What I Did at 50: ROSALIND MINETT

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Rosalind Minett

Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome Rosalind Minett onto my blog, as part of my ‘What I Did at 50’ (And beyond!) series. I’ve ‘known’ Rosalind online for a good many years, and I hope you enjoy reading her story as much as I have. Over to you, Rosalind…

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Tracey, especially after the fascinating bios you have posted already. I could have written about the house I lived in, my marriage, my many children, world news of that time, but as I started writing the first sentence “When I was fifty” this is what came to mind. When I was fifty, I found a dark hair on my left big toe…nasty shock! This is it, I recognized. The downward slope has begun.

At this point, my third grandchild was born–a girl. Make the most of it, I should have been told, for all the next twelve were boys. Several grew up believing their Gran was attached to a computer, because I couldn’t afford to halt my work while I was babysitting. From behind the computer screen I’d suggest where the train track might fit, whose turn it was to climb the tree, or how to work out the fair distribution of smarties.

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I remember being stressed out by my work as a freelance psychologist at that time, sixty hours per week carrying out expert witness work for the family courts. This involved absorbing massive files of information, researching relevant aspects, as well as the face-to-face work: interviews, assessments. Later I’d compile very lengthy reports, finally my professional evidence would be challenged and crossworded by barristers. The nature of the cases was always upsetting, peoples’ sad or damaged circumstances being the focus.

After sometimes horrible days in the Court, I’d de-stress by weeding in the garden. It was also when I was fifty that my eldest daughter did out her loft and came across an old roll of printed text. It was a story I had written years before and had completely forgotten. I read a page where a man in his twenties was rushing after another, tracking him urgently to find out why he looked as he did, who he was and how that could be. I felt an urge to finish the novel.

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I joined a creative writing group one evening a week. I’d always enjoyed writing, but kept it as a small hobby, much like some folk draw doodles or solve crosswords. But now I wrote pieces more consciously. The writing group members seemed wonderfully sane by comparison with the victims, perpetrators and professionals I was working with. We had some great workshop sessions and shared our very varied scribblings. The group leader (American poet) liked my work, saying it always highlighted the human condition. She hoped that one day she would see my novels on bookshelves.

Further years have passed during which I’ve written many short stories and several novels, publishing several, but that nearly lost story wouldn’t go away. At last, after multiple rewrites, it will be my forthcoming novel, Uncommon Relations. Wise writers stick to one genre. Honestly, it’s so much easier, but when I was eight my father told me I had no common sense. Still true: I just write what’s on my mind and discover the genre later. Uncommon Relations will be a fourth genre. It’s contemporary fiction, a secrets and lies tale with many characters and relationships. What a lot of extra work it’s been bringing Uncommon Relations up-to-date and restructuring it. This is what happens when you try to rescue an old love rather than develop a new one!

Uncommon Relations will have taken very many months longer than my trilogy, with all the historical research that entailed. Would it have been different if the dusty paper roll had been found before I was fifty? Is fifty an age where we grasp at something that might disappear, whereas before, we are more cavalier with our possessions? By contrast, some of my short stories have been born in the early hours on waking and written before the day is out. Even so, they’re usually rewritten several times. Often I’m laughing as I do so. I enjoy being subtly wicked. (The two collections are Me-Time Tales: tea breaks for mature women and curious men, and Curious Men: he-time tales.)

Me-Time and He-Time Tales, Rosalind’s collections of short stories

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Despite the lengthy research, I did find the trilogy the easiest thing to write. A Relative Invasion takes a boyhood rivalry from its inception through to climax and adulthood and set in WWII. Readers have asked how I got into the heads of very different young boys. In the forties, children were told little by adults. They were brought up to work things out for themselves, often drawing wrong conclusions. It can make a child hyper-alert, always looking for clues. My two boy characters are both adult-aware yet very different in nature. Frail Kenneth is indulged and manipulative, Billy psychologically neglected but steadfast. Kenneth, jealous of Billy’s material comforts and physical strength, sets out to invade every aspect of his life and increasingly as they grow up. The two boys view the world differently.In my work I’ve seen plenty of psychological bullying and was keen to represent this.

