SHIRLEY GOODRUM: What I Did at 50

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Shirley Goodrum, aged four, on a Royal Navy ship to England

I’m delighted to welcome Shirley Goodrum onto my blog today, the latest guest in my ‘What I did at 50’ series. Each of these stories takes my breath away, and shows me how interesting it is to read the timeline of a life up to and beyond the age of 50! Shirley’s is no exception. Welcome, Shirley.

Hi Tracey, thanks for having me on your blog.

I’m new to publishing but started telling stories as a toddler. I was born with a caul over my head and my mother’s South African family declared me lucky and fey. My ‘big’ words intrigued them and they weren’t a bit surprised when I pointed to a picture of my long-dead grandmother and said I’d heard them from her.    

I was four when the Royal Navy sent us to England. As the sailor’s daughters, my baby sister and I were the darlings of the ship and the crew looked out for us. My parents revelled in kid-free time, until I went missing from the nursery. Panic. Child overboard. The ship was turned around and the crew and I severely reprimanded, when I was found, holding court with my stories, in their quarters.

~

My English grandmother’s good-night tales were magic, and I forgave her for loving my sister more than me because I had Grandad. He adored me, said my imagination came from her, and taught me how to write. I became the family scribe.

I wrote of our adventures; sailing back to South Africa, adding a baby brother to our clan, boarding steam trains bound for Southern and Northern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe and Zambia). ‘New kid on the block’ was a common theme, and I left primary school clutching the prize for best essays.

On to high school in Kitwe where the December Teenage Dance was the event. I’d been to a few before my dad’s boss said his son was coming up from Johannesburg for the holidays. The son had lost touch with the local crowd, and I was asked if I would go as his partner. No! Never!

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Introduction to the Boss’s son!

History shows I did; we were ‘cased’ by Christmas. I told him I was fey and going to die at forty-three. This declaration didn’t put him off and we married four years later.

~

My twenties and thirties were hyper. We settled in Johannesburg, had two girls and a boy within three years, built our own businesses and moved nine times. I loved renovating and subjected the family to living in and through them. Except for the odd newspaper or magazine article, my writing didn’t happen, but I did tell stories. Our middle child had a rare illness and was often hospitalised; I filled the visiting hours with anecdotes of the world outside her ward.

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Shirley’s three children

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It was she, not I, who died when I was forty-three. I heard the pews were full to overflowing and the church a blaze of white flowers. I only remembered the priest’s eulogy. On bad days, I wore her school blazer, and listened to him telling of our girl playing the guitar, loving Patrick Swazye and Dirty Dancing, building thousand-piece puzzles, blowing out twenty-one candles on her last birthday cake and buying gifts for the whole family on her solo overseas trip. She left big memories and they slotted her back into my changed-forever life. Grandmother-hood and dancing at our son’s wedding, brought me joy, but the deaths of my sister and brother snatched it away. I lost myself and limped out of my forties.

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Shirley’s middle child on her 21st birthday

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I was depressed. After a day in the garden I was dirty and tired and about to make supper, when the doorbell rang. I sighed and opened the door to a gathering of people from all over my life and their huge smiles and solid love lifted my spirits. What a surprise fiftieth birthday party! My parents had travelled up from Cape Town and found themselves a bed long before the celebration ended. Cleaning up, I realised how frail my dad was, the weight on my mom’s shoulders, and knew first-hand how they missed my siblings. I had to shape up. I had the role of an only child to fill.

~

Selling our house and renovating the next one energised me, and my parents came to live with us. They died in April and June 2000 and, in their deed box, amongst their history, I found a packet labelled “Shirley’s Writing.” My mom had kept all my essays, stories, poems, and articles. The very next day, I smiled when I saw an advert for a writing course. It was my mom’s unsubtle nudge from the grave. I signed up and promised her I’d write a book.

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Shirley with her eldest daughter in London

Two poems and a short story, All That Glitters, published in Jozi, a Reflection of Johannesburg, were published when our eldest took her art and sculptures to England. I tagged along and delivered samples of my one-third finished book to publishing houses in London and arrived home to an email from Orion Books asking for the balance of the typescript. My reply was immediate.

