In the name of humanity

I have been captivated by an urgent appeal that I’d like to share with you in the hope of gathering support in the form of letter-writing on behalf of a 14 year old boy.

I spent a couple of hours at the monthly meeting of the Scarborough branch of Amnesty International yesterday writing letters in the name of humanity and justice for people whose human rights are being abused. In particular I was extremely moved by an urgent appeal to call on the authorities in Egypt for the release of Aser Mohamed, a 14 year old boy taken from his home in January for questioning with no search warrant or arrest warrant in place. His parents were told he would be returned within 2 hours. He was not. He was unlawfully detained for 34 days and subjected to horrific torture by electric shocks to his body and suspension from his limbs – as a result of which he suffered displacement of his shoulders. All this in order to obtain a confession of guilt for crimes he did not commit. He was not permitted medical treatment nor allowed to see a lawyer or his parents during this time.

It is beyond tragic that this innocent boy could be facing 15 years imprisonment if convicted of these crimes he did not commit.

Several details of this atrocious case can be found via this link where you too can take action if you feel moved to do so.

I wrote the following handwritten letter to the authorities at the addresses given and also copied it into the social media addresses.  I have to tell you that it did stick in my throat having to use the given salutation of ‘Your Excellency‘ for the Interior Minister.

(my address)


Dear (as appropriate)

I appeal to you from my heart to release Aser Mohamed immediately. He was taken illegally for questioning from his home on 12 January with no search warrant or arrest warrant in force. I can only imagine the pain and agony he has endured in the process of torture regimes in order to obtain his false confession.

We at Amnesty International are aware of the unfair and unlawful detention of Aser, the electric shocks torture and the suspension from his limbs for long hours – resulting in displacement of his shoulders. We are also aware and horrified by the fact that he was refused any medical care – nor was he permitted to see his family.

I can’t help but wonder how your own family would suffer if you were ever in this position yourself and I beg you to look into your heart for any shreds of humanity that permit the release of Aser as soon as possible… meanwhile allowing him access to a lawyer, medical assistance and family visits.

Please end the ill-treatment of Aser and bring those responsible to justice.

Yours sincerely,

(my name)

Please check out the link and send letters of your own by the given deadline of 11th October.


Boiled Eggs and Burnt Liver

I love to fictionalise life memories as part of my creative writing process because there are so many riches stored in our mind from our everyday ordinary life experiences that it’s practically impossible to run out of ideas for writing. Taking a trip down memory lane always surprises me by unearthing unexpected treasures.

Of course, we all know that it is through our senses that we discover these gifts that memory offers up to us and often wander back through time without even trying. Just the waft of freshly baked bread as it fills our nostrils when we pass a baker’s shop can conjure up wonders from our past; caressing material before we buy an item of clothing can remind us of something we once flounced around in back in the day, hearing a certain song can transport us to a special event in our life that we may have forgotten about; likewise, watching an old film on TV and, my favourite, the taste of gravy made from real meat juices. This can take me back to numerous family meal times with a whole host of emotional turmoil to use as writing material, depending on which memory springs to mind.

Recently, however, it was a burnt pan that took me on a reflective journey down memory lane. I wondered how, from being able to create a roast dinner with all the trimmings from the age of 13 for a family of 6, I’d come to the point where I could burn a pan of water by simply steaming potatoes and vegetables.To explore my past memories in order to answer this question would justify the production of an epic memoir and the time I’ve allotted to write this missive would not come close to touching the surface of that.

Therefore, I’ll try not to meander through the memories that burnt pan brought to mind as I share with you my initial responses, though it will be difficult because each memory we have touches on another in some way and, once the writing process begins, the mind starts to filter those connections through the pen onto the page, where it flows in a river of thoughts – as I said, an epic memoir waiting to be written.

I’ll endeavour to remain focussed on brevity and tell you that in 1971, after giving up my job as a shorthand typist at the local psychiatric hospital, I went off to work in a cafeteria at a holiday camp in Wales (I know… Crazy). One morning, I was put in charge of making egg sandwiches for the display cabinet and duly placed a copious amount of eggs in a colossal pan of water and lit the gas. Whilst waiting for them to boil, I went back to the counter to butter bread and finish off a few other jobs. Thirty minutes later, interspersed with loud popping noises coming from the kitchen, a voice boomed out ‘who… the… xxxx’s… left… all… these… xxxxing…eggs… on… here?’ I ran into the kitchen to witness two dozen eggs exploding through the air in all directions from the burnt out pan.

eggsThe kitchen staff were rolling on the floor laughing and it was all I could do to keep a straight face as the scary head chef’s cheeks puffed out in red rage.

