Travelling, Uncategorized


Recycling a story is not unusual, it can be very satisfying revisiting a story written years ago, picking it apart, revamping it, even polishing it up to submit for a current writing competition. You might marvel as you go through your files and acknowledge how much you’ve actually written over the years. You might see how your writing has developed or changed with time.

One story I keep returning to was inspired by a journey I took in 2011 with three good friends. the four of us had recently retired from demanding jobs and decided to team up for an adventure. Leaving our partners at home, we flew to Los Angeles, hired an SUV and drove up the West Coast of California, exploring as we went. We called the first part four trip ‘On The Road’ and on reaching San Francisco we visited the fabulous Beat Museum to learn more about Jack Kerouac and his friends.

From San Francisco we took an Amtrak train across America to Chicago, before moving on to meet a friend in New York. We were due to take the California Zephyr but as I recall, it was rerouted due to floods and we ended up on the Southwest Chief to Chicago. We called this part of our adventure ‘Girl Guides on a Train’, as it felt like camping. On the Chicago to New York train we found ourselves travelling alongside survivors and relatives affected by the awful Twin Towers attack of September 2001. They were on their way to memorial events, marking the 10 year anniversary in New York, and we stayed up all night listening to their harrowing tales.

The ‘On the Road’ section of our adventure has however been at the heart of various pieces of writing ever since. The journey crops up in my novel ‘How They Met Themselves’ when two young men travel to California after graduation. They take the Pacific Coast Highway and meet some extraordinary young women along the way. Both men later make an appearance in ‘Lawn House Blues’ and one of them even plays a small part in ‘To Be Frank’. I obviously became so fond of my characters, I couldn’t leave them behind.

I couldn’t let go on my California journey either, so as well as writing a travel journal for myself, I wrote a short story for one of my writing groups. It’s been adapted and edited a number of times since, and submitted to various writing competitions. In its fourth submission, the story, by then called ‘Crossings’ was finally accepted for Robert Fear’s 2023 Anthology ’15 Fascinating Fictional Tales’, which is now available for purchase from Amazon . Perseverance paid off in the end.

I suspect my memories of travelling through America have had their day now and it’s time I pulled another old story apart, or maybe take some new journeys.


Seasons greetings

This time last year To Be Frank secured a publishing contract with Blossom Spring Publishing and since then it’s been quite a year. The book was launched in April 2022 at a wonderful event supported by Wivenhoe Bookshop and since then Frank’s story has been enjoyed by many. I hope even more readers will appreciate it in 2023. Meanwhile I send Christmas greetings to all involved, readers, family and friends, in the hope the world can start to rediscover some balance and peace for the future.

books, Uncategorized

How Do You Read?

My novel To Be Frank, is going through the editing process with my publisher’s team; essential to releasing a book. I love writing and enjoy the editing of content and organisation, but I do find the detailed grammar and presentation aspects challenging. Having no qualifications in English Language or Literature, since O levels in 1970, it’s easy to feel inadequate. My medical degrees, scientific background and years of writing healthcare notes don’t seem to help.           

 I’ve always read a lot but am a relatively slow reader, over-using the technique of sub-vocalisation I suspect, which commonly achieves about 250 words per minute. Visual reading, at approximately 700 words per minute, is at the other extreme. Apparently, proficient readers are able to read at 280-350 words per minute without compromising comprehension. When editing one surely has to slow read and going through an 88,000 manuscript takes time.             

During my research into ways of reading, I went off piste and, leaving the editing process behind, I discovered so many styles of reading I’d never thought about in specific terms. Here are just a few snippets:             

The concept of ‘speed reading’ began in the late 1950s and can involve skimming and searching sentences for clues, or scanning where one looks for information in a sentence with the use of a mind map to organise it in a visually hierarchical manner. Meta-guiding is another technique, involving the visual guiding of the eye using a finger or a pointer.           

 The other end of the spectrum is ‘slow reading’, which is the intentional reduction in the speed of reading to increase comprehension and pleasure. It originated in the study of philosophy and literature and there’s been an increase in interest in slow reading as a result of the ‘slow movement’ and its focus on a deceleration of the pace of modern life. (Close reading or deep reading is the use of slow reading in literary criticism). Sven Birkerts, an American essayist and literary critic, says in The Gutenberg Elegies (1994) that “Reading, because we control it, is adaptable to our needs and rhythms”.            

Typoglycemia, incidentally, is the ability to read jumbled words. It is thought that to see the first and last letters of a word, in the right place, is all that matters and that’s why we can so often solve the puzzles posted on social media, for example ‘I bte yuo cn rd ths sntnc’ or ‘do oyu fnid this smilpe to raed?’ Maybe that’s also why we can’t always see our own mistakes?            

So, I’m voting for slow reading when I next read a novel, with a bit of skimming and a dose of typoglycemia, and meanwhile I give thanks to my editors for helping with the hard grind and time consuming work of copy-editing and proofreading.