Free tomorrow? See you in Hawkesbury!

Festival founder Debbie Young (centre) with poets Dan Holloway (left) and Shirley Wright

I hope it’s not to late to remind everybody of the amazing opportunity provided by anyone within striking distance of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, everybody that is who is turned on by reading, writing or getting published in any genre or format.

Throw in a cafe with home-made cakes and snacks and really what’s not to like? And did I mention every discussion, workshop and reading event is free? My only complaint is having ‘volunteered’ (organiser Debbie Young is very persuasive!) for three sessions, I’m going to miss out on a few things I would like to have heard for myself!

So, here are the things I am in:

11 am – The importance of a sense of place in fiction

A discussion chaired by Lisa White of the National Trust

1 pm – Short Stories

Complete stories – none longer than 3 minutes – read by star performers: AA Abbot, Rod Griffiths, John Holland, Rosalind Minett, Mark Rutterfod, Jenefer Heap, Jacquie Gooding and moi. I have heard the others, they are all good!

Sue Johnson – short story workshop
4 pm – Contemporary Fiction

Readings with  JJ Franklin, Kate (Under the Apple Blossom) Frost,  author and writing coach  Sue Johnson, Lynne Pardoe, Thomas Shepherd, Katharine Smith Josephine Lay and Ellie Stevenson

Since I’m also having a new author mugshot taken at 12.30 by writer/photographer Angela Fitch, the chance of getting to much else – or even find lunch! – seems desperately small. But I’ll try to pop in to the Short Story Workshop at 2 pm with Sue Johnson – or the discussion on creative thinking led by Orna Ross. Difficult decisions! And I’m very disappointed to miss the 1 pm talk on the History of Print and Publishing.

Best murder mystery in Hawkesbury?

You can decide on what you’d like to do by downloading the full programme here or just see what takes your fancy on the day.


One highlight I will not miss is the launch of Debbie Young’s debut crime novel Best Murder in Show set in a village rather like, you guessed, Hawkesbury Upton.  Sounds like a blast.

Free tomorrow? See you there!


Writers just wanna have fun

With friends old and new at December Talking Tales in Bristol*

If I was wondering how to sum up 2016 (on the writing front that is) this picture looks as good a one as any to do it: some twinkly lights, friends old and new, writers celebrating stringing a few words together.

At these local events (Story Sunday, Stroud Short Stories, Talking Tales, Novel Nights etc) our audience is made up mainly of other writers  – all avidly curious to see who has been chosen to read and what they’ve come up with. Our ‘public’ is chiefly ourselves -and our trusty and long-suffering camp followers, let’s not forget them!

But while the big bad world of commercial publishing sucks its teeth and eats authors, it seems, for breakfast, testing ourselves amongst our peers is a good way to start on wherever we are headed. We may be our own harshest critics, but knowing how hard it can be to chuck out even a very short short story that works, we also love to support each other and give each other praise where praise is due.  And despite the inevitable nerves, it’s also a lot of fun.

So whatever else 2017 holds, here’s to writers around the world getting together to please themselves – and each other.

Despite a few lucky and talented (yes you need both) exceptions, there isn’t much money to be made in this game,  but we sure as hell are going to enjoy ourselves!

The Twilight Zone at Southbank, Bristol – more writers, more fun!


Thanks to everybody who contributed to my writing year .

Happy Christmas one and all!



*photo by Christopher Fielden 



It’s here – that big weekend!

What possible excuse can there be for not   stopping here to  flag up possibly the busiest weekend ever to have graced my calendar?  I’ll leave out the Friday golf and light opera event and cut to the chase of things I feel you need to know about.

So here we go, here we go … 

HULF poster

Bright and early on Saturday I’ll be off to the increasingly famous village of Hawkesbury Upton where the Indefatigable Debbie Young (whose name you may remember!) is staging the second HU Litfest. If you’d like to catch me there here’s my personal programme:

10.15 – discussion panel ‘Writing What You Know – or Not?’

11.15 – reading two short pieces with a  group of  short story and flash fiction writers (heads-up – some of them scarily eminent)

2.15 – chairing another group of writers reading contemporary fiction – most of whom I know and can definitely recommend.

hulfbadgeNeedless to say there’s lots more to see and hear but in between you’ll probably find me in the festival cafe and bookshop (in the Methodist chapel) wearing my lovely author badge, or just breathing in some country air

before heading off to my evening appointment . ..