The book isn’t finished, can I please send what I have?

Unfortunately, they didn’t deal with incomplete books, suggested I find an agent and recommended Ali Gunn at Curtis Brown. Her assistant replied; they liked what they read but needed a timeline of completion. My heart sank. Impossible. We were facing a company liquidation, selling our home to start a new venture and working all hours.

Two more grandchildren, and four houses later I finally wrote THE END.

~

I’d stepped into my sixties, Ali Gunn had died, and Curtis Brown were no longer interested in my book. An agent at David Higham asked for more and I was crestfallen when they declined, but those ‘please send the manuscript’ requests egged me on, and I continued submitting to agents.

My rejection pile and my wrinkles multiplied. Indie Author friends convinced me to follow their route. Their books sold and soared and, with their encouragement, and my daughter navigating Amazon’s instructions, Baggage in a B Cup was published in January this year.

I’ve kept my promise to my mom, the deed box is a treasure trove of stories and I’m busy with one. What fun!

Baggage in a B Cup BUY HERE

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Book cover: Baggage in a B Cup

Blurb: Do you wear a size 32B?” Pam Richards does. Her bust requires no support but, when her teenage daughter runs off with a convicted drug dealer, comes home pregnant, and her husband, Alex, is locked in clinical depression, she needs propping up. Buying a black lace bra, she wins a trip for two to Rio, but Alex can hardly get out of bed and onto the shrink’s couch, let alone board an aeroplane. His apathy kills her excitement and she lets her prize morph into a future business itinerary. Her soulmate husband of twenty-years is a distant stranger. Loneliness topples her into a romance and she’s on the brink of an affair. Can Alex recover and will she wait for him to, or will she slip under the illicit sheets? She finds the answer at the top of a mountain and it takes her breath away. 

BUY Baggage in a B Cup HERE

Shirley’s Facebook Author Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JESSICA NORRIE: What I Did at 50

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Jessica Norrie

I’m happy to welcome Jessica Norrie onto my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series – or, as Jessica puts it: What I did at 50 plus a bit, minus a bit. Jessica is the author of The Infinity Pool and The Magic Carpet. Welcome, Jessica, and tell us your story…

Thank you. First, I was born, at University College Hospital, London. I don’t claim any special credit for that, but it wasn’t long before Christmas. My father talked about watching processions of nurses in their red capes marching briskly through the snow below the ward window – I think the NHS was more glamorous then.

At school I loved writing stories, but that’s hardly surprising because both my parents were journalists, my mother on Glamour and Mirabelle magazines before she was married (glamour again) and my father for local papers until he got fed up with being sent to report weddings and found work as a bookseller, publishing novels in his spare time. So I thought writing was as normal as eating which gave me a lucky boost most children never get.

~

I studied French, lived in France teaching English, came back and trained to do it properly and somehow writing took a back seat. But when I married and had children, I earned a few pounds writing columns for mother and baby magazines (think inept mother makes silly mistakes, not helpful tips or advice. Fortunately my children were quite easy going and survived.) On maternity leave from teaching, I studied translation, and earned enough for our family holidays for a few years. Translating is great – a bit like editing/writing rolled into one without having to think up the plot yourself. Again, I’d never have got the diploma if the children hadn’t been predictable babies who kindly slept while I did the assignments.

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There’s a lot of fast forwarding to do now. Career highpoints of the next few decades? I enjoyed visiting different schools to assess (with interpreters) bilingual children who were struggling for one reason or another – saw lots of age groups, situations, individuals – all human life was there! Refugee children, children with disabilities that had never been diagnosed, perfectly ok children who were just taking the developmental time they needed to start using another language but it didn’t fit with the exam schedules. Then the funding for that was withdrawn.

Later, it was hard work but fascinating entering the school advisory service to set up language teaching in primary schools. I made some great new friends and rediscovered my own love of learning languages. Then that funding was withdrawn. Back into school teaching I went, armed with lots of new methods and expertise and proud co-author of a textbook.

