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Morecambe, Lancashire, United Kingdom
In the mornings I’m a Nursery Cook, the rest of the time a Writer. Been writing for decades: short stories, plays, poems, a sitcom and more recently flash fiction, Creative Writing MA at Lancaster Uni and now several novels. Been placed in competitions (Woman’s Own, Greenacre Writers and flashtagmanchester) and shortlisted in others (Fish, Calderdale, Short Fiction Journal). I won the Calderdale Prize 2011, was runner-up in the Ink Tears Flash Fiction Comp & won the Greenacre Writer Short Story Comp 2013. I have stories in Jawbreakers, Eating My Words, Flash Dogs Anthologies 1-3, 100 RPM and the Stories for Homes anthology. My work’s often described as ‘sweet’ but there’s usually something darker and more sinister beneath the sweetness. I love magical realism and a comedy-tragedy combination. My first novel, Queen of the World, is about a woman who believes she can influence the weather. I’m currently working on a 3rd: Priscilla Parker Reluctant Celebrity Chef. Originally from West Midlands, I love living by the sea in Morecambe, swimming, cycling, theatre, books, food, weather, sitcoms and LBBNML … SQUEEZE!

Monday, 6 June 2011

A Review of The Pitmen Painters, Wolverhampton Grand

A joint production from Live Theatre Newcastle and The National Theatre, this play is based on the true story of a group of Northumberland miners in the 30s & 40s who start painting, despite working ten-hour days down the mines. They have their art displayed in galleries and art collectors buy their paintings.
The performances from the ensemble of eight actors were all excellent.
There was a simple one location set, the shed the miners met in each week, complete  with easels and fold out wooden chairs. It could be believed to be a gallery or the posh house they visit too, just from the reactions from the characters to the new surroundings.
Often the characters gazed out into the audience when looking at a painting they were commenting on. The paintings themselves took centre stage on three screens above the actor’s heads. These also announced where a scene was set or how much time had passed between scenes.
At the end of each scene was an extremely loud noise, somewhere between a bell and a klaxon. I assume this is was what the miners would hear at the start and finish of a shift, demonstrating how they were tied to their long days down the mine the whole time. It reminded me of school so was effective at giving you that sinking feeling of having to be somewhere unpleasant and difficult and obeying the call of the bell.
Although they had a difficult life, these miners were proud to be working class and miners. Their art showed the place they lived in, where they worked and what it was like. This play was very conscious of class, demonstrated by the University man who came to teach them about art, particularly when he left them at the station when the were visiting the national gallery. ‘I’m in first class’ he said.
As well as class and politics, The Pitmen Painters explores how we look at art and emphasises the importance of being creative and expressive. Much of this play is entertaining and funny but it was sad as it ended with the realisation that the wonderful new world they were expecting after the war did not come to fruition.


A month ago I had no stories online, now I have four. I’m calling it progress! The fourth one is 'Wind' on 330words where you write a story in under 330 words from being inspired by a photo … 

Thursday, 2 June 2011


Just a little flash I wrote last year ...

He talked me into this. Retirement party for someone who works at the bakery over the road. I had to agree that a man who’d been getting up at five each morning for forty years deserved a big do.
Grant probably asked all the others before me. I only had the interview last week and two shifts later here I am. I need the money. At least I’ll have something left for food and fares once my fees and rent are paid this term.

Aachoo! Note to self. Don’t sneeze when all squashed up inside a pink and white painted wooden cake. It hurts. Glad this isn’t a real cake. Be covered in jam and butter cream by now. There isn’t even room to laugh in here.
Can’t see anything but light through the layer of paper above me that I have to break and leap out through. Somehow.
He should have got Ellen to do this. More room in the cake and in this stupid riding-up costume. Feels like it’s slicing me in half. And why do sequins have to be so scratchy? Why can’t they make them soft?
Grant said two minutes before I’ll be wheeled in. Been more than that, surely? Told me to go back behind the bar afterwards to help the others. Keep smiling, keep the champagne flowing.
Starting to get pins and needles. Will I even be able to move when the time comes? He can’t have forgotten about me. What about the man from the bakery? Aachoo! Aachoo! Well, that dampened down the dust.  Didn’t think to bring tissues.