~

MeBruceLinda

Rosalind as a middle child

As for being adult-aware as a child, I had a lot to work out. I have the odd advantage of being first the youngest child in a family, then, when a small brother was adopted, the middle one, as you see in the photo. When my sister died tragically, I was the older child. Some years later my brother was re-adopted elsewhere, and I found myself an only child. That was difficult. Your position in the family does affect how you see the world, and I’ve seen it from those different perspectives.

A change of perspective is a tremendous help to an author, as people often attest when they move countries or change professions or roles. It was always a jolt to reality as a young mother when I came home from the concentration of work to my domestic scene. Sometimes, a visitor might comment ‘Doesn’t the noise get you down?’ And I’d say, ‘as long as it’s happy noise, no.’ By contrast, these days I like to write in complete silence. No background music, thank you. Even so, writing fiction itself (not the necessary accompanying technical chores) gives me great pleasure, and often amusement. It’s a contrast to my ghost writing, usually non-fiction, which is more academic an exercise.

I have written in different genres, but to me it’s all the same character-driven story-telling. This is why I’ve sub-titled my website “characterful writer” (https:// rosalindminett.com) In summary, I do believe that engaging in several different forms of writing is helpful, as is immersion in different kinds of creative experiences. I am not a note-taker, but trust that we absorb at a deep level what we’ve seen in Art galleries, theatre, street performance, craft studios, and that some image or idea will pop up as we are writing our narratives.

A Relative Invasion The Trilogy

Rosalind’s 3-in-1 book A Relative Invasion: The Trilogy

A Relative Invasion: The Trilogy,

Blurb:
Two cousins meet in 1937 as WWII hovers on the horizon. By 1951 their rivalry has reached a climax and they must manage the dramatic fall-out. “This well-executed emotional drama” (Historical Novel Society), explores a fateful relationship between two boy cousins. This is played out in the context of wartime London, evacuation and post-war austerity. Smaller but older, Kenneth envies Billy’s superior strength and home comforts and sets out to threaten both. The desire for power and territory determining events in Europe is mirrored in micro as the parents turn a blind eye and the boys share psychological space. Beleaguered Billy’s secret symbol of power, a Cossack sabre, has its own dramatic story. The boys must survive war-time anxiety, separation, evacuation, physical hardship and loss as they develop their different talents. Kenneth’s invasion of Bill’s psychological space is relentless and a climax is inevitable. The drama affects everyone around them. Can Billy resolve the traumatic fall-out or will Kenneth always be a threat? How long can retribution last?

Links: 

https://rosalindminett.com

A Relative Invasion: The Trilogy BUY HERE

Rosalind’s Author Page on Amazon

What I Did At 50: FRANCES KAY

Frances Kay

Frances Kay

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Frances Kay onto my blog, as part of my ‘What I did at 50′ (and beyond!) series. I first encountered Frances about nine years ago on the online writers’ site Authonomy. I was pretty much in awe of her character and talent then, and I remain so now.  Frances is a novelist, playwright and scriptwriter, performer and puppeteer; a mother and grandmother. Over to Frances:

FIFTY – THE AGE OF BALANCE?

There was a seesaw in my local playground so perfectly poised that you could teeter to the fulcrum, balancing with one foot on either side, able (if you were really clever) to tilt the whole thing one way or another by the slightest pressure of a left or right foot..  That’s how my fiftieth year was. Balancing between my past and present, a dazzling, drunken disturbance of the equilibrium and the dizzying possibility of  future worlds unexplored…

            We’d moved to Ireland eight years earlier, to my first ever mortgage at the age of forty two, (I’d put off buying a house until I was ready to call myself an adult), and we lived on Bray seafront, twelve miles south of Dublin.

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In England I had been a puppeteer and performer, writing plays for Nutmeg Puppets, a fit-up seaside show with costumed characters and puppets, then, later, TV scripts for the BBC TV children’s programme I worked on, called YOU AND ME, in which I operated a feisty Geordie puppet called Cosmo (who was fiercely proud of being a girl). In Dublin I looked for openings for a children’s playwright, but found none. There was one single Theatre in Education Company for the whole of Dublin and the South-east, and I didn’t feel confident enough in my vernacular to write as an Irish person,  so I sent out a couple of hopeful letters to arts organisations working with kids. 

