Blog location change

I’ve decided to consolidate my blog and website, so I’ll no longer be posting on here, but on the blog on my website, which you can find here: Hopefully you’ll come and join me…

*insert clever title here*

Photo by Pixabay on

It’s been a while since I last updated on here, so I thought I had better do so. It’s been about 18 months since I started freelance, and I have to say that I’ve done better than I initially thought I would. There is still the anxiety there, and being in between projects isn’t a good feeling, but I suppose that comes with the territory. However, I’m now on my second project from the Greek ELT publisher since meeting them in person in Athens, so that’s excellent and keeps me busy since I no longer work for the small publisher in Twickenham. I seem to find starting new projects the most difficult thing – once I’ve started, it’s no problem, but getting over that initial hurdle is tricky and I hope to get better at it. Still, there are two publications I’ve done which should be in the final stages of production and should soon be available through their website. I have also applied to for freelance write and edit for an international examinations company, so I’m hoping to hear from them soon.

I wrote a non-fiction piece on Mary Ann Brough, who became notorious in 1854 for killing six of her children, in what was known as The Esher Murders. What makes her story even more interesting is that she served Queen Victoria as a wet nurse to Bertie, the future King, for 8 months – the Queen herself recorded the terrible tragedy in her diaries. I have submitted this to Hinterland Magazine, a new non-fiction journal, which I thoroughly recommend. Hopefully, they like it and will decide to publish it.

This has led me to thinking of another non-fiction piece, based around my grandmother. In the 1920s, she worked as a maid at Sandling Place, a large house just outside Maidstone, Kent, which has now been turned into apartments. I’m currently researching information relating to the owners and stories surrounding it. There’s also a fiction piece called Edie which is based on imagining my grandmother’s experience while working, but this has been a WIP for many months now.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on some flash fiction too. I submitted a piece to Ad Hoc Fiction, and was delighted to have it selected to be in their ebook edition number 179: Basin. I can’t tell you which one it is, as a winner is decided on public votes, but I do urge you to visit the site and vote for your favourites.

Contributor to Tempest

If you’d like to read some of my fiction, you can find my first short story, The Walking Stick published in Tempest: An Anthology by Patrician Press. It is a glorious anthology, focusing on our current tempestous times, with essays, poetry and short fiction. Please do have a look at getting a copy here.

If you like what you have read, then please do consider supporting me and my foray into literature and writing by buying me a coffee here. You can also check out my professional website here. Thank you for reading.

Public Speaking

Today I had a talk at a school in south London to speak about Virginia Woolf in Richmond. It was the first time I’d spoken in front of a group of high school students since I left my final teaching job due to redundancy in 2017. It was also a return to a school, bar a few blurry weeks, after my father passed away in the same year. So it was a big thing. I seem to be suffering from what I call anxiety ever since 2017. It may be a different form of anxiety from what other peopple suffer, and I’m certainly not equating it to what others experience – I can only speak for myself. And at times, it can be terrifying. This morning was one of those.

Now, I had been in front of classrooms for over 17 years. It was what I was used to. It was my playground, and I had fun (for most of it). But since 2017, I haven’t had the confidence to go and speak to people as myself. People who know me understand that I’ve done amateur dramatics for years, with the last one being Don’t Dress for Dinner about 18 months ago.

Don’t Dress for Dinner

This is fine because it’s not me. Well, it’s not my character, it’s someone else. Although understandably nervous before a show, I was saying someone else’s words. I didn’t have to be me.

As Ratty in Wind in the Willows

Speaking to people as myself is something completely different. Especially now I’ve put on weight and I feel self-conscious when I’m the centre of attention. The first real rest of talking as myself was at the launch of Virginia Woolf in Richmond at the Richmond Literary Festival. Absolutely terrifying, but I did it. Started off shaky, but a few minutes in and I was away. It was as if it wasn’t me speaking, but a character. And that’s how I got through it.

An early photo of me in Mother Goose (far right). My sister has the God-awful wig on the left.

Needless to say, today was nerve-racking from the morning, and I couldn’t sleep well. The morning was filled with sitting on Twitter on the sofa and not doing anything productive. Staring at the TV while watching Jeopardy on Netflix. Mind-numbing.

The journey to the school took an hour, and I listened to happy music on the way in, sweating as I went. After a panic about missing the school entrance and going around the block, I park and go in. Everyone is very friendly and lovely, and the students are a credit to their parents, their teachers and their school. We start with a cup of tea, and we watch the promotional video for the Virginia Woolf Statue campaign – a good start to get me settled. But it’s over as soon as I put it on, or so it seems. And then it’s me. I start. I notice a typo on my PowerPoint. I mention it. The talk is being recorded for their YouTube channel. I make jokes. I run out of time. It finishes. I survive.

