co-written that we were going to change into an article. I was listening to the words being spoken and at the back of my head their was a mini-me doing a very good impression of this Edvard Munch picture. For the briefest moment I thought I can't do it. My head felt like it was going to explode and I just didn't feel like I had the words to make it work. I had no head space left. I am sure I will but it made me realise how difficult it is to write, to be creative all the time when you have so many other pressures on you.

I know I am not the only one and am sure many of you can empathise with that scenario. I was discussing with IC it yesterday and I know she experiences the same thing. In both my roles I am constantly giving feedback on other people's work. I spend most days reading and I have to dig deep to find constructive feedback. It takes energy and head space. But I am also a writer and I need head space to be able to do that too. If I am honest and I can't find the time or head space to write it has an impact on my well being. I start to battle with the big black dog. He is a friend at the moment and I know it is because I have not had the time to release my creativity.

Again I am sure I am not the only one. It is important that you allow yourself the time and space to write. It is almost like giving yourself permission to write too. To even acknowledge that you are a writer sometimes. It is something we say to our first years when they join the university - you need to call yourselves writers. It is quite a hard thing to admit particularly if you have not been published. What gives you the write [sic] to do that?

I know some people like to have a routine where they write every single day for a set amount of time. Others write when they can. But as I said in my previous post you have to do what works for you. I have tried the write every day scenario. It didn't work for me in that instead it just created additional pressure in that if I didn't manage to write every day I felt more of a failure. What I do do now is write frantically in short bursts when uni finishes and snatch moments when I can during semester time if inspiration grabs me. I try very hard not to feel guilty about it. This is not always easy. You need to work out your own strategies that allow you the freedom to write and the head space to let those words.

In the meantime semester has finished... there is marking to be done, a validation document to be written, manuscripts to read, a book to be written, a chapter to be converted to an article, a novel to rewrite, a symposium to organise, workshops to run...and...and...and...and...and...and... breathe, don't panic.

But I had some good news about the chapter breakdown of the novel yesterday - the story is working - so the creative juices are beginning to trickle their way into my head space. I am not going to try and force it until my head empties out a bit and the black dog shrinks from the Great Dane that is sat beside me to the small Beagle that I can cope with.

This is a new sound track to my life. It is one of my favourites. I listen to it a lot as it seems to fit in to this particular moment in time. It is Josh Ritter - Change of Time 

Monday 31 March 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour - Write Cold , Edit Hot

Emma Greenwood
Thank you to Emma Greenwood for the kind invitation to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. I first met Emma through The Golden Egg Academy where I work with Imogen Cooper and other great editors. A second string to my bow alongside my work at the University of Winchester and my own writing and something I love doing.

Emma Greenwood is the green columnist Liberti magazine and a writer of YA fiction. Her short stories have been published by Mslexia and Cinnamon Press and she guests on a number of writing blogs. For her leg of the Writing Process Blog Tour she wrote a brilliant post on Method Writing and Stanislavski - check it out at

So here we go. I will answer the four questions and then pass the baton on to others:

1. What am I working on? I am currently working on a YA story loosely based on a true event from the end of the Second World War. This is a total departure from my normal writing. Apart from one MG soft fantasy (please don't google that phrase as I did you get some very strange images!) entitled The Book Protectors' Daughter all my novels have been gritty, realist YA dealing with sex, drugs and alcohol - but then that was the subject of my PhD after all. 

I am also currently writing a book for Palgrave Macmillan entitled Writing Young Adult Fiction: Creative and Critical Approaches which should be published in 2015.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? Someone recently told me when I read the first chapter of the new novel.out at a public event that it is Sound of Music meets Black there's a strap line!There is grit, battles,  drama, a sprinkling of horse whispering, unavoidable death, a hint of romance with a dose of hope and new beginnings. I like to see my stories in terms of layers and texture meaning you can take away from the story what you want from it. It becomes your story not mine.

3. Why do I write what I do? Stories for me always grow from a nugget of an idea. It might come from a photograph - as I have explained in previous posts - a tale told to me or as in this instance, a true fact found when doing some random research. As I was reading about this incredible event a small idea for a story started to grow and grow. It was very different this time round as the story seemed to come to me almost fully formed because it had this element of truth to it. I should say I don't really say I only write a specific type of story. I write what inspires me. I think it is important to be open to different ideas. I hadn't thought about writing what is basically a historical novel but when I mentioned it to Imogen Cooper, who I work with on my novels as well as alongside at Golden Egg, she immediately fell in love with the story and asked me to drop everything and write it. So I did. It does combine two of my interests. My parents were both old enough to have been directly involved in the Second World War and had told me many a story plus horses have been a passion since I was a very small person. What a perfect combination to play with - some might say weird but that sums me up really.

