Inky Interview: Author Gill Thompson

You have recently been offered a two book deal with Headline for the novel you wrote during your M.A. in Creative Writing at Chichester University, and a further book you are working on this year. Congratulations! Can you please tell us more about this?

Yes. I’d had an idea for a novel before I started the M.A., but knew I couldn’t write it without some expert guidance. I wrote about half of it during my course and was lucky enough to get some further help from a Royal Literary Fund fellow. I was then asked to workshop with my old supervisor and another published writer, and that was invaluable in helping me further improve the book. I sent the first three chapters and a synopsis to Anne Williams of the Kate Hordern Literary Agency back in 2016. She said she liked it and asked to see the rest of the manuscript, but then got in touch to say it felt a bit episodic and lacked emotionality. I took the advice of a freelance editor and rewrote the novel during 2017. This time Anne loved it and took me on. We worked on a few more changes and she submitted the manuscript to several publishing houses. Two showed particular interest and there was a bit of a bidding war until Headline came through with an attractive two book deal.

You had stories and articles published in the past. Can you tell us a bit about them?

Many years ago, when my husband was running marathons, I wrote a piece called ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Spectator’ which was published by Running magazine. Several years later I started writing short stories, and one of them, ‘The Christmas Wish List,’ featured in Yours. As I am an English teacher I also write fairly regularly for emag, a publication for A level students of English Language and Literature. The last two articles, entitled ‘Leonie Talking’ have featured my young granddaughter!

You said that it was one of the best decisions to do an M.A. in Creative Writing. What advice have you for writers who are considering it?

It’s a big decision as it’s not cheap. I’d been left some money by my father, who was always supportive of my writing ambitions, so I felt he’d have approved. However, if you can afford it, and are serious about your writing, I would definitely recommend it. I met some wonderful, dedicated teachers who really inspired me with their advice and ideas. One of the highlights of the course was the chance to workshop with other students, and despite being one of the oldest on the course, I was delighted by the friendliness and generosity of my fellow writers. It doesn’t do to be thin-skinned as the criticism, though always constructive, is sometimes quite tough, but I always moved on as a result. I still keep in touch with students and tutors from my year and they are a lovely, supportive bunch of people.

Have you any guidance for new writers who feel ready to enter their work into competitions?

Competitions are a great way to ‘test the water.’ Sometimes you can pay a little more to have your work critiqued, which can be well worth it. I was lucky enough to be placed in a few competitions and it really spurred me on to keep going. Writing can be a lonely job and it’s easy to get discouraged, so entering competitions can often keep hope alive!

In literature, who inspires you and why?

I love Helen Dunmore’s novels. She’s superb at telling a human story against the backdrop of international historical events. I felt very sad when she died last year and there’ll be no more wonderful books.

I was inspired by Kathryn Stockett’s The Help where a compelling story caused me to invest emotionally in a shocking chapter in American history. I’ve tried to do something similar with my own novel Somebody’s Child which is based on the true story of child migrants to Australia.

What is your creative space like?

I share a study with my husband. He is very neat and tidy and likes to listen to music while he works; I am chaotic and messy and like to work in silence. Say no more!

Have you thought about writing for radio, film or the theatre?

I’m in awe of people who can write screenplays. I think you have to be a bit of an actor yourself to imagine scenes dramatically. I’d love to have a go but I think I’d need a lot of help. At the moment, the novel form suits me better as I like to inhabit characters’ heads and imagine their thoughts, not something you can easily do in performance work.

What are you reading at the moment?

Well I’m just about to embark on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein yet again. I’ve taught it for several years in my day job as an English teacher, but always have to re-read it when I’m preparing students for exams, as I forget details. I’m also reading a non fiction book The Rescue of the Prague Refugees 1938/39 by William Chadwick. Headline want me to produce the second novel by this time next year, so I am already working on a story set in England and Czechoslovakia during World War Two.

Any future plans?

I’m in a bit of a limbo at the moment. I’ll soon be embarking on the edits for book one, whilst researching and writing book two. I continue to teach two days a week, so life is a bit of a juggling act. But it’s thrilling to be embarking on a new career after so many years as a teacher. I’m determined to keep writing as long as I can. I love it!

Gill’s website

Yuletide Poetry: Ten Minutes To Christmas by Steven Goodwin

At ten minutes to midnight, the night was still and calm,

The moon and stars light up the world, no cause yet for alarm.

It all begins at midnight; Reindeers swoop and sweep,

While lying silent in your bed, I hope you’re fast asleep.


