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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!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

'My Ladies' and the Poised Pen Another Place Competition

This is the flash I got a 'highly commended' for in the Poised Pen Another Place competition.
First, the picture prompt ...

Photo by AJ Walker
My Ladies
He watches himself at the water’s edge. The sky’s heavy, the grey blanket sea breathing at his feet. Standing upright feels like too much effort. It would be easy to sink beneath the damp sand or be swept out to sea on the tide.
Tim observes himself from a distance these days. It’s easier. Safer. It wasn’t worth going anywhere or talking to anyone. He always messed up. He lives mainly in his head. Free. Protected from embarrassment.
Mum says he made friends easily as a child. There’s a photo of him in her album. Early eighties. Three year old Tim on the promenade hand in hand with two teenaged girls. Sisters who stayed for a week.
‘They fell for my little Timmy. You called them ‘my ladies’. You cried when they went home.’
Of course Tim didn’t remember. He stares hard at the photo, willing himself there again. The girls are laughing. Big hair, leggings, fluorescent lime green and orange tops, fingerless gloves. Tim’s in shorts and stripy t-shirt, swinging between them with an expression of pure delight. Carefree and happy.
Within a decade he’d found himself unable to look at or talk to the guests. Mum would push him into the dining room with a teapot, a loaded toast rack and a prompt. He would mumble, making a fool of him
He watches a ship pass, experiencing a surge of anger towards the folk on board, folk who always said and did the right thing, who talked, laughed, lived, made love, did everything casually without thought.
There’s another vessel close by. A dingy with two women in. One of them gives a cheery wave. Tim sees himself turn.
No! What if they aren’t waving at him?
But there’s no one else on the beach.
They’re giggling and calling out words he can’t catch. He stares at them. They’re alike, mid-forties maybe.
They are waving at him.
Could they really be back after all these years? How did they recognise him?
He watches himself run into the water to greet them and, without giving it a moment’s thought, follows.

My certificate!
Me reading 'My Ladies' at the Poised Pen event on Friday 4th December. I also read 'Hot and Sweet', 'Tiswas' and 'To Do List' in the open mic. Thanks to judge Nik Perring for choosing my flash, to AJ Walker for the photos and to the Poised Pen Writers Group for the competition and the reading opportunity ...
Photo by AJ Walker

Monday, 7 December 2015

Sal’s One Off Just for Fun (with mystery prize) 50th Birthday Flash Competition : The Results

First of all, a massive thank you to all who entered. Never imagined I’d get as many as twenty-three entries.

More thanks go to Faith Cobaine, who supplied the photograph and the inspiration, and to Stella Turner for keeping me informed of progress, posting the flashes for those who couldn’t and for sending me them to judge.

The Masterpiece by Cathy Lennon has been removed from the competition, due to me being lucky enough to hear her read it on the 14th November at the Write Now story slam in Chorley. She won that competition, reading a slightly longer version of The Masterpiece in the final and receiving a cash prize.

It was hard to decide on my shortlist of seven – I found things to like and admire in all the entries - and even harder to pick the final order. All seven will be mentioned here.

Special mention for ‘Shakespearean Sonnet for a Seaside Statue’ by Sue Denim (No Twitter name. Who is this?)

 On the one hand, this is not a flash, on the other hand, I’ve tried and failed at writing a sonnet in the past so I take my hat off to the author. It looks and feels authentic, though I’m no Shakespeare expert. I like the Eric statue in a way I never did like Morecambe & Wise themselves (preferred The Two Ronnies). I see the statue as a separate character, the one who was left just as a foot when someone tried to steal him, the one folk ask for as a stop on the bus and the character I put in my story ‘Eric’s Grand Day Off’, seeing the light very soon.

So I recognise the references in this, which are built into our culture like words running through a stick of rock. It’s cleverly done. I particularly enjoyed the lines …

‘The notes that sounded when a tune thou played

Were all correct, thou said, but might belong

In some order more fittingly arrayed.’

