Grandad’s Garden



Grandad’s Garden 

I turn the cone upside down,
it changes to a flower,
like the dahlias
in Grandad’s garden
where creepy earwigs
hide inside.

I paint my pinecone fiery orange,
use a green-striped straw for the stem,

wrap it in mistletoe paper,
place it under the tree
as a special present
for Mummy
on Christmas Day,

to make her smile,
cos she cries in bed, every night,
since Grandad died.


My winning poem at the BHAC Poetry Festival (Student Category)

You can read the rest of the winning poems and find out more about Brighton and Hove Arts Council from here:

BHAC Poetry Festival


Picture taken from Pixabay


Guest Feature – Colin Ward, Writer

I have a special guest today as fellow writer, Colin Ward, joins me to discuss his debut poetry collection, Ripples, A collection of Poetry, along with other writings. First of all let’s find out a little about him.

About Colin

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Colin is an author and self-publisher with lots of experience writing in many different forms, including novels, short stories, poetry, theatre, and even composing musicals. He originally read Theatre at Warwick University and then trained to be a Secondary Drama teacher. Unlike most of his colleagues, he had neither the taste nor the budget to stage large school productions of well-known shows, so he just wrote his own – scripts, lyrics, music and all. After doing this for years, he left secondary teaching, dabbled in Primary for a bit, and finally closed that book. That’s when he first got the chance to pen his debut crime fiction novel and begin a new wordsmithing journey.


Hi Colin, thank you for joining me today. Ripples is your first poetry collection can you tell our readers what inspired you?

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Hello Tricia and readers!

Ripples is definitely a dipping-the-toe collection for me. A small debut. It’s all about the part we play in the world around us, how we affect it, and how we make it what it is. The poems all dance around the theme, interaction, be it with the world, nature, and each other. A lot of the poems are very dark, but that’s because they are driven by emotion, and often it is emotion that drives me to write in the first place. I loosely organised them into four sections, but overall, inspirations come from nature, justice, crime, lies, love, death…and even some with just a humorous treatment of language and situations.

How did you derive at the collection name?

It was inspired by the poem of the same title that I wrote many years ago. That came from seeing some photography at a local exhibition which had been put together as part of a community project exploring mental health. Many of the photos really looked at how individuals composed their image, how they looked at the world. I wrote the poem very quickly, in fact – in a reaction to the idea of layering, rippling perspectives. As with all art – poetry, photography, painting, and so on – there is a fascinating interplay between how the artist encodes meaning, and how the “reader” decodes. My A-level Media teacher (ahem…twenty years ago) would be pleased to hear her influence there!

How long have you been writing? And do you write anything else besides poetry?

I would say I have been writing as a “craft” for over twenty years now. And I make that distinction from the mere ability to write. My earliest work was definitely plays and drama, and it was certainly through theatre that I learnt to really understand the art of “story” – what an arc was, how it carried and affected an audience, and so on. My interest in poetry also formed then, in the latter years at school when the leap from GCSE to A-Level was huge and suddenly we were taught so many more hours a week that we could discover the richness of Wilfred Owen, Gillian Anderson, William Blake, Benjamin Zephania – to name but a few.

The more theatre I wrote, and the more music I played increased the more songs I wrote – and I think for many years my poetry grew as I wrote musicals.

And of course there is the story writer. My debut novel, To Die For came out of a new-found love for Crime Fiction, and a fascination with police procedure, investigations, and plot twists. It takes no genius to link this all back to theatre: focusing on the impact the writing has on the reader, hoping they gasp at the twist in the tale as much as an audience member shed’s a tear for character in the play.

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I’m now working on Innocent Lies – the second book in my DI Stone trilogy, but I’m not giving away any clues about that yet!

I also do lots of boring “pay the rent/ put food on the table” copy writing, and all that, too.

Do you have a special routine for your writing?

That depends entirely on what I am writing. Oh, what an irritating reply!

Poetry is very spontaneous thing at fist. It might be just an image, a piece of music, a news story, or something like that, which sparks an idea. A few lines – sometimes carrying a rhyme, or a rhythm – usually comes very quickly. I write a lot of poetry in tiny notebooks on bus journeys. You can try as many clever apps as you like, but I don’t go anywhere without pen and paper. After this initial stage I usually leave them for a while to rest and stew in my mind, and then come back to them, a bit more methodically to edit, structure, make better choices of language, and so on. So as for a routine…I try to instil routines like “an hour a day” – but it rarely works, especially for poetry.

Novel writing is a very different approach. I plan. I plan in detail. And I research. But I don’t consider the planning phase as “leading up to” writing: for me it simply IS writing. Building the story. I feel like the architect, designer and project manager.  When I am ready, I’ll hire in the trades. My characters are my bricklayers and carpenters. Most importantly, at some point, I have to get the decorators and cleaners in: editors and proofreaders.

Why did you opt to self-publish rather than traditional?