~

Four years later, and our finances were looking dire. Any money I’d saved from the BBC work went into the house purchase deposit, and just as we left England I had recorded my last series ever. We were paying monthly mortgage repayments with interest at 16%, a crazy amount each month, and each month it was harder and harder to scrape it together. The odd day as a film extra, or a royalty cheque from the Beeb, meant we were lying awake every night worrying about managing our money in a way that I’d never, in all my carefree life, had to do. Finally, we had to accept defeat. We would have to sell up and scuttle back to England and begin again.

Frances as Queen B

Queen Boudicca: Frances performing at Southwold Beach in former days (around 1983)

~

What happened next was extraordinary. Someone told me about a new series starting on Irish TV, RTE, for pre-school children, with puppets, and they were looking for a script editor. I’d never done that job, but working as a scriptwriter and performer for You and Me, I was lucky enough to have seen the process, from creation through rehearsal, rewrites, and then the studio day when it would all get recorded.

            I was stunned and excited when I was offered the post. I had a free hand to say what would go into every programme in the first series. It was a dream job for me. The puppets had already been commissioned and roughs had been made for the auditions yet to come.

            One of the first things I did was assemble a group of writers – some I’d inherited from other kids’ programmes, some were writers whose work I’d seen and liked. Together we chose names for the characters – Molly and Rossa. (For You and Me, myself and Francis Wright, the other puppeteer, were invited to name ourselves, which is how we ended up being Cosmo and Dibs). 

            I was allowed to run the auditions, as my producer had never done drama before! Soon we had two Rossas and two Mollys.  One of each for the bodysuits and one of each for the animatronics producing their facial expressions, ear wiggles and speech. Rossa, I was sure, would come from Cork  (my favourite of all the Irish accents]) Molly from Dublin. I created a species for them [Morbegs], and a legend: back in Morbegland, where the Growing Tree kept everyone safe and healthy, until it developed a mysterious illness. Molly and Rossa were the volunteer travellers, come to a castle populated by friendly witches and wizards to find out about all growing things and how to cherish them.

            While this was happening, Nico, my husband, was invited to become Musician in Residence at a brand new arts centre for children in Dublin, called The Ark.

            We abandoned plans to go back to England with such relief.

~

Frances aged 50

Frances at 50

So, as my fiftieth birthday approached, I was an RTE scriptwriter and editor, rushing home from the studio to write more scripts.

At the same time, I was halfway through training to become a psychodrama psychotherapist, exploring my past with excitement, terror and curiosity. I wondered if processing the trauma from my past would make it difficult to write my first novel, a dream I’d cherished since I was fourteen. The one I started in Dublin,  from an exile’s perspective, came to be called Dollywagglers.

Dollywagglers

Dollywagglers by Frances Kay

Find  Dollywagglers HERE

It is a dystopian story set in England, with a darkly comic protagonist, Billie, savage attacks on  politics and politicians, and all the faults I found with UK society. I discovered how liberating it was not to be writing for children, who I feel deserve hope and optimism,  whereas for adults I could write the kind of book I loved to read myself, as dark and doomy as I felt about my native land, pulling no punches. I finished that book some time in the mid nineties, and immediately started another, the story of two small boys brought together by chance, both unhappy and cruelly deprived of decent parenting, and the inevitably awful thing they decided to do to empower themselves.

            It was this second book, which I called ‘Don’t Do This’, that got published first. I’d entered a competition run by Cornerstones, a literary agency, where an agent found me, and she sold the book to Picador. I had to change the book’s title to Micka, after the main character, and I agreed to a cover I hated, so as not to seem demanding and diva- ish. Micka was published to critical acclaim from all the UK and some Irish papers, as well as being on BBC’s A Good Read, which for a week made the sales go stratospheric. 

Micka

Micka, second edition

Find Micka (second edition by Tenebris Books) HERE

I thought selling Dollywagglers would be easy after that debut, but Picador didn’t want it and my agent didn’t love it. I’m hopeless at marketing and selling, so I left it until a chance meeting on Harper Collins’ Authonomy slush pile found me a new and enthusiastic publisher, Tenebris, an imprint of Grimbold Books . Zoe Harris, my new editor, loves dark fiction, so when Strange Creation came to me out of nowhere, she kindly tested the waters with a Kindle edition, which was a best seller for a week in its category… 

Strange Creation

Strange Creation

Find Strange Creation HERE

 following it up with a printed version as a bonus with the new edition of Micka.

