A Drop of Rainbow Magic

A Drop of Rainbow Magic is now available on Amazon!

 

Rainbow 2 copy

The book is a collection of stories and poems for children, with a difference – they are the illustrators and they draw the pictures, making it very much their own book. And to emphasise that aspect, the cover has been designed by a young friend, Maisie Craig.

back page

Read about the caterpillar who was forever grumbling or the teacher who made more noise than all the children combined; what about the gang of grannies and grandpas who created havoc in a supermarket or how the wee shy mouse eventually made friends? There are counting poems and poems about a smelly granny and the noises you hear when you’re lying in bed or sounds you can’t hear at all. There’s something for every child (and adult!) in the book.

But why a book like this? If you add up all the visual impact of computers, xboxes, tablets, white boards in school, TV, cinema etc etc, it comes to a staggering amount of time that children are subjected to some kind of visual input. Their visual sense is  dominant over all the other senses, especially that of hearing, of listening.

pageThink back to your own childhood and the time you were given, free from that dominance. You listened to stories told by your family at bedtime, you listened to stories read by the teacher, you even listened, if you’re of that age, to stories on the radio rather than TV. You read books, sprawled on the floor, curled up on a chair, out in the garden or park but all that time, you were busy creating your own pictures in your head. ‘You ‘saw’ the pirates coming in to the attack, you ‘saw’ the princess dancing in a dress of your imagining, you felt their fear, their happiness, – in essence, you were there.

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Now it’s all done for you, for the child. They aren’t getting a chance to exercise their own imaginations, to make their own pictures. That skill has been taken from them and it’s missing from their lives. Their imaginations are being driven by what others have decided to produce, to draw, to animate.

My book is a way of developing the child’s own imagination. Each story has space where they can draw what they ‘see’ in their mind’s eye. So the pictures are uniquely theirs.

Many of the stories I wrote originally for the BBC children’s programmes on radio and are specially designed to be listened to and which have been updated and revised. As a bonus, these stories also encourage children’s listening skills, another area where today’s children are lacking, as all teachers and parents know only too well.

How to Use the Book

Read a story to the child or let them read it themselves if they are of an age to be a confident reader. Let them get to know the story by reading it several times. Talk about what happens in the story, what are the funny bits, which bits they liked best, which bits would make a good picture. But whatever you do, make sure it’s fun!

Then let them have free rein as to what they want to draw. They don’t have to stick to the picture frames for their drawings; they can draw in the margins or the top or the bottom. It’s their book, let the pictures be what they want. Over time, they may add bits or draw further pictures in the blank pages at the back or wherever they fancy. They’ll end up with a book that is uniquely theirs.

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(c) Maisie Craig

Killer Heels and Lunch to Die For

killer heels & lunch to die for 090617Is it off-putting listening to two lady crime writers read about a gruesome murder in Glasgow and digging up skeletal remains in Orkney while in the middle of a delicious lunch? Surprisingly no. In fact I immediately bought the books in question and had not a pang of indigestion either.

Alex Gray and Lin Anderson were the crime writers and they kept an audience of ladies who lunch (and one gentleman) enthralled over their starters and main course. It was an interesting experience but a great idea; have a starter, then listen to an entertaining speaker followed by the main course and another equally fascinating speaker.

Alex Grey read from her latest DS Lorimer book, Still Dark. Lorimer is traumatised by aalex gray scene he witnesses one Hogmanay and struggles to return to duty in order to solve his latest case. Glasgow is again the setting for this intriguing addition to the Scottish crime genre.

Lin Anderson‘s main character is forensic scientist Dr Rhona Mcleod, who travels to Orkney in Lin’s latest book, None But the Dead, to investigate the uncovering of human remains on the island of Sanday. As I’d visited Orkney recently I wanted immediately to read it and experience again in my mind those fierce winds which are a constant feature of Orkney life and which can make a forensic investigation more of a battle against the elements.Lin Anderson

But Lin and Alex have another claim to fame as well as being prolific and rightly celebrated writers of crime fiction; they were the founders, six years ago, of Bloody Scotland, a crime fest of magnificent proportions, celebrating the genre at its best. It is held in the historic town of Stirling and begins with a Gala Opening in the Great Hall of Stirling Castle, where many of Scotland’s kings and queens resided.bloody scotland

Over dessert and coffee, the audience could digest (along with the lunch) all the funny stories and information Alex and Lin had delighted us with in their talks. Their research skills are impeccable, both having studied for a Diploma in Forensic Science to enhance their knowledge of crime scene investigations. Both had been teachers at one point in their lives (Lin on Orkney) but had given up their careers to forge new ones as crime writers.

Killer Heels and Lunch to Die For was organised to raise funds for Hansel Village, a community for people with support needs. They are looking to expand their work with young adults and this lunch would go some way to achieving their aim.

lin and alex

Lin Anderson on the left and Alex Grey on the right.

Kirsty from Waterstones was in attendance to sell Alex and Lin’s books afterwards and she did a brisk trade. A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon in aid of a good cause.

