A Winter Festival

I am not Cornish, but I’ve lived in Cornwall for 31 years, and I claim, perhaps foolishly, to be Cornish by adoption!

However… anyone with an interest in all things Cornish — history, the arts, music, geography, etc — can belong to their local Old Cornwall Society. Our group enjoys talks, visits, spring lunches and Christmas parties. On Saturday 23rd November, the Torpoint Old Cornwall Society hosted the annual Winter Festival, when members of Old Cornwall Societies all over Cornwall and beyond (there are Old Cornwall societies in London and Bournemouth, to name a couple) travelled to this small town next to the River Tamar, for a day to remember.


Cornish speaker Leadville with his partner Jacki (right), and their hard-working committee had spent the past year planning the event.The location of the 2019 Winter Festival was the local community college.

So… what was it like?

The morning was informal. People gathered over coffee to meet old friends, to make new ones, and to wander around the school’s large gymnasium, where stalls and exhibitions about all things Cornish were set up. There were book stalls, opportunities to learn about the Cornish language, displays from several Old Corwall Societies, and of course there was history a-plenty. Torpoint sits on the estuary of the River Tamar, opposite Plymouth, and there has been a ferry connection for vehicles since 1834. The Torpoint Archives had a hand-built model of one of the first vehicle ferries on display, as well as historical pictures and information about the town.

In the afternoon, nearly 200 people gathered in the school hall, where the town crier introduced the colourful opening ceremony, with standards from twenty seven Old Cornwall Societies paraded and then displayed. A lively and varied entertainment followed.

The day included, naturally, a pasty lunch and a saffron bun with afternoon tea.

A very happy and worthwhile day, not just for the Cornish bit of me (by adoption!), but also for the writer bit.

Here’s why…

Digging into the past can lead to a wealth of ideas for stories.

You could start with the discovery of an unsung hero, someone who struggled with a problem and overcame difficulties,

or perhaps there’s a well-known person who lived in your town/ county/ area whose story would make interesting reading.

Or maybe you get chatting to someone eccentric who is searching for an old postcard,

or you see someone who seems out of place, who sparks an idea for a story.


One way to embark on a story is to

Create a character with a flaw

Give him/her a problem

Put an obstruction in his/her way

Work with your character to solve the problem, at the same time aiming for a satisfying, believable end.


FROG: (Pensively):

They put choughs on their banners, Barker, but not frogs or dogs. Bit sad isn’t it?




Tony Ingleby is a member of the Plymouth Christian Writers Group, and often keeps us entertained at meetings with his lively and poignant stories and memoire. This month I am pleased to welcome him to my blog to talk about his new book

Notes for Psalms and Psalms for Notes

Volume 1

Psalms 1 — 50

Short informative notes on each of the psalms with the author’s own paraphrased version created as poetic hymns with suggested tunes.

Please tell us how you came to write your book.

When I was an Honorary Canon of Truro Cathedral, I was required to read six Psalms (73 – 78 daily. After a while I produced my own paraphrases of them to sing each day.

A little later on, I wrote down my Reflections on each of those Psalms with which I had become so familiar. These notes were not a commentary. I leave that to more learned folk than me.

When I retired I decided to do the same with other Psalms. I turned the first 24 into booklets each containing six Psalm paraphrases and six sets of notes.

By this time I realised I could possibly do the same thing for all 150 Psalms reflections on each of those psalms. This book is one third of the way through that target.

Tell us a bit more about the paraphrases of the Psalms. They’re poems, aren’t they?

Yes. I’ve written them in the form of hymns, each one different. I’ve included notes on which tune to use. For example, for Psalm 1, I’ve written The man who walks in innocence to the tune of It came upon a midnight clear.

Some of the Psalms are pretty bloodthirsty, aren’t they? Did you find it difficult to deal with this aspect of them?

Jesus taught that the whole law could be summed up in just two injunctions: ‘Love God with everything’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. Some of the Psalms fall very far short of ‘love-thy-neighbour’.

When Jesus explained in the story of the Good Samaritan that your neighbour could be your most hated enemy.