Googled it this morning. This whole jumping-out-of-a-cake thing. Not the sort of subject you think about until someone actually asks you to do it. It started in New York over a hundred years ago. Apparently, the jealous millionaire husband – if I had one of those I’d be crouched in a much bigger, fancier cake right now - of the woman who jumped out of that very first cake shot the guy whose party it was a few days later.

The cake’s lurching forward. It’s time.
Yes, shot in the face. At a musical. Wonder what went on there?

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Dryer Monkey, The Flash Mob Event and Not Being Found Out Yet

The Prize Artwork by Billy Mathers

I had the idea for The Dryer Monkey while sitting in the Washeteria one Sunday morning a few months back. I saw the whole story in images in my mind and wrote it that afternoon. This is unheard-of-quick for me. I entered it in the Flash Mob Comp because someone I follow tweeted a link to it and I’m always sending stuff out here and there. Then I find I'm shortlisted and planning atrip to read at the event in Chorlton on 26th May.
            I only get a few minutes of wow-that’s-great-ing before the I’m-only-in-to-make-up-the-numbers-ing and then the everyone-is-better-than-me-and-everyone-will-hate-me and, above all, I’m-going-to-be-found-out. I thought this all the way through getting a place at Uni and the whole time I was there. I’m sure no one else was thinking like that. I do hope they weren’t …
The only time I’d read before was a couple of times at Uni and many times in a friend’s living room. Not the same at all. After all my worrying about the journey (and girl scout contingency plans) it was absolutely fine. I did text my friend when I arrived in Manchester, 'Big City ... Little Sal'. The centre of Manchester was full of people who knew where they were going … unlike me.
I thought I was fine about it the actual reading because the words would be right there in front of me. No making it up as I went along, like conversations. Then suddenly I realised I was up there, in the spot light and going against my usual try-to-be-invisible way. I had to climb onto the stage, which was almost too high a step for me, and climbing down was even harder as I was literally shaking. I always say falling over is fine as long as no one sees. Not an option in front of an audience. I read the first couple of sentences and someone moved the microphone nearer my face, as I was obviously not close enough. All those years singing Squeeze songs into a hairbrush had not helped at all. 
I think I read just-ok for a first time. My best friend & my parents were listening to Chorlton FM, online in Coventry (a. Surreal, b. Ain’t technology wonderful?) My friend, bless her, said she felt like she was there with me. 
In two hours the twelve shortlistees and the five judges read, as well as special guest Nik Perring. He read ‘The Mechanical Woman’ and ‘The Two Old Women Birdwatching in my Garden’ from the surely ironically titled. Not So Perfect. There was an interval with time for everyone to play their part in what I thought was consequences but they called it 'exquisite corpses'. Showing my age there, probably. Everyone was really friendly and there was a nice atmosphere. I talked to some people I'd already met on twitter; shortlistees and judges. I got asked to join Chorlton writer's group twice but it's too far to travel. Shame …
            Then it was time for the finalé. When one of the judges referred to the third prize winner and the line about the Chinese wedged between the block of flats and the bungalow I knew straight away that was mine and actually felt relief that I'd got a place so didn't have to sit through the announcements of second and first with hope still springing, as it always seems to do, despite thinking your story is rubbish.
 After hearing the standard of writing I had thought I had no chance with my silly little story. There was lots of good original stuff. They were all so different – just like people. Don’t know why that always surprises me. I particularly liked Lynsey May’s ‘Milk and Honey’ and Matthew Hull’s ‘Citric’.
            The Dryer Monkey was praised for being 'funny, sweet and sinister', 'simple but effective story telling' and for 'slight unusualness.' Taking the prize picture and holding it up and everyone clapping was really weird. I doubt I need to get used to such things. Yes, very soon I will be found out.
 I’ve since heard a recording of the reading and was shocked at how it sounds like someone else completely and at how strong my Midlands accent is. (For years I thought that people from Coventry were the only ones in the country without an accent until my Grandmother told me I had as much of an accent as my Oldham cousins) The prize artwork is now on my living room wall. By Billy Mathers, it’s a bit creepy but then so is the story so I can’t complain … its definitely growing on me.