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My own children were now adults and I found I wasn’t so well in tune with what makes young children tick. The primary curriculum too had become as dull for the teachers as the government seemed to be trying to make it for the pupils. My heart wasn’t in it any more. I had become more interested in what made adults tick, especially slightly odd ones, which inspired my first novel, The Infinity Pool. It did surprisingly well for self-published literary fiction. I had a number one in Australia, overtaking The Girl on a Train in the charts for over a week. I was amazed how long it took to market it and spread the word, though. No time for teaching, so I took early retirement, and following an amazing holiday of a lifetime in Japan, got down to novel number two, The Magic Carpet, which has just been published. This is not for children, but it is about them, and without my teaching career would never have been written. As a teacher, I think I learned at least as much as I ever taught.

~

All the while, I’ve been singing, in choirs, bring-and-sing days, workshops, holidays and with anyone who’ll accept my thin high soprano and slightly slow learning. There’s always someone with a richer, better voice, which stops me getting prima donna airs. I cannot recommend singing highly enough, whatever standard you are (or think you are), Rock Choir to Oratorio. It’s about breathing, muscle work, discipline, mindfulness, teamwork, concentration, self-expression and release. Though sheer good luck, I’ve sung at the Festival Hall, on Radio 3 and at the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Paralympics. Singing has made me lifelong friends and it’s how I met my partner. When we’re feeling flush, we also love to watch others at the opera – do go, it’s neither as expensive nor as elitist as you may think.

At La Scala

Jessica at La Scala Opera House

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I’ve finished the first draft of novel number three, which is – why not? – about adults and children. Surprising how few novels are, when you stop and think about it. So many stories for adults ignore anyone under eighteen completely, as if we all sprang into the world at voting age.

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The view from Jessica’s study in Malvern, Worcestershire

So that’s my 50s – three novels started, two finished. Two children sent out into the world. I’ve just stepped over the hump into 60 (no snow this birthday) which has started well – my partner has moved to Malvern, Worcs where this is the view from my study! And started badly – I won’t be seeing the view much longer without a trabeculectomy at Moorfields eye hospital this August. So it looks like I’m back where I started, with the NHS in considerably straitened circumstances but still doing its best. From the cradle – well let’s hope not to the grave, just yet. There’s still that third novel to finish!

Thank you for having me on your blog, Tracey, it’s been interesting to find the shape in my life through doing this piece of writing. Hope it’s of some interest to your readers too.

Tracey: I’ve enjoyed reading your story, Jessica. Thank you for telling it to us. Find out more about Jessica from the links below, and take a look at her books…

The Magic Carpet

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The Magic Carpet

BUY HERE

Blurb:
Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

BUY The Magic Carpet

Other links:

 

Jessica’s blog

Jessica’s Facebook page

Jessica on Twitter

 

IP paperback

The Infinity Pool

BUY The Infinity Pool

Blurb: In this thoughtful novel set on a sun-baked island, Adrian Hartman, the charismatic director of the Serendipity holiday community, is responsible for ensuring the perfect mindful break, with personal growth and inner peace guaranteed. People return year after year to bare their souls. For some, Adrian IS Serendipity. 

But Adrian disappears, and with him goes the serenity of his staff and guests, who are bewildered without their leader. The hostility of the local villagers is beginning to boil over. Is their anger justified or are the visitors, each in a different way, just paranoid?

As romance turns sour and conflict threatens the stability of both communities, everyone has to find their own way to survive. This evocative story explores the decisions of adults who still need to come of age, the effect of well-intentioned tourism on a traditional community, and the real meaning of getting away from it all.

