Why support International Literacy Day?

Tuesday 8th September is International Literacy Day 2015 and I’m going to spend it thinking about how much I love books.

I’ve pretty much loved reading since the age of 6 when I first made it the whole way through a reading book.  It wasn’t a hard book and it had lots of pictures, but I still remember the sense of achievement I felt in not having given up.

I was lucky.  As the child of literate parents, I grew up in a house full of books and with someone to support me with my reading.  I was also lucky to have been born in a country which provides free education for its children.

According to the World Literacy Foundation’s 2015 report on the economic and social cost of illiteracy –

  • around 67 million primary-aged children and 72 million adolescents in the world have no access to education, and
  • more than 796 million people globally can’t read and write.

Illiteracy is linked to higher rates of unemployment, crime, poor health and poverty.  The ability to read and write is life-changing, yet too many young people never get the chance to learn.

We’re very lucky in the UK.  Education is a basic right here and we don’t often think about what it’s like to live without it – unless we happen to see otherwise for ourselves.

DSCN8604Visiting schools in Bangladesh and seeing the pride young learners took in their education was one of the best experiences of my life.  Seeing the crowds of children hanging around outside the schools and unable to pay to go in was one of the worst.

That’s why I’m chuffed that my writing for children course supports the cause of global literacy.  For every course sold, a donation is made to the World Literacy Foundation.

DSCN8525Why not find out about the World Literacy Foundation and how you can help them help the world receive a quality education?

Read about International Literacy Day and activities you can do to celebrate it.

Have a wonderful International Literacy Day celebrating the marvellousness of the written word.


The Story Stones of Holy Island

Yesterday we had a lovely Bank Holiday Sunday walk on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.


This, despite me worrying that we’d not allowed ourselves enough time and would be caught in the tide as we left.  The fires of anxiety were stoked by a story the guys told of a friend of a friend who’d ignored the ‘do not proceed when water reaches causeway’ signs and had to be rescued by the coastguard, ruining a new, very expensive car in the process.  I needn’t have worried – we’d left enough time to eat delicious ice cream and buy some excellent locally-produced honey before joining the convoy of cars heading for the mainland.

We last visited Holy Island some seven or eight years ago when our children were still children, and we shared memories of that visit as we walked with our friends.  We talked of the history we knew of the place, too, and of other people we know who’ve been there.  Lindisfarne, it seemed to me, is awash with stories.

IMG_0401I was intrigued by some odd looking structures on the edge of the beach beyond the castle.  These turned out to be towers of stones, placed there, it seems, by visitors.  I’ve no idea what the structures are meant to mean, but I decided to add a stone or five to one of them. One of those stones looked remarkably like a cheerful face and I considered, momentarily, taking it home.  It was heavy and impractical to carry, though, so I put it on the tower.

The smiling stoneThen I selected a small, beautifully smooth red stone instead.  I’ve decided that it’s a ‘story stone’, as it holds the story of the world up to the moment I found it.

And for as long as it’s mine, it’ll also hold the story of the day we ambled in the Bank Holiday sunshine on Holy Island.

Click here for a Story Stones Writing Activity.

Life through writing – writing through life

Graduation - with an MA in Creative WritingBasically, I really, really love writing.  I used to write for fun all the time as a child (my first full-length work – ‘Adventures of the Dolls’ House’ – handwritten in an exercise book at the age of ten and complete with illustrations, back-cover blurb and reviews from friends – is currently on tour in my attic).

Sadly, the possibility of a working as a writer was never mentioned at school and over the years, this thing I thought of as a hobby was squeezed out by the need to earn a living, run a home and raise a family.

Thankfully, word-crafting and storytelling clung stubbornly on, leaking into letters to friends and family as well as resources I made for my teaching job.

Eventually I realised I couldn’t ignore the stories knocking for attention on the inside of my skull. They’re part of who I am, of what makes me me, and the need to share them and have them validated by others became unbearable.  Luckily, at around this time I found a good, part-time creative writing course and it changed my life.

I’ve felt happier and more complete since I began writing regularly again.  And when I’ve worked on something and shaped it into a piece people connect with and respond to, there really isn’t a feeling like it.  Life makes so much more sense when I can put my experiences into words, and learning the skills needed to do that effectively has given me a new career as a writer.

I’m a very lucky woman indeed.


Wordsmith Ancestors

Words are an integral part of my family history.

I’ve known this for some time in respect of the maternal side of my tree, what with my mother and the few relations of hers I’ve known having been such gifted storytellers, for one thing.  Then there was the discovery of her ancestor – John Courtney – being a comedic playwright and contemporary of Charles Dickens.  Of course, I thought, that’s where it must come from!

What I’ve never given much thought to, though, is where my father’s family fit into all this.  After all, Dad’s a lovely man, but his storytelling skills leave something to be desired.  He certainly likes to recount stories, largely from his childhood and youth.  But he doesn’t have the gift of crafting a story the way that my mother had, of creating an arc, building tension and dropping nuggets of information in just when needed to keep the listener enthralled.

Instead, Dad takes the blunderbuss approach, bombarding you with every fact and occurrence until his head is clear and you feel like you’ve lost the will to live. We still listen intently, but largely to jump in on a pause for breath with a ‘yes, you’ve already told me.’  Not that that generally makes any difference; he’ll continue with the story anyway, bless him.

So, I often forget about his father – my grandfather’s – contribution to our literary skill-bank.  But contribute he did, because Granddad Edgar was a typesetter for a newspaper, and the skill that he gave us was a love of the printed word and a huge collection of books with which to satisfy it.

Edgar Horne

My grandfather Edgar, setting type by hand.


Charnwood Youth Conference


The aim of the Superhero writing workshops at the Charnwood Youth Conference was to get young writers to reveal the secret sides of themselves, whether they were a Nerd Herd member, Viking Warrior, Secret Skateboarder or Faithful Friend.

Around twenty young people from schools across the region took part in the workshops and all said they enjoyed the experience – even the ones who usually hate writing!


National Poetry Day

poetry day

Loughborough Library’s Informals writing group shared their favourite poems and used them as inspiration for new creative pieces.

The Informals meets in the Library every Thursday afternoon  between 1 pm and 3 pm.  Anyone is welcome to come along.


‘Be a History Detective’ workshops

KnightonThe workshops I ran for South Knighton Heritage Group were to engage local children with the history of the community they live in.

The ‘young detectives’ came along to the beautifully restored Holbrooke Memorial Hall on four afternoons across May and June.  They investigated maps, photographs, historical texts and census material to find out about the houses they live in, the streets they walk along daily and – in the case of one young lady – the schools they attend.

It’s fair to say we all learned something from the sessions – not least just how much history an inquiring mind can unpick from a single document and how much of the past is to be found right under our noses if only we take the time to look!

“Thank you very much for all your work on the project.  The children really enjoyed it – and the adults as well!” – Judith