Although it was a terrifying day, and I have another school talk next week, I can say that I beat myself and I won. Not saying this for sympathy or empathy, but this is what I experience.

For those suffering with anxiety, we can do it. And we will. It just takes a first step.

If you like what you have read, then please do consider supporting me and my foray into literature and writing by buying me a coffee here. You can also check out my professional website here. Thank you for reading.

A is for…

I am now back from Athens, via Hungary, and I suppose my anxiety, if it is called that, did alright. I managed to navigate around the city, go to meetings and actually talk to people. But I always knew that I would be returning to two events that are filling me with complete dread.

I’m going to talk to students at high schools.

Now, a few years ago, when I was a teacher, this wouldn’t be a problem. But right now, I can’t think of anything worse – not to say that I don’t want to talk about my book, but the fact that it’s students – I don’t know, it’s making me feel even worse about it. Let me talk to pensioners and I’ll be fine. But right now, I feel like I can’t. I will, but I feel I can’t. And that will shine through. And I’ll be found out.

The first event, next Thursday, is at a private school at a small literary club in a library. Seems ok. But they’ve asked to film it for their YouTube channel. I said yes – what have I done? But it’s the second one, a week later, which is freaking me out. The day will be headlined by a major literary star, and then there’ll be me. Talking to up to 50 students.

I’m not even going to talk about my body issues and standing up in front of people.

Any words of wisdom?

I’ve also had lots of rejections from Submittable, which is depressing, but I’ll keep going. What seemed like a good freelance gig has suddenly gone silent. One thing I am pleased about is the photo at the top of this post – I took it on the walk in memory of my father in May.

Cecil Woolf

I am saddened to hear of the passing of Cecil Woolf on 10th June 2019, the last surviving relative of Leonard and Virginia Woolf who knew them, as far as I know.

Many Woolfians have had the pleasure of meeting Cecil, but unfortunately, I was not one. Aged 92, he was and will remain a respected writer and publisher, with many Woolf and Bloomsbury-related work published by the company he ran with his wife, the much-acclaimed biographer, Jean Moorcroft Wilson.

I deeply regret not going to meet Cecil and Jean after the publication of Virginia Woolf in Richmond, which Cecil is seen with in the photo above, courtesy of his lovely daughter, the writer Emma Woolf.

My thoughts are with Jean, Emma and the rest of the family.

A Greek Adventure

So, on Sunday 2nd June, I took a very delayed plane to Athens, a city and indeed, country, I’d never been to before. The reason for this trip is all down to my freelancing. I came out here to talk with Express Publishing of the ELT world, seeing as I had done a couple of exam practice test books for them, I wanted to explore the possibilities of future work. To my amazement, the company arranged accommodation for me, just a few minutes from their offices in Athens, picked me up from the airport and even paid for my trip to the Acropolis. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. Needless to say, the meeting went very well, and I have huge hopes for the future. I was then taken by Danny to see some of the city, and I thank him for putting up with me and even having lunch in the Plaka.

Today, I ventured out on my own, and visited the island of Aegina, taking the ferry from Piraeus. Absolutely stunning. I visited the Temple of Aphaia, which was beyond belief.

The main thing for me was how hard it was to get over what I call my ‘anxiety’. I say that, because it’s probably totally different to other people’s anxiety, and I guess that’s what mine is. It’s incredible. I’ve been places on my own, I even lived in other countries on my own, but somehow, this seemed different. And all I can put my finger on is after my father died two years ago. I was in a different country when it happened, and at that precise moment, I was alone. My OH was there at the airport In Berlin, but my first knowledge was completely alone. Since then, I’ve only travelled abroad with him. There are, of course, trips alone to see my mum, and then earlier this year, I went alone to IATEFL in Liverpool, staying on my own in a hotel. That was strange. And this has been strange, being alone in a foreign country. Even my body issues have become worse here.

I say all of this not to get sympathy, but to stress that mental health issues can linger after a traumatic event, even if the person doesn’t really notice it. I don’t know if my body issues have become worse since my Dad, or if they are the same, but I think I can safely say that my ‘anxiety’ is definitely heightened. So this has been a big thing for me. Even leaving the apartment in Athens to for our for the day on my own was a struggle to do. And in the end, I didn’t care how my stomach pointed out in front of me, but it took a while. And my mum always said I’m a worrier, and my goodness, it’s true.