The Psalmist did not have the benefit of this insight. Enemies were for slaying and defeating. Definitely not for loving.

Therefore my notes are occasionally critical of the narrow, vengeful and bloodthirsty tone which makes Christians cringe. I have not expected the Psalmist to display the influence of the New Testament and the Holy Spirit, but neither have I wallowed in the bloody and vengeful bits in my hymnic paraphrases.

Thank you for joining us this month, Tony. I am enjoying Notes for Psalms and Psalms for Notes and feel it is a book that will appeal to everyone interested in learning more about the light and dark of life.

Available on Amazon. Click here for the link.


Creative non-fiction

Creative non-fiction. Almost an oxymoron, isn’t it. Let’s take a closer look.

Nonfiction – that’s written information about real people and real places, isn’t it? Real anything in fact. The life cycle of a crested newt, for example, the Battle of Waterloo, or unmissable Cornish inns.

Creative is a word that suggests using the imagination in some way. I think it involves visualising the finished result, whether it’s a painting, a garden, a symphony or a poem, etcetera.

OK. A definition

Creative non-fiction brings together facts and information with beautiful or evocative language, without the essential truth factor of nonfiction disappearing in the process.

To me it sounds like a big challenge.  I shall turn to my old friend Wikipedia for back-up.

This is what I find.

‘For a text to be considered creative nonfiction, it must be factually accurate, and written with attention to literary style and technique.

“Ultimately, the primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to communicate information, just like a reporter, but to shape it in a way that reads like fiction.” 

Forms within this genre include biographyautobiographymemoirdiarytravel writingfood writingliterary journalismchroniclepersonal essays, and other hybridized essays.

According to Vivian Gornick, American critic, journalist, essayist, and memoirist, “A memoir is a tale taken from life—that is, from actual, not imagined, occurrences—related by a first-person narrator who is undeniably the writer. Beyond these bare requirements it has the same responsibility as the novel or the short story: to shape a piece of experience so that it moves from a tale of private interest to one with meaning for the disinterested reader.” ’

I still think it’s a big challenge, but what are challenges for but to stretch ourselves and learn from the experience?

I might have to give the following comp a go. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Observer/Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism

Write an 800-word revue of a recently released book, film, concert, exhibition, ballet, play, TV show or performance art piece.

Prizes: £3,000 and publication of prize essay in the Observer, 2 x £500

Entry fee £10

Closing date: 30th November



Froggie:(not very confidently) This tree must have grown when I wasn’t looking.

Just write

Talking with fellow-writers is good. It helps you appreciate that writing is hard work. It helps you realise that other people have an inner critic not too different from yours – a persistent little ratbag that tells you what you’re writing is substandard, your efforts are laughable, and you’re wasting your time.

Do it anyway. Just write.

Gazing into the fire, or staring out of the window… they’re both good. Maybe they give the brain time to come up with a sizzler of a word… or simply allow you a few minutes to watch the world go by. Creativity is a gift that can grow in such moments. Imagination is not a static thing. It develops and grows.

Staying positive is good. I sometimes wish I could do this living business all over again. I’d understand people so much better. I’d be kinder, to others and to myself. But it’s no good looking back, is it? You can’t change the past.

All you have is your future. So… writers…

Do it anyway. Just write.



Frog: (Nodding)         

I was perfectly happy until the imagination conjured a spectacularly large and hungry heron.

In the reader’s mind

In my last blog, I talked about using imagery, following the advice of Mary Cole in her book Writing Irresistible Kidlit. Mary suggests carefully ignoring clichés and searching for new ways of saying something.

Can we, as story-tellers and writers, create new ways of helping our readers to get totally involved in whichever scene we’re writing?


More advice came this week from Sophie Hannah, who is running a very interesting course called Dream Author. (Check it out at https://sophiehannah.com/the-dream-author-coaching-programme/ It starts officially in September, but there is a lot going on already.)

Sophie’s advice is all about making readers care, not by telling them exactly what’s going on, as for example in the following fictitious example.