When our own community choir took a temporary break, we were delighted to be invited to a ‘sister’ choir which is preforming Haydn’s Creation, yes, you guessed, on Saturday night in Warmley.


Nomine performs solely in aid of Children’s Hospice South West, so as well as a learning a challenging piece of music it’s been a privilege to be supporting this great cause. I’ll be making a huge effort to sing the right notes in  as close to the right order as I possibly can.  Luckily there are lots more altos to make up for any deficiencies on my part.

And finally (I think!)

On Sunday – after a good gargle? –  I’m off to Stroud where I’m especially proud to be one of #theaprilten in a short story event that’s getting more noticed all the time.


I’m afraid Stroud Short Stories is already  sold out (you have to be quick!) but a hint of what I’m reading will be available on Friday on Authors Electric (I’ll try to update this link tomorrow) where I’m blogging on the crossover between art and fiction.

So that’s it.

Will  I make it from Hawkesbury to Warmley in time? Will I have have a voice left by Monday? Only time will tell. The thing is, there is no way I would want to miss any of it.

Hoping to see you along the way. Hoping to survive.



H is for Hawkesbury – a new anthology

Rather a neat title!

Not long to go until my stop on the Scottish blog hop this Sunday, but after that I’m out and about closer to home, first of all to the not-so-sleepy Cotswold Village of Hawkesbury Upton now well and truly on the literary map since the inaugural literature festival last spring.To celebrate that event and give a boost go the next one, the founder Debbie  Young (or T.I.D.Y, the Indefatigable Debbie Young, as I think of her!) has put together a taster of the writers who attended last year into the wonderfully named H is for Hawlesbury Anthology which we’ll be showing off and selling in a mini pop-up festival as part of the Hawkesbury Village Show. next Saturday, August 29th.

The book will also be available on Amazon (nice work, Debbie!) and I can do no better than quote from the description:

The text includes both fiction and non-fiction, ranging from historical and contemporary fiction to travelogues and self-help, from sinister thrillers to light-hearted humour. As in the festival itself, there is something to interest all kinds of readers and to encourage festival guests to try books beyond their usual comfort zone.

I seem to remember the cost is a mere £4. So if you can’t make the show you can still read the book, but if you’re anywhere within striking distance I would say that Hawkesbury is the place to be.

All roads lead to Hawkesbury – Saturday August 29th

I also have it on good authority that the writing set will be easy to find – our pitch is next to the Pimms tent. Another very good reason to roll up and say hello.

What’s next on the itinerary? Check out the Events widget or take a look over here.


Local Litfest: it can be done!

Debbie Young with Katie Fforde
Debbie Young with Katie Fforde

Having detached myself from the writing process and even the writing world for a month or two, I had no hesitation in dipping my toe back in the waters by helping at Hawkesbury Upton Litfest, organised by the Indefatigable (that’s a Homeric epithet by the way) Debbie Young in the Fox Inn.  And I wasn’t in the least suprised that the whole event went swimmingly. So here’s my report from the sidelines.

Because Debbie wanted to let as many writers as possible take the stage, the evening was mainly in in two ‘strands’ with discussion panels (fiction and non-fiction) in the main auditorium (aka skittle alley!) and additional readings in a side r00m. We also had the use of a big tent, oops, small marquee for the earlier part of the evening, which in view of the gorgeous weather (more IDY magic) was a real bonus. Arriving at 4pm to lend a hand, I had time to sun myself in a few moments of happy seclusion as well as helping put out the chairs and shuffle things around on the increasingly crowded bookstall. Then there was the added pleasure of a lovely Italian meal with friends old and new before things really got going.

Lots of people, nicely arranged chairs
Lots of people, nicely arranged chairs

I kicked off the pre-festival readings but once things were under way I was happier hovering in the wings, unless you count a bit of compering (with help from  John and Caro – thanks again) which was a great way to learn more about authors who had come from as far as Oxford, London and (on the day) Madrid!

murphybookUnfortunately in all the coming and going I didn’t give as much attention to as many readings or discussions as I woud have liked, but I particularly enjoyed the non-fiction session and a highlight was  Paul Murphy’s  ‘As I Walked Out Through Spain …‘  beautiful writing as well as a labour of love.  If you want a reminder of all of those who contributed, check the festival website.

