Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Finch's Festive Fifty - by Dawn Finch

It's that time of year again and for the seventh year running, I'm sharing my Festive Fifty children's books. We have battled through another year of separation and loss and this does seem to be a good time to reach for books of comfort and joy. The books I have chosen for my list are all frosty and festive and many have featured on my winter list a number of times. I have picked books that I have enjoyed reading and I also feel that these will also work well as read-alouds. 

At Christmas we should allow ourselves the luxury of not watching the news, and instead draw the curtains against the advancing night, light some candles, and settle in with a story that will take us away to another place.

This list is in alphabetical order of author's surname. These are all longer novels for age 9+. There are so many lists of picture books so I tend to focus on family-friendly books that can be read aloud and shared with all independent readers (including grown-ups!) These are all quite traditional favourites that can be shared with the whole family of older readers.

As many different editions exist of some of these titles, I've left that to your own choice, but personally, I'd opt for the illustrated editions. Treat your family to something beautiful and tuck it away with the decorations to re-read every year.

I'd like to make a very special mention here of my current favourite book - The Very Merry Murder Club. This book can't be fitted into the list because it is a collection of festive murder mysteries by the most amazing authors - Abiola Bello, Annabelle Sami, Benjamin Dean, E.L. Norry, Elle McNicoll, Dominique Valente, Joanna Williams, Maisie Chan, Nizrana Farook, Patrice Lawrence, Roopa Farooki, Serena Patel and Sharna Jackson with stunning illustrations by Harry Woodgate - edited by Serena Patel and Robin Stevens.

This book is the most beautiful hardback and it is my number one recommendation for all those young readers who love something a bit different. If I had to pick one book this year to buy for young readers, it would be The Very Merry Murder Club!

Happy Christmas, and happy reading!
  1.  Aiken, Joan – The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
  2. Arden, Katherine – The Bear and the Nightingale
  3. Bell, Alex and Tomic, Tomislav – Polar Bear Explorers’ Club
  4. Boston, Lucy M – The Children of Green Knowe
  5. Butterworth, Jess – Running on the Roof of the World
  6. Carroll, Emma – Frost Hollow Hall
  7. Casey, Dawn - Winter Tales
  8. Cooper, Susan – The Dark is Rising
  9. Crossley-Holland, Kevin – Between Worlds (illustrated by Frances Castle)
  10. Dale, Anna – Whispering to Witches
  11. Dickens, Charles – A Christmas Carol
  12. Doherty, Berlie – Children of Winter
  13. Doyle, Catherine - Miracle on Ebenezer Street
  14. Ende, Michael – The Neverending Story
  15. Elphinstone, Abi – Sky Song
  16. Farr, David - Book of Stolen Dreams
  17. Fisher, Catherine – Snow Walker
  18. Fisher, Catherine – The Clockwork Crow
  19. Foxlee, Karen – Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy
  20. Gaarder, Jostein – The Christmas Mystery
  21. Gardner, Sally and David Roberts – Tinder
  22. Gayton, Sam – the Snow Merchant
  23. Gordon, John – The Giant Under The Snow
  24. Hargrave, Kiran Millwood – The Way Past Winter
  25. Hitchcock, Fleur – Clifftoppers - The Frost Castle Adventure
  26. Horwood, William – The Willows in Winter
  27. Ivey, Eowyn – Snow Child
  28. Jansson, Tove – Moominland Midwinter
  29. Lauren, Ruth – Prisoner of Ice and Snow
  30. Lean, Sarah - The Good Bear
  31. Lewis, CS – The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
  32. Masefield, John – Box of Delights
  33. Matthews, Caitlin and Helen Cann – Fireside Stories, Tales for a Winter’s Eve
  34. Montgomery, Ross - The Midnight Guardians
  35. Morris, Jackie – East of the Sun, West of the Moon
  36. Nimmo, Jenny – The Snow Spider
  37. Pratchett, Terry – Wintersmith
  38. Preussler, Otfried – Krabat
  39. Priestley, Chris – The Last of the Spirits
  40. Raby,  Lucy Daniel – Nikolai of the North
  41. Ransome, Arthur – Winter Holiday
  42. Rundell, Katherine – Wolf Wilder 
  43. Smith, Dodie – 101 Dalmatians
  44. St John, Lauren – The Snow Angel
  45. Streatfeild, Noel – White Boots
  46. Torday, Piers – There May Be A Castle
  47. Wilder, Laura Ingalls Wilder – The Long Winter
  48. Wilson, Amy – Snowglobe
  49. Winter Magic edited by Abi Elphinstone (11 stories by contemporary writers)
  50. Woodfine, Katherine – The Midnight Peacock
As always - please add your own additions in the comments. I would love to see someone do a list of poetry for the season too! Apologies for missing anyone out but I only ever list books that I've actually read. If you'd like me to read yours, drop me a line.