A masked man appeared in the doorway of the bank and pointed a gun. Mrs Bone and little Georgie were terrified. As for Monica at the desk, she had never been so frightened in her life.

My reader’s not part of that scene, is he? He’s detached, and probably doesn’t care a farthing about any of them.

We want readers to feel something for themselves, and Sophie Hannah tells us that they will do this if we ‘allow them to encounter a situation/character in a piece of writing first-hand and have their own direct, emotional response to that person/situation.’

Let’s go back to Mrs Bone and Georgie. What did they do when the masked man rushed into the bank? Did Mrs Bone’s mouth go dry? Or drop open perhaps? Did she grab little Georgie and thrust the child behind her. Did Georgie gasp? Or scream? And what about Monica at the desk? How did her fear physically manifest itself in her face? Her body?

July was my personal Similes and Metaphors month. August is more ‘Come on in, Readers, and feel the heat/cold/rain/terror/etc.’.


Words into pictures

This month I’m working with a very helpful companion.

It’s a book called Writing Irresistible Kidlit and author Mary Cole covers everything you need to know about creating fiction for middle grade and young adult readers. Mary talks a lot about the power of imagery.

‘With every word,’ she writes, ‘you are painting an image inside your reader’s head.’

Her advice includes ignoring clichés and searching for new ways of saying something.

The ‘new ways’ bit sounds difficult to me. But not, I’m sure, impossible.

Adjectives can be useful, but does anyone else run into a dead end (whoops, cliché) when they try to think of the perfect description of a blue sky, for example. ‘Cornflower blue’ conjures up a perfect day, but the phrase has been used lots of times in some of the books and stories I’ve read.

A ‘delphinium sky’ is more original, but doesn’t seem to epitomise summer in the same way.  I have plenty of borage plants in the garden at the moment, with dainty blue flowers. I’m sure you’ll agree that a ‘borage sky’ sounds a tad peculiar. I’ll have to keep working on that one!

Mary Kole stresses that imagery can be particularly effective when we use similes and metaphors, especially if they are new and fresh.

Just to remind you – a simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two things. For example:

He has eyes like a hawk.

Her life was like a box of liquorish allsorts.

‘There was a quivering in the grass which seemed like the departure of souls.’ Victor Hugo

A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another for rhetorical effect. For example:

You are my sunshine.

Laughter is the music of the soul.

‘I tom-peeped across the hedges of years, into wan little windows.’ Vladimir Nabokov

I’m making July my personal Similes and Metaphors Month. I’ll be looking out for them in the novels and stories I read, and working on them as I give my book its first edit.

Note to self: Must carry notebook everywhere I go, in case a diamond of an idea pops into my head when least expected!



Rogues are welcome in this garden. You didn’t include me in that broomstick statement, did you?





Have you heard of the Enneagram?

Maybe you came to my course on the Enneagram at the Swanwick Writer’s Summer School last year, or you’re already familiar with it.

Welcome to a refresher taste.

Maybe you’ve never heard of the the Enneagram. In which case, welcome to all first time learners.

What is the Enneagram?

Rosemary Cowan of the London Enneagram Centre writes:

The Enneagram is a comprehensive guide to personality types, based on a number of ancient wisdom traditions. It’s a tool for understanding human nature. It shows us the unconscious motivations behind the ways we react, when we are secure, and when we are stressed. When we study the Enneagram, we can understand more about why people think, feel, and act the way they do.

The Enneagram can help a writer create realistic and believable characters.

At the same time, one of the outcomes of studying it is that we can get to know and understand ourselves better too.

Before we get going, please read the following:


  1. You were born with your personality type. You may change and grow in some ways, and be affected positively or adversely by circumstances, but your basic personality type will not change.
  2. Not everything in the notes about your personality type will apply to you.
  3. It is common to find something of yourself in all the personality types, but after a little or a lot of consideration, one of them should emerge as being closest to yourself. This is your basic personality type.
  4. If you are meeting the Enneagram for the first time, don’t be in a hurry to ‘label’ yourself. And I’m sorry, as much as you would like to be a particular number, you can’t pick and choose which group to be in!
  5. The numbers are arbitrary. It isn’t better to be a Four than a Six, or a Nine than an Eight. A One isn’t the crême de la crême, being the first number, neither is Nine, perched on top of the Enneagram diagram. All are of equal worth.