ANNA SHENTON: What I Did at 50

Anna Shenton

Anna Shenton

I’m really pleased to be welcoming Anna Shenton onto my blog today, as part of my What I did at 50 series. Anna is the lovely lady who set up a friendly Writers, Authors and Readers group and is always happy to promote and encourage the efforts of others. Read her story below…

I’m delighted to be here Tracey, (I think). I’m quite a private person, believe it or not, hope I don’t spill too many beans! Thank you for inviting me to your wonderful blog. I will focus shortly on the – say it quick – Fifty’s decade. Something I thought I would never divulge, so you are one special kind of lady.

Tracey: Thank you, Anna! Now over to you.

~

Born in Staffordshire, I experienced an interesting upbringing by my English father, and German mother. My two elder siblings and a surprise half-brother from Germany (twenty-six years later) completed the family.

Ingo, four years old, wasn’t allowed to leave Germany, his father cut off all ties with my distraught mother. Twenty-six years later came a letter.

Dear Martha, I hope this isn’t too much a shock for you, but I am Ingo, your son!!!  My father died and now I have found your address. Please can I telephone you?

Later, we gathered round the telephone, my mother’s German language rolled off her tongue. Excitement, tears, and laughter followed. A date was arranged for the great reunion. Ten days before it, Martha, our mother, suffered a life-taking heart attack.

Their meeting wasn’t to be.

Eventually, I met my brother. The likeness to his mother was uncanny. It was a wonderful moment in my life.

~

My first marriage lasted thirteen years. My two wonderful sons were there for me.

I took a year out from men – until I was blue-lighted by a patrol car!

“You were speeding, madam!” said the tall, handsome copper peering down at me.

“Sorry Officer, I’m late for work.” He looked into my brown eyes and smiled.

“I’ll let you off, on one condition!”

        “Uuum,” I tutted.

“You’ll come out for a drink!!”

Two years later, we married. Secretly. No kids, no guests, just two friends, shocked when we asked them to be witnesses in an hours’ time.

Sixteen happy years followed, but believe me, step-parenting isn’t easy.

~

When I turned fifty, we had a big bash. My Sister, Ilona, my two sons, four stepsons and all their partners joined in the celebrations. I could still get my little black number on!  

I wrote a poem, mentioning each family member, cringing in their seats as I read out their name. Starting with Ilona, lady lorry driver. The sister who said it how it was when we were kids. (“Your hair looks messy, that dress is too short, makes you look fat!”) We would laugh about it now.

Tonight, it’s my party. Revenge was hanging on the tip of my tongue as I read. “Now to my sister, Ilona,” all heads turned to face her, cropped red hair and smiling face.

 “You are the most… kindest sister I could wish for, You gave me love and so much more, No money, no man, no car to drive, But you were the one to help me survive.”  I blew out the fifty candles and held my head up high.  

~

And so, for the delight of being in my fifties.

 

Anna aged 55, with her granddaughter, who is now 10!

My husband, now on the crime squad, worked long hours, flying around on an unmarked police bike in his hot leathers. It gave me time to plough into a home study course with the Writing School of London. Getting published on Star Letter Pages and writing fillers for Women’s Commercial Magazines was encouraging. Articles were soon published too, in various magazines.

Poems didn’t go amiss either. Growin Owd – my pet poem – won World Book Day prize 2015 with Vind & Vag Publishing House, and, I loved writing short stories for writing group anthologies, where I used to be fund organiser.

Inspiration from life experiences, and reading other authors, helped me write Seduced by Mind Tricks, my debut novel, and create short stories.

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I wanted to share my love for writing, with wanna-be-writer friends. My eBook/paperback Writing Spelled Out is devised and rewritten from my articles, to help budding authors. I then took on the challenge to write a Historical Mystery Romance and am currently working on book 2 for this two-part series.

During this time, I felt I needed to connect with other writer friends, it was a bit lonely slogging away on my own, so I created a group with a handful of people. Writers Authors and Readers – an online closed group – was now my passion. A layman in Facebook skills landed me with the group growing accidentally, but hey, it has turned out to be awesome with over 1k members.

~

Writing a novella appealed to me, as I sometimes like to read shorter stories that are fast-paced and straight into the story.