Dawn Finch is an author and former children's librarian. Current Chair of the Society of Author's Children's Writers and Illustrators Group (CWIG) 

Monday, 6 December 2021


When I bought my copy of The God Beneath The Sea many years ago I did so because I loved the Charles Keeping illustrations and not because I was desperate to read this new interpretation of the Greek myths by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen. I first read it thirty years ago and neither loved nor hated the text, but I was very glad that it had given Charles Keeping the opportunity to make those haunting images. I bought and read the sequel, The Golden Shadow, too, and the illustrations in that book are, for me, even more haunting. As the late, great, John Prine put it in his song Lake Marie

'You know what blood looks like in a black and white video? Shadows, shadows. That's what it looks like.'

There are a LOT of shadows in Keeping's illustrations.

I was astonished, when I came to write this blog, to discover that this book, which won the Carnegie Medal in 1970, divided critical opinion more starkly than any previous winner had done.  I thought I'd better re-read both books, and I'll describe that experience later, but what fascinates me most is the extraordinary controversy generated by the text, and particularly by the writing style. This is described in an unusually lengthy Wikipedia article, but tracing critical comments back to their sources was a cautionary experience, as in: you are unlikely to get the whole story from Wikipedia. Or from this blog post either, come to that. So here are extracts from some of those opinions.

'This neglected book is the best ever rendering of the Greek myths in modern English. Visceral, overpowering, defiantly undomesticated, it brings out as no other version does the ancient stories' potential for woe, wonder, transformation and astonishment.' Francis Spufford in The Guardian 30/11/2001

'These goings on . . . are made vividly new, interesting, often exciting . . . It is a real feat to make everything sound so first hand. These are in fact genuine imaginative retellings.' Ted Hughes in Children's Literature in Education, November 1970.

Philip Pullman said in an interview with Alex Sharkey that he was inspired to tell stories from the Greek myths to 12 and 13 year old pupils by The God Beneath the Sea. 'I loved the book and wanted to use it in class, but reading it aloud didn't work. So I made up my own version and told that.' Independent 6/12/1998.

'The authors have succeeded in attaining a literary style which breathes a robust vitality into the ancient myths and legends in a manner which, whilst not unique, is truly inspired.' Alec Ellis in Chosen for Children, 1977.

It sounds like a terrific book, doesn't it? Although there is that proviso in Philip Pullman's piece where he tells us that reading the stories aloud to pupils 'didn't work.' It's true that the immediacy of telling a story is especially effective where the stories originate from an oral tradition. But perhaps the key to why they didn't work as readings is contained in some of the more critical reviews.

In a piece in The Spectator in 1973 John Rowe Townsend  said 'The authors were asking English prose to do something it has never been at ease with since the seventeenth century, and many reviewers thought that the Garfield/Blishen attempt at high flight ended like that of Icarus.' (That one, like the next, did come from Wikipedia I'm afraid.)

Rosemary Manning was one of the reviewers Townsend mentioned. In the TLS she described the writing as 'lush, meandering and self-indulgent.' 'Loaded with . . . lazy adjectives . . . and weighed down under laborious similes.' 

But even more savage was Alan Garner's review in The New Statesman. This was reprinted, alongside the more positive Ted Hughes review, together with pieces by Edward Blishen and Charles Keeping in the November 1970 edition of Children's Literature in Education. Garner began by pointing out that the subject matter of these stories, which is extremely violent, is somehow deemed to be acceptable to offer to children because it is myth, not realism. You may remember that Garner's The Owl Service was criticised for its themes of illegitimacy, adultery, jealousy and revenge back in 1967. Here's how he begins his review:

'We live in strange times. A character in a story, with his mother's help, cuts off his father's genitals, has children by his own sister, and eats them at birth. This seems to be OK for a child to read. In a different story, 'bastard' and 'arse' occur, and a teacher sends a letter chiding the publisher for printing filth. The crucial difference between the stories is that the first is a myth and the second is a modern novel.'