This memory then led to me thinking about the incident that was the impetus for me becoming adept at cooking a family roast with all the trimmings, albeit the memory is a futile attempt to stop me grieving the burnt vegetables and potatoes in the steamer.

In the 1960’s, my mother suffered from severe problems that required regular electric shock therapy to the brain for a number of months and, after each treatment, she would forget how to complete tasks she had been performing for many years, such as cooking. One night, when the family sat down to eat the meal she had prepared, my four siblings and I stared at one another round the table when faced with liver that looked like crisped cinders. Dad broke the silence with, ‘come on kids, eat up. Your Mum’s worked hard on this.’ He winked at us, took some burnt liver into his mouth and, when Mum wasn’t looking, gathered it into his serviette which he placed on his lap. So as not to upset Mum, we followed Dad’s lead, even to the point of complimenting her on how nice the meal was. At the end of the meal, we each had a lapful of liver tucked up our sleeves in serviettes and, one by one, asked to leave the table.

These photos, taken 15 years later, show she did eventually recover from that particular illness and as a family we went on to prepare and cook many a meal together… with no burnt liver in sight.

Christmas 1979From left: hubby Eric, mum, (photobomb daughter Gaynor), dad, (photobomb nephew Lee), brother Paul, sister Jan and me. Brother Daz was taking the photos…can’t recall where sister Mandy was that day.

xmas 79Our combined children at a separate table. From left: Jolene, Nicola, Gaynor, Graeme, Colin and Lee.

No doubt a variation of the above incidents/events will find their way into one of my future fictional stories, the seeds now firmly replanted in my journal of ideas. Indeed, the saplings are already pushing their way through a thousand other memories towards the surface as I write.

However, it is the popping eggs that have provided me with the reason I recently burnt that pan of water when steaming vegetables. I was simply distracted by something else, which is what happened in 1971. It comes somewhat as a relief to realise that I’m not completely useless in the kitchen after all, merely easily distracted.

I felt quite proud of myself this morning. I actually boiled a perfect egg for dipping toast soldiers into. But maybe a roast dinner is a bit ambitious just yet as I am totally out of practice with that one… so I’ll continue to sample the various eateries in and around Scarborough with my husband. After all, there’s only the two of us now and I think we deserve a break from cooking a meal – on Sundays at least.

Belated retirement thoughts

So, while I’m waiting for the release from Customs of the PROOF Anthology for the Scarborough Writers’ Circle, I thought I’d play catch up with my journal notes and look what I found! A note to self to type up (amongst other things of course) notes from opposite page (in my journal) re my retirement (which happened in March and it is now October!). I have been busy…

This then is a record of my finale as Administrator to the North Yorkshire Coast Methodist Circuit.

The two weeks leading up to my retirement was not a time to reflect on my working life as I was still busy working and I was in a state of anxiety and panic – not about retiring but about fitting everything in that needed to be done before I left – in order to hand over to the person who was taking over from me. We all know that no-one is indispensable. There is always someone waiting to step into our shoes – no matter who we are or what we do.

Instead of slowing down to enjoy my final two weeks, I found myself making lists about lists of things to pass on. However, the time passed so quickly and the final day arrived. I was left with one hour alone in the office at the end of that day to heart-wrenchingly surge the filing cabinet of information that was no longer relevant to the new post.

I did not have the luxury of time to ponder and reflect on each piece of work as I stripped it from the files. I simply threw away the last 8 years of my journey as if it meant nothing. However, knowing I had the most important paper files backed up on disc was a consolation. I borrowed these and when I have more time to reflect I will salvage the files that contain my own creative self therein. I’ve been so busy that it hasn’t happened yet – apart from a frantic search through for information I required in regard to a worship writing project I undertook. It felt good to know that my work for the Methodist Circuit was still useful.

Almost at the end of this final day, my husband called into the office to pick up my personal adornments, ie, pictures and icons from the walls, books, cards, etc. When he left, I sat with a mug of tea looking around at the space, resting in the quiet, being in the moment, indulging in a little nostalgia. Then, I simply grabbed my bag, rose from the chair and walked out as if it was just another day – which it was really.