Impatience. It’s true – I have grown so impatient over the years, especially in writing theatre. I have no problem with the writing taking a very long time, and indeed my biggest play to date, and To Die For both took a total of two-and-a-half years to write.  but the concept of having worked so hard for so long on something I have invested so much in and then being made to sit and twiddle my thumbs waiting for someone else to give me the nod drove me mad. Plays would be held up with finding anyone willing to produce it. Novels or poetry sitting on agent’s and publisher’s shelves for months on end….wasn’t for me. 

What advice would you give to writers contemplating self-publishing?

Don’t confuse publishing something yourself with it making writing any “easier”. The skill, craft, and the commitment should still be there. It is quite common to hear people say that “everyone has a book in them.” I don’t believe that any more than saying “everyone could be an orchestral violinist.” Writing to fulfil a basic task, or undertake your work, or everyday life, is simply not the same as the hard work it takes to craft a finely tuned poem, or a skilfully written novel. Being prepared to listen is essential. Always being open to learning – and expect to need other people along the way.

Self-Publishing is not about cutting corners: great books need great editors, proofreaders, designers and so on, all in addition to them being written well by a good writer in the first place. But as a self-publisher you take control of the timeline you work to. You are the project manager. I think there is also an exciting paradox that self-publishing requires you to interact more with fellow authors and share experiences. One self-publisher might be an expert proofreader, another might be a dab hand at design work. Lots of mutual backscratching is all part of the game. But again – it’s on your own terms, and that is what makes it exciting.

Do you have any hobbies?

I love music. I used to play and compose a lot more than I do these days – and I really should get back to that. Occasionally I go to the cinema or theatre, when something good is on. But by “good” I mean well-written. I enjoy cooking. I really enjoy eating the cooking, too. 

Can you give our readers a taster of Ripples?

“Where do all the hours
and weeks
What happened to life’s to-and-fro?
Ups and downs,
fooling around,
the joyous adventure
of a symphony of sounds,
comfort in silence
when none was around,
and now this.”

That’s an extract from a very personal poem. I share no context or background for any of the poems with the reader. If I told you where it came from it would become a mere moment of autobiography, but I believe the poetry, and sharing language and meaning is more fascinating than me. (Why stare at a single ripple when you could swim in the sea?)

Where can our readers buy a copy of Ripples and To Die For?

Ripples and To Die For are both available from Amazon. You can also order special copies from my website which can be signed and shipped with the UK.

From Amazon:

To Die For:  ebook and paperback

Ripples:       ebook and paperback

I think you’ll agree that Colin’s offered some excellent answers and plenty of advice for budding writers or those contemplating self-publishing. Thank you for joining me, Colin. It’s been a delight to have you here. 


Where can you find Colin? 

Twitter  1

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Swanwick Writers’ Summer School 2018

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Bookings open for Swanwick Writers’ Summer School on the 1st February  2018 and I shall be first in the queue. This year it’s their 70th Anniversary so they anticipate places going quickly. Great speakers, workshops, courses and social events. Not forgetting their ‘Page to Stage’ event.

If you fancy yourself a bit of a writer why not try for a free place by entering a poem, short story or children’s story using the theme:- ‘bonding.’

Check out my Swanwick Story from last year on the delightful, Elizabeth M Hurst’s, website, A Girl and her Cats Write. 

Book a place from 1st February, 2018 

If you’re a young writer between 18 and 30 or know someone – Swanwick offers assisted places 

Details for entering the writing competitions to win a place at Swanwick. 

Have I tempted you? I look forward to seeing you there. Roll on August…


Guest Feature: Val Penny – Hunter’s Chase

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Today I am delighted to feature a fellow Swanwick writer, Val Penny to my blog. Val’s debut novel is to be published on 2nd February, 2018 by Crooked Cat Books.

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Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. Val has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her first crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ set in Edinburgh, Scotland will be published by Crooked Cat Books on 2nd February, 2018. She is now in the process of writing the sequel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge‘.


Today, Val shares, ‘Reasons to Write a Crime Novel.’  Over to you, Val.

Reasons to Write a Crime Novel

People like crime, at least in novels! Often, I meet dentists and bank managers with clever plot ideas, or nurses who read every crime novel they can lay their hands on. If I visit a writing group, there are always members keenly producing new murderous plots. Lawyers and convicts show equal enthusiasm for this genre. For those who want to write a crime novel, there are several reasons to want to do so. Here are a few of them.

Emotional Release

Often, those who write crime novels find an emotional release in their craft. Crime novelists deal with the dark things that people usually push to the side of their minds in order to get on with every day life. The cathartic attraction of writing can be decisive.

Some crime authors tell of poor sleep patterns, punctured by night-mares that are repaired when they start to write. Others, panic, constantly scanning doorways for signs of danger. The stiffening fear that afflicts them resolves when they are busy writing crime.

The Story-Telling Urge

The sources for crime novels are many and varied. Ideas can spring from the news and current affairs; memories from the past and historical events or things that puzzle or fascinate the writer. Once an author begins to exercise their creative muscles, they often find that they run into stories demanding to be told. The stories demand to be told and will not stop coming.