Alan Garner makes the argument that this material is potentially explosive and needs to be carefully mediated if given to children. It needs to be done well. In his own piece in Children's Literature in Education Blishen makes the case for what he and Garfield have done:

Both Leon and I have for a long time been concerned with what seems to us to be something that's happening inside children's literature, and is happening inside society as a whole. We're no longer quite so sure what children are, or who children are, or when children are. We must all be aware that in the last few years children's literature has been moving, at its senior end, closer and closer to adult literature . . . We believe it was essential to go as far as we have in our treatment of human passion and of violence, of necessary cosmic violence. We felt this must be done, it was right to do it, because these are the themes, the concerns, the preoccupations with which our children are, we know, at the moment filled.

I have a problem with this. If we don't know who, what or when our children are I don't understand how we can be so sure about their concerns and preoccupations. Garner accepts, however, that it's good for an attempt to be made 'to restore Classical myth to its original vigour', but he does not like this attempt one little bit. 

'With so many books published annually, and so little space available to a critic, it seems extravagant to pay attention to rubbish, but in this case there may be a lesson to be won from the experience. The God Beneath the Sea (Longman 35s) is very bad. It is almost impossible to read, let alone assess.' And then: 'Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen have fallen into the trap they tried to avoid. The prose is overblown Victoriana, 'fine' writing at its worst, cliché-ridden to the point of satire, falsely poetic, groaning with imagery and, among such a grandiloquent mess, intrusively colloquial at times.'

Is it possible that all these critics are discussing the same book? 'Almost impossible to read', says Garner, though I note that he most certainly did read it and he had no problem delivering his judgement. I took it as a challenge anyway, and managed to achieve the 'almost impossible' yesterday. My own assessment? I can't handle all those adjectives and similes, but you know, for some people it's poetic and powerful. The God Beneath the Sea would, for instance, provide perfect instructional material for teachers to use with children in Key Stage 2—those between the ages of 7 and 11—if it wasn't for that pesky subject matter. In fact it might almost have been written by a particularly imaginative and unrestrained 9-year-old who had been egged on by a teacher to indulge in 'WOW!' words and had just discovered the joy of creating unnecessary similes. But you couldn't use it with those children. Rape, child murder and incest are not on the menu in Primary schools, even today, thirty years on. The only justification I can think of for the way the book is written is that its 'over-the-topness' sort of feels in tune with its extreme subject matter, but the problem is you end up with a book written in a style well-calculated to appeal to a 10-year-old but with subject matter better suited, as Edward Blishen kind of suggests, to an almost-adult. And maybe that's why it didn't work for Philip Pullman's slightly older pupils.

The curious thing about this is that neither Edward Blishen or Leon Garfield are bad writers. They just seem to have got carried away and been, as Alan Garner notes, unrestrained by their editor. But maybe some of the criticism hit home because I believe that the sequel, The Golden Shadow, is a better book, written with greater restraint and more interestingly structured. Or, to put it another way, I enjoyed it a lot more.

from The God Beneath the Sea

One of the challenges the authors faced was finding a way of linking the myths together in a continuous narrative. In the first book various myths were recounted by Thetis and Eurynome to Hephaestus after his first expulsion from Olympus. This works pretty well, but we never really feel anything for Thetis and Eurynome, a goddess and a nymph. What we need is a human perspective, and I certainly found this first book more engaging once Prometheus had created humans. In The Golden Shadow the link between the stories is provided by an ageing, itinerant storyteller with fading eyesight (Homer is never mentioned), whose dearest wish is that he might actually see one of the gods who people his stories. We feel his own uncertainty about whether his stories are true. He is constantly arriving on the scene of great events just a little too late and I for one, an ageing storyteller myself, felt a lot of sympathy for him.

A suitor of Atalanta
from The Golden Shadow

I probably won't read either of these books again, but I will, for sure, take them off the shelf to look at the extraordinary drawings by Charles Keeping. Alan Garner suggested that anyone who bought The God Beneath the Sea should throw away the text and frame the illustrations, some of them, he said, 'more terrible and beautiful than Goya.' (He does seem to have got a little carried away in writing this review. The illustrations are perhaps not quite so good as he thinks, and the writing not quite so bad). Charles Keeping himself was in two minds, both about the Greek myths and about the finished illustrations for the first book. 