4. How does my writing process work? Some people find my writing process strange,which is fine I can understand that and I am under no circumstances going to try and claim that the way I write is the 'right' way to do it. What I am telling you about is the way I have found that is right for me. I write cold and edit hot. I can hear many of you saying - yer what? 

A lot of 'how to' write books assume people write with lots and lots of superfluous detail. Excess telling, a pile of adverbs and adjectives, paragraph after paragraph of detailed description of setting and/or character - all very 19th Century novelist-ish like - but then you have to go back in and edit it all out. Write hot - edit cold. See where I am coming from now?

I do not stop and revise and edit as I go along consequently the first draft is always written very fast.  I know many people do agonise over every paragraph, focusing on each chapter until it is perfect and only then moving on - I am not saying that is wrong - but I don't, I can't. I write the bare bones of the story down until it is complete and whole. I need to be able to see the foundations or perhaps structure is a better word. For me I imagine it looks like the outline of a drawing, the edges of a tapestry perhaps. As can be seen by the picture at the side here you can see the structure of the image. You have an idea of what it is. But there is no depth, there is no texture or layers. It is flat. And that is what I do when I am writing cold. I create the arc of my story and hints to the layers but that is all. This is what I mean about writing cold. 

Once I have done that. I leave it be for a while - ideally several weeks - and then I go back and I start to edit hot. This is where I add in the colour, the texture, the layers. The light and shade needs to be poured in. I build the picture up from the foundations, filling in the structure so that the story is no longer just the bare bones instead it becomes fully formed. Incidents are built up to and the drama is teased out. Characters become fully formed and subplots strengthen and support the main plot. The story is no longer flat and the narrative begins to lift off the page (hopefully). Just like the photo the colour brings it to life. This can take several rewrites and edits. It is not a quick process. There is no fast fix. Neither is it an easy one. But it is the one that I find works for me. 

I am a great believer that there is no right or wrong way to write. You can equip yourself with as many tools as possible to help you write. Learn the craft as best you can and then work out what works for you as a writer. Just because you don't work the same way as a book says or as another writer doesn't necessarily mean it is wrong if it is effective for you. Trust yourself. If however, you find yourself struggling time and time again maybe it is time to look at your writing processes and consider whether you need to find an alternative way. 

With thanks to Nicky Schmidt for her photos and her ability to create the images I wanted - You are a star.

I'm handing on the Writing Process Blog Tour baton to other writers now. I picked three writers who I thought you would find interesting and have lots to say about writing. They will post their blogs on the 7th April. Be sure to check them out!

Nicky Schmidt: Born and raised in South Africa, Nicky Schmidt has worked as a scriptwriter, copywriter, brand and communications strategist, and marketing director. Although she still occasionally consults on marketing, communications and brand strategies, mostly she writes YA/New Adult fiction in the magical realism genre. When not being hijacked by characters and ideas, Nicky also writes freelance articles - mostly lifestye and travel for which she does her own photography. Her work has been published in several South African magazines and newspapers. As well as being a regular feature writer for Words and Pictures, Nicky also runs the SCBWI-BI YA E-Critique Group. 
Nicky Lives in Cape Town with her husband and two rescue Golden Retrievers. Find out more about Nicky on her blog, Absolute Vanilla (

Jen Morgan is based in Cambridge and teaches creative writing to both adults and teenagers. She also works in the children's department of the fabulous Heffers Bookshop. Jen has an MA in Writing for Children from the University of Winchester and two small and highly opinionated children of her own. As long as there is teaching, children and literature in her life she is happy. Oh, and a bit of fitness too. Her blog is about her experiences of writing and running.