Eric and Stella

Eric's Foot

Special mention for Mum by Ed Broom

For most original take on the prompt. Of course that’s a municipal Christmas tree! For being funny and for a character who's a very tall woman. Wondering what size feet she has. But she is ‘amazing’ and has totally shown Ryan’s doubting friends.
Honourable Mention for Soul Mates by @firdausp
 This is lovely. The idea of hearing your shadow’s smile as ‘a little swish of the lips’ and of it ‘pooling around my feet’. This shadow is perfect, ‘more fluid and graceful’ than its owner, if that’s the right word. The ending is very touching, the shadow ‘spooning me from behind, a reminder that I’m never alone’, and yet, it seems this character is.
Honourable Mention for Woman at Work by Liz Hedgecock
Not always keen on writers in stories but this works rather well. It uses the prompt so effectively and I love the idea of an umbrella being this woman’s – and everybody’s – work.
In Third Place … Squeeze Me I’m Yours by FE Clarke
 A flash made up of THIRTY TWO (tell me I’ve got that right!) Squeeze songs is really quite something. Talk about writing for the judge. Because I THINK I may have mentioned Squeeze on Twitter recently. Once or twice. This gets its placing for the research that's clearly been done, (though if I was being Miss Picky I’d say its Last Time Forever not Last Thing Forever), for the utter cheek of it (most of these words were written years ago by Chris Difford), and for ‘Where is my black coffee in bed, labelled with love; where is my slap and tickle?’, which is where I began to laugh out loud.
Me and Squeeze and Slap and Tickle and now a Squeeze flash ... who knew?
In Second Place … The Feel of Rain by Voima Oy
 Lovely take on the prompt, with the double meaning of the title. The character comes across brilliantly. Great idea to make her a private detective. The second person point of view works well, like an imaginary conversation with someone you’re watching but can’t show yourself to. Suggestions of backstory though we never find out why she left him.
In First Place … Me and My Shadow by Jacki Donnelan
 An original take on the prompt, beautifully written without a single wasted word. I love the concept of sending your ‘bold and poster-sized’ shadow out on a’ first date in real life’ then becoming jealous, changing your mind and lashing out at her and her ‘charcoal perfection’. The denouement is fantastic, as we are left wondering at the nature of that final gasp, pondering what happens next.

Thank you all once again. I am in awe of people who run a comp every week. I know I couldn’t and don’t want to. Just remember, without the three recently lost comps, you can all find flash (and short story and novel) fodder wherever you look. You can write it and submit or enter in any one of a number of comps, possibly winning money and the glory. Many of you can write in genres I cannot begin to understand. Speculative, fantasy, sci-fi and steam punk, whatever that is. Some of you have a miraculous ability to churn out a first draft of 50k in a single month, while doing all the other things you do. Most of you are there congratulating the moment anyone wins something, a thing I struggle to do. And one of you writes and performs very funny poetry, as I discovered recently.
I know it’s good to have short deadlines forced upon you and the instant gratification of comments and placings within a few days and I’ll be the first to admit I have been seduced by this myself in the past couple of years. But flash prompts are EVERYWHERE and YOU have the drive, commitment and ideas to go it alone whenever you have to.
 Good Luck and Enjoy!


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Sal's One Off Just For Fun 50th Birthday Flash Comp

In honour of my birthday, and because my friend posted this photo on Facebook & I felt sure it would make a fantastic flash picture prompt. When I floated the idea, both she and Stella said ‘Do it!’ All the encouragement needed. Then fourteen of you said you’d join in and I was off …


Photo by Faith Cobaine


·         150 words max.

·         You have from now until till Midnight (GMT) 30th November (the big day!)

·         Post your flash in comments, along with twitter handle & word count. Enter as many times as you like.

·         All flashes will be judged anonymously by me. Stella will keep me informed of submission progress while I worry about getting no entries. I promise not to look and she will email me the nameless stories after the deadline. I’ve ensured no comments will appear in my inbox.

·         Results – posted by Monday 7th December.

·         Please don’t refer specifically to your story on twitter. I read my feed & have a good memory. Why not mess with my head by writing like you don’t normally?

·         The Prize. Yeah, it’s no longer just for fun. The prize is a surprise. Worth about two hours of my day job ... so not much! It will be sent to the winner, wherever in the world they may be. I promise it will be a useful item that will make you smile. And not homemade. The winner just needs to promise to post a pic of it on Twitter.

·         As much as I hope to be stunned by the scope of takes on the prompt and amazed, amused and impressed by the quality of the writing, I really just want more than three people to enter so please tweet/retweet to your followers.

·         Go to it … you’re all FABULOUS!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Liebster Award

Stella Turner has nominated me to do this Liebster Award thing, whatever that is …

Eleven random (yet very specific) facts about ME. Endlessly fascinating, eh? Then I answer her eleven questions. I won’t be nominating anyone. Why? See 8] in the first list and 2) in the second.

Me Randoms

1] I’ve only played Bingo once. I didn’t know what I was doing and my friend’s Dad helped me. I won a pair of scissors. They had orange handles like better quality ones but went rusty very fast.

2] As a seven year old on holiday in Italy, I was scared of a one-legged German man and when he got in the pool I got out.
The one-legged German man must have gone to the bar.
3] I was fat way before people started banging on about an obesity crisis. I’ll take the blame for the whole thing.  (Sorry for using the f-word, folks)

4] I’ve seen the band Squeeze nine times. I’ve loved them since 1978. Woman and girl …

5] I have a framed vodka advert (a drink I’ve only tasted once) featuring a young Woody Allen above the fireplace in my bedroom. I’ve had it over twenty years and it cost me thirty pounds from Portobello Market, which I thought very extravagant at the time.