Review: Richer Mix Aurora, 10 May 2019

The independent and IPG-nominated (Diversity award 2019) publisher Aurora Metro held an event of play readings at the Oval House Theatre on Friday 10th May. Now, it was obvious I was going to attend, as I currently work part-time for the company and worked on typesetting all five plays that were being showcased, but I didn’t expect the need to write a review. I was expecting a nice night out, maybe sell a few plays and talk to some people. However, I was so impressed with how the readings and performances went, that I felt I had to write a review about it and encourage anyone reading this that reading plays and drama for fun is something that isn’t promoted enough. The evening was introduced (and organised with Ellen Cheshire too) by Cheryl Robson, director of Aurora Metro. The play readings then began.

Keith? or Moliere Rewired by Patrick Marmion is a new play which recently premiered at the Arcola Theatre. This is a comedy about Brexit Britain and the lies we tell ourselves (and each other). Superbly written, the excerpts we saw were directed by Margaret Coldiron of East 15 Acting School, and was acted by students at the school. They presented some excellent snippets of the chaos of the story and I think the students did a fantastic job of getting across a lot of the absurdity through their performance. A thorough well done, but special shout-outs to Harry Dean (Keith) and Jess Lima (Anna) who I thought did an outstanding job.

From Shore to Shore by Mary Cooper with MW Sun is a play which has recently enjoyed a tour in the north of England and judging from the evening’s performance, I certainly missed out. Drawing on both writers’ interviews with the Chinese community in the north of England, the story weaves three stories in a beautiful production. Written in a mix of English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Hakka, the play is a super blend of Chinese community in England. The simple staging of the readings were exceptionally effective, and we were thrilled to have the touring cast with us in the room. I could not pick a stand out from this cast– they were all equally fantastic.

Triptych: Three Plays for Young People inspired by the Art of Paula Rego by Fiona Graham is a collection of plays which capture the imagination. We were treated to an excerpt of Crivelli’s Garden inspired by the painting of the same name, and it follows two young women deciding on their future paths; sort of a rites of passage, and on the way, they are inspired and advised by two very powerful women. I was privileged to see this in rehearsal, directed by Rosamunde Hutt (expertly, and who also acted in the excerpt). It was truly a powerful piece of theatre, and I think all the performances were amazing, but I have to shout out to Bernadette O’Brien, who as Catherine, was regal, charming, feisty and mischievous. Wonderful.

Next Lesson by Chris Woodley was one play I was really excited to see. Discussing the controversial Section 28 (which banned schools from promoting homosexual lifestyles) in schools over a period of time, including both teachers and students. When I read the play, it was a very emotional moment and I was so glad that I was involved in the typesetting. We were treated to two actors who had been in the professional production at the Above the Stag Theatre and we were not disappointed. Both Florence Odumosu and Stephanie Wilson were electric in their performances playing two characters each, but for me, it was Stephanie who stole the entire evening – her performances were believable, heart-breaking and well, just stunning.

Cinderella by Matt Beames was the final performance of the night. A modern retelling of the fairytale sees Cinderella as a shoemaker, which is a really interesting take on an often-performed tale. We were treated to two actors performing their socks off when the Prince comes to the shoemakers to fix the broken shoe that Cinderella’s sisters had broken. A wonderful performance by Lucy Parkinson as Cinderella left me wanting to see more – and she has a beautiful singing voice. I was thoroughly impressed with this excerpt and it was great to see the words which I’d only read on the page come to life with two fantastic, young actors.

The night finished with a brief panel discussion with all of the playwrights, and it was super to listen to the questions and how the guests responded. Many thanks to all who took part, who attended and to Aurora Metro for publishing some wonderful drama texts.

If you like what you have read, then please do consider supporting me and my foray into literature and writing by buying me a coffee here. You can also check out my professional website here. Thank you for reading.

Leaping forward

Some To the Lighthouse covers, which was first published this month in 1927

So, it seems my foray to the IATEFL conference in Liverpool was a success – having the confidence in freelancing has enabled me to be bolder, and so, at the beginning of June, I am off to Athens for discussions with an ELT publisher about doing more work for them. I’ve already completed a couple of contracts for them, and I love the working relationship I have with them, so this is a super opportunity to do more with them. And also a great opportunity to see a city I’ve never been to – one which I had to write about when I was in primary school, so it’ll be lovely. I’ll make sure I take lots of suncream.

In other news, I had a poem accepted for an online journal, which is very exciting. It’s my first one to be accepted and to be published anywhere except my own blog, so I’m hoping it will give me some more exposure. The link is here. In terms of other writing, I wrote a new poem on loss, which I’ve submitted and I keep getting lots of new ideas for new books (non-fiction) which I need to sit down and think about. Virginia Woolf in Richmond is also entered into the Polari Prize, and the longlist is announced on 10 June, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for that. I also had a couple of reviews of the book in magazines – NB Magazine and Prospect Magazine. One quote from the NB magazine is here:

The campaign is seeking to raise funds for a life-size bronze statue of Virginia Woolf seated on a bench on Richmond Riverside, and I sincerely hope that the campaign is as successful in achieving its aim as Peter Fullagar has been in writing such an interesting book about Woolf’s life in Richmond.

