Three Words – Review



At the end of last year I was really pleased that Rachel Fenton came onto this very blog to talk about Three Words: an Anthology of Aotearoa/New Zealand Women’s Comics (read what she said about here – it’s great). At the time I said that I thought the whole thing was ‘dripping with good’ – and it really was. It was redressing the balance and exposure of female comic book artists for one and, from what I knew, the produce was going to be something wonderful too.

And it is. And I mean really wonderful. It’s a thick book (not that it’d take a lifetime to read) and there are tens and tens of contributors and each (and I mean this) are wonderful. My favourite, aside from Rachel’s (are you listening, Rae?!) are Jem Yoshioka and Alex McCrone but really, I could have pulled any names out of a hat because they’re all so good, and the breadth of stuff in there, from the stories themselves (some funny, some scary, some devastatingly honest, all good) to the art they’re told through is brilliantly astonishing. The production of the book’s seriously impressive too – it feels that, as much as it’s come out of something important and a need to tell good stories through great art, it’s come from love too. It would be an ideal gift, either to someone else or, probably better, from you to you.

I think one of the big acid tests for a book, especially one like this, is how people who know nothing about it react to it being there. I don’t think there’s been one person who’s been in its company who hasn’t picked it and opened it and grinned.

And you can, and probably should, buy your copy from Beatnik here.



Jem Yoshioka

IMG_6899Alex McCrone

SheFest – Sheffield – Saturday

Another day, another celebration of women. And quite right too.


Here’s the brilliant Nitya to tell us more…


Last year over 600 people visited Sheffield Town Hall for a fantastic one day celebration of International Women’s Day featuring local traders, live music and a spectacular finale fashion show.

This year that idea has grown into ‘SheFest’ – Sheffield’s inaugural Fringe Festival!  The main event on 12th March is SheFest Saturday at Sheffield Hallam HUBS 12-5pm – in addition to the all female traders market and live entertainment and multicultural fashion show, it also features 14 workshops, with an array of topics from Wellness and Relationships to Tech Start Ups and STEM.

Sheffield’s makers and shakers were encouraged to schedule events around this time that would fit with the IWD theme #PledgeforParity and to create a diverse range of events in the city.

@IWDSheffield! #SheFest2016

Wonder Women. Manchester. Friday.

On Sunday I found myself in Huddersfield at their literature festival (friends knew friends there so I went and it was good). I got to see the lovely Kate Fox again, doing her thing, and she was brilliant. When we were chatting afterwards, as you do, she mentioned she’s appearing as part of Manchester’s Wonder Women Feminist Festival, talking, no doubt very funnily, about being childless.


It’s 6 – 8pm this Friday at The Cornerhouse. And this from her, herself:


“It’s basically me doing an extract from my show about not wanting children, then chatting about with Dr Ginette Carpenter from Manchester Met. It’s part of the University’s “Humanities in Public” SEX series (HiPSex apparently) and also the Wonder Woman festival now on at venues throughout Manchester. It’s from 6pm- 8pmish at the Cornerhouse on Friday 11th. It was a Guardian pick here and there are more details here and it’s free:

So, off you pop.

Easter Holidays Shakespeare Fun 7 – 11 Year Olds

So, March is here. And didn’t it sneak up on us quickly? And you know what March means? Well, amongst quite a bit, it means that the Easter Holidays are just around the corner. And do you know what that means? It means that the workshops I’m doing for Shakespeare Week are just around the corner too.

Starting on March 21st I’ll be spending an afternoon in 5 different libraries in and around Sheffield, working with children between the ages of 7 and 11. There’ll be story writing and ideas, there’ll be an introduction to the great man and his work, and, most importantly, there’ll be FUN WITH WORDS. Because Shakespeare invented so many brilliant words and phrases (and insults!) it’s the perfect way to discover him (and most likely find that we know more of his work than we think) and, as someone who found Shakespeare a little stodgy and difficult at school, it won’t be like that at all.

A lot of places have been taken already but there are a few left, so if you’d like your child or children to be involved then you should drop the libraries a line to book. I’ll be at…


Monday March 21st – Children’s Central Library – 0114 273 4734

Wednesday March 23rd – Highfield Library – 0114 2037204 / 2930018

Thursday 24th March – Chapeltown Library – 0114 2037000 or 0114 2037001

Wednesday 30th March – Hillsborough Library – 0114 2039529 or 0114 2039530

Thursday 31st March – Ecclesall Library –  0114 203 7222

… and I honestly can’t wait. It’s going to be a brilliant (if not tiring!) couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to it very, very much.


And do spread the word if you can – that sort of help’s always something I appreciate a huge amount.

If anyone has any questions you can always get in touch with me by going here.

See you there!


It’s Grimm Up North

A very quick post today, because I’m desperately trying to catch up with everything I’ve missed through being ill. But there is something I really wanted to tell you about. So…

I was lucky to be at the brand new and very brilliant Grimm & Co in Rotherham on Tuesday (I was there for a meeting and got to go through the secret door and see behind the scenes and I was very impressed).

Grimm is a shop for mythical beings. You can buy talon clippers, a tin of disappointment, magic wands, giant belly button cleaners – anything that the average mythical being might need. But it’s also, a little like Dave Eggers’ pirate shop in San Fransisco (and the rest) a venue providing literacy goodness for young people.


Here are some snaps I took the other to give you an idea – the place is stunning. If you’re in the area DO check it out – it is spectacular. You won’t be disappointed.






