Elf Corner: The Wonderful Berenice Smith

How did you get involved in Ink Pantry?

Many years ago on a rogue unmoderated chat forum called First Class, I met Deborah Edgeley. We were studying the same Open University degree, A210, and battling through gender on the agenda and other weighty subjects. During our intense study chats (yes, really!) we pondered the idea of starting Ink Pantry. We roped in many wonderful students who are still friends and after lots of highs and lows, two anthologies were published and the website you see today, was founded. I am no longer hands on with Ink Pantry, and was very honoured when Deborah asked me to write a few words about what Ive been up to since I graduated from the Open University with my English Literature degree.

What happened after you graduated?

In my IP capacity I think its fair to say I was the designery(!) one. Its my first degree and now proud to say my Masters degree too. After being made redundant in February 2012, I spent the funds on establishing a freelance business and successfully applying to study a Masters degree in graphic design and typography at the Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University.

Its not easy, however, balancing a Masters with freelance. When youre studying you think you should be working or finding work, its very stressful. When my former manager headhunted me for the University Press in Cambridge just after I started the Masters, I took the job and spent two years studying part-time and working with them, establishing the design for the print, web, eBooks and branding of a publication list for their UK Schools section. If you have GCSE children in your life and theyve brought home a Cambridge University Press English Literature study book for Frankenstein with a scalpel wielding surgeon on the front, my apologies.

What did you study?

During my Masters degree, I have studied the typography of an Elizabethan surveyor, Thomas Langdon, the work of John Peters who designed the font Castellar, worked on several social design projects including Everyday Hero highlighting the challenges of hidden disabilities which gained best in show at the graduation exhibition at the Ruskin Gallery.

How does a Masters in graphic design benefit you and your clients?

The Masters does teach you how to speak to designers, but with twenty years practical creative experience in leading publishing houses and creative agencies, I felt it added new depths. In a short sentence, a Masters in graphic design and typography brings a greater level of the social and political impact of design through research and study. It also helps with predicting trends and incorporating history. For example, the craze for women with their back to the viewer on book covers, what will happen now thats over? Will design be influenced by film or photography, or will the trend in typography led covers continue? In this climate, I think politics will play huge part and I can see a return to the Atelier Populaire culture of 1968.

What project are you most proud of?

During my time with the Open University, I was also going through IVF. I suspect I was trying to get my brain to succeed where my body was not. Sadly the 6 cycles I went through were unsuccessful and we are coming to terms with a life without a child. Yet I am often told I could just adoptor try surrogacywhen there should be no such flippancy. It make me realise that there is an ignorance around infertility treatment because its just not talked about.

The Masters degree helped to work through the losses and find a route into educating people about this period of my life that was (as it is for everyone who goes through it) the single most hardest and painful experience. Forming part of a module on collaboration, I consulted extensively by holding workshops and talking online with a wonderful support group called Gateway Women. I had three months to pull this together and the notes are extensive but essentially it became a non-gender design piece to showcase the challenges that those who are involuntarily childless face on a daily basis. The website that was established continues today and provides a challenging, educational and confidential way for those who cannot have children not by choice, to talk about their feelings, situations and challenges. Its now grown to include social media channels on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Since one in 4 women face infertility and 1 in ten will fall in the category of involuntary childless, Id say its essential reading for everyone. Ive also been interviewed about my story and Walk In Our Shoes by a national newspaper and hope to see my name in print over the summer.

What’s next for you?

I have just started working three days a week at the University Press in order to grow my practice in design. I am busy giving talks about design, working with charities on their branding and occasionally books for self publishers – I offer a complete package that includes setting up an author website, to the entire book production and book launch material. I have many expert contacts in the field and love to see a book through the entire publication cycle. Im coaching a team at the moment and weve just reached the manuscript submission stage!

Im also writing again after a long break. Im developing Walk In Our Shoes into a book based on accounts from the website. Its aimed at those who are journeying from loss to recovery without a child, their friends, family and colleagues. I have found that books like this are very rare. The media put so much focus on the happy ending of adoption or miracle babies which for many men and women simply isnt true. Its about time we were heard. I have two fantastic counsellors working on this with me.

In June, Im holding my first solo exhibition on the life and work of John Peters at the museum at Cambridge University Press.

Do you have time for any other interests?

I do now! I love print making, Ive been taking short courses at the Curwen Print Study Centre in printmaking including lino prints. I do have heady ambitions to own an Albion Press and return to metal type as my husband trained in hot metal setting. I have a huge respect for his skills but that may mean a winning lottery ticket.

Im blessed to live in Cambridge, just streets from Anglia Ruskin and love the culture here. Theres always something to do and see, its changed so much and has a lively arts scene. If there isnt then I can always walk or train my rescue dog Molly who was, along with good friends, my husband and the OU, central to my recovery.
Berenice is offering 30% off her design fees for Ink Pantry followers, just let her know youve read about her work on Ink Pantry.