A Movable Feast of Writing

The session may have ended for the year for Ayr Writers’ Club but not for the writers. The long summer months stretch ahead with no weekly meetings to inspire, encourage and administer metaphorical kicks up the rear end to us – we need the sustained support of fellow writers to keep us going right to The End of whatever it is we’re writing.

To help us through the dry desert months of summer – another metaphor as Scottish summers are anything but dry deserts – we started the Summer Readarounds when we would meet every fortnight at a willing member’s home. Members would bring copies of their WIP (work in progress) to read aloud and be commented on by the others. Multiple copies are useful as a bit of proof-reading can be done at the same time!  To make it easy for someone to host a get-together, we stipulated that only tea, coffee and biscuits were required, to avoid someone feeling they had to embark upon a version of the Great British Bake-off, and that each member there would pay £2 to club funds.

The meetings have been going very successfully for several years now and there’s never a shortage of members willing to host or wishing to attend. We try to keep the numbers down to around a dozen and this allows everyone a chance to read and have their work critiqued. And also means that there are chairs for everyone!

There has been a recent, very welcome addition in the shape of cake, courtesy of Chris who is determined to undermine everyone’s diet plans. Still, it’s good for the brain they say.

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image – freepick.com

The first of this summer’s Readaround meetings was last week and we had a marvellous selection of writing from members; flash fiction with twist endings, a short story that we recommended be even shorter, (and which the writer has already edited. Kudos Carolyn!)  a novel being turned into a screenplay, part of a memoir which is a prequel to an already published book, a thriller, an article on a suitcase filled with old books from the writer’s childhood (already destined for publication in the local newspaper), a poem and an ongoing saga of self-publishing.

Yes, that last one was me! And yes, hopefully it won’t be long now before I can announce the publication of A Drop of Rainbow Magic, stories and poems (with a difference) for children. Blatant advertising again.Rainbow 2 copy

It’s so useful receiving feedback from other writers on your work as they spot things that you don’t see – typos, repetition, characters doing or saying the opposite from what they said or did previously, sudden changes of location or viewpoint, authorial intervention (guilty!) and what words in a title should or shouldn’t have capital letters. Still working on that one, Gill.

Volunteering at the Boswell Book Festival

The Boswell Book Festival, held at Dumfries House in Ayrshire, is the only festival of biography and memoir in the world and I’ve been to it many times and enjoyed every visit, but being a volunteer exposed me to all sorts of different experiences from what I expected.screenshot

I met loads of lovely people, even a blast from the past as a former colleague put it when she approached me, stroked an 8ft Burmese python called Richard, was the first customer in the new Hayloft cafe and stood beside Nigel Havers as he waited to go on stage on the opening night.

I took tickets at the venue doors, directed guests along the necessary one-way system as Dumfries House wasn’t designed for masses of people trooping along its corridors, and sold tickets for the children’s festival. It was such a delight to see so many kids keen to listen to their favourite authors and buy their books. There were plenty of events to keep them occupied too.

pythonKirsty’s Kritturs had brought along a variety of intriguing creatures that had the children slightly cautious at first but then enthusiastically holding giant cockroaches, patting the Egyptian Uromastyx (or lizard to you and me) and peering in at the tarantula and the scorpion. And of course, stroking Richard the python. He was soft and quite cold so wasn’t really enjoying what passes for early summer here.

The speakers were, as usual, excellent. We were able to attend the events we were working at so I heard Alan Johnson MP deliver his usual insightful, funny and totally self-deprecating interview about his life, from a child in a London slum to being Home Secretary in Gordon Brown’s government.

Richard Ingrams, formerly of Private Eye and now of the Oldie discussed with New Zealander Paul Tankard, the role of James Boswell in journalism and the state of it today with fake news and loss of freedom of speech.alan johnson

And Robert Crawford spoke most interestingly of the poet TS Eliot and his biography of his early life. There were many other speakers that I didn’t manage to see (there are over 60 events crammed into a weekend) but whose books I will probably buy.

Nigel Havers and a play on the life of Joan Eardley the painter, bookended the festival and both were fascinating in different ways and provided a satisfying beginning and end to the 2017 festival.

Would I do it again? For sure! It was quite hard work at times but so well organised that we did manage to have breaks in between events. It is quite a logistical nightmare to ensure that everything runs smoothly, that speakers are ferried to and from airports and train stations, that the audience gets to the right venue (there are six different ones) and that the speakers’ books are on sale.  Kudos to the Waterstone’s staff who rose to the occasion! And of course the organisers themselves, who are, like us, volunteers and do it for the love of it.

Roll on next year!

Awards Night at Ayr Writers’ Club

On a beautiful warm May evening, not too uncommon here at this time of year, Ayr Writers’ Club members met for a meal, friendly chat and the presentation of Awards to those who had been successful in the ten competitions run by the club throughout the year.Winners 2017 It’s quite a hectic schedule producing work for them all, as well as for the Scottish Association of Writers competitions and any others that catch our collective eye. And of course, there’s all the work we do for publication in its variety of genres.