Colds and Successes and Feeling Smug

They say that when you stop’s when it gets you. And they’re not wrong. Last year was ridiculously busy in many ways (most of them wonderful and writing shaped) and this year’s not been too different. But, as I’d not any looking deadlines tapping at my window when I felt a cold coming on I thought bugger itI’ll take it easy for a couple of days.

And that’s when it hit me. Since the weekend I have been absolutely wiped out and, as such, not much has been getting done (lucky those deadlines are still a little while off).


But what’s been lovely and amazing and really heartwarming is seeing so many emails come in from people I’ve worked with or mentored, taught or edited, who have been doing good things. Winning things. Receiving copies of their book. Being long and short listed. Getting their names in some amazing places (first time I’ve had the pleasure of having anything to do with Glimmer Train). The editing and teaching side of things isn’t something I really go on about here that much, but it is something I’m really proud of and, I know I’ve said it before, but there really is room for everything that’s good. This writing thing isn’t a competition, it’s a celebration. And if it’s not, it certainly should be.

So I raise a glass (of ginger tea) to everyone else’s success. Be proud. You’re good.


(PS There are still some places for the Shakespeare Week workshops I’ll be doing in the March holidays – click here for more.)


Welcoming Susan Tepper – Dear Petrov

Susan Tepper is definitely one of the nicest people I’ve never met and is a wonderful supporter of other people’s work (here’s a brilliant interview I gave to her for Black Heart magazine). She’s a great writer too.

And she has a new book out, Dear Petrov, and it’s a delight to have her over here to talk about it. Over to Susan…

dear Petrov cover

Dedicated to dear Petrov and all the other dears..


When I try and understand the root of my current book ‘dear Petrov,’ I can only come up with one thought: it sprung up out of a war.   A setting in which I was (metaphorically) cast as a soldier, a medic, the sole person in charge of someone else’s life and well being. It was up to me whether they made it or not. A personal family crisis. It went on for months and left me completely debilitated.

So it was during my time of so-called recuperation, last spring, that the first story which I tilted ‘Dear Petrov’ was written. I set the story in late 19th Century Russia during a time of war. It was written almost tongue-in-cheek, which is the way I deal with my emotional stress when it becomes overwhelming. I turn to humor to bail me out. Our most cherished comedians are often deeply troubled people who use comedy to mask their true feelings. I believe I was in hiding behind the very first story.

But, I am a writer. And I thought it was a pretty good story so I sent it out to Cheryl Anne Gardner. She published it in her ‘Abstractions and Apocrypha.’ It was an aha! moment for me. Then, somehow, the second story ‘Floods’ came out in a rush. Looking back, I believe it was a moment of cracking open— an opening of the floodgates. Richard Peabody took that story for ‘Gargoyle’. After ‘Floods’ the Russian soldier Petrov seemed determined to have his say. Or, to be more precise, the woman who loves Petrov, the one he left behind to go to war, she was anxious to relay their story.

I pretty much wrote a story a day. There was this feeling of going to the screen and unloading a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff comes up in these stories: lake trees, snowfalls, a mountain, decay, petals, perfume, a beloved horse, liver, bluebells, a red plate, garlic and lamb, a straw mattress, bats, a potato seller, a buried child, flat stones, rivers, a locket, and a blackened branch (to list a few).

It was an emotional unloading to write these stories. I felt exhausted after each one yet they kept coming. This woman living alone in Russia in a house, with only her trusted horse for company. This woman who pines after Petrov, understands his foibles and weaknesses, yet pines all the same. While writing her journey I was releasing my own troubled past winter.

Thus the setting of the book: a harsh and extreme landscape co-existing with lush beauty = LIFE


Susan Tepper has been a writer for twenty years. ‘dear Petrov’ is her sixth book.



Dear Petrov is out now.

Shakespeare Week, Sheffield

A little while ago those amazing people at the Sheffield Library Service asked what I could do for Shakespeare Week. And this is what I’ve come up with. We’ll be running five free workshops at five different libraries, over the school holidays, for ages 7 – 11, beginning Monday 21st March and we will be having fun with words (as you’ll probably know Shakespeare invented hundreds). All the details are below.

Places are limited so I’d strongly suggest you signed up as soon as possible.

And do spread the word, if you can. This is something I’m hugely excited about and I think it’s going to be an awful lot of fun. Hope to see you there!



Live Your Life

It’s been another very busy couple of weeks but now I have at least a couple of weeks of not having to be anywhere for anything. It’ll be nice to catch up and get some writing done.

On Wednesday I was in London, working at the BBC again which was brilliant. I ran two sessions there, met some more brilliant people and was really, really impressed with what was produced. A good, and very enjoyable, day all round really.

And, a little before, I was reminded of this and, although it’s an oldie and I’m sure a lot of you will have already seen it, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. I love it. Live your life.


More Junior Books

Last Tuesday I got to do one of my favourite authory things, I got to present the junior writers I’d been working with before the holidays with the books they’d written. I do this quite a bit and I love it. In this case we’d met once a week over a month and a half, we’d come up with good story ideas, turned them into brilliant stories, written them, designed and illustrated our own book covers, all the while helping each other, and then I’d gone away and, with the help of the tremendous Vicky Morris, formatted them and turned them into actual books.

And Tuesday, at Bollington library, was when the writers received theirs. There were brilliant readings and much applause and, I think, everyone left feeling very happy and proud, especially me. A heartfelt well done, from me. You were brilliant.

IMG_6551 IMG_6560