Find out more about her work at www.hellolovely.org.uk Walk In Our Shoes can be found at http://www.walkinourshoes.org.uk

Books From The Pantry: A Universe of Love by Deborah. M Hodgetts: reviewed by Claire Faulkner

Over the centuries there have been thousands of poems written about love. Each one perfectly unique. Each one telling us a different story. Each one describing a different intensity of love. In her new poetry collection A Universe of Love, Deborah M Hodgetts invites the reader to join her on a journey to the soul. Her poems are strong and passionate, and cover every aspect of love. The collection is a culmination of Deborah’s work, which she has been sharing on her blog ‘The Beautiful Music of Love’, for the last six years. The collection is also beautifully illustrated by Stewart Clough.

This is a big collection of work, over 60 poems. Each one helping us to see, inspire and appreciate the beauty and complexity that is love. There were a number of poems which stood out to me in this collection. I was immediately drawn into ‘Come Home’, which opens with the line, “We do not see eye to eye” and continues to tell the story of wishing for a lost love to come back.   

There was surprising and questioning love in ‘The Robot Wife’:

“I built you for a purpose, /to serve me through my life. / But then quite absurdly; / I asked you to be my wife.”

For me, one of the most heartfelt poems was ‘Changing Places’, the story of twins being separated at birth. The language was tender and incredibly moving:

“I no longer a double act but a solitary, / twinkling / light, lost feeling cold and half whole.”

Another was ‘The Letter’, which I read over and over. It beautifully captures the act of sending a letter to someone you care about:

“Like a floating leaf, travelling through the air. / You travel through spaces, / people and places unseen.”

Sending a letter is something we don’t seem to do any more, yet we all remember how lovely it is to receive one, and that feeling is captured beautifully in this poem.

In complete contrast, there is also a tense love of life story in ‘Emergency!’:

“Paramedic pumping, to keep me alive. / Tubes and wires attached, to keep life on / my side.”

Not necessarily what you’d expect to see in a collection of love poems, but that’s the reason it works so well.   

This collection has every type of possible love poem you can think of. It’s a remarkable and impressive body of work with beautiful imagery and language.

Inky Interview: Author Deborah M. Hodgetts: with Kev Milsom

Hello Deborah. Thank you for agreeing to this Ink Pantry interview. I’m sure that our readers will benefit from your input and viewpoints. Can I please start off by asking you about your earliest creative inspirations? What influenced your childhood mind towards creative expression, in writing, music or the arts? Additionally, could you share some thoughts on the authors who have had a massive impact on your love for writing and helped it to blossom?

My earliest creative inspirations were my mum and Grandmother; both talented poets in the own right. At the age of seven my creative bubble grew; I started writing creative stories and poetry. I was also awarded an Art Scholarship for outstanding abstract art, and so every weekend from the ages of 7-13 I attended Art School in Staffordshire. In school holidays, I would accompany my mum at her poetry readings, performances and events, and I would also spend time with my grandmother visiting the local library, happily getting lost in books. It was in these early years that the seed of my love of writing was planted, and it was from here that it started to blossom.

After a lull in my creativity my passion was reawakened once more in 2012, after being involved in a major car accident. My road to recovery was my writing and I was encouraged by a friend, also a writer to start a blog to help me get back to my passion.

In 2012, on the road to recovery The Beautiful Music of Words was born and I have been averaging between 2,000 page views a month every month, along with a global audience ever since.

In my early years I was inspired by Shakespeare, James Herbert, Emily Bronte and many of the classics. I loved to read and if I was not writing or drawing as a child, you’d find me devouring a book – although not quiet literally.

In recent years I have been fortunate and privileged to learn from fellow writers and creative friends. It has been here and with these creatives, that I have also found a great source of inspiration and this has also been a discovery and journey for me on a personal level. I am so grateful to all who have helped my love of writing to blossom and grow.

In February 2017, you released a book of poetry called A Universe of Love. What inspired you to put this collection together and how long had the ideas been sitting in your head before you started putting them together into a serious collection of work.

A Universe of Love is my debut poetry collection. The 80 poems have been carefully selected from the 350 poems, that I have written over the last 13 years. The poems in A Universe of Love are gathered from my observations of life and all the shades and hues of love. The collection is the culmination of six years work, and creative collaboration with the illustrator and book cover designer Stewart Clough.

Wow, I’m imagining the selective process that you went through in choosing from such a large total of creative work! In terms of poetry, what poets have inspired you in the past, Deborah? Is there a favourite form, or style, of poetry that you enjoy the most?

In the past I have been inspired by the greats such as : Byron, Shelley, Keats and Shakespeare.

I have also found inspiration with Michael Symons Roberts, Wendy Cope and many more. Some of these well loved poets, are now friends and companions on my journey. I love all forms of poetry, but I love to dabble in free verse the most.

I’d like to ask you about your own, unique writing preparation. Is there a specific location that you choose to write in? How do you physically prepare for a writing session?

I love to observe and watch the world around me. This is where my poems are formed and meet with my heart. I like to let idea’s settle within my soul, and percolate for a little time and then I’m guided by my intuition to write and create beauty with words. I prepare my writing journey by meditating, music and singing and by immersing myself in the beauty of nature. It is often in the wee small hours that my soul meets my muse, and the journey is renewed and the words start to flow.

Following on from this, could you share some information on your writing preferences? Are you someone who walks around with notebooks and pens (with possible doodles), or is your structure based more towards planning and writing ideas on a computer?

I can usually be found with my notebook and pen, doodling and watching life.