76 Silver Street

76 Silver Street by Anna Shelton

BUY HERE

76 Silver Street – Book Blurb
Although she had a roof over her head, Rosa Brown couldn’t abide Dan’s drunken coercive behaviour as his house-keeper anymore. Aunt Mildred’s call from her hospital-bed sends Rosa sneaking out of town, to take over her aunt’s rundown boarding house.
Met by Jack Howard on arrival, in Pemberton 1905, Rosa’s heart plummets when her eyes meet with the dingy filthy place and Jack’s dark devilish impudent manner, who thinks she’s mad and has no intention of helping to get the place up and running before it goes bust.
Rosa is shocked when faced with all the ruffians and commoners knocking on the door and struggles to keep Jack’s hands off her. Sprucing the place up and filling it with respectful paying guests, proves harder than expected. Now, filled with fear for her aunt and her own wellbeing, will Rosa ever find true love and be free from trouble?

You can find more details for 76 Silver Street on this link: 76 Silver Street

Also please visit my writing page to keep up to date. I would love to see you there: Anna’s writing page

It’s been a great pleasure to be a guest on your blog Tracey. Thank you so much! I also look forward to reading fellow authors’ posts too. It’s a funny old time of life to talk about. And a great refreshing idea!  But beware – don’t get done for speeding – you never know what might happen X

LOUISE WALTERS: What I Did at 50

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Louise Walters

I’m pleased to welcome Louise Walters onto my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series. I have a few things in common with Louise, not least that we’re both independent publishers. Hi, Louise, tell us your story!

Hi Tracey! I’m a working-class woman. I don’t make any bones about that, about my impoverished background, nor about my second-hand childhood. The one thing that saved me was books and reading. From a very early age books were my refuge. I went to a truly awful secondary school and didn’t go to university. It was never suggested, by any of the adults around me.

Life happened. Boyfriends, music, cigarettes taken up, books, the 90s (YES!), jobs, husband number one, kids, a divorce, cigarettes finally ditched, husband number two, more kids (I have five)… eventually, in my forties, a published novel. Life. My life. Not bad, not perfect.  

~

As I approached my fiftieth birthday in 2017, I decided to become a publisher. It wasn’t really a sudden decision, but once the decision was made, I did rather swing into action. It was a response to the fallout from my second novel being turned down. My first novel, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, was published by Hodder, in 2014, and did very well – fifteen foreign deals and respectable UK sales. So my second getting turned down was a horrible shock and one of the biggest disappointments of my life.

After the initial feelings played themselves out, I realised I had to make a decision about that rejected novel. My decision was to self-publish it. I had little experience of self-publishing so I opted to use Matador (Troubador Publishing) who did most of the work for me. I learned quite a lot about what happens when, how long it all takes, and why.

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A Life Between Us

A Life Between Us by Louise Walters

My second novel came out in March 2017 and while sales were low compared to my trade-published first novel, they were OK. I got large print deal and brought out the audio book via Audible. The book still sells, over two years later, and does quite well in ebook.

~

In 2017, approaching my fiftieth birthday in the November of that year, I decided I liked publishing and I wanted to publish other authors. I had a bit of capital to start up with, courtesy of my first novel. I set up my website over one long, sweary, wine-fuelled weekend; and announced in September 2017 that Louise Walters Books was up and running. I did this the weekend after my first ever public speaking event, presenting a characterisation workshop at York Festival of Writing…

 My fiftieth birthday came and went – nice, quiet, a lovely day with my family.

Around that time, I found my first author for LWB – fantasy writer Laura Laakso. Nobody was more surprised then me that I kicked off proceedings with a fantasy author.  I generally don’t read fantasy, and I had even put on my website No Fantasy. But the power of Laura’s writing won me over; her world-building is second to none; her characters are memorable and so much fun to hang out with; and I thought a series is often a good bet. Plus, I hope I started as I mean to go on: choosing surprising unorthodox books with heart, passion, originality… and excellent writing. 