When the full moon’s at it’s highest on a chilly winter’s night,

Make sure you’re in bed sleeping; make sure you’re out of sight,

Because Santa comes at midnight, if you’re awake he will not come,

At nine minutes to midnight do not spoil the fun,


Have you departed yet to dreamland, I hope that’s where you’ll be.

Dream and Christmas will soon be here, and your presents you will see,

Eight minutes to midnight, I hope your dreaming started.

Kings, Queens and fairies and those far off lands uncharted.


The Elves can sense your dreaming; they can sense when you’re awake.

Hopefully the sandman’s visited and your presents they do not take.

You see they only deliver presents when you’re finally fast asleep.

At seven minutes to midnight, I pray you finished counting sheep.


Six minutes to midnight, the night owl starts its call.

A warning to those not sleeping, a warning to us all.

Because Elves come out to check, and like Santa they check twice,

Get to sleep now, time approaches, that’s my sagely advice.


What happens if I’m still awake you ask, what will happen then to me?

At five minutes to midnight, I hope you do not get to see.

Do not be too frightened though, I’m sure you’ll get some gifts,

Just not all you asked for and put on Santa’s list.

You may just get some socks, and maybe some soap from granny too.

Four minutes to midnight, hush now, you should have finished on the loo.


Just three short minutes to midnight, I think you’d better run,

Elves come out checking, when the warmth’s gone from the sun.

Two minutes to midnight, they’ve been busy all year long.

I know too well not to be awake; their sleep sensor is too strong


Children not in bed yet, naughty ones not yet asleep,

Are not safe from Elvish sleep sensors so please don’t make a peep

No presents will be left for you; your stockings will be left cold.

At one minute to midnight, please do as you are told,


I gave you ten minutes warning, it’s not my fault, do not blame me,

Just make sure that you are sleeping and an elf you do not see.

My advice go bed early, make sure that’s where you stay,

And don’t go searching out at midnight and you’ll enjoy your Christmas Day.

Yuletide Poetry: The Day of the Night Before Christmas by Steven Goodwin

Twas the day of the night before Christmas, And all up our street,

All the children built snowmen and acted all sweet,

The adults used blackmail saying, ‘you should be good!’

And with shy glances down, they replied, ‘they would!’


The children all hoped and wished their present might be,

The latest new console or a shiny TV.

Perhaps it might be a new board game to play,

Or it may be a book to enchant them away.


When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter,

I threw open the window and said with a shout,

‘Put that stick down now or you’re getting nowt!’


The sun in the sky was as high as could be,

And the snowmen they’d made were getting rather drippy,

They all ran inside to see what they could eat,

But the fridge was all full, of uncooked Christmas meat.


It was bursting with food but none we could munch on,

Mum stood guard, a rolling pin for a truncheon,

So I got on the phone, and ordered some grub.

Pizza for all, then I could get down to the pub.


The pizza arrived, so rapid and quick.

I hoped it was cooked I didn’t want to be sick,

When what could my wondering eyes now see,

‘Oh Bobby Dazzler! Extra pepperoni.’


It was Christmas I thought, so I gave the driver a tip,

‘Watch how you’re going mate, mind you don’t slip.’

I laughed and I laughed while watching the telly,

And the kids laughed at me and my belly like jelly.


I spoke not a word and went off in a mood,

But they came quickly to hug me, and my grumbles subdued.

I went for a quick pint, before we got them to bed,

And do you know what? Not one peep was said.


Another Christmas Eve over and I just don’t know how,

We can afford, but we do it somehow,


And now,


Twas the night before Christmas…..

Yuletide Poetry: Pysgod yn Wibli Wobli (Welsh for jellyfish) by Lavinia Murray

Christmas high tide took the sea inland

as it sometimes does

when it is bored with clutching sand


in the wash travelled three

Pysgod yn Wibli Wobli

wise jellies whisked on a journey


all three were virgin births

each had twenty four eyes

so knew both breadth of sky and girth


they braced themselves and swam

in their up-down full-flat way

when their fine tentacles found a pram


empty of content bar one wet bear

and a smart phone playing Christmas carols

they probed again nobody there


was the child tipped or lifted out

was the pram waiting, about to be filled

or a gift for the sea to carry about


they swam off in their open-shut way

pysgod yn wibli wobli

not sad nor happy with Xmas day

Yuletide Poetry: Alle-YULE-yah! by Lavinia Murray


Father Xmas was cantering over the town

when an angel popped a cloud with the gilt pin of a star

then the angel burst like a flare and the town beneath turned to soot

(alas, this happens sometimes)

its gold wings were inlaid with all the terrestrial and lunar seas

its hands hung from its wrists like crystal chandeliers

it was altogether quite icily splendid


Father Xmas laid the sleighs reins in his fat lap

and said, What do you want for Xmas, little Androgyne?