I love to flow freely with my poetry, but with other genres, i.e, writing biographies or Young Adult novels this requires me to adopt a planned approach, and as a consequence I write most of my ideas straight to the computer.

Poetry is a different process altogether, and I enjoy creating each poem by hand and then edit once I input into my computer.

Your young adult novel The Curtain Twitchers of Oakley Place is being released soon. How did the inspirational process for this begin and how long did it take to go from initial thoughts to putting words onto paper/computer monitor?

The Curtain Twitchers of Oakley Place is due to be released in April 2017. The inspiration for this Young Adult novel, bubbled for a few years. I also got to know a homeless artist in London. To experience this journey, I took my self into the streets of London, to enable me to make my main character Barney Lumsden as realistic as possible. I started to write this title three years ago, and last year after getting extremely close with a few major agents, I made the decision to bring this idea to life. The Curtain Twitchers of Oakley Place was completed last year and sent out to a few interested agents – but alas was not picked up. So, once again after some soul searching and revision, I commenced shaping it into this soul changing journey with a supportive editor. I just know that for whatever reason, this book needs to be out in the world now – to make a big difference.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Deborah! To conclude, could you enlighten our readers by sharing some plans for 2017 and 2018? What’s on the drawing board, creatively?

Well, I am currently busy finishing writing a biography about Ex-BBC Cameraman a Tony Jacobs – who was the first at the scene of the Zeebrugge Ferry Disaster; he also filmed the funeral of the spy Kim Philby and captured many major events, which have changed the world. Other works in progress are a children’s TV drama script, that I am co-writing with another talented writer. Between us we are polishing the script and finalising some changes, before re-submitting to BAFTA.

I am also writing new poetry and a second poetry collection is due to be released in October 2017, this title is Remember Me with Love -Poetry in Conflict. This is a collection of poetry I have written on the conflicts of war from both sides of the fence. I will be donating 50% of the royalties to the following charities: Help the Heroes, The Royal British Legion, and a refugee charity.

In addition to this I am also working on a unique book on homelessness, with proceeds being donated to a number of homeless charities. This book is due to be published later this year by an indie publisher.

Finally I will be holding a writing workshop in July 2017, with another fellow talented writer Sue Nicholls. We also plan to start teaching our 10 week writing course in September. Moving forward to 2018: I am planning and working on a few new book ideas, I will be creating some animations and producing some poetry films with my husband who is an award winning cameraman.

So watch this space, I’m only just starting – watch out world … I’m coming!

Get your copy of A Universe of Love

Deborah’s Blog

Inky Interview: Author Sheila May Blackburn

As well as being a primary school teacher you have written several children’s books, one of which is called Jazz. Can you tell us about them?

I began writing children’s books for reluctant readers at a time when there was very little material for children who wanted to read about football. Originally desk-top books, the twelve stories were backed by the Boots Company and printed locally. However, this involved a lot of marketing and selling and I was delighted when they were eventually taken over by Brilliant Publications. They were very pleased with the re-printing and asked me to write a Teachers’ Resource book. This was followed by the six Stewie Scraps Adventures and further resource materials, all available from the publishers.

I have written two novels for children: Long Dark Shadows is about bullying, both by adults and children. Jazz is the story of a boy who is helped to come to terms with the tragic loss of his father by the irrepressible character of Jazz. This is available on Kindle and I am looking to make it available through Print on Demand ahead of its sequel where Jazz is on a mission to help another child facing difficulties.

You have been published in My Weekly Magazine, written for Collins Educational and won the children’s section of the Cheshire Prize For Literature with your short story Cat’s Eyes. Congratulations! Have you any tips for writers new to submitting their work to competitions?

The world of publishing has changed dramatically since I started writing – thanks again to the internet. Self-publishing and marketing  is very much more accessible and a great way to test public reaction, as long as you are prepared to get out there at events and functions. Joining a writers’ group is helpful; in the meantime, competitions give a short-term “feedback”. Some offer a critique and there is usually a chance to read shortlisted / winning entries to understand what works. For me, short story writing for magazines and competitions has been a sensible way to use my writing time and I advise looking at competitions listed online and in writing magazines. There are plenty to choose from!

Who did the art work for your books?

Originally, my desk-top books were illustrated through a local contact, but Brilliant Publications arranged their own illustrators from a pool of artists, I believe. Stewie Scraps was illustrated by the amazing Leighton Noyes who captured the character and sustained him so well. Am still in touch with him – and very grateful for his work.

Do you write poetry for children?

Yes – but not as much as I would like. I have an assortment that I’ve used in school and for Assembly material. There are also some phonic poems that I used with good effect in lessons.

As opposed to writing for adults, how do you approach writing for children? Is it more difficult than people imagine, or more difficult than writing for adults?

I think that writing for children is a great challenge – my original books for Collins Jumpstart were eight pages, one sentence per page, 22 high frequency words and then CVC words – and please make it fun or give the story a twist! I loved it! Children’s material has to have variety – dialogue is essential to relieve long descriptive passages – you only have to try reading aloud to a group of children to understand that – it’s about what fascinates the audience and makes them amused as well as concerned and wanting more. However, it must also be rich in vocabulary and structure – I get very tired of “celebs” who think that their name alone makes them worthy authors… their books sell, so the publishers love them, but their writing doesn’t always move children’s reading on, nor challenge them as readers.