'When I first met Leon Garfield he asked me would I like to join with him and Edward Blishen to do the Greek myths. And I thought 'My God, what a horrible idea.' Mainly because I did not like the Greek myths in any shape or form, but because I liked Leon I said 'Oh yes, Leon, I will.'

A friend provided Keeping with a copy of Robert Graves' The Greek Myths, which Garfield and Blishen were to use as the main basis for their work. His initial reaction was not favourable. ' . . . one of the worst things you can do when you're reading Graves' Greek myths is to read them from the beginning because every one seems to be almost identical. They seem to be the same old thing over and over again.'

He found the myths 'really quite disgusting at first' He commented on the fact that they were 'completely devoid of any love. This is all lust, rape, revenge and violence . . .' But gradually he started to find that 'many of the stories linked tremendously with the Bible and other stories that one knows from other cultures and other religions. It seemed to me that there were some basic human passions there which we could use.'

Now this is where, if you only read the Wikipedia page, you might well misunderstand what Keeping was trying to say. He was dissatisfied with many of the images he finally produced, but only, I think, in the way that any real artist is dissatisfied with their work, and he makes this clear. 'I produced a set of drawings much to my disgust not all awfully good. I think there are one or two—or three or four—which might be good. I don't know yet. I need a passage of time to tell . . . Whether I succeeded or not I don't know but I can tell you I'm looking forward to the next one we do together because I'm hoping to redeem some of the mistakes of the first one. If illustration wasn't about progressing from one stage to the next then it wouldn't be worth doing.'

Heracles realises he has
killed his own children
from The Golden Shadow

There is no doubt in my mind that Keeping succeeded triumphantly. The illustrations in The Golden Shadow are unforgettable.

Shadows and blood.

Paul May's website.

All illustrations are by Charles Keeping.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

By Christmas - by Ciaran Murtagh

The 'by Christmas' emails started early this year. It happens every year, but this year they feel even more daunting. It's understandable really, it's been a crazy year, so it's no wonder everyone is dreaming of their well deserved breaks. It always feels like some kind of cosmic game of 'hot potato' with everyone trying to get everything off their desk 'by Christmas', whoever's left holding the biggest inbox won't get presents from Santa. 

But it always feels like such an arbitrary deadline, particularly this year and particularly if you're a freelancer. A lot of offices are closing on the 17th December and won't be reopening until January 5th. So 'by Christmas' actually means a week before and no one will touch it until 2022. Why the rush?

As a freelancer with multiple projects all wanting things 'by Christmas', this always adds unnecessary pressure, and it seems that I'm having to work myself silly so that it can then sit unread in someone's inbox until the New Year. My lifestyle isn't 9-5 and actually isn't constrained by public holidays. In fact, you'll get much better work out of me if you let me 'work the holidays' than apply pressure to get stuff done by an arbitrary deadline that really doesn't apply to me - my office never closes! 

I'll be able to grab an hour or two, or even a whole morning sometime between the 27th December and the 3rd January that'll mean I give more time and attention to your project than I will at 9.30pm on the 16th so I can get it to you 'by Christmas'. 

I understand that holidays are precious and we don't want to infringe on people's rights to a break. But truth be told freelancers tend to be freelancers exactly because they don't like the rigid 9-5 structure of normal office hours, so when those deadlines and constraints start to impinge upon us it causes undue stress. 

I'm not saying we don't want holidays, I'm saying ask us about how we like to work. If  receiving something on the 17th December is actually the same as receiving something on the 3rd January then give us the option and the time and the space to work at some point in between, everyone will benefit from it - and we'll probably be doing it anyway. I don't know about you, but the minute I'm told to take a break, my brain starts giving me ideas I simply have to write! 

But just in case you do get some time this Christmas, have a look at some of my festive work. My Christmas specials are building up... It's the most magical - and frantic - time of the year! 

