Monday, 4 April 2016


No matter how hard I try to keep writing, to keep the pen moving along the page, (as I advise students in my Writing Workshops,) there are times when I’m well and truly stuck.This happened last Friday so, like Dickens, I went for a walk. I didn’t venture the twenty six mile journey from Kent to London but I walked up to the Highfields area, where part of my latest work is set. Unlike Dickens, I walked with a companion – my daughter.

We started off at Victoria Park Gates and then crossed the very busy London Road to Victoria Avenue, a quiet retreat a street away from the noise and bustle of the main road.

Then we walked along Highfields Street where we saw the wrought iron gates leading to the Synagogue.

We turned right here and walked slowly along Tichbourne Street, looking at the splendid Victorian four-storey houses with so much detail in the ground floor, bay windows.

We heard a conversation between a man standing on the pavement and another leaning out of a third-floor window. The man inside the house was telling his friend about how he had turned his life around. “I’m doing a degree now,” he called. “Brilliant mate,” his friend replied.

These houses remind me of another White House I visited recently:

We continued on through streets of terraced houses, small corner shops, Community schools with empty playgrounds and pocket parks. Eventually we reached Prospect Hill where, through a gap in the street we saw the view over east Leicester out towards Thurnby, Bushby and beyond.

The sun began to emerge from behind heavy, white clouds, shining onto vibrant shop displays…

...where the shopkeeper and his daughter, mistaking us for tourists, asked where we were from.

Looking down over Spinney Hill Park we saw walkers, runners, cricketers and footballers but no dogs. Near the basketball court we were impressed with a talented teenage cricketer who, gracefully and cleverly, bowled at her companions.

Across the road from the park we spotted these houses:

I'd feel on top of the world living in house called Olympus.

Wouldn't it be heavenly to live in a house called Zeus? 

We walked back through the park, through the daffodil borders and the open-air gym, trailing behind a crowd making their way to Friday prayers.

I thought about my parents who moved into third-floor rooms on Upper Tichbourne Street in the early 1950s. With twin babies and another child on the way and all amenities on the ground floor, life was difficult and tiring for them. They lived in a mainly Irish area, close to the church and the main road, for the bus into town and work. Since then, many more immigrants have made their homes in Highfields, just up the road from the train station. Some stay here for a lifetime, others move on – back to their home countries or out to Oadby, Wigston, Evington or Western Park, where my parents eventually settled.  All those who have lived in Highfields have left their mark on this Victorian suburb, built on a hillside, overlooking Leicester and the countryside beyond.  

Friday, 15 January 2016

Winter Warmth

It's really hard keeping warm when you are writing on these cold, frosty mornings. Sometimes I am so distracted by the cold that I look for excuses not to work… taking photographs of frost on the solar panels, for instance.

Maybe... it's best to wrap up warm, put on your boots and, like Charles Dickens, walk.

“The atmosphere at Tavistock House was grim for everyone, and… unable to bear it, he walked from there to Gad’s Hill, a good thirty miles.” (Page 45)

Charles Dickens, A Life, by Claire Tomalin, Viking, 2011.

Walking really helps you to think and provides inspiration. It also keeps you warm on a cold and frosty morning

Another alternative is to take your notebook and pen and visit a local café, library or leisure centre. There are lots of public places to keep warm and keep writing in the depths of winter.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Top Tips for Writers

1.       Read.
Join your local library and get your own ticket. Read everything you can get hold of – novels papers, magazines, flyers. If something gives you an idea, make a note of it or if it’s in a paper or a magazine, cut it out and keep it. Join a reading group and talk about books.

2.       Start now.
If you want to write, start now! Buy a notebook and a decent pen or a supply of pencils or just sit at the computer for a few minutes. Never, ever think, ‘I don’t have anything to write about,’ because everybody has something to write about. Write about your day so far. What was the weather like first thing this morning?
What did you have for breakfast? Describe your first journey today: was it to University; to work; to the newsagents; to the supermarket? How did you travel? Were you stuck in a traffic jam? Did you hear any interesting conversations on the bus or did you meet anyone as you walked along the road?

3.       Set aside time for writing.
Once you’ve actually started, it’s helpful to set aside a definite time for writing. Try this: set aside one Saturday morning a month, to begin with. Try to write when you’re full of energy and enthusiasm. Quite often, when we’re bored with something we’re writing, it’s because we’re tired.

4.       Don’t worry.
When you’re writing your first draft, don’t worry too much about spelling, punctuation and grammar. All that can be corrected later. Try to write as you feel: write as you think. Let your characters come alive on the page; paint a detailed backcloth to the action.

5.       Be kind.
 When you're reading through your first draft, be kind to yourself. Don't rip it up just yet. Think about how it can be improved. Acknowledge that it's just the beginning.

6.       Move on.
Now is the time to ask yourself a few questions: Is this story going anywhere? Is it a good idea? Are the characters believable? Would anybody, apart from me, enjoy reading it? Do I really want to develop this story? If the answer to all of these questions is yes, look at your work again. How could it be improved? Now is the time to start being critical in a positive and constructive way.

7.       Ask a friend.
When you’ve finished work on a story, ask a friend to read it for you. A good friend will read it and respond with an honest opinion.

8.       Join a writers’ group.
A good way of sharing your ideas with a local audience is to join a Writers’ Group. You will receive constructive feedback and discover how other writers operate.

Good luck. You can be a writer.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Ten simple things you need to be a writer

1. A mind.

2. Paper or notebook.

3. A pen or a pencil.

4. Peace and quiet. No headphones.

5. Be inquisitive.

6. Read a lot. Read everything.

7. Be well informed.

8. Be prepared to listen rather than talk.

9. Space.

10. Time.

You might have to buy the pen, pencil and notebook but everything else is free.

What’s stopping you?

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Reading Season

It’s October 1st

We’re moving away from the summer and into the reading season. 

Schools, colleges and libraries in Leicester are all involved in Everybody’s Reading and further afield teachers are looking for authors to visit their schools. 

Now’s the time to contact authors to visit your school, talk about their work and help students to develop their reading and writing skills.

Over the next few weeks I am visiting schools to promote Gambledad and to encourage reading and creative writing. If your school would like a visit, contact me on

Look forward to hearing from you and helping to raise standards in your school.