I only managed to enter three club competitions this year but was awarded a third in the humorous article (Naked Lobsters and Corrugated Bottoms) and first in the book review. My review was of Les Wood’s hilarious crime novel, Dark Side of the Moon, les woodabout a bunch of inept Glasgow gangsters trying to steal a large and valuable diamond. You can read the review here.

But I was surprised and delighted to be awarded the Dorrith Sim Published Writer of the Year (you can read about Dorrith in my previous blog). Dorrith was one of the first people I met when I joined the club and she was a tremendous help and inspiration as I learned the craft of writing. Winners 2017 AB 02

My publications for the year have included several nostalgia articles on growing up in Scotland, a short story in a woman’s magazine, several brief historical dramas for the Ayr Renaissance project and of course, my collection of short stories, Take a Leaf Out of My Book. Never miss an opportunity to self-publicise!

And so on to our summer break – but we can’t stand the long months till September until the club reopens, so we meet fortnightly in members’ homes for read-around sessions of our WIPs, works in progress. This usually entails an interesting tour of Ayrshire as our members come from all parts of what used to be one large county but is now three smaller ones.

So here’s to a productive summer!

Lest We Forget

Last week I was at the book launch of my friend Gail McPartland’s first novel, Code 998. Set in Nazi Germany, it tells the story of a young, gay doctor whose Nazi fiance sends her for rehabilitation to cure her of her homosexuality. It is not an easy read, in fact the crime writer Douglas Skelton has described it as ‘moving but terrifying stuff.’gail

Although Jewish persecution by the Nazis has been given much deserved attention, what happened to gays, Romas and political prisoners also demands recognition for the suffering they went through at the hands of Hitler’s regime.

Gail spent much time researching her topic and spoke to many survivors of the Holocaust. Howard Singerman, of the Gathering the Voices project, spoke of his family’s experiences and read a poem he’d written for his mother. Libby, the daughter of another dear friend, the late Dorrith Sim, was also there and has done much to carry on her mother’s work in telling her story to those unaware of the atrocities carried out at that time.

Dorrith was only seven years old when her mother put her on a train out of Germany, the Kindertransport, to carry her to safety in Scotland. She never saw her parents again. They perished in a concentration camp.

dorrithDorrith’s book, In my Pocket, is a picture book for children telling her story in terms that young children can understand and appreciate. During her lifetime Dorrith visited many schools to tell her story to the pupils.

Nowadays, many younger people are quite unaware of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis and those who have first hand experience of it all are concerned that, as they grow older, there are fewer and fewer survivors to tell their stories. Gathering the Voices, along with these books, are sources to ensure that it is never forgotten.

Lest we forget.

Taxing Reading

It’s that time of year when I have to dig out my bulging file of receipts, invoices and payments for the last 12 months and start getting them into some sort of order prior to filling in my tax return online.

One of my biggest expenses is that for newspapers, magazines and books. We read a lot. A huge lot. So much so, it is not considered a luxury but a necessity. Books, magazines and newspapers are an essential like bread, potatoes and Green and Black’s chocolate (preferably dark). Where would we be if we didn’t have something to read? bookcase

We get the Herald delivered every morning so that I can read it over breakfast. I must have something to read while eating my muesli. The tablet is no use as it ends up all sticky and doesn’t absorb the drips and if it does, it’s in trouble. No, it’s got to be the newspaper. I read it through, timing it so that I reach the last page just as I scrape the final grains from my plate. At elevenses, I turn to the puzzle page and try a variety including the sudoku (hard) and the kakuro. I don’t often solve them but that’s not the point. It’s the doing that counts!

Mondays are different. They’re Wee Stinker days. A fiendish crossword on the back page devised by Myops which requires all hands to the tablet and sites like one look.com for filling in the blanks, Andy’s anagram page for the anagrams, and as a last resort when I’m absolutely stuck, Crossword Help forum‘s Wee Stinker page. Sometimes I manage to finish it but again that’s not the point. It’s my brain gym for the day.

On Saturdays, we buy two (yes two) bulky newspapers which keep us going for the rest of the week. A quick read through at the weekend and then the rest of the week for in-depth reading.

At least we can recycle old newspapers but it’s the books which are breeding fast in the house. As I said, they’re a necessity and like all readers find, it’s very hard to get rid of them. We did try kindles and we still use them for holiday reading. Much easier than trying to pack enough books for the whole time – we are quick readers – but just not the same. I don’t seem to remember having read a book when it’s on a kindle and have found that I’ve gone and bought a paperback copy of one that I already have read. Still, it has meant that there are less books to find storage for as one wardrobe is filling up fast!

And Michael J. Malone, your book’s in the wardrobe as it’s just been read! It will be promoted to a bookshelf once a space becomes available. The NHS may have bed-blocking, we have book-blocking.wardrobe

I don’t understand people who don’t read. Look at what they’re missing! And what do they do with all that spare time?

No, books, magazines and newspapers are a necessity. And a tax allowable expense, fortunately.