Danger Mouse - Melted - CBBC - 5/12 - 07:45
Alphablocks - CBeebies - 5/12 - 09:40
Numberblocks - CBeebies - 12/12 - 09:35 
A Very Diddy Christmas - CBBC - 17/12 - 14:45
Crackerjack Christmas Special - CBBC - 25/12 - 10:05

Friday, 3 December 2021

FIVE FUN FACTS ABOUT... 'A Christmas Carol' By Sharon Tregenza


Charles Dickens' story 'A Christmas Carol' has almost become an ingrained part of our holiday celebrations in the Western world. There have been countless radio, stage and screen adaptations of the classic story and even a 1973 mime performance starring Marcel Marceau. Mickey Mouse, The Muppets, and Mr Magoo have all featured in versions of the book. Here are some interesting facts about this iconic ghost story.

1.  Charles Dickens started A Christmas Carol in October 1843 and wrote obsessively for six weeks. He completed the novel at the end of November, and it was available in the shops on December 17th. It sold out in three days.

2. It originally had a much longer title. It was first published as: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost story of Christmas.

3. Dickens first composed the book in his head while on marathon walks around London.

4. Dickens was the first famous writer to give public readings of his books and the first reading was of A Christmas Carol. It took place in Birmingham in front of an audience of 2,000 people. On reading days Dickens had a strange ritual. He'd have two tablespoons of rum mixed with cream for breakfast, have a pint of champagne for tea, and half an hour before going on stage, drink a glass of sherry with a raw egg beaten into it.

5. 'Bah! Humbug!' has become a recognised catchphrase, even though it's only used twice in the book. A species of snail, Ba humbugi, was named in honour of the character of Scrooge.

Wishing you an early MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Email: sharontregenza@gmail.com


Thursday, 2 December 2021

Ye Nationale Curriculume By Steve Way


As well as writing I am teaching several adults in Spain English via the internet. A large portion of the 30 – 50-year-old students tend to be reluctant to speak in English. They’ve explained to me that in their generation at school (which they were grateful to attend as so many of their parents didn’t have that opportunity) the teaching of English was carried out by Spanish teachers, who were themselves reticent to speak in English. This meant that the focus of the lessons was almost exclusively directed towards the teaching of grammar. Some of my students can wipe me off the floor when it comes to identifying the multitude of verb forms in the passive tense, formal variations of conditional statements etc etc. They just need enormous support and encouragement in gaining confidence in expressing themselves verbally. Indeed, the agency I work with has been offering ‘conversation club’ sessions for the last few years where the participants are supported in just talking and listening in a ‘safe’ environment, rather than having ‘normal’ lessons. (Though our lessons don’t comprise endless exercises in grammar!) It has been very interesting to be involved with this process as I’ve seen many of the participants gain considerable confidence and skill from ‘just’ speaking and listening. I think it’s partly because the process is closer in form to the way we learn our first (or if we’re lucky first few) language(s). How many toddlers consciously delineate between their use of the present continuous or the past simple? They (we!) eventually work out how to do so and more besides without attending a single formal lesson in grammar.

The purpose behind outlining this experience with my students is that their learning represents what I see as another example of the consequences of an imbalanced approach to teaching. I think I’ve written before about referring to a heffalump to a few groups of children and being met with blank faced incomprehension. Having seen my grandson having to fiddle around with frontal adverbials in uninspiring exercises similar to those my Spanish friends no doubt endured, it continues to concern me that nowhere near enough time is set aside for children to read – or have read to them – complete stories, or to be able to write freely without having to worry about peppering their prose with ‘powerful’ adjectives, or having to compose while constantly looking over their shoulders for other reasons.

I wondered how a Shakespeare in a slightly different parallel universe would have coped with a common approach to themed writing, resulting in the piece below. Shakespeare’s imaginary teacher gained his own voice as I wrote it, so I do want to emphasise that his views, although perhaps historically accurate, are very much not the views of the author.


Dailie Reviewe

Straforde-upone-the-Avone Primarye Schoole fore Boyse.

Literacye Lessone.

This day I did ask the boys to write a story. I did give them much stimulus by explaining the history of the tragic Scottish king Macbeth. I did show them artefacts I had bought in, and we did then create a most magnificent piece of artwork that doth now adorn one whole wall of the school room that doth show the succession of the Scottish kings. We then weaved cloth of tartan and the children dressed as characters in the troubled history of this king and the children did role play exercises acting out imagined scenes in the life of this evil man, leading up to his killing of the previous King of Scotland, King Duncan. In this, as he hath done before in role play, young Williame Shakespearee did excel, taking on the role of the aforesaid Macbeth most brilliantly, suggesting a gradual moral decent that finally led to tragedy.