Of course there were some practical problems, mainly because of the huge turn-out (I hope someone was counting) which made speakers difficult to hear for anyone who couldn’t get a seat. (Microphones next year?)   Similarly the bookstall was difficult to access and we probably should have thought about how to accommodate an audience (!) as well as the line-up of readers in the smaller reading areas.  But needing more time and more space is a symptom of success!

So how did she do it? I mean not just sign up such big names as Katie Ffforde and Orna Ross, but also offer a showcase to a  gamut of lesser-known writers and persuade most of the local population to come along? Never mind how, the point is that  it can be done, and I have no doubt this event will go from strength to strength. An anthology is already promised as pre-publicity for next year.

Here’s to Hawkesbury and local festivals everywhere. Here’s to the indefatigable Debbies of this world!


It’s all happening – another events round-up!

You may have guessed that what with the start of my MA course and my monthly blog for Authors Electric, I’m less likely to be mulling things over here, but this is a reminder of some upcoming events and one great piece of news.

At the risk of repeating myself, this Saturday is ‘Books Are My Bag’ day,  so do join us at Foyles in Bristol if you can manage. Details below.

BAMB flyerFor those who can’t make it there’s a Facebook event which I’ll try (no promises!) to update during the day,  or look out for Twitter hashtag #bamb_bristol.
Now some real news!   I’m thrilled to have been selected as one of ten readers at the next Stroud Short Stories night in October. Living  in what sometimes seems like a distant suburb of Bristol, it’s great to  remember we’re actually South Gloucestershire – an area encompassing places as diverse as Kingswood and Kingswood (work that one out if you can) where the brave new world of Yate Shopping Centre rubs shoulders with the cosier confines of Chipping Sodbury. And of course our northern neighbours are in Gloucestershire itself, so it’s great to be meeting up with members of that writing community. I’m not so much pleased to be amongst their ‘best writers’ as totally over the moon. Nearer the time I’ll be brushing up on my performance skills – all tips appreciated!

And finally! You can catch me closer to home at the second South Glos Discover workshop in Bradley Stoke on October 25th.

Yes, that was me on the BBC

Phew! Quite a lot of action was packed in to National Libraries Week so here’s a run down.

Emersons Green Library

On Tuesday I’d offered to help with a celebration taking place at my small but beautiful local library in Emersons Green. My official job was to lead a pop-up book club discussing Susan Hill’s novel of 2008 The Beacon – a short but intriguing novel I had hastily consumed over the weekend. But arriving  early (in too much of a hurry to read the programme!) I was in good time to get a feel for all of the activity going on and to see how a Radio Bristol show (broadcasting from a different library each afternoon of the week) was set up.

Laura Rawlinson, Bel MooneyIn fact it was all done very quickly and efficiently by Laura Rawlings and her friendly producer who even stopped to admire the Unchained display I had  done in the foyer and offered me a spot later in the show.
This is Laura preparing with special guest Bel Mooney who spent the afternoon in the story corner while the life of this busy library went on around her.

In fact that was the tone of the whole afternoon, people going about their business with, thankfully,  no hint of a media circus. The  book group was highly enjoyable too with as many interpretations of the end of the book as there were readers – and heated views on some of the characters – just how a book group should be.

By the time we had finished, the broadcast was nearly at an end, but Mr Producer was still on the look-out to fill the final slot, and I was thrust in front of the microphone, ready to gush on the wonderfulness of libraries, or, if necesary, of a certain library anthology. I was just a bit disconcerted when instead Laura asked me to talk about A Kettle of Fish. (Well I am only the author!) I didn’t quite flounder, but I can’t say it was the best thought-out pitch I have ever done – but then it wasn’t really the moment for a hard sell, was it?

Ali B with Laura Rawlings
Lost for words, moi?
Ali Bacon, Pauline Masurel
Two’s company

On to Saturday, when another local writer Pauline Masurel and myself had a really warm welcome at Winterbourne library and a lovely chatty audience for our Storytelling for Grown-Ups session. It was fun for us too, as each of us was new to the other’s writing. (If that makes sense!)

If you didn’t make either of these events, you can read some of my thoughts on NLD and what it means to writers on the official blog.

And finally! With National Libraries week done and dusted, Bristol Women Writers have another event in the pipeline – a free writing workshop on February 27th.

Bookings now open!