All the above had been interspersed with well wishes via cards and email messages from around the Circuit, from those people I have come to know and love, albeit with challenges along the bumpy way that only served to make my journey more rewarding as these were met.

I had numerous unexpected emotional moments, especially at the end of my final Circuit Meeting when I was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, which bloomed for 3 weeks afterwards. I still have the now dried multi-coloured petals from the rose in a keepsake box and, of course, photographs. I was unaware at the meeting that there was a monetary gift from all the churches inside the card I was given with the flowers as I didn’t open it until I got home. I hope everyone received my words of thanks via the email I sent to the ministers, circuit stewards and senior church stewards. (This would have been a good measure of the communication system I instilled in you all!).

My celebration continued after leaving the office for the last time on 27th March 2015 as cards and gifts kept arriving and, finally, on my favourite day in the Christian calendar (Maundy Thursday) I was taken for a farewell lunch at Raven Hall by the ministerial staff, where I received several surprise gifts. It was an emotional and beautiful farewell, and I felt much appreciated as a person.

I want to thank everyone in the Circuit (belatedly) for being part of my journey, not only in my working life but also for encouraging me in my walk of faith. I was not a Christian when I took up post on 8 January 2007 but that changed dramatically when, on 10 March 2007, I came to believe in Jesus Christ as my saviour. This single revelation has to be the highlight of my time working for the Circuit.

Blog Neglect Alert!

The recent neglect of my social media sites is due entirely to my retirement from employment at the end of March this year. I have been engulfed in creative energy which has involved creating things for other people to enjoy (hopefully!). It’s like a burst of joy having time to spend on things I love doing though I am aware that I take too much on and need to focus on my own projects to get them finished. Come the end of September, I feel I will be in a position to do just that.

But first…

Remember the Peace Wall at Vernon Road Library. Well, I have now collated the hundred plus comments and photos from this and it will be on here for you to enjoy as soon as I set those into a presentation. This presentation is also to be interwoven with poetry/reflections about peace –  to be written and performed by local writers. Please watch this space – and the local press – for details of when and where that will be.

But second…

In relation to demonstrating my faith, I have prepared various talks to illustrate how my creativity links to my faith, i.e., ‘my creative faith’, some of which have been executed; others pending presentation at their destination venue. I hope to gather these together into pamphlet form for distribution as soon as time permits. I’m also coming to the closing stages of the creation of a prayer/meditation book… and I have a file of personal pilgrimage journal writing screaming out to become a collection of meditations. As well as writing, there is the ongoing preparation for the Sacred Space Prayer Station display at my local church.

But third…

I am overseeing an anthology of short stories and poems for the Scarborough Writers’ Circle, due to be published in autumn. This is at the stage of my bringing together all the SWC Members’ submissions into one document in book format, for a final proofread. The book’s cover, title and blurb will be decided by the whole group at a session I’m leading on 1st September.

Attempting to bring all of the above nearer to fruition became extremely challenging during the recent chaotic renovation of my flat – new kitchen, bathroom and heating system – which caused the most unbelievable mess of dust and rubble. Don’t get me started on it – please! I have a long list… not least having no quality concentration time for creativity.

I am so aware of the focus on mindfulness these days and being too busy to relax with a colouring book is a sign for me that I have taken too much on. I say this after enrolling on three pleasurable courses due to start at the end of September: Circle Dancing, Singing for Health and Well-being, and Drawing – the latter because I would like to use my own sketches for illustrating my projects. I will also be participating in a Poetry Salon – a new venture for winter months set up by two local poets/writers.

So, forgive me then for not keeping up with my blog… and other social media, I hasten to add. I have been too busy to spend time procrastinating (even with one of my favourite pastimes – colouring in my doodle books).

Colouring for adults is not a new thing. In fact, I bought several doodle colouring books from Boyes’ store in Scarborough ten years ago to aid relaxation for the management of stress/anxiety… so all the fuss about the new mindfulness creative colouring books is beyond me. The books from Boyes, by the way, were completed a long time ago. Now, when I colour, I doodle my own patterns. Remember how we created them in Reception Class? Simply, take your pencil and scribble a pattern … then colour it in. And here I am once more, making time for mindfulness colouring as a form of procrastination. Ah, bliss! Who knows what doodles I will be colouring in when I’ve completed the drawing course?

I hope my retirement lasts for a long time.   It needs to with all these things I have yet to enjoy.

See you soon on here… promise!