6] I got an unclassified grade for O’level art. I still want to retake. It can’t have been that bad. Sir said I’d get a B no problem.

7] I own clothes I’ve had since the late eighties and still wear them sometimes.

8] I often think everyone hates me.
9] In 2004 I nearly fell off a cliff while walking in the fog in Cornwall. I came inland for my own safety then fell over in the road.

10] When everyone started tying their scarf that new way I vowed never to do so. Why follow the herd?

11] I left Coventry in 2009 and now live in Morecambe. I still can’t quite believe I’m here.

Stella’s questions

1) If you could have a super power what would it be?

I’d like the power to turn all guns, bombs and weapons in general, into cheese and crackers. Think about it. It could work.

2) What quality would you like to have in abundance?

Popularity. Though I doubt I could cope with it.

3) Favourite Actor/ Actress and why?

Christopher Eccleston!

Seen here in I am Kloot video. Now that's acting!



 Why? Full package. Great actor. Seems like a nice down-to-earth person. Beautiful.

4) What is your worst trait?

Pure laziness. I can spend hours achieving nothing. Lucky me!

5) Favourite TV programme?

In the early eighties I was working long hours and split shifts in a restaurant. My Dad had just got a video recorder and I could record things to watch when I got home often as late as midnight. I adored that moment of rewinding the tape and seeing the start of the latest episode of ITV comedy drama, Shine On Harvey Moon. I still love it.




Bubbling under in a how-the-hell-do-I-pick-just-one-Stella? way: Blackadder, Rik Mayall Presents, Citizen Smith, Shelley, Mapp and Lucia (80s version), Roseanne, Early Doors, The Smoking Room, dinnerladies and QI.

6) How would you like to be remembered?

As being funny. That’ll do me.

7) Why do you write and where?

Cos I enjoy it. Right here at my desk.

8)  Do you prefer to shop in supermarkets or local shops and why?

My local shop is great. Two minutes walk away and staff who greet you the moment you walk through the door. In the summer they prop the door open with a sack of spuds. That doesn’t happen in supermarkets, does it? I do go to them for all the stuff the local shops don’t do though. Decent coleslaw. Better choice of yogurts and cheese. Too much choice really. (Don't get me stared on that subject) Yeah, I’d have to say both.

9)  What is your favourite colour and why?


10) Do you approve of social media?

Er, what’s that then?

11) What are you reading right now?

Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout.

With thanks to Stella for picking me as the person who inspires her. I do my best.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Seven Reasons why I’m not a Proper Writer

I struggle calling myself a writer. People say if you write you are a writer. I certainly write but am I a writer? In my Twitter bio I call myself a nursery cook & writer. Many people could call themselves a cook because they cook at home but they don’t get paid for it. But I can call myself a writer even though I rarely get paid for it? Every month, as a part time cook, I earn a little under my ‘grand’ total of money made from writing … since 1986! See my problem? I can’t deny the activity that brings in the regular money I need to live on. However, recently a work colleague said writing was ‘a nice hobby’ for me. Yeah, okay …

I don’t write every day. This is what we’re ‘supposed’ to do. There are SO many rules. Sometimes I write for hours, other times I don’t write for days or weeks but I’m still thinking about writing. When & how much you write is a personal thing, based on your own circumstances & the amount of time available. I’m beginning to think that, ironically, all these rules are for people who are failing to write but are just reading & talking about rules. Maybe this one should been called ‘I don’t follow rules.’
I don’t like coffee. One writer I follow on twitter only ever seems to tweet about coffee. It seems to be something a writer needs to function. I just don’t get it. I think coffee’s horrible. I have a theory that everyone else thinks it’s horrible too and that the Emperor’s wearing no clothes (while he’s drinking his coffee). Look, it’s just a theory. Oh, drink your coffee!  

I’m not cake obsessed. This is something else I’ve picked up on Twitter. The idea that if there’s cake involved in an event or activity the writer will turn up. Cake’s all right I guess if it involves chocolate. For me cake is work. I make a large quantity if it’s on the menu at the nursery. What I really like is crisps and/or anything cheesey. What WOULD make me turn up to anything is the chance to read. Getting to read will banish all thoughts of food from even my mind.   

 I have no desire to go to a writing retreat. When I got a small shed for outside storage in my garden I told Twitter and was asked if it I was going to write in it. How embarrassing. It wasn’t that sort of shed. I live on my own (can’t imagine anyone wanting to live with me) and my desk is in the bay window of my living room. What would be the point of me sitting in the shed?
Writing retreats look lovely. Beautiful surroundings in the form of a large old house or a sea view, and lovely food. You could have great chats about writing and nice walks but I’d think of it as a holiday and I doubt I’d do any writing. I discovered at uni that writing something there and then in front of others was hard, if not impossible. So maybe, apart from getting up at six in the morning to catch two buses across town to cook for about seventy people, my life IS a writing retreat.