What themes keep cropping up in your writing? What do you care about?

I care about what makes ordinary people tick and the relationships in their lives. My adult short stories are about how people relate to each other and deal with the stuff of everyday life – it sounds mundane, but there it is.

Similarly, with writing for children – I’ve dealt with their interest in football and in making things (Stewie) and then added a twist at the end to leave the reader wondering. My other themes have been the tough stuff – bereavement and bullying. Hopefully, the stories give the readers a chance to think and perhaps an opening to chat about what matters.

Have you any books that you can recommend to any budding writers?

I started off with the Writers Yearbook, as I guess most would-be writers are advised to do. I’ve also been privileged as a teacher to know first hand what motivates children and what’s available. My advice would be to spend time browsing in good bookshops and spend time with children… one of my writing group friends has written great stuff for his own children based on those basics.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

To make it a fairer place. I can’t bear the idea of not having basic needs met and resulting struggles, pain and fear – and that goes for the animal world as much as people.

What are you reading at the moment?

Maeve Binchy and Joanne Harris all over again – ever my writing heroines.

What is your creative space like?

Cluttered!  A very busy place – ideally it’s be somewhere a whole lot more relaxing with a beautiful sea-view.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I’d like to write the follow up to Jazz and see more of my books in print. More time to meet like-minded writers would be goodBut I always have competition entries on the go and hope for the one lucky break… you never know.

Sheila’s Website

Facebook Page

Brilliant Publications

Inky Interview: Theoretical Physicist Dr Nicholas Mee: by Kev Milsom

Hello Dr Nicholas and many thanks for agreeing to share some thoughts in an interview with Ink Pantry Publishing. Can I start by taking you back to your school days? The company which you founded – ‘Virtual Image’ – is responsible for some fascinating software, to teach children (and adults) the joys of mathematics and science. When you were at school, were these your two passionate subjects – the ones that drew you in from a young age? If so, what was it about maths and science that held your fascination. Also, what other subjects did you enjoy during your academic journey?

I have always had a wide range of interests. I grew up during the era of the Apollo missions, which may partly explain why as a young child I was fascinated by astronomy. I have also had mathematical interests since I was very young. I used to play mathematical games with my granddad before I was old enough to go to primary school – these include the dominoes game ‘fives and threes’ and the card game cribbage.

In my teens I developed a deep interest in fundamental physics and the key philosophical questions of existence and this remains with me. However, this did not really derive from school, but developed alongside my conventional educational. From my mid-teens I knew that I had to study theoretical physics.

At the same time I have always maintained an interest in the arts and I have been involved in a number of art and science projects over the years.

As someone who home-educated our two daughters for 12 years, I was very interested in the range of software available in this current era. How personally important to you is the element of capturing children’s imagination and inspiration from a very early age and how do think this can be improved over the next generation of parents?

It is very important to inspire children. It is important that they should be highly motivated and also that they have high expectations of themselves and that they should want to seek knowledge for its own sake. Information is more readily available now than ever before. However, there is a danger than the acquisition of knowledge becomes fragmentary with snippets of information taken from here and there rather than learning in a structured, coherent, disciplined and methodical manner. It is the nurturing of skills that are developed and build up over long periods of time that are really important. Skills such as mathematics and critical thinking, musical skills and language skills are essential for a rounded education.

You’ve just finished a new book, co-writing alongside Professor Nick Manton, entitled The Physical World – An Inspirational Tour of Fundamental Physics. Firstly, how different was the process of creative collaboration with Professor Manton and what were the initial goals for you both behind the planning of this book?

Although this is my first co-authored book, I have collaborated with numerous people in the past on various software projects, so working with Nick Manton wasn’t a completely new experience. Writing a book can be a very solitary task. Having a co-author makes the writing process much more enjoyable. Our aim was to produce the modern equivalent of the classic Feynman Lectures written by Richard Feynman and published just over fifty years ago, a book that will inspire a new generation of physicists now setting out to study the subject. We have covered the whole of fundamental physics at a level that is between school and university. As such it was pretty clear to us from the start what topics we should include. There were just two chapters that we added to our initial plan during the course of writing, one about ‘Stars’ and the final chapter ‘Frontiers of Physics’ which explores some of the unanswered questions, such as the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

I’d like to ask about your processes of inspiration. When planning a new book is it usually a thought that has been in your head for some time and put through rational mindsets, or does your motivation tend to rely on more random avenues, whereby seeds can be planted quickly and unexpectedly?

Some of the articles that I have written on my blog have arisen quickly from a recent discovery or a chance observation. It is often very useful when explaining an unfamiliar scientific topic to approach the subject from an oblique angle. I think this helps the reader to feel at ease and to see the world from a slightly different perspective. For instance, the discussion of symmetry in Higgs Force begins with the story of a toy – the kaleidoscope – and the explanation of the strong nuclear force starts with the Japanese board game Go. Similarly, in my second book Gravity the chapter about unifying gravity with the other forces begins with campanology, the English art of ringing church bells.