After all this stimulus I did then ask the boys to write their own versions of this story. I have to say that the results were most disappointing, even the unusual effort of the above mentioned Williame. I do declare most vociferously that I cannot understand it! I did give the boys all the stimulus herewith described and then did but remind the boys what they should be thinking of when’ere write.

As always I dids’t request them to recall that they must each moment consider the spelling of each word as they dos’t write their piece, forgetting not each rule of word construction that I hads’t aforetimes instructed them to do. Furthermore, I dids’t remind them to remember that every passing second they should be on guard to ensure their punctuation be perfectly and accurately executed. We did briefly run through the various perplexities of the use of full-stops, commas, apostrophes, colons, semi-colons, ellipses, capital letters, paragraphs, chapter headings and more besides though we had often aforetimes considered each in long and arduous detail.

Straight after did I then remind the boys, recalling to them their target of writing for this terme, to make copious use of “words of power” (whereof we do refer to adjectives) and thereof to on occasion present them in adjoining groups of three, a powerful impression upon the reader for to make; of the use of simple sentences, of short sentences and long, simile, metaphor, irony, pathos, bathos, pork-scratchings, rhetorical devices, implicit and explicit meaning (and much more besides).

Finally, did I review the need for a beginning that doth catch the attention of the reader, then the development of the plot that doth grow from the seed of the aforementioned appealing beginning, with many a problem being introduced into the text that doth by some absorbing means or contrivance have some resolution. Finally, I did further remind them - as I always do before allowing the boys to begin their writing - that the piece must be drawn to a most satisfying and edifying conclusion that will be much appreciated by the audience for which they doth write withal… which usually be just me. Naturally it then behove me, as night doth follow day, to ask the boys to consider, as they doth paint their plot, that they remember to develop the portrayal of the characters that they doth introduce as consequence of the story they expound but in doing so not forgetting to set the scenes of their narrative with many a diverting illustrative device.

So thus I had, methought, most excellently prepared the children for the task of writing. I cannot understand why all the boys but Williame produced not one line of entertaining or improving text and in Williame’s case he did in - contradiction of my instruction - write a most ill-formed play and not a story. As I told the boy myself while admonishing him before his fellows there had not been one mention of the supernatural in our preparatory work and yet this boy had incorporated witches and diverse unnatural beings, including ghosts, into his piece. Not only that his piece introduced the idea that Macbeth’s wife played a considerable role in stimulating the moral demise of this man, an propostion which is of course inconceivable, as though a woman could have equal status in a marriage as a man! Methought I would like to see how young master Shakespeare would portray the actions of this woman since women (rightly) be not allowed to perform in or even witness any play! Any form of developed narrative would of course quite overheat their simple minds… but I digress.

Young William did become much agitated as I most correctly did chastise him for writing such a poorly conceived composition. Verily, it is a tale told by an idiot I dids’t tell him, signifying but nought. Williame did then exclaim, “Forget writing then! I shall become a glovemaker!”  This was but the one part of our lesson that did please me, for we could do with another glovemaker in Straforde-upone-the-Avone and it doth not seem conceivable that master Shakespeare surrendering his pen for his needle will be much of a loss to posterity.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021


Today is the first of December and a Christmas Tree covered in lights has appeared in a window across the road in a home where there are young children.

                        Christmas tree - Wikipedia

So, although Christmas at our home only begins just before the Big Date, I was inspired to start ABBA’s month with an as-yet undiscovered, almost Seasonal Song. You may recognise the slightly mangled tune. "Enjoy!"


On the 1st Day of Christmas, my Notebook sent to me

A Totally Winning Idea!


On the 2nd Day of Christmas, my Notebook sent to me

Two Clever Heroes

and a Totally Winning Idea!

On the 3rd Day of Christmas, my Notebook sent to me

Three Strong Themes,

Two Clever Heroes and a Totally Winning Idea!

On the 4th Day of Christmas, my Notebook sent to me

Four Scary Scenes

Three Strong Themes, Two Clever Heroes

 and a Totally Winning Idea!

On the 5th Day of Christmas, my Notebook sent to me

Five Bold Twists.

Four Scary Scenes, Three Strong Themes,

Two Clever Heroes

 and a Totally Winning Idea!