The Pearl of Great Price

What is next on my journey now that the end of my working season is almost upon me? I need to slow down and ponder this but can’t stop the whirlwind that I find myself in. Nothing else is slowing down long enough for me to consider it. I don’t think I will know how to introduce myself as simply me when I no longer have a title to illustrate to others who I am or what to expect. But it’s what I want to be. Me. It lends itself to attracting a greater acceptance of simply being human.

Coming to terms with actually being old enough to retire from paid employment is hard. I have plans but they don’t always work out how you think they will do they? What if it all goes wrong? There’s no way back from it. No way out now the decision’s made. It’s out of my hands.

Like the man who took all his belongings to pay for a pearl he had been searching his whole life to obtain. He was left with nothing but the pearl – something he had wanted his whole life, spent his whole life working, saving and searching for. Now it belonged to him. But what was the cost? He was living in an empty room with nothing to sit on, sleep on, no lamp to shed light for him, no table to eat from, and no jug to hold water to drink. I wonder if the pearl that had cost him all he owned was worth the price he’d paid for it? (Matthew 13:45-46)

The parables of Jesus teach us a lot of things – with no right or wrong answers. We interpret them by how we feel at any given moment on our life journey. I tried to compare the man giving up all he owned to obtain the pearl as a parallel to my giving up paid work for the freedom to choose how I live out the remainder of my life; the freedom of choice being my pearl of great price. I hope it is worth the cost.

S. Kierkegaard said: ‘Life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards.’ Therefore, I will watch, wait, listen and be ready to make choices that will enhance and embrace the next phase of my life – this precious pearl that is the gift of retirement.

Just thinking out loud

I’ve been so busy procrastinating (successfully) and learning how to say no (unsuccessfully) to other people’s requests that I haven’t had time to write my December blog… until now. I had planned to write it on the first Sunday of Advent (30th November) but here we are almost approaching the third week! Advent is a good time to stop and think as we begin to prepare… and I wanted to write something about that at the onset of its season – but it slipped by me whilst I was busy enabling others to be ready (through my work in the North Yorkshire Coast Church Circuit – paid and voluntary). It’s as though I’ve been waiting for my own Advent to begin … waiting for my time to be my own so I could simply be still and silent.

Each year as Christmas approaches I like to use the Advent period of waiting to take stock – a little like you do on New Year’s Eve before the onslaught of another year. This year though I’ve been busier than ever and feel I’m waiting for so many things that I have been jumping ahead of myself every step of the way. I’ve barely had time to ponder my faith journey through Advent… because I’m trying to get my head round the reason why, if I am due to retire next year, my job has not slowed down enough for me to prepare for that gift of retirement – my reward for having worked my whole life. I have hardly had time to think straight as I live from one day to the next filling it up with things I love to do. It will be quite nice not having to fit my regular job into that and I am looking forward to a diary that displays things of my own choosing. See? I have jumped ahead of the waiting time again… trying to sort next year out already. Really, there is no need for me to do that because God will have it all in hand anyway.

After an extremely challenging week fraught with anxieties and concerns, I was finally brought to my knees on the evening of 6th December at the community carol service between the villages of Cloughton and Burniston (where I live). The service began with the carol Silent Night’s first verse being sung in German by Revd. Mike Leigh (vicar with a beautiful voice!) then the congregation joined in using English. When a re-enactment of the Christmas Day Truce in the 1st World War was portrayed as a silent sketch by the young people, it really brought it home to me how trivial my anxieties and concerns had actually been that week. I let them go as I listened to a short sermon by Revd. Peter Cross that challenged me even further – to make peace with someone I was experiencing conflict with. Though I have chosen not to discuss this particular issue here, I did come away from the service feeling hopeful.

The following day (7th) was the second Sunday in Advent and, as if to mark the turnaround in my attitude regarding that certain situation, a double rainbow appeared over Cloughton and Burniston villages – arching over the place where the Truce had been re-enacted the previous evening. It felt like the hope of Advent had arrived for me. I believe that when God shines his light into the darkness, like he did that Christmas Day in 1914 and as he did for me at that carol service, there is hope for mankind.

rainbow carol serviceI’ve decided not to prepare for retirement as I know what I want to do with the gift and what God has planned for me will fall into place in its own time. I am going to go with the flow of it and relax, have fun and enjoy what is in store for me, as I enter into that new phase of my life – whenever it arrives.