In 2012, you were asked to build three animations for an exhibition at the Royal Society in London, concerning the mathematician Théodore Olivier and the sculptor, Sir Henry Moore, producing an elaborate and fascinating connection between mathematics and physical art. I’m intrigued to know what elements of artistic creativity inspire you – or have inspired/relaxed you – within your life. Do you find a fascination with the worlds of music, writing & the arts that matches your passion for the scientific world, or are these elements which hold little interest? If the former, who/what has inspired you creatively, especially in terms of literature, art and music?

I listen to music all the time, mainly classical and rock music. I am listening to Hawkwind at the moment, which is perhaps a guilty pleasure – the rock equivalent to listening to Wagner, which I also do quite regularly. I listen to a wide range of classical and rock music, but if I had to choose one classical composer and one rock band that I have found inspirational I would probably choose Beethoven and the Beatles. In the case of the Beatles this is not only because of the quality and variety of their music, but also because of the revolution in popular music that they ignited. To go from ‘Love Me Do’ to ‘A Day in the Life’ and ‘Strawberry Fields’ in five years is almost miraculous, especially when you take the whole world with you.

I visit the theatre quite often, tomorrow I am going to see Daniel Radcliffe in Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard.

Thank you for a fascinating answer, Nick. As someone who is extremely passionate about music I can totally relate to everything that you say.

When I was a child (aged roughly 7) my mind was completely blown open by a small book on Astronomy and the Solar System. That passion has remained with me ever since and continues to expand my mind and philosophical thinking. If you could live in any historical period relating to scientific discoveries, which one would you choose? Perhaps to be around the time of Newton and the Age of Enlightenment, or would you choose to remain in this fast-paced, contemporary time? Is there a set scientifically-historical period where you have thought, ‘Wow, I wish I had been around back then?’

I have a burning desire to know what it is all about, so I would definitely choose to live now. It is incredible that we now know so much about the scientific world. We only have to go back to the time before Kepler and Galileo just over 400 years ago and essentially nothing was known about anything. The current rate of progress in our understanding of the world is also mind-boggling, especially in the biological sciences. We are also in the middle of a golden age of astronomy and astrophysics, which is largely due to the development of the current generation of observatories both Earth-based and space-based. Gravitational waves were detected for the first time last year, and it is only five years since the discovery of the Higgs boson. The Event Horizon Telescope has just gone into operation to study the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy, so this year we could see the first ever image of a black hole.

Going back to education, within the educational school curriculum, where would you make major/minor changes, in terms of creating a sense of inspirational wonder within children? Or do you believe that the system is about right as it is?

This is a difficult question for me as I don’t have first hand experience of the classroom. There are a lot of improvements that could be made. In my view state schools in the UK should be brought up to the standard of the top private schools. This is essential if the UK is to compete with other countries around the world. In order to achieve this, a lot more money needs to be spent on education.

It’s a pleasure to meet you, Nick and many thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. In conclusion, I’d like to ask what 2017 & 2018 hold in store for you, in terms of new plans and publications?

I am currently writing a book with David Benjamin with the provisional title How Mathematics Conquered the World. It is about the development of computing from Pythagoras to logarithms to Babbage, Turing and Google. David Benjamin is a maths teacher who I have worked with on many software projects over the years, such as the Maths Lesson Starters series of CD-ROMs. There are also various other book projects that have been suggested that may or may not come to fruition.


Dr Nick’s blog

Inky Elf News: Patricia M Osborne on her debut novel House of Grace

My protagonist, Grace, was born during a writing exercise inspired by George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier. She later featured in my dissertation, a screenplay, to complete my BA degree in Creative Writing. While I was completing my screenplay, I became aware that there was a lot more story to be developed, so once my degree was completed in June 2013, I decided to take a year out from study and write my first novel, House of Grace.

House of Grace is a historical fiction family saga. It begins in 1950 and ends on Christmas Day of 1969. Because it’s written in two parts this allowed me to skip ten years in-between.

House of Grace is completely fictionalised but uses a lot of my memories as well as my late mother’s, plus an enormous amount of research. I spent four years of my childhood in Bolton and remember these times as special which is what inspired me to feature Bolton in Part I of my novel.

I like to edit as I go along. I treated each chapter as a short story and revised before moving onto the next. Of course this didn’t mean it was finished, I still completed a major edit once I got to the end. In fact I’m not sure how many complete drafts I edited before I was happy. My editor was a rock, not only did she stick with me in proofing draft after draft but she kept my confidence up when at times I wanted to abandon the whole thing.

I finished what I thought was my final edit in 2015, sent it out to a couple of publishers without success, although Myriad said it was a great story, but too commercial for them. The manuscript then sat around on my PC while I concentrated on my MA degree. After visiting Swanwick, The Writers’ Summer School, last August, I returned home inspired to become an indie author. From that point I resurrected House of Grace and began to edit, yet again. In December last year I submitted my completed manuscript to the formatters. At the same time I instructed an illustrator for the book cover. Early in March, after a few stressful months, a proof copy of House of Grace popped through my letterbox. Strangely, I didn’t feel excited but the opposite, sick. After speaking to my editor she advised me to press the button to submit. She had a glass of wine poured ready to toast Grace for when I gave her the signal that the deed was done. I sent the email to instruct my formatter to publish and poured myself and husband a glass of Prosecco. That was the moment I felt relieved and proud. I had done it. House of Grace had arrived. The publication date was 9th March, 2017 and since then it has been exhilarating to follow my readers’ comments about House of Grace.