             Zoe, my editor, was kind enough to publish Dollywagglers and then to greet the idea of a sequel with enthusiasm. That story became Dancing on Bones, which came out last year. 

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Dancing on Bones by Frances Kay

Find Dancing on Bones HERE

Tenebris also gave Micka a home when Picador refused to reprint it, with at last! a decent cover and two editors, Sammy Smith and Zoe Harris, who, being writers themselves, truly respect and appreciate their authors. 

~

By the time the last one was finished, I was sick of dystopias, as world events had now created a real dystopia in which we were all living, so any inspiration, dwarfed by the hideous realities of politics and personalities, fizzled away to nothing.

            As well as literary novels there were romances, penned by Pan Zador, my theatrical alter ego. ‘Act of Love’ was set in a rep theatre on the East Coast of England, and using my theatre experiences, it pretty well wrote itself.  It was published in 2012, when I was sixty four. Act of Love

~

After that, a foray into the quirky world of “sexing up” classics; Pan Zador’s version of Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, with an extra fifteen thousand words of sex and erotic activity, was huge fun to write, especially since I learned that Hardy wanted to put a lot more sex into the book, only his Puritan Victorian editor would not let him. I felt I was giving Hardy restorative justice.

Far From the Madding Crowd. Pan Zador [and Thomas Hardy]

It was published by a US publisher called Crimson Romance, whose novels came in three categories – Sensual, Spicy and Hot. My American editor said there had to be sex on every tenth page. Reading the original book, it was obvious to me that lonely scenes of self-pleasuring would figure largely, as two of the main characters spend time fantasising about the heroine, rarely get together with her, and never get naked. But my editor did not consider masturbation to be about sex, which may say something about US and UK culture… For her, it had to be full sex between a man and a woman. A subtle scene I wrote, in which an amorous farmer takes Bathsheba  to view his prize sheep, only for them both to be embarrassed by their frenzied tupping, was blue-pencilled immediately on the grounds of encouraging bestiality. So, when it was published, it got the lame “Sensual” sticker. Maybe that’s why it didn’t sell.

~

I wish I could talk about the future with confidence. Neither the planet nor my creativity is in good health these days. In 2012  I was diagnosed with a spinal cord astrocytoma,  and this has sapped my stamina and seems to have robbed me of inspiration. I have survived seven years, thanks to radiotherapy, but I am not the woman I was. I look  back at her now, on her fiftieth birthday, with affection and a little more self-knowledge, and I let be.

Frances Kay (aged 71 and still available for commissions!)

September 2019

Cosmo and Dibbs

Cosmo and Dibs from YOU AND ME (Pinterest)

The story of Cosmo and Dibs (Francis Wright’s blog)

Frances Kay on Amazon UK

Puppeteer & Scriptwriter, BBC TV You AND ME 1980-1991

Playwright & Performer for Nutmeg Puppet Company 1980-84

Scriptwriter ‘Fair City’, RTE 1992

Community Arts projects for Wet Paint, Dublin, for whom I devised/wrote ‘Paradise Island’ and a short film ‘Fast Forward’, 1993 with youth groups.

Freelance playwright for The Ark, Children’s Cultural Centre, Dublin 1995-2000

Playwright for Team Theatre, Dublin 1996-2002

Wrote play ‘A Man in Half’ for Theatre Lovett, 2007

Directed ‘Last Call’ my play for teenagers about suicide, for Siamsa Tire Theatre, Tralee, Co Kerry, 2009.

‘Micka’ published by Picador 2010

‘Act of Love’ published by Crimson Romance, 2012

Wrote play ‘Feast of Bones’ for Theatre Lovett, Dublin 2012

‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ published by Crimson Romance, 2013

‘Mr. Foley, Radio Operator’ for Theatre Lovett, 2014

‘Dollywagglers’ published by Tenebris, 2014

‘Strange Creation’ published as a Kindle book, 2015.

‘Dancing on Bones’ published by Tenebris, 2017

‘Micka’ republished in a new edition by Tenebris,  together with ‘Strange Creation’ 2018.

 

 

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

~

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.

~

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.

~

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

~

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.

Study view

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

Magic carpet ecover[880]

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.

~

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.

~

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. 

9781999780937

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…

~

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

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