Cliché, Cliché, Cliché

I don’t like it when writers, with all their talent and knowledge of language, sometimes resort to blasphemy to create an effect. OMG and, even worse, OMFG, and ‘Jesus Christ’ with all its variants, have become such commonly used expressions that they should be classed as bone fide clichés – and be ‘avoided like the plague’. Clichés in writing are boring – according to experts – but at least we don’t have to keep on reading. I don’t agree with the experts that it’s more acceptable in speech because we don’t have time to search for alternatives – it’s still boring (and offensive) – even more so because it’s forced upon us when blasted out in public places.

People who use these expressions don’t realise what effect it can have on a believer. For some people, using the words ‘Jesus Christ’ is like using ‘Gordon Bennet!’ or ‘Chuffin’ Nora!’ and they don’t think twice about it. I don’t suppose either of these two people would be pleased that their name was being used in this way so imagine how God must feel whenever he sees his or his son’s name spat out without a second thought. And what do we do when we see or hear it? Sit there like ‘Piffy on a rock bun’ and put up with it.

I wonder how the instigator might feel if someone were to use the name of their father or brother in this way? Maybe next time someone will use this tactic and detect an inward cringe from them at the name of their own kin being taken in vain (that same inward cringe – whenever a blasphemy is uttered – that is experienced by those who think of God as father and Jesus as brother). Would their epiphany through empathy make any difference to future considerations in their choice of vocabulary?

I can understand why people resort to clichés – because they are a comfort when looking for hope. I mean, you can always rely on a cliché – you know where you stand – no messing about with fancy comparisons or metaphors – just straight out with it – and you have all the imagery you need. But, in my view, the only cliché worth clinging to for hope in daily living is ‘Jesus Christ’ – because our hope is found in his love.

Where will you find your hope today? I wonder if you’ll find it by whispering that cliché slowly – ‘Jesus Christ’ – whilst imagining Jesus himself standing next to you? How would it make you feel using the cliché in that way? You know that the shortest sentence in the New Testament is ‘Jesus wept’, and how he must weep still when we resort to blasphemy instead of asking for our hope in this way.

So now, what will you do with the remainder of this day, with the gift that is the rest of your life? Will you search for an alternative cliché or will you open your heart to the hope and love that is available from the clichéd Jesus Christ?


PS: I was an atheist before becoming an agnostic before becoming a believer. Jesus really does save but many of us don’t know we need saving.

Young at Heart

I’ve been a Christian for just over 7 years now. It seems so young, yet I feel I’ve been a Christian forever. I can’t imagine living my life without God in it. Whenever I’m asked to share testimony about my faith, I think it’s such a privilege to be able to do that so I say ‘yes’ immediately.

Then, I panic. I spend days agonizing over what I’m going to say because, no matter how ‘young’ a Christian we are, our lives are full of incidents that have led us, and are still leading us, to that moment of commitment to God. I call these God Incidents.

As we journey through life, each new experience brings a new experience of how God is working in our life, whether we believe in Him or not. And because testimony changes through these experiences, I never know where to start, where to end, what to put in, what to leave out, which experience to talk about, which experience not to talk about. I tie myself up in knots and become anxious about it, wondering if I’m doing it right. Then, when I finally remember to stop trying to do it on my own and give it to God, I calm down. And do what I should have done in the first place. Pray about it.

I do this by bringing myself closer to God through scripture and this is the passage that I use when I’m preparing to speak about my faith:

It’s from Jeremiah Ch.1 verses 4-9:

4The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” 6“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” 7But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. 9Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.”

From my heart, I believe that God has already brought whoever needs to hear my story today to this place.

The phrase ‘God’s love’ kept coming to mind during the quiet time leading up to this writing and I was thinking of how I first became aware of God’s love in my life. How God touched my life with His love, even before I came to have a personal relationship with Him. I remembered incidents, coincidences, moments in my life when I had felt God near me, nudging me, I suppose waiting for me to open the door of my heart to him, to Jesus, initially. I call these God Incidents now. All links in my journey to God and, since, with God. All part of God’s plan for my life, even before I was born.

I’m going to tell you about two incidents today that instigated a search which brought me to the core of God’s love for me.

The first incident had more of an impact on me than I realised at the time and this was a conversation I had with an RE teacher (Religious Education) when I was a bit of a rebellious teenager at school during my 15th year. I spent each lesson debating the existence of God. It was purely that I was so full of anger towards God then. I wanted someone to blame for things in my life that were wrong.