Readers keep asking, is there going to be a sequel? Yes there is. I’m in the process of writing another novel, The Coal Miner’s Son which has a child narrator. I hope to return to this fully once my MA module concludes in May. The Coal Miner’s Son will run alongside House of Grace. The plan is to write a third novel in the series, to take over from where House of Grace and The Coalminer’s Son finish and this will conclude the story.

As well as being a novelist I also like to write short stories, screenplays, and poetry. I like to write poetry in-between my novels, especially if I am short on time as I can start a poem in a few minutes whereas getting back into novel writing can take me a couple of hours. I am presently Poet in Residence at a local Victorian Park.

House of Grace blurb on the back of the book….

It’s 1950 and all sixteen-year-old Grace Granville has ever wanted is to become a successful dress designer. She dreams of owning her own fashion house and spends her spare time sketching outfits. Her father, Lord Granville, sees this frivolous activity as nonsense and wants to groom her into a good wife for someone of his choosing…

Grace is about to leave Greenemere, a boarding school in Brighton. She’s blissfully unaware of her father’s plans when she embarks on a new adventure. The quest includes a trip to Bolton’s Palais where she meets coal miner, Jack Gilmore. Grace’s life is never the same again.  

Travel with Grace through two decades as she struggles with family conflict, poverty and tragedy. Is Grace strong enough to defy Lord Granville’s wishes and find true love? Will she become a successful fashion designer? Where will she turn for help?

Where can you buy a copy of House of Grace?

It’s available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com – Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and Paperback version.

House of Grace

My email: Patricia.m.osborne@gmail.com

Website: http://patriciamosbornewriter.wordpress.com

For anyone that is interested in Swanwick: The Writers’ Summer School. Here is the link.


Poetry Drawer: Candlewax Bird by Matthew Waldron

   A light breeze, a feather breath, finds in the water, a reply: a pattern of brush marks; a bank-drawn thick rind of leaves and sticks, camouflaged via burnt chocolate uniform, disguise. White Mallard: location, a calm neighbour of rainfall and flood, his journey so far; straight, snag line in silk; a silvered scar. Its wing-clamped body, a reflection of melting candlewax, the bright orange beak, a surrendering flame. Landscape rises, falls, collapses, folds in on itself like a kneaded dough. A conformity of tall trees echo ‘a walk in the park’, intersperse with arboreal bold claim outsiders, parachuted in, garden boundary-breakers, bird seeded, sown, random spread.

    Rills of sunlight, lustrous lines in flash, in sky: little firmament frictions, clouded conflictions, waived convictions, temporary lumens lost and found. An application of silence, followed by wind-sway of branches as they create an aerial enclosure: Deer antlers engaged, locked in mid-battle; for some, an endless fight; others yield, become overwhelmed, are defeated: all reach for light. Clouds collect: forked mashed potato and butter; tines, a compromised gleam of farewell colour.

    Nearby HGV traffic churns, thuds and clanks: a shovel-loaded cement mixer. Rain coats memory of rain: time measured, it creates patinas, paced; falls upon papery brown, black-spotted leaves, which clutch out, upwards; so many hands of mercy. The impactful sound: sauté-simmer oil in saucepan. An embankment of wide grey stone path, all sheen, its shape echoes like the ocean`s skin when torn to adorn, wrap a form:  the breach from the deep, a Humpbacked Whale; glistens as dew upon leaf edge, or just-perceptible new tear on eyelid.  A muck-magnet charred orange peel basketball floats across flash, tugs twigs and a family of dark slime trails attach to slither in its wake. The weight of rain increases: a distant snare drum pattering. Footprints in mud, fill, to become dark wells of anonymity.

Pantry Prose: Flotsam by Ali Hepburn


Flotsam (n.) 1. Floating or washed-up wreckage

  1. Discarded people or things

I am the sea. My limbs meld seamlessly into briny waves which lick about my ankles. Within me, ships are wrecked and fall wordlessly to the floor to be colonised by brittle-shelled creatures. From me, seaweed grows, lank and rubbery, in fronds tossed carelessly by my churning motion. I crash against cliffs, and sweep away the unsuspecting to a cold and lonely death, filling their lungs and taking them for my own.

My father disagrees. He is a fisherman on rocky island fragment surrounded by inky waters, and yet he fears the ocean. There’s a reason for it, of course. He never speaks of it, but shortly after my birth, my mother was out collecting cockles on a stony reach of shoreline not far from our weathered cottage. The low tide revealed an expanse of shining black pebbles and amongst them a plentiful bounty of shellfish. She was a stranger to those on the island, so I imagine her to be unlike myself and my father; like most islanders, we have sallow skin and dark hair, but in my mind, my mother was gold-spun and delicate, flitting around like a sky-creature, buffeted by the wind that blows low-slung across the sea, casting foam in subdued off-white globs onto the beach. There are no pictures of her, of course. Returning from his boat that evening, my father found me swaddled and bawling where the tufty sea-grass meets the high tide line. Beside me, a basket lay full to the brim with yellow-white molluscs, still damp from the sea. My mother was nowhere to be seen, but she wouldn’t have been the first person caught unaware by the incoming tide, cut off and swept out by the waves.

