Wednesday 12 October 2011

A Rather Spectacular Celebration ~ Brit Writers Awards 2011!

Spectacular, innovative, inspiring ~ three words to describe this exciting initiative: The Brit Writers Awards ~ brainchild of Imran Akram ~ designed to encourage unpublished and self-published writers of all ages. 
Buzzing, glitzy… I could go on.  Suffice to say, the event was a huge success, bringing together creative writers, representatives from the publishing world, celebrities, dignitaries and the media.  The venue, Madame Tussauds in London ~ another inspired idea, was perfect. A guaranteed ice-breaker, where people mingled freely, chatted, posed with the celebs permanently in residence, and partook of the plentiful free wine and canap├ęs on offer, before going into the Awards to enjoy the ceremony and yet more wine and delicious food at the table.

Personally, I was super-pleased that I got the chance to chat with Georgina Kirk, author of Once Upon a Princess a very Hairy Beard Did Grow before she was crowned Brit Writers Unpublished Writer of the Year 2011 (overall winner of £10k). Georgina was nervous, hopeful, but mostly, “thrilled to be part of an amazing event, which had inspired her to pick up her writing after a break due to disillusionment”.  That, I think, sums up what the BWA is all about, firing up people to do/continue doing what they are most passionate about, writing!

It was fabulous to see so many children attending the event, who were obviously enjoying the whole experience and, more importantly, had enjoyed the process of getting there and discovering their talent for writing.  For information ~ and quoting the BWA directly: The Brit Writers act as a springboard to trigger a revival of love for creative writing. To date, over 1.8 million school children are involved in their creative writing programme and Brit Writers provide downloadable lesson plans, writing resources and ideas for teachers to keep the subject interesting and bring it all to life.  Just a hunch, but I suspect it’s working.

I was also thrilled to finally meet former teacher, Catherine Cooper, who won last year’s Unpublished Writer of the Year Award, along with a publishing deal, for her children’s novel, The Golden Acorn.  Catherine is now a bestselling author (named by the Observer as one of the four in the running to fill the JKR void) and also has a movie in the making! What many people perhaps won’t know, unless they’ve had the pleasure of chatting with her online, is that Catherine is simply one of the nicest, most supportive and unassuming people you could wish to meet.  I love her work, love her, and wish her the absolute best of luck.

It was, of course, also fantastic to touch base with fellow participants from Groups One and Two of the Publishing Programme.  You shone, guys.  Keep supporting each other and ~ to steal a catchphrase from Strictly ~ Keep Writing!  

As Richard Burton (Infinite Ideas Publishers) reiterated in his speech, the Brit Writers Awards is about encouraging people who are passionate about writing, in all categories.  I think it’s achieving its aim, hopefully making dreams come true.

Oh, talking of which, if George Clooney has gone mysteriously missing from Madame Tussauds, it wasn’t me.  J

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Goodreads Review ~ The Dallas Mercenary

The Dallas MercenaryThe Dallas Mercenary by M. E. Oren

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently learned that The Dallas Mercenary is now available in local libraries and I am thrilled for the author. This is a book that should be widely available to adults and young-adults alike, and, in my opinion, should certainly be on school reading lists. A previous reviewer says that Mr. Oren’s book tells a big story. I would agree in that it captures vividly and evocatively the vast distance between the comfortable suburbs of London and the squalid slums of the Mathary Valley in Kenya, where “rusty, ramshackle structures”called homes are interspersed only with the odd rotting rubbish heap and rivulets of sewage run freely in the streets. A place where starving people and animals compete for air thick with pollution; where young homeless boys – the Parking boys – learn through necessity the art of survival by whatever means available. To eat and find a place warm to sleep when the temperature drops to a bone-seeping chill is their day-to-day aim. To rise above their squalor and have a place they can call “home” is their dream.

Cleverly interweaving a back-story against a backdrop of dire poverty and corrupt politics, M E Oren tells the story of three people: A lost little boy, J’Alex. Sally-Anne, a twenty-three year old undergraduate, who, having previously befriended the boy whilst based in Kenya on a university project, is determined to revisit a country now torn by civil warfare and find him – and Biggy, a product of his own childhood and his struggle to survive in what Biggy himself terms a rubbish dump: Mathary Valley, originally a land-full site where they “dump the waste people”.