For Companionship

It is often said that writers can be difficult people: gloomy, competitive and quarrelsome. However, for the most part, I have found crime writers to be an inclusive and convivial bunch. They are certainly hard-working. The pressure of producing a book a year is intense, yet they never seem to turn their backs on fun. If you have a chance to go to a crime-writers’ convention, do take it. They are exhausting, exhilarating and irresistible.

An Outlet for Aggression

Most crime-writers will tell you that they are good company because they channel all their belligerent thoughts into their stories, so in real life, the authors are meek and mild. It is not always true, but I can confirm the a crime novel is an excellent place to park your rage! The prospect of giving vent to righteous anger in a safe form can be a particularly pleasing device. When characters require to act in a violent way or commit violence the reader is willing to witness this on the page but they would shy from it in real life. Crime writers can let rip on the page in a way they avoid doing in the real world.

The Thrill of Research

I can personally confirm that the research you do for crime novels and for academic purposes are equally satisfying. It is also extremely diverse. It may involve visiting prisons, refuges, police stations or drug dens. Police are often very willing to be of assistance to crime writers, even if it is just to avoid being irritated when otherwise the writers would get police procedures wrong. This information is most useful and helpful. Indeed, when you are writing a novel, no information or experience is wasted!

Val Penny


Thank you, Val,  for a very informative article.  Now can you tell us a little about your upcoming release, Hunter’s Chase?

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Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe. 

DI Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city and he needs to find the source but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course. Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taught crime thriller.

Where can readers get a copy of Hunter’s Chase

Also available from The Edinburgh Book Shop.

And finally how may readers contact you? 


Facebook: Valerie.penny.739

Friends of Hunter’s Chase –

Twitter: Val Penny@valeriepenny






Poetry with Carol Ann Duffy

Back in September I entered the Brighton and Hove Arts Council Poetry Festival Poetry Competition in the student category. In November I got a phone call to say that I’d won and my prize £150 would be presented by Carol Ann Duffy at The Old Market in Brighton on November 18th, 2017.

Well, how could I not go? To be presented by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy was a prize in itself, worth a lot more than the monetary one. Thanks to a couple of my supporting friends I was able to go to the ball. We headed down to Brighton on the train on Friday evening and caught a taxi to Hove from the station.

What a great venue

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My friends treated me like a celebrity and insisted I had a photograph taken outside. Unfortunately I’m wearing my computer glasses as I rushed out with them on by mistake. So not only did I look funny, I couldn’t see very far either.

Because I was a winner it meant I got in free. Quite a bargain when the tickets were £20 a head. But I needed proof that I was allowed in, so my hand was stamped.

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Once in there was music in the bar and my friends and I enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco. We didn’t drink it all before the show started, after all I needed to get up onto the stage, so we put the rest behind the bar for the interval. A buffet spread was laid out.



The show began:  Hammer & Tongue with Michael Parker and The Big Poetry Slam Competition were up first. This followed with an interval.

After the interval it was the Poetry Competition Awards. Student category first with runners up called out individually to collect their prizes from the Poet Laureate herself, Carol Ann Duffy.

Next was the overall winner for the student category –  which of course was ME – I was accompanied on my journey to the stage with fanfare music . What great fun.




Carol Ann Duffy presented my cheque and I got to shake her hand!

Hopefully I’ll have a photograph of this in due course, just to prove to you that it happened. Well that’s one thing knocked off the bucket list. Wow, what an evening.

Next was the Open Poetry competition winners –

Overall winner – Liz Fincham with Brexit Blues.

Attila The Stockbroker then entertained the audience for 45 minutes before the final  interval.

During the interval I met a couple of ladies from Brighton Gin who manned a stall for gin tasting. I hadn’t tried gin since I was a young girl. Gin seems to be quite topical so I decided it was time I tried it again. I liked it. The gin ladies were very knowledgeable about its history. I promised to come up with a poem – so watch this space.



Following the interval we had one whole hour of Poetry with Carol Ann Duffy – wow – it was worth the wait.

Four hours of poetry at a great venue, receiving first prize in a student poetry competition, and getting to shake hands with Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.

Yep what an evening!

Here’s my winning poem: I hope you like it.



Grandad’s Garden 

I turn the cone upside down,
it changes to a flower,
like the dahlias
in Grandad’s garden
where creepy earwigs
hide inside.

I paint my pinecone fiery orange,
use a green-striped straw for the stem,

wrap it in mistletoe paper,
place it under the tree
as a special present
for Mummy
on Christmas Day,

to make her smile,
cos she cries in bed, every night,
since Grandad died.

You can read the rest of the winning poems and find out more about Brighton and Hove Arts Council from here:

BHAC Poetry Festival


Pictures taken from Pixabay

Local Authors Event

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So last weekend was a busy one. I had my first public event as an author at my local library in Crawley. Twenty-two authors (including me) turned up to set out tables with books, posters, business cards and bookmarks. We had the opportunity to discuss our books with library readers and sign copies for those that purchased. Around 100 people came through the doors. This was the first time that Crawley Library had hosted such an event,  although they have hosted many other author literary events.

It was quite an experience for me as not only did I have the chance to sell and sign copies of House of Grace but I was also able to meet and chat to other local authors. A good day was had by all.