To begin our study, we’re going to have an overview of the nine distinct personality types, illustrated in the diagram. Each has many excellent qualities, as well as a few less desirable qualities. After all, we are human, made up of good and not-so-good. So, here we go:

1 PERFECTIONISTS believe they must be good and right to be worthy. They are dependable, principled, and conscientious, but they can also be resentful and critical, and they can judge themselves harshly.

2 HELPERS believe they must give fully and unceasingly in order to be loved. They are warm-hearted, considerate, and sensitive to the needs of others, but they can be prideful, demanding and intrusive.

3 ACHIEVERS believe they must accomplish much and be successful in order to be loved. They are industrious, self-confident, and goal-orientated, but they can be unmindful of feelings, image-driven and lacking in patience.

4 INDIVIDUALISTS believe they must obtain an ideal relationship or situation in order to be loved. They are sensitive, intuitive, and empathetic, but they can be moody or dramatic, and they sometimes become self-absorbed.

5 OBSERVERS believe they must protect themselves from an over-demanding world. They are perceptive, analytical, and knowledgeable, and they seek self-sufficiency. However, they can be overly-private and detached.

6 SUPPORTERS believe they must gain security and protection in a world they can’t entirely trust. They are responsible, trustworthy, and loyal, but they can also be fearful, doubtful and accusatory.

7 ADVENTURERS believe they must live to the full, all the time, in order to have a good life. They are energetic, optimistic, and fun-loving They seek pleasure and are always on the lookout for more possibilities. However, they can be perpetually avoiding pain, self-serving and afraid of commitment.

8 LEADERS believe they must be strong and powerful to be sure of protection and kudos in a tough world. They are energetic, self-reliant, and action-orientated, but they can also be excessive, overly impactful and sometimes impulsive.

9 MEDIATORS believe they must be agreeable and blend in, in order to be loved and valued. They are calm, reassuring, and accommodating, but in their search for harmony they avoid conflict, and they can be self-forgetting, and stubborn.

Interested in finding your own number?

Some people find at first reading that they have a little bit of every number in their personality, or they feel they might belong in more than one group.

That’s fine. Take your time.

There are a number of websites offering to help you find your personality type. I tried www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test 

and for me it came out as expected.

An easy to read and straightforward book is

The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People

by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele

Well known for their books on the subject are Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.

There’s my book, too, written to help writers develop their characters. Paperback (left) or Kindle version (right)










Come back next month for part two, and together we’ll learn to make our characters more interesting and more believable.


Frog: (Blinking) My personality changes with the weather.



This month two talented writers are celebrating their debut novels.

What she saw by Wendy Clarke is a psychological thriller. The by-line reads,

‘How far would you go to keep your daughter safe?’

Publication date: 1st May 2019



The by-line for Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior reads,

‘Sometimes it takes a chance encounter to discover what your life can be . . .’

Publication date: 2nd May 2019

It’s an incredibly exciting time for these two writers, but don’t for a minute think they’ve always had it easy.

They have both worked hard, very hard. They have had successes along the way, but they’ve had disappointments, too. One thing I know about both of them is that they never give up, and because of this they are an inspiration to people like me who want so much to be able to say, one day, here’s my debut novel.

I’m planning to read both these novels.

I’m also planning to keep on writing mine.

Congratulations Wendy and Hazel. Enjoy every moment of your special days.

Frog: (promising to work hard)

One day, oh yes, one day…

Harvest in April?

I belong to two writers’ groups, and today I’d like to tell you about one of them.

The Plymouth Christian Writers has a dozen members, and we meet once a month in the Methodist Central Hall, in Plymouth’s city centre.


Writing can be a lonely business, and it’s good to meet people who not only love writing, they love talking about writing, too. The Plymouth Christian Writers share a faith, too, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with each other’s points of view. At its heart, the Christian faith is inclusive and tolerant, and I love it that these people are supportive of each other even though they know certain viewpoints would have meant the ducking stool in years gone by.