Through Mr. Oren’s excellent storytelling and Sally-Anne’s eyes, we see the naivety of a young girl to the grim reality of the Mathary Valley inhabitants’ existence. Through Biggy’s eyes, we see in the political naivety and tribal ignorance of children driven to do what they have to: Simply, to survive.

Fleshed out with other believable, yet richly colourful characters, The Dallas Mercenary is indeed a big book, a valuable learning tool – and a totally engrossing read. I didn’t put the book down until I’d finished it. And when I did, I shed a tear.

Thank you, M E Oren. This book will stay with me. I look forward with eager anticipation to your next book: DUDLHAM SINGS

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Tuesday 19 July 2011

Goodreads Review ~ A Discerning Woman's Guide to Manhunting.

A Discerning Woman's Guide To ManhuntingA Discerning Woman's Guide To Manhunting by Bel Roberts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If ever there was a book to fill a gap in the market, A Discerning Woman’s Guide to Manhunting is it. Aimed at a generation of women who are not prepared to be defined by society and fade to grey on reaching fifty…shhh, Bel Roberts has produced a witty, cleverly written little gem. For women who, in particular, have learned to be economically independent and are not prepared to compromise their principles, this book will prove a most-satisfying read. As the title implies, this a story about a mature woman of substance out on a manhunt. And why not? OK, we can’t all be iconic Goddesses, but can you really see Madonna swapping her sex-life for tan tights and slippers anytime soon? Sharon Stone. Michelle Pfeiffer? No, me either.

Written from the point of view of twice-married, now single and childless, Geri, the story takes an honest look at a woman’s attempt to find a “soul” mate, i.e. someone who is an intellectual match, to do something other than slip into her dotage with. Obviously, therefore, the prospects available do come under some scrutiny. I wondered if this might rattle a few men “of a certain age” but then decided a well-balanced man with a good SOH couldn’t fail to be amused at the observations, age being something none of us can hold at bay forever, even with miracle potions/lotions, good diet, etc. That said, I would quite like to see how Bel would tackle a similar book from a male pov. Clifford’s perhaps, the reasonably well-balanced male Geri doesn’t have to compromise her principles for? A man who definitely has a good SOH and is happy to help Geri with her research re the thorny problem off what “physical” attributes one should be looking for in one’s future mate.

The book also – poignantly – looks at that painful period in most people’s lives where the parent becomes the cared for, rather than the caregiver. This, I think, was handled really well, especially the heartrending subject of dementia. As someone who nursed a parent with early-onset Alzheimer’s, I did wonder whether flippancy around the subject might be upsetting. In fact, I ended up smiling, amused sometimes, sometimes with a little bit of sad nostalgia. The balance,though, was just right. The “green curtains” in the day room told me that Bel had put her research, perhaps experience, together to present the issue sensitively, but again, honestly.

In all then, a thoroughly good read. I liked the underlying hint that Geri, being single, should be the one to give up her life to look after her mum. I liked too that Geri, wasn’t prepared to, but was the one to look for a workable compromise, acceptable to all. It became very clear as the story progressed that Geri cared about her mum a great deal. My one and only tiny criticism would be that I would like to have seen Geri reflect on how much she cared a bit earlier on in the book, as she did later.

The scene were the social workers visit made me chuckle out loud (so true to life) and the BMW line was hilarious. Loved it!

View all my reviews

Friday 17 June 2011

More News from the Talented Brit Writers!

Sinead Gillespie ~ Brit Writers’ Awards Publishing Programme Group 1 ~ is holding her second Scriptwriting workshop in Bridgewater. Sinead tells us a little about it below:
Thanks to the previous success writing and performing my one-woman show (From Within), I was asked to run a couple of Scriptwriting workshops at the oldest (as in first) UK Arts Centre in Bridgwater, Somerset.  Called “From Page to Stage”, the project is linked with an autumn event in conjunction with another centre at Taunton: a scratch night. A scratch night is where actors take scenes of brand new writing to the stage so the writer and audience can see how well it works in action. It’s very exciting for new writers to see their words come to life. I have been through the process as both actor and writer so I am very pleased to be involved in a different role this time; inspiring new playwrights to develop their work.

The first workshop was so much fun the participants requested an extra date. So this Saturday at 10.30am we will be doing a session on Character. Our final session, the scratch night, will be on July 9th when we’ll be working on Plot. It gives me a real buzz to be able to share creative journeys with other writers. It is always a two-way street (as those of us on the BWA publishing Programme have learned from one another). We all educate one another in our different approaches, methods, and motivation.