I don’t understand what a muse is. I’ve never understoood what this muse that some people refer to is so I looked it up. The muse is ‘the true speaker for who the author is merely a mouthpiece’. Hmmm. No, I definitely haven’t got a muse. It’s just me and my brain. Yes, we sometimes wonder where stuff comes from. The subconscious is at work here. Many times I’ve realised later where I got a particular idea, event or concept from but often you never realise.

I’ll leave the rest to the words of a true genius …
‘We humans got it all. We perform the miracles’


I’m not suffering enough. Some writers seem to be suffering for their writing. Blood, sweat and tears? Oh yeah. But none from writing. From my thirty-plus years as a cook? Yes, all three. I worked at one place for four years till I ended up wanting to lie on the floor and weep. But that’s another story. A don’t-get-me-started story.
The thing is, I enjoy writing. The whole lot. Having ideas and thinking about them, writing notes and first drafts, reading, editing, polishing, submitting, being edited and even getting rejections. After years of not getting rejected because I wasn’t sending anything anywhere, it means I tried. I don’t want to be imagining where I might have got if I hadn’t given up. I won’t give up trying. Why should I? Even if everyone is better than me. Actually, I no longer think that.

As I write this, the full manuscript of my second novel Fast Talking is being read by an agent. A little nugget of hope to carry around again. Maybe there’s some suffering to come. I may even go mad and try coffee and cake.

And I’ve started the third novel …


Thursday, 29 January 2015

Writing Review of the Year 2014

This is perhaps a bit late but it IS still January. Just. Thought I’d have a look back at my writing progress over the past year.

Having come first in the Greenacre Writers Short Story Competition in 2013, I went to the launch of the anthology which was part of Finchley Literature Festival in May and took place in Café Buzz in Finchley. I got to read Flapjack, my winning story - to the sound of a coffee machine and buses going by outside the café - and realised I still don’t know how to use a microphone. The highlight was meeting Lindsay Bamfield and Rosie Canning, only known through Twitter and Facebook up until then. I was also amused at the passing back and forth of glasses – made me feel like I finally belong to the grown up/middle aged club - and the fact that Rosie wore mine to do her reading.


National Flash Fiction Day was on the 21st June. I have a flash in the anthology Eating My Words. ‘A Bottle of Silence’ was inspired by my experience of noisy neighbours and I’m rather proud of it. I’m fond of all my stories but you know how there’s a few that you really, really like? The actual neighbours moved out on my birthday at the end of November – best present EVER - and I am still ecstatic about it.
Flashtag Manchester organised one of their Slams in October at the Storey Institute in Lancaster. Twelve people entered and we had to go head to head reading our 200 word flashes and after two rounds were whittled down to three for the final. I wasn’t convinced I’d even get through the first round so read my favourite (best?) story first. I was delighted to get through to the final, which meant I read all three of my flashes. I came third out of twelve. Not too shabby.

I’ve only done a handful of readings. Reading-wise, I think this was my best yet. Three things helped me. The magic formula perhaps? a) Take a supportive friend b) have ONE Malibu and Coke (I almost never drink alcohol) and c) Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. All my practicing meant I instinctively knew the right places to pause, when to breathe, etc …

I have four flashes (including the cannibal flash ‘Hot and Sweet’ that got me through the first round of the aforementioned slam) in the Flash Dogs Anthology. The Flash Dogs are from various places around the world and met doing various weekly flash challenges and through Twitter. I got dragged into one called The Angry Hourglass by my friend Stella Turner and most weeks I have a go. This has taught me that I can quickly (36 hours) write to a picture prompt, has produced I few things I wouldn’t have written otherwise and I’ve won twice. The Flash Dogs on Twitter are all great friends and supportive writers but do I want to belong to a club that would have me as a member? Anyway, the anthology looks great, is being sold in aid of IBBY, an international charity that provides books for young people.
Here it is with the other anthologies I have stories in ...


The Big One. I started writing my second novel on 1st Feb last year. Fast Talking is now ready – as far as I can tell – to submit to agents. It’ll go off to the first on the 1st Feb THIS year. It’s based on an idea I wrote as a play around a decade and a half ago but changing it to a novel and creating characters and sub plots made it take off in various surprising directions. This may not be’ the one’ but I did have a great time writing it and I have a few thousand words plan for the third (working title ‘Be Careful, Jim.’)
That's it. We're well into 2015 - the year I turn fifty - so, onwards and upwardsish!