On the 6th Day of Christmas, my Notebook sent to me

Six Great Locations

Five Bold Twists, Four Scary Scenes, Three Strong Themes,

Two Clever Heroes and a Totally Winning Idea!

On the 7th Day of Christmas, my NoteBook sent to me

Seven Steps of Story,

Six Great Locations, Five Bold Twists,

Four Scary Scenes, Three Strong Themes,

Two Clever Heroes and a Totally Winning Idea!

On the 8th Day of Christmas, my Notebook gave to me

Eight Delicious Dialogues

Seven Steps of Story, Six Great Locations, Five Bold Twists,

Four Scary Scenes, Three Strong Themes,

Two Clever Heroes

and a Totally Winning Idea!

On the 9th Day of Christmas my Notebook gave to me

Nine “Feely” Pet Scenes,

Eight Delicious Dialogues, Seven Steps of Story, Six Great Locations,

Five Bold Twists,

Four Scary Scenes, Three Strong Themes,

Two Clever Heroes

and a Totally Winning Idea!

On the 10th Day of Christmas, my Notebook sent to me

Ten Luscious Landscapes,

Nine “Feely” Pet Scenes, Eight Delicious Dialogues, Seven Steps of Story,

Six Great Locations, Five Bold Twists,

Four Scary Scenes, Three Strong Themes,

Two Clever Heroes and a Totally Winning Idea!

On the 11th Day of Christmas, my Notebook sent to me

Eleven Subtle Symbols,

Ten Luscious Landscapes, Nine “Feely” Pet Scenes, Eight Delicious Dialogues,

Seven Steps of Story, Six Great Locations, Five Bold Twists,

Four Scary Scenes, Three Strong Themes,

Two Clever Heroes

and a Totally Winning Idea!


On the 12th Day of Christmas, my Notebook sent to me

Twelve Marketing Angles

Eleven Subtle Symbols, 

Ten Luscious Landscapes,

 Nine “Feely” Pet Scenes,

Eight Delicious Dialogues, 

Seven Steps of Story,

Six Great Locations, 

Five Bold Twists . . .(and breathe!),

Four Scary Scenes, 

Three Strong Themes,

Two Clever Heroes

and a Totally Winning Idea! Yay!

                                        Christmas tree - Wikipedia

However, to gently continue. . .

But just as I sat down at the desk, 

all my Wonderful Friends & Relations arrived 

needing Quantities of Festive Food - and Drink - 

and Hospitality for that night, and for the one 

after and after and so on . . . 


I sighed. I smiled 

brightly. “Come in and welcome!” I cried.

As for that wonderful Writer’s Notebook? 

Oh well. Oh well indeed. 


Alas, one of the less thoughtful visitors thrust

My Notebook into the Very Merry Yule Log Fire.

All the Assembled Company said it made a 

stunning blaze. 


Never mind, next year will be better . . .  

And I will remember all those brilliant ideas, 

won’t I?


The Moral of the Story is make sure you save 

some time for yourself and keep an eye on all 

that matters to you. 


It's so, so easy to tidy a vital “writing something” away

 and forget where you placed it once the rush is over.

Stale chocs, anyone?

                        File:The Yule Log.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Happy Christmas to One and All and - more seriously -

wishing all the Scattered Authors much joy and 

 success during the Year Ahead.

Penny Dolan


Tuesday, 30 November 2021

START THE DAY WITH A POEM by Patricia Cleveland-Peck

 One morning not long ago a poem arrived in my inbox from a blog I enjoy* which I'd like to share with you. The poem Shinto, is by Borges and is a wonderful example of something I love in poetry - the use of lists. It also chimed with so many things I'd been feeling and thinking about both during and since lockdown.

I found myself saying yes, I have seen many unexpected faces from the past in dreams: yes, as a travel writer the yearning for for the compass has been intense at times; yes, if I find a book ( or anything ) I have lost I am almost euphoric and yes, yes, yes, yes, the smell of a library, the former name of as street, unforeseen etymologies and even the smoothness of a fingernail - these are things to which I completely relate.

Then, with the poem still in mind I set off on my late morning walk. Although it was definitely autumnal the sun was shining and as I made my way along the lane I suddenly noticed the most beautiful Red Admiral butterfly. It settled, wings spread wide basking in the sunshine for long enough for me to gaze at it for a long and happy moment.

A perfect 'windfall of mindfulness.'

Patricia Cleveland-Peck