I’m really looking forward to the next two sessions, and I suspect the actor in me may just have to get involved in the scratch night too!
Claire Kinton ~ Publishing Programme Group 1 ~ has been getting herself in the Lincolnite News! 
Creative writing: Claire Kinton, a local author of popular teenage novel Dead Game, is encouraging her teenage readership to get involved.
Georgina Kamsika ~ Publishing Programme Group 1 ~ has a short story up at Romance Flash in time for their one year anniversary: Acceptable Suitors at
Georgina Kamsika delivers again with another wonderful romantic flash fiction piece!

Michael Oren ~ Brit Writers’ Awards Publishing Programme Group 2 ~ has his book THE DALLAS MERCENARY (on general release July 2011) out now on Kindle! 

A little bit about the author, by the author: First and foremost, I am a writer. Then I'm a novelist, journalist, commentator, poet, entertainer, a Londoner and an African in no particular order. I strive to write quality works of fiction, most of which transcend genre. I try to inform and educate whenever I can, but my main aim in writing fiction is to entertain, keep my readers tearing through the pages.

You can find out more about Michael and read extracts from The Dallas Mercenary here: Michael E. OrenWhile you’re there, take a look at the blurb for Michael’s upcoming book Dudlham Sings, which promises to be equally as thrilling as Michael’s first book. 

NOW ON KINDLE. Paperback version available for pre-order

At the initial signs of some skirmishes over the disputed elections in Kenya, a young English woman sets off to save her 12-year old friend from a possible threat of civil war. The trip turns into a long journey through the underbelly of the Third World that will leave her questioning whether these people ever really had peace in the first place.

WELL DONE GUYS!  Brilliant stuff.  BWA participants forging a path forward.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Goodreads Review - A HEARTBEAT AWAY written by Michael Palmer

A Heartbeat AwayA Heartbeat Away by Michael Palmer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve just read reviews from both ends of the critical spectrum. I have to say I lean toward the most favourable. I, too, thought the premise was simple and brilliant. Scarily believable: The release by terrorists of a bio-weapon originally home-grown by order of the president. This is where I detract from the opinion of the more critical reviewer. OK, I’m a UK reader, so perhaps less informed on the inner workings of US politics, but, to me, the President seemed very convincing. I could picture him, so he must have been. I did wonder a couple of times where Griff found his physical strength from – given his incarceration – but then I remembered what was at stake… and human beings can tap on extraordinary resources when faced with… well, the annihilation of the population of the US? The world? Disaster anyway. I liked that I didn’t question Michael’s (necessary) scientific descriptions. (A big plus. If it bores me or blinds me with science, I can’t read it, and this didn’t). Hands up, I admit I love dogs, totally. I foster disabled dogs, so there you go. Griff’s reasons for not wanting to go the animal testing route were very touching – without being soppy, and believable. Overall, I loved A Heartbeat Away. It has stayed with me, beckoning me to write this review. This is the fist Michael Palmer book I’ve read and I’m a fan. A Heartbeat Away

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Friday 3 June 2011


I can’t keep up with the Brit Writers’ Awards Publishing Programme participants’ achievements.  There is no stopping these people.  They’re not knocking on doors anymore.  They are breaking them down!

With huge congratulations to the authors, I’ve summarised briefly below:

First off: David Logan, an author on the BWA two year Publishing Programme, has won the Terry Pratchett debut writers’ award for his darkly atmospheric book, Half Sick of Shadows!  David was chosen as joint winner for the inaugural Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now prize: £20,000 to split with Michael Logan (no relation) and a publishing contract with Transworld Publishers.  Excellent!
Terry Pratchett reveals winners of his debut writers' award | Books |

Claire Kinton – on the one year BWA Publishing Programme - has earned a fabulous review in The Guardian UK for DEAD GAME, a mystical, compelling story of Lance Corporal Archie Fletcher’s journey through transit.  Well done, Claire!