I dream of her trying to get back to me, pale hair flying starkly against a backdrop of murky seaweed, wading through ever-deepening surf, pulled back by the forceful currents and disappearing from sight. Knowing this, I should be terribly afraid of the ocean – but I am not. I can’t bear to be away from it, and in its closeness, I also feel closer to her, even though I know she is gone.

On an island there is no escaping the sea, but my father tries to warn me off. He tells me, when I was very young, I was playing outside the cottage; one moment, I was settled with a toy in the bright, brisk weather, the next, I’d toddled down to the rock pools which dotted the shoreline. He looked up and saw me squatting by a salty puddle as a towering wave crashed over me. Pulled spluttering from the icy water, I’d been unaffected by the experience, but from then on he had been exceptionally careful to keep me from the sea, to prevent the same ill fate from befalling me as befell my mother.

He is a taciturn man, curling his tongue around his few words with a sailor’s burr. His placid grey eyes contrast with mine, which are dark green and quite unlike any I know – the colour of the oyster-weed which thrives on salty air, or of the ocean itself when winter sunlight penetrates it at the right angle. My childhood was solitary, with my father so often away on fishing trips. I’d watch his tiny sailboat skitter across the waves before bobbing away out of sight. Once he was gone, I would start doing the things he wouldn’t allow me to do, which I had promised that I wouldn’t. I started to swim.

The very first time, I was eleven years old and tall for my age. The yearning I’d felt all my life for the sea was stronger than ever – enough to cast aside niggling doubts and warnings. The late spring air was still sharp, flicking the wave tops into peaks. Ocean westerlies permeated my nostrils, fresh and slightly fishy, lingering on my lips in grains of salt which mingled with the slight tang of blood where they cracked in the sea-drenched air. But the tide was ebbing and I knew that there would be enough time before it turned and crept back up the beach, leaving me out of my depth. Barefoot and shivering, I faced the water and edged towards it, tiny stabs of anxiety jolting through my stomach. Lapping around my ankles, for a moment the cold water sent steely jolts right through me – but then the sensation began to change. A warmth was spreading from the tops of my toes and upwards, and it was my skin exposed to the fresh air that felt shivery. My instinct was to wade deeper, letting it envelop me. It didn’t feel like a threat or a danger. It felt like a homecoming.

Waves tugged at me, but I didn’t strain against them, I let them pull me to and fro in a gentle rhythmic motion. Emboldened, I pushed my feet off from the stony sea bed. Instinctively I knew to kick my legs and pull myself through the water with my hands, swimming further and further out, until the beach disappeared beyond the swell of the waves. I dived below, keeping my eyes open wide as the murky green water filtered past my cheeks, taking in the strange sea plants flapping in the dingy water.

Then something changed. I could sense it, shifting and churning in whirling eddies, the current suddenly stronger – much stronger than me. I pushed towards the surface, but the sea gripped onto me as if clawed hands had seized me and were dragging me deeper. Straining against it, I eventually broke free, breaching my head and gasping for oxygen. Seething storm clouds had all but blocked out the sun, and in the struggle, I had lost any sense of the direction of land. My eyes began to close involuntarily. Adrift, a lethargic weakness soaked into my limbs, and I imagined a new feeling of being gently carried along through the water. When I opened my eyes, I was almost at the beach and able to drag myself through the last stretch until I could pull myself onto the pebbles. I thought I caught a glimpse of an unfamiliar shape moving in the sea, but the last light was seeping below the horizon, and I put it down to a trick of the shadows playing through the rain on the water’s surface.

Knowing that I had limited time to dry off before my father arrived home, I hurried back to the cottage and lit the fire. I was strangely unshaken, but more than that, it was like missing pieces of myself were slotting into place. I felt a little guilty then; I’d always assumed that those were gaps that only my dead mother could fill. Nevertheless, although I knew little about swimming, I suspected that my ability had been above average for a first attempt by an eleven-year-old child. Also, I was intrigued to know how I had returned to the beach; the sea was my guardian and incredibly, I couldn’t wait to return to her.

And so this has continued over the last few years.

Tonight, my father and I sit by the fire, clouds curdling beyond the glass. We’re about to go to bed when a noise pierces through the darkness, a howling scream, differentiated from the wailing wind, almost human. I go to the window and look out. It’s dark, but a bright moon reflects sharply off the rough tips of the waves, dashed about by the rising wind. Straining my eyes, I see something black bobbing beyond the shoreline. I squint, and as the shape comes into focus, I realise it’s a person. Unthinking, I rush outside. My father’s voice echoes, ‘Stop, it’s not safe!’ from somewhere behind me, before the sound is cut off by the merciless wind. I carry on.

The water is cold as I wade in. They aren’t at all far from the shore, and it doesn’t take long to paddle out. Closer now, I see that it’s a woman. I wonder if she’s dead, her long hair slick and black like sealskin, her skin completely pallid. Her eyes are closed, but she doesn’t have that vacant, absent look of a corpse. I haul her unconscious form back to the beach, the sea silently relinquishing its grasp on us. By moonlight, I notice a red stain blossoming from her side, and suspect that this is more the issue than the water, though I can’t begin to imagine what has happened to her.

My father has reached the beach, and he stares wordlessly down at us lying on the pebbles, his face as white as death.

