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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

CAROL COOPER: What I Did at 50

I’m happy to welcome Carol Cooper onto my blog today, as part of my ‘What I did at 50’ series. I first met Carol at the London Book Fair in 2013. Hi, Carol! Tell us about your life up to and at fifty and beyond…

Carol Cooper headshot

Carol Cooper

Thank you very much for having me on your blog, Tracey. I’m a slow learner, and turning fifty taught me a lot.

Back in my twenties, I dreamed of living in Hampstead and writing novels. However, I couldn’t afford Hampstead rents at the time and didn’t know how to write a book. In fact I knew nothing much except how to pass exams. I did however write a few music reviews, which got me into some of the best gigs in Cambridge.

Studying took up the next few years. Once I qualified as a doctor, I began writing light-hearted articles for other medics, and eventually for Punch and other titles. To me, Punch has always been an iconic magazine, and I was thrilled when it became one of my regular outlets.

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You asked about turning fifty, though, so I’ll fast-forward. By my forties, I had three teenaged sons and was a GP in a partnership in Chorleywood, Herts. I’d often been a part-time doctor, but had always worked, with only five weeks off after giving birth to my first child, and six months after having twins. This was considered exceptionally generous at the time.

Alongside this, I was also busy as a ‘media medic’, as some call it.  As the doctor for The Sun newspaper, my role was to supply a medical opinion at short notice on topics that could range from hangover remedies to radiation spills. I also popped up a lot on radio and TV, especially on Sky News who gave me a regular slot. It was a fun time. I never knew what might come up next so it was like working in A&E, though without getting my hands dirty.

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Inspired by my children and my work, I wrote a string of non-fiction books, among them the very popular Twins and Multiple Births and the Baby & Child Q & A Book. The only sadness was that my marriage had broken down by then, though my ex and I remain friendly.

Twins and Multiple Births

Carol’s book Twins & Multiple Births: the essential parenting guide from pregnancy to adulthood.

 

Around my fiftieth birthday, I was teaching nurses in the practice, as well as medical students who sometimes did attachments with us. But the biggest change came when I left the partnership. The decision was triggered by the birthday of my eldest son, who insisted on waiting for me to come home from work before opening his cards and presents.

I had an evening clinic and the last patient took a while. I recall her telling me, “This won’t take a minute, doctor.” She was right. It took more like half an hour.

Just as I’d thought I’d finished, I got a call from a local care home. The elderly patient in question had already been visited several times in the last few days. The staff didn’t think she needed further medical attention but the family were insistent, so I went, taking the usual time and care even though it became clear that there was nothing more any doctor could do for her.

When I was finally driving home, it struck me somewhat late in the day (in every sense of the phrase) that I couldn’t have it all, despite everything I’d told myself. Anyone could be a GP, I concluded, but only one person could be a mother to my sons.

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After I left the practice, I still wanted to see patients, but got pickier about the hours, so I worked on a very part-time basis. This allowed me to spend more time with my sons, teach medical students at Imperial College, and carry on with my media work and non-fiction books.

With over half my allotted time up on the big parking meter of life, I returned to ideas that had been simmering for a while. I’d already attended a weekend course led by the legendary Ruth Rendell who convinced me that I could write fiction, especially if it involved dialogue or sex. Spurred on by her advice, I finally finished a novel. I also moved to Hampstead when I downsized from the family home in Chorleywood. But it still wasn’t plain sailing. When my agent decided that One Night at the Jacaranda wasn’t her thing, I self-published my debut novel, followed two years later by Hampstead Fever.

Hampstead Fever COVER

 Hampstead Fever

BUY Hampstead Fever HERE

Set in Hampstead, the book follows the intertwined lives of six Londoners whose various emotions boil over in the hot summer of 2013. This is the year I got married to Jeremy with whom, coincidentally, I’d worked at Punch all those years ago.

Readers often wonder why my novels have short scenes and feature multiple viewpoints. The answer is that it mirrors my profession. Every ten minutes, someone new comes into a GP’s consulting room, and I try to put myself in their shoes.

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Although my career hasn’t taken a straight path, nothing has been wasted. There’s a lot of life experience in my novels, and, while all the characters are purely imaginary, there’s more than a whiff of authenticity in the stressed GP, the struggling journalist, and the newly single mother. I was delighted when WH Smith picked Hampstead Fever for a front-of-store promo in their travel bookshops. 

 

Cathy from WH Smith at Gatwick Airport, with a copy of Hampstead Fever

Cathy from WH Smith at Gatwick Airport, holding a copy of Hampstead Fever

 

I’ve just finished a more literary novel. The Girls from Alexandria centres around Nadia, an Egyptian of Syrian origin who’s now seventy and has symptoms that might be dementia. To avoid being sent to a care home, she needs to find her only remaining relative, a sister who disappeared decades ago. As it’s set mostly in Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s, the book draws on my experience of growing up in Alexandria. I’m not sure when it’ll be published, but it has been pure joy revisiting old memories, just as Nadia does in the novel as she tries to piece clues together.

 

Hampstead Fever BUY HERE

Connect with Carol on Twitter

Read Carol’s blog Pills & Pillow-Talk

Carol’s  Website

Author page on Facebook Carol Cooper’s London Novels

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