Ruth Heald was invitedto give a talk at the first ever Bangkok Literary festival, organised by the Neilson Hays library, where she spoke about the challenges and the opportunities presented by the new publishing landscape.  I know Ruth was nervous, rubbing shoulders with other high calibre speakers – including Ken Hom, Stephen Leather and Christopher G Moore, but apparently the audience was extremely receptive and her talk went down very well. The bottle of wine Ruth received by way of thanks was most appreciated.  Great stuff, Ruth!  Back at her desk and hard at it, Ruth has now launched launched the Five Stop Story latest short story competition. 
We’re pleased to announce Five Stop Story’s third short story competition. The theme is “travel” and we’re looking for publishable, proof-read stories of 1,500 to 2,500 words.

Eiry Rees Thomas, author of THE FLITWIT CAPERS, was invited along to Palmerston Primary school to participate with the children in Flitwit Friday, an inspired idea to bring fun into learning.  Eiry says, “The children were absolutely brilliant.  I owe them and their teachers so much. Matthew, my illustrator, and I were presented with a magnificent show, DVD, professional calender, giant portfolio of the children's work, a superb tea and friendship pebbles etc.” 

Eiry was joined by her husband, who dressed up for the day (and who apparently can't recall ever having such a fun day during his long teaching career).  To Eiry's surprise, fellow authors Spencer Ratcliff and Bel Roberts also turned up to lend their support, along with Zareen Roohi Ahmed from the Brit Writers’ Awards.  Looks like Flitwit Friday might be here to stay!

Hopefully, I’ll bring you news of other participants exciting adventures next time, including a bit about Sinead Gillespie’s Saturday morning scriptwriting workshops.   

As for myself, I’ve just been offered a contract by Safkhet Publishing for a rom com with a very Unique Selling Point.  Preen. Preen. 
Safkhet started as a company providing text work to other publishers. It evolved into a publishing house that is truly honest with its authors, freelancers and business partners to create a fantastic work environment bringing high quality books that make a difference to the world.


Friday 20 May 2011

A quick update...

...on the progress of one or two of the Brit Writers’ Awards Publishing Programme participants, which I’m sure they won’t mind me sharing. 

For information, the May 2011 edition of Write Now! Magazine is out, packed with information for new and unpublished writers, and starring our very own Claire Kinton, BWA Publishing Programme author, who visited Parkdale Primary School in Nottingham.  Claire, author of DEAD GAME, was there to give a talk on writing and being an author following a week of creative writing activities undertaken by the children as part of the BWA Creative Writing Programme. 

Claire was joined by Imran Akram, Brit Writers CEO, and Susanne Murray, Nottinghamshire schools supplier TTS Group, who are on board as local Schools Territory Partner, effectively sponsoring every school in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire to benefit from free membership of the BWA Creative Writing Programme. 

This is one of many  talks Claire is giving in hopes of inspiring children to put pen to paper and express their ideas.  From feedback, it is clear that she is indeed an inspiration.  Well done, Claire!

Another BWA Publishing Programme participant, Eiry Rees Thomas, author of THE FLITWIT CAPERS - a humorous series of books for early readers/transition books category, is also out and about visiting schools. Eiry’s stories feature fictional characters named THE FLITWITS and Eiry – together with her illustrator, staff and pupils at the school - will be dressing up as the characters – making learning and reading huge fun for the children. Another inspiring idea.  Congrats on that, Eiry!  Also on getting Imran Akram, Brit Writers CEO, to participate.  We look forward to photographs.  
Ruth Heald, author of the novel "27", which was selected by the second BWA programme, also runs short story competitions Five Stop Story - Writers - 2011 Short Story Competitions which is featured on the back page of Write Now! Ruth has been asked to speak at the Bangkok Literature festival!  Great Stuff! 
All in all an industrious group of writers. 
As for moi… Well, I have an author-friendly publisher interested in some of my rom com stories. Yay!  I’m really pleased about this.  Not least because without the support of the BWA – along with that of my lovely fellow authors on the BWA Publishing Programme, I might not have had the confidence to just go for it and submit.  Thanks guys!
Safkhet started as a company providing text work to other publishers. It evolved into a publishing house that is truly honest with its authors, freelancers and business partners to create a fantastic work environment bringing high quality books that make a difference to the world.

Right, I’m off to write another chapter on the follow up to my soon to be published book, FIVE SHALLOW BREATHS.  The new book is called STRANGE DARK PLACES, the outline for which has been co-written with my son.  I hate to admit it, but his idea is awesome!  Far better than mine.

More to follow on other participants... as soon as I can catch up with them.

Happy writing all!