The angel said, A song. Let me explain.

After The Big Divorce Mother left with the best tunes crooked

under her hot red-leather elbows.

Since then, those of us who stayed with Dad

have had to put up with hymns and experimental jazz.

So I would like a song I can call my own,

a song with its purpose directed at my ivory-crisp heart,

a song that would soften the glummest pearl in heaven.


Father Xmas rummaged amongst his parcels, shaking them to

ascertain their contents. Some he accidentally jettisoned

into the thin blue darkness of the angels shadow

which seemed as shut as the eyelids of the Dead.

Youll want something that can be passed-off as hiccup or a sigh,

in case youre overheard.


Ive nothing onboard but wait here. Ill return with your gift.

And Father Xmas soared away on his circuit

returning after several hours with a skein of sounds

scooped out of the travelling air and thickly braided.

Ho ho ho, heres your song!

Father Xmas threw it onto the thin remnants of the night,

the several scattered umbrous stubs

the angel and the obese, hairy saint cocked their heads and listened.


(Dear Reader, please la la la here.)


It was simple. It was little more than a hum.

It was the sort of sound adults and children make when theyre thinking of something else.

Perfect!said the angel and flew off into the sameness of heaven,

trailing their own warm wisp of monotony.

Yuletide Poetry: Last Night by Claire Bassi

Last night I slept, soft fists curled tight,

Oblivious of frosty night,

I woke to creak of garden gate,

Raced eagerly to fireside grate,

Plundered hanging pillow case,

Tore bows and paper in my haste.

My gifts –  doll babies, sugar paste.


Last night I slept around first light,

Pondering this frosty night,

I woke to creak of feet on stairs,

And listened for the paper tears,

The plunder of the Santa sack,

A tiny face in sea of wrap,

Their gifts, spilled out across the place,

My gifts – I pull to my embrace.

Yuletide Poetry: Sensory Christmas by Janet Jenkins



heard Mike

on the step

drunk as a skunk,

 singing ‘’Jingle bells;’’

                                                                                     Kissing the dog

shouting ‘’Peace

on earth



saw Bounce

                                                                                             in a box

meowing for help;

                                                                                     tangled in tinsel.

                                                                                         I freed his fur,

stroked his head,

gave him



smelt wine;

hot, spicy.

Chrisrmas turkey,

sizzling and spitting.

Tomato soup

bubbling, bright’

And beer




Christmas pud,

deep filled mince pies

raspberry pavlova,

ginger cheesecake

peach trifle;

‘’Yum, yum.’’




mother’s face;

she was smiling

but her eyes were moist.

She was pining;

her husband

was long



Yuletide Poetry: Soaring Voices by Janet Hedger

A weakened sun lightly fingers the early morn

Christmas wakes

Heralding the celebration, a saviour is born

For our sakes.


Through the darkened sky, a glittering star breaks

For his birth

Frankincense, gold and myrrh are a King’s keepsakes

In his worth.


Messages ripple across the breadth of the earth

Peace fulfil

Spreading the Gospel with merriment and mirth

In goodwill.


Faith in the wondrous creator this babe doth instil;

Joy partakes,

With beautiful soaring voices, praising God’s will

Christmas awakes.

Yuletide Poetry Competition Third Place: When The December Moon Is Bright by Jill Munro

When the December moon is bright


and turkeys strut their free-range stuff,

sharp points of claws imprint fresh falls of snow,

when the owl’s hoot is the only sound to pierce

through pines that wait for an axe-man’s tread ─

the chop, the fall, the pull, the net, the boot.


When holly pricks in blood-red berry bursts

and ivy twines in wreaths, mistletoe is cut

for white fruit clusters above kissing heads,

when lights of a thousand fairies dance

in spruce and willow by suburban doors,

nodding snowmen glow and billow

I try to look the other way, not back.

Yuletide Poetry Competition 2017 Second Place: Christmas Street by Mark Sheeky


Christmas Street

I close my eyes.


I see cinnamon and mace,

crisp snow, and tinsel garlands hang,

hear children sing the songs we sang

of frosty windows webbed like lace.


Oh to be in Christmas Street,

and taste the cake and turkey there,

to fly in frozen curling air

instead of sleepless summer heat!


Oh to rest in covers white

of icy lakes and pine-tree rain,

instead of waking here again,

in moonless sun and sunless night!


I close my eyes.