Adding a little bit of happiness

This is Mick. He runs a South London charity called the Furzedown Project. Its mission is to prevent loneliness among the elderly. Mick organises activities like singing groups, knitting circles and exercise classes. He’s 56 and has been at Furzedown for the last seven years. “It’s a nice place to work,” he says. “I come […]

When Bob gets up to sing

They were singing Christmas Carols down at the old folks’ drop-in centre in Tooting on Wednesday afternoon. Quality variable. Then Bob, 81, who’d just been mumbling along until that point, steps up and offers to sing a solo. Oh, gawd. This will be awkward. But he opens his mouth and out comes a beautiful music hall ballad, […]

How a simple ‘what if?’ question is helping Hackney kids do better in school

[A story I wrote for The London Community Foundation…] Lots of great ideas start with a simple “what if…?” question. For Catriona Maclay, the moment came when she was talking with friends over dinner. As a secondary school teacher in North London, she’d noticed how easily young people could fall behind in their studies. Catriona […]

Constraints liberate

Bit slow to share my news on this one, but I ran a workshop on writing with constraints as part of the Guildford Literary Festival this summer. All of the 20 tickets for the event sold, which was very pleasing. It was wonderful to see a room full of writers beavering away with their pens and notebooks, and […]

Talent + effort = success

  What kind of effort does it take to get a first collection of stories published? There’s no one better to ask right now than Dan Powell. I’ve been a fan of Dan’s writing for a long time and he’s done me the honour of beta reading some of my stories. So I was delighted when […]

How to find story ideas

Where do I get my short story ideas from? Mainly I just make them up. But once in a while I’ll find something like this, an item in my local newspaper. What makes this the germ of a good story? For me, it’s not the fact that this arch criminal was trying to escape the […]

The strange power of the pen

Every year, when I take a summer holiday, the first items to go into my suitcase are always the same. I pack my notebook, a spare notebook, my pens, spare ink, a few pencils – my writing tools and accoutrements. And that’s where they stay – in the suitcase. I always think that when I’m […]