‘We need to get her inside,’ I shout against the cruel song of the wind.

This seems to shock him into action – he bends down and lifts her up, carrying her back to the cottage, laying her on his bed without saying a word. I examine her wound; the cause of the injury quickly becomes apparent – I gingerly extract the long metal tip of a harpoon, the kind used for killing whales. Fortunately, it looks relatively superficial. I pack it with bandages to stem the bleeding

‘You could have died,’ my father says, monosyllabic as ever, while I towel dry the sleeping form on his bed. He says it factually, but mentally I defy him, as I’ve done for years.

He resumes his silence without mentioning my swimming ability, and I wonder if he suspects that this wasn’t my first time in the water. Glancing at him, I see that he isn’t looking at me; he’s staring at the woman, her sodden hair fanned out across the pillow, shiny like wet samphire. With a haunted look, he turns and leaves the room. The front door clunks as it shuts. I expect he’s angry with my risk-taking, in his quiet way, and has gone out to sleep on the boat.

I sit by the bed in a creaking wooden chair, and at some point, I doze. When I awaken, light is filtering gently through the curtains, betraying the weather’s lightening mood. My patient is sitting up in bed, sipping from a steaming mug, with my father sitting nearby, silently. Her eyes, now open, are the deepest green, like rock pools. We ask her nothing, allowing her to regain her strength. We give her fish stew, which she loves. I know she won’t be with us for long.

The days meld. Then, one morning, there she is, standing on the beach. I pull on my boots and make my way down to her, leaving my father sleeping. She’s looking out to sea, which reaches her toes on the outbreath and dissolves into her like she is fabricated from some submarine element.

‘Aren’t you going to say goodbye to him?’ I ask upon reaching her.

She shakes her head.

‘But why?’ I say. She doesn’t reply, staring at the waves. I know her, then. I’ve known her for a while, but it hovers tacitly between us, that unspoken understanding.

At length, she asks, ‘Don’t you feel it – the pull of the ocean?’

I do, I’d always known that yearning, and now, more than ever, I can feel it drawing me in. It’s part of me, of what I am, just as it’s part of her. But I think I knew that too, somewhere amongst all the stories.

But before I reply, she nods, understanding. The sea is only half of me, and the other half is stronger now, pulling me in the opposite direction, towards the cottage.

I turn and walk away from her, from the sea, and I know that behind me, she is also walking away, towards the sea; again, away from us.

My father is sitting inside, his eyes dull. ‘I thought you’d gone,’ he says upon seeing me.

‘Where would I go?’ I ask and light the stove, hang the kettle to boil. Outside the sea yawns and laps the beach in ceaseless motion.

Poetry Drawer: Finding Doris by Matthew Waldron

Eyes open, aware, before lids break the sleep-gum seal from a staggered steal of sleep. Trains on the tracks; memory click-backs; time shunts forward, abrupt, jolts him onto his station ahead of schedule. Sound of wind contained, sucked in, soothed by soot-coated chimney brickwork; quiet, then frantic: a starling, swallowed, scratching as it searches for exit, for light.

He thinks of his Dad, hidden behind pages, locked in a cell, shadowed by the barred windows of Crime Fiction prose. Dad`s fingers tap dance armchair covers: woodpecker drums peck hole-peppered trunk in suspended solitude; advertises for the comfort of a mate.  

Amplified, small noises approach Dad in intervals: dust and debris beaten, shook from a rug; held out from an open doorway, step-back reluctance from finger-chill air, colour-coded blue. A lightly crumpled map appears on his face: new pathways, off-route, lead into journeys most feared; secret furrows and illuminated hollows reveal feelings insecure; contour shadows, ridges, rivulets deeper than before.

Father remains home; palms still perspire, soft-clamp cushioned arms: two mother cats jaw-maw a kitten each, warm, secure; the son leaves his home, walks beneath shark-like colours of a frost-coated, duvet-wrapped figure, hanging heavy above; ready to slow-shift, turnover in disturbed sleep.  

In the heart of the wood, he feels absorbed, held in its grain. Wind-split crocuses are shattered amethyst echoes of fragmented light from wind-scuffed skin of brook. Patches of rainwater hold reflection, smeared like post-tear wiped eyeshadow; worms washed up, rinsed onto the pathway, wriggle, drown; ask urgent questions in silence, a soggy broken script.

Trees bend inwards to support each other: many arms intertwine; hold strong an increasing invisible weight:  prevent the new born to fall. Branches creak, surreptitious footsteps upon stairs; cluster-balled families of fur, folds of skin, shut-eyed in the earth`s chambers of sighs. Invertebrates wait; concertina, coil, restrained whips.

Mid-freeze and melt sky, now needled; electricity, nerve exposure, prickled with silver light. He walks into a glassy wall of rain as it transforms into a petit pois of hailstones: ping-stings ricochet off already element-numbed features, eyelids, nose and cheekbones. Dark denim doubles, becomes midnight; soggy cold towel slaps his thighs, chill adheres, brings an ache to knees like an unwanted love, water collects in hems: the relative calm of waterfall pools.

He hunches forward, a lurcher-like form, walks above hollows and falls. A steep concrete embankment retains development, ‘urban sprawl’: multi-colour name tags and questionable claims of conquest graffiti-patina this wall.