NB Magazine

Two of my Twitter friends have been rather amazing, and we’ve sort of bonded over various things, including Tempest: An Anthology. Anna is such a champion of so many people as well as being a writing machine! I read her first two books, and now she has a third coming out with the wonderful Bluemoose Books next year. I was priviliged to have read it – it’s called Saving Lucia and it’s fascinating – look out for it. Through Anna, I’m getting to know J and reading her wonderful work, especially her Wild Soul Walks. Can’t wait to see what else she does.

The last thing I want to say here is that if anyone in or around London, especially theatre directors, need a photographer or videographer, please check out my good friend Andrew. He’s a freelancer like me, and is super talented, so do give him a shout.

In fact, that’s not the last thing – my good friend Erica has recently become a director of a gallery in London, and the artwork is absolutely beautiful – do take a look.

Jane Austen

The plaque on the wall at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire.

Today, I went to Chawton to visit the Jane Austen’s House Museum and Chawton House, and it was really quite a revelation. Of course, I write more about Virginia Woolf, but I’ve always admired Austen’s writing and can feel my interest in her life and work increasing since I bought an edition of her letters.

Woolf, as was her wont, wrote about Austen, but in this case, it was a glowing report:

The balance of her gifts was singularly perfect. Among her finished novels there are no failures, and among her many chapters few that sink markedly below the level of the others. But, after all, she died at the age of forty-two. She died at the height of her powers… Vivacious, irrepressible, gifted with an invention of great vitality, there can be no doubt that she would have written more, had she lived, and it is tempting to consider whether she would have written differently.

Essay in The Common Reader, Virginia Woolf.
Jane Austen’s House Museum

Although my visit occurred at the same time as a large group of international students (on the whole, they were mostly well-behaved), I enjoyed seeing the place where Jane lived, and I will be back to take advantage of the year-round ticket.

Jane Austen’s writing table.

Having finished my short visit to the house museum, I decided to have a look at Chawton House, which lies further up the road from the museum. This was owned by Jane’s brother, Edward, and it was also somewhere that Jane visited on a regular basis during her time in the village. What struck me first was the long driveway up to the house, and the building itself looming in the distance, gradually becoming grander as I got closer. Thankfully, much emptier of international students, I was able to enjoy a relaxed and peaceful walk around the rooms.

The entrance to Chawton House.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I went into the house, but I definitely wasn’t expecting the library. Oh. My. Word. To enter the library, you have to knock on the door to be let in, which is exciting in itself. But then to go in and see about 3,000 books on the walls around you is truly breathtaking. Apparently, they aren’t the only books in the collection, with the most treasured ones locked away safely. The room was dark, presumably to help protect the books. This collection seems to be unique in the fact that it holds mostly women writers from 1600 to 1830. Having written about Woolf (obviously, much later) and to have studied many women writers, this is an absolute treasure trove and I would have loved to have looked at all the ones I could get my hands on, but alas, they are not to be touched unless being studied.

I could really see exciting things that could be done with books and information from this library, and I’m already planning on returning to do some studying. Thankfully, some of the novels have been digitised and are online, and I’m sure that there are countless women writers who have books in the library that have been forgotten about nowadays. Even with just a short look at the online information, I’m already fascinated by Jane Taylor, a poet who wrote the words to ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’. Along with her sister Ann, Jane seems to have written a lot of poetry and some prose, including a novel, Display. It appears that a nephew of Jane wrote a memoir of his aunt, and it would be super to find a copy of this (already found on the web) and see if anything further could be researched and added to the story of the sisters.

The long driveway to Chawton House

What does sound interesting is that the library now is without a librarian, as he has just left. They may be advertising in the future. My goodness, I think I’d jump at the chance!

If you like what you have read, then please do consider supporting me and my foray into literature and writing by buying me a coffee here. You can also check out my professional website here. Thank you for reading.

OTD In 1919

#OTD Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary in 1919:

The male atmosphere is disconcerting to me. Do they distrust one? despise one? & if so why do they sit on the whole length of one’s visit? The truth is that when Murray says the orthodox masculine thing about Eliot for example, belittling my solicitude to know what he said of me, I don’t knuckle under; I think what an abrupt precipice cleaves asunder the male intelligence, & how they pride themselves upon a point of view which much resembles stupidity. I find it much easier to talk to Katherine; she gives & resists as I expect her to; we cover more ground in much less time.

*John Middleton Murray – English writer; husband to Katherine Mansfield.

T. S. Eliot – American writer

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Image by Kathryn Rathke