Carole Burns is editor of Off the Page: Writers Talk Beginning, Endings, and Everything in Between, published by Norton, and based on interviews with writers including Colm Toibin, Tobias Wolff, A.S.Byatt, Joanna Scott, Hannah Tinti, and Alice McDermott. Her book of short stories, The Missing Woman, will be published by Parthian booksin 2015. A regular freelancer for The Washington Post's Book World,she is Head of Creative Writing at the University of Southampton in England, and is working on a novel. Her blog can be found at

Today we are celebrating with the third years as they are about to go out into the big wild world. I have just spent some wonderful time with my own children and I had the chance to listen to a fabulous concert by Elbow while marking so I thought it would be a good end to this blog to share this song - One Day Like This.

Saturday 29 March 2014

For Mothers and Women Everywhere

She did love her wine...
Time for a more personal blog. It is Mothering Sunday tomorrow and I am lucky enough to be spending it with my children. Unfortunately this lady won't be with us. This is another photo of my mother. As you already know a lover of wine. We all still miss our wine times but do our best to keep up the family tradition.

She was born in a time when often a woman's dreams were not allowed to be fulfilled. In fact she was sent away to boarding school in Belgium in an attempt squash them. The Second World War intervened and she had many a story to tell about her time as a WRN. There was a brief moment when she acted with Laurence Olivier but she never really could become the actress she dreamt of. She loved poetry, theatre, ballet, books, music, singing and laughing (oh and wine). She saw beauty in so much but also knew exactly how to let someone know she wasn't impressed with them.

Her dreams put to one side she brought up five children who all followed their own lives and did their own thing. Four daughters and one son. All daughters are now mothers and their own daughters are beginning to be mothers too.

From one woman and one man came this family, which I am very proud and grateful to be part of (and we're not all here)

So this blog is for all of us. All those mothers and women out there. Follow your dreams however big or small.

This was one of the 'old girl's' favourite songs so seems appropriate to put here. We still miss her so much. Happy day!


Sunday 23 March 2014

Point of View - what is it and how do you decide

Do what feels right
It was my turn to do #GEAQA last week. Always an intense half an hour on Twitter that gets the old brain cells working. Those old 'Eggers' certainly can ask some interesting and thought provoking questions. We were talking about 'point of view' - a subject which can always cause quite heated debate as people have very personal opinions about it.

Point of View is so much more than just grammar as in what pronoun you use - 'I', 'he', 'she' or 'it'. It is about bias, what perspective your story is being told from and how your reader can expect to experience the story.

This is how I understand they work:

First person: This is where the 'I' is the narrator, they are part of the action and embedded within the story. Everything we learn about the story is from their experience and their perspective alone. It can come across as quite chatty and colloquial. It is very intimate.

Second Person: This is quite difficult to maintain and therefore quite rare. Often found in role-playing game books allowing the reader to be part of it. All the time you are writing you are addressing an implied familiar reader.

Then there is Third Person, the over-arching voice, which has its own variations.

Unlimited or Omniscient: This allows for multiple perspectives and revealing the subjectivity of more than one character. The ability to know everything that everyone is doing and everywhere. Often something used in adult fiction. When you do use it, it is important to make sure you are giving the reader plenty of clues as to which character is speaking or doing or thinking at that particular moment. Multiple viewpoints can be used effectively in alternating chapters for example.

Limited: This is where you write from the point of view from a single person's point of view. It is like sitting on there shoulder, almost a camera. You can see what they are seeing and can get in their heads to a certain extent but it is not as close as first person or as informal.

Confession: Third person limited is my POV of choice.

People often ask me what POV they should write their story in. My honest answer is to say what comes naturally to you. What you feel most comfortable doing. But also what fits with the voice of your characters. I have before now rewritten whole manuscripts from third to first and then back again trying to make sure I found the POV that worked the best. And I know I am not the only one to have done that.  It is a good writing exercise for a start!

Again, as with so many other things connected with writing it is comes down to gut feeling. Do what feels right.

When you get feedback, if one person doesn't like the point of view, listen but don't necessarily change.  If, however, you are getting repeated comments about it, saying it is not working, then it is definitely time to look at it again.

Now off for a bit of sound track history.  When I was child, there was no daytime TV except during the summer holidays there would be occasional morning programmes such as Banana Splits, Belle and Sebastian, Robinson Crusoe, Why Don't You..., the Monkees and White Horses. I loved that last programme in particualr and often re-enacted it. The irony is not lost on me that my current WIP which I am loving so much is based on white horses. So here is the theme music, it reminds of those very happy times and one of my sisters who I also know has fond memories of that time too. For you Jacky xx