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Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso

In 2018 I found another clutch of authors: Helen Kitson, Diana Cambridge and Dominic Brownlow, a wonderful trio of literary authors. My workload became increasingly heavy – there is so much to do in publishing – and I was a bit overwhelmed; so when a friend suggested a holiday in Lisbon, Portugal, with her, a couple of other mums, and our kids, I jumped at the chance.

Lisbon September 2019

Louise in Lisbon with two of her children  

And this became another milestone. At the age of fifty, another fear faced up to: I flew in an aeroplane for the first time. It had always been a deep fear for me, and I’d become very used to avoiding fearful things – a habit ingrained in me from childhood. Lisbon was was hot; the flights were fun, and the kids and I had a lovely time. Upon getting home, I realised I had something else to face up to: I was overweight. So I changed the way I eat, have kept that up, and I’m pleased to report I have now dropped two dress sizes. I don’t weigh myself and I don’t count calories; life is too short for that nonsense. I simply eat less. Maybe I drink a little too much… but I like wine, I like gin, I like Pimms… I run on coffee… And the menopausal hot flushes have decreased… but still take me by unwelcome surprise from time to time…

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I turned fifty-one last November, around about the time my first LWB novel was published: Laura Laakso’s Fallible Justice. The launch party was fantastic, with many of Laura’s friends in attendance, and her mum all the way from Finland; my husband helped out, manning my pop-up bookstall; and I got to meet several members of Team LWB for the first time – I have an amazing freelance team who help me to produce some beautiful books. 

Beautiful books published by Louise Walters Books

In 2019 I have signed two more authors – Cath Barton and Chris Walsh – and set up my inaugural Louise Walters Books novel competition. In LWB style, it’s a bit different. I’m asking that entrants send me their novel’s page 100. I’ve had a great response so far and the comp remains open to entries until the end of September.

What’s next? Well, I’ve closed to novel submissions for now. The workload is immense and I am a one-woman band, so I do need to be sensible. I have an intern, a fabulous young woman called Billie who is doing all the admin for my comp (I will judge it anonymously) and I’m slowly establishing the editorial critique side of my business.

The other day I announced to my husband that I’m going to get a tattoo.

I’ve also talked about doing a parachute jump. Not something I would have contemplated at any point in my life, until now. I don’t know where this recklessness has come from, but I love it.

OK, I’m still very much menopausal and enduring the odd hot flush or two. But I’m very grateful to have made it this far in life and I can honestly say I’ve never been more confident, creative, and energetic. Life at fifty is fabulous indeed…!

~

 

The Road to California9781999780906

The Road to California, Louise’s third novel

Blurb:
 ‘She saw the caller ID and her heart didn’t know whether to leap into her mouth or sink down into her toes. So it did both, in rapid succession, and she felt sick. There would be no coffee, no homemade cake today. Oh no, no, no, not again. What now? What now?’
Proud single parent Joanna is accustomed to school phoning to tell her that her fourteen year old son Ryan is in trouble. But when Ryan hits a girl and is excluded from school, Joanna knows she must take drastic action to help him.
Ryan’s dad Lex left home when Ryan was two years old. Ryan doesn’t remember him – but more than anything he wants a dad in his life. Isolated, a loner, and angry, Ryan finds solace in books and wildlife.
Joanna, against all her instincts, invites Lex to return and help their son. But Lex is a drifter who runs from commitment, and both Joanna and Ryan find their mutual trust and love is put to the test when Lex returns, and vows to be part of the family again.
“I think Louise Walters has just broken my heart.” Nicola Smith: Short Book and Scribes
“There are scenes in this book that are just achingly perfect.” Anne Williams: Being Anne
 Louise Walters is the author of two previous novels: Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase (Hodder 2014) and A Life Between Us (Matador/Louise Walters Books 2017). She is a novelist, publisher and editor, and lives in rural Northamptonshire with her husband and children.

£8.99

ISBN 9781999780906

Available to BUY from Louise Walters Books

 

Email: info@louisewaltersbooks.co.uk

FURTHER LINKS:

Find out more about Louise Walters Books

Connect with Louise on Twitter