What do we do?

The group suggests topics for writing in advance. There’s no law that says a) You must write about this or else…, and b) You will be excommunicated if you don’t bring anything to read out. Sometimes it’s useful to be given a topic to write about, and certainly working towards the deadline of the next meeting is helpful to those of us whose minds have a tendency to wander, whether it be to the next meal, the lawn they ought to be cutting, or the next chapter of the book they’re not quite ready to write.

For March we’d decided upon ‘Customs’. I am always amazed at the number of different approaches that can be taken to each subject, and this was no exception. There is often humour with underlying  compassion from one member, and a new approach to a character from the Bible from another. Among us we have poets, playwrights, a travel writer,  short story creators, writers for children, a novelist, and non-fiction writers. Some of us balance several writers’ hats!


After each reading, there is the opportunity for feedback. Of course, a good writers’ group strives to encourage its members, and the members of the Plymouth Christian Writers group are good at constructive criticism. For example, praise is given where due, and then, if there are words or phrases that need attention, they are addressed in a positive way.

As the leader of this group I have taken to heart the following advice from William Ryan, historical and crime novelist, in a feature he wrote for the Writers & Artists website.

‘Perhaps most importantly, each member of the writing group should take the other members’ writing as it is, and try to encourage the other members to achieve their vision of what they’d like their writing to be, rather than impose their own style on someone else.’

If you’d like to read the whole article, go to


We have occasional visiting speakers and workshops…

… including an open poetry workshop led by Plymouth poet laureate, Mike Sullivan,







and several workshops  with prolific novelist Veronica Heley


What else do we do?

Over the years we have produced booklets to mark varying times in the year—Christmas, Easter, and Summer  are past topics, and last year we wrote for ‘Passiontide 2018’, with contributions from ten members.

Our latest venture is ‘Harvest’ and this month we’re working on pieces for our proposed new booklet, hopefully ‘done and dusted’ (excuse cliché) by September.


When everyone has read out their work, we may have time to spare for a writing game or exercise. In February we had five minutes to write about gnomes. Brains whirred and silence fell. At the end of the time slot we read out what we’d written, and I would be surprised if the people in the Discovery Café didn’t hear us laughing.


I love gnomes, so can’t resist sharing what I wrote:

The Garden Gnome

Jack’s house was by the school bus stop, so he was never surprised when one or more of the youngsters slipped into his garden and moved his gnome. It disappeared once, and he felt sure he saw it looking down from the top of the number seven . It appeared to be eating a Mars bar. Jack thought about getting a new gnome—it had been chipped over the years after all. Three days later he saw someone creeping into his garden. Tough luck, it’s gone, he thought. He made his way to the front door. He looked out, and there he was, Freddy, with a new coat of paint and a Mars bar wrapper in his hand.

So, that’s the Plymouth Christian Writers.

If anyone in or near Plymouth would like to join us, please leave me a comment and I’ll get in touch.

Frog: (Uncertainly) Bit suspicious of gnomes, me.


5 tips for flash fiction

1 Write about something that matters to you.

In other words, make the reader care.

If you have a passion for travel, set your story somewhere you’ve visited, or somewhere on your bucket list.

If you are a stickler for the truth, how do you feel about people who get away with telling lies?

Do you worry about your children’s safety?

Are you afraid of growing old?

Make a list of things that matter to you. It will be useful now and in the future.

2 Spend time creating your title

It can add to your story or help invite a reader in.

3 Start as far into the story as possible

In other words, grab the reader’s interest straight away.

Study examples of flash and see how little the reader needs to know. If the story’s good, he won’t mind working to fill in some of the details himself.

4 Things to avoid:

Too many adjectives and adverbs


A weak ending



5 Whatever problem or question is set up at the beginning of your flash, be sure to solve or answer it at the end.

National Flash Fiction Day. Saturday 15th June.

Details online at https://www.writers-online.co.uk/news/creative-writing-submissions-national-flash-fiction-day-2019