It stemmed from my home life. My mother had led a very difficult life, dogged by mental health problems, and was always being carted off for electric shock treatment (or ECT as it was known at that time in the 1960s). Each time she came back home there was a little bit more of her missing. She was unable to show love, was scared to show love. She said once it was that she didn’t want us (her 5 children) to love her too much because when she was gone it would hurt us. It was hard for the whole family living with this barrier to love. We could never speak about it with each other while she was living – or even after she passed. It didn’t stop me (us) loving her though and I (we) knew that she did love me (us) even though she couldn’t show it.

It was during a period of her ‘absence’ that the conversation with the RE teacher happened. I was aged 15, my two sisters were 14 and 9, my brother 7 and half-brother 3 months. My mother had been in the psychiatric wing for a month this time, and I was made responsible for the cooking and cleaning in the home, my 14 year old sister was responsible for seeing to the baby’s needs.

None of us had ever been church goers but we had experienced glimpses of church-like things through our lives, eg, weddings, christenings, funerals. We all went to Christian schools where they held assemblies etc., so we were aware of God through those and the bible stories in scripture class. But always this barrier to my mother’s love made it difficult to believe there was a God who loved me (us).

So back to the RE teacher incident – it was my final class with him and he asked me why I didn’t believe in God – almost immediately I said, ‘cos I can’t see him’. He then asked ‘what do you believe in then?’ I said, ‘love’. He said, ‘but you can’t see love either.’ ‘I know,’ I said, ‘but you can feel it, can’t you?’ He just looked at me, smiled knowingly and walked away. I never understood why he smiled like that, until almost 30 years later, at my mother’s graveside, when I ‘felt’ God’s love for the first time.

The vicar was reading from 1 Corinthians 13 but I wasn’t really listening until he read verses 4-7. My head jerked up of its own accord because I’d felt a strong need to hear the words about love.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’

I felt it was God talking to me about my mother and the last part of the reading, verse 13, was directed straight at me:13 ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’

It was as if God was saying that my mother was okay, she was at peace, because she had known the love of her family, she had taken the love with her and was with Him now, God. God who was love itself. I felt comforted. That was the beginning of God’s call on my life, the beginning of me opening up my heart. He’d broken down a barrier in me.

It took me another 10 years to open the door to Jesus, and let God in completely.

That moment came in the middle of an Alpha Course when I’d finally ‘got it’ about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit being one and the same. (I’ll tell you more about this in another letter soon). I felt God’s love and forgiveness pouring through me as I told Him I was sorry for all I had done in the past that was wrong, and I let God come into my heart and my life. I have never looked back.

All those years, I’d been scared to open the door to Jesus because I knew I would never be good enough, worthy of his love, I felt I would have to do things I didn’t want to, give up things I didn’t want to, but when I finally did take the first step and open the door, God accepted me as I am – or was then – on 10 march 2007. He began to change me from the inside, simply by loving me. Thank goodness God never gave up on me, and kept nudging me with God incidents until I chose to take notice, because now I love him so much that I want to be the person he wants me to be. He doesn’t see us how we see ourselves, he sees the potential in us and he has already written our names on the palm of his hand, and planned out our lives, even before we were born.

It’s never too late to open the door to Jesus. It seems so hard on the other side of it but once you open it and let him in to your heart you wonder why you didn’t do it years ago – it’s that easy.

I’d like to share a final scripture with you, to end this letter, if I may. It makes my heart brim over with love for God and all people.

It’s from 1 John 4: 7-17 (NIV)

God’s Love and Ours

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.


My Elusive On-Line Presence

I’m trying to build an online presence – which is an aim I’ve put on hold whilst I’ve been organising my two events for the Scarborough Flare Festival in April 2014. This has been one of my aims since an extremely knowledgeable young man (Liam Siddall) presented a talk on that very thing at Scarborough Writers’ Circle earlier this year.

I went along to a free consultation at Liam’s place of business (Imarge) and, following discussions around what I already had in place, Liam designed an individual plan for my way forward. The outcome was that primarily I need some training to make sure I’m monitoring my networking resources adequately, that they are all of consistent design and that they are inter-connected – thereby directing people back to my website… where I hope to interest readers in my progress as a writer.

I’ve been attempting to get things up and running as much as I can myself as I’m not a stranger to using computers, but I admit the social networking side of it is a little chaotic for me and I’m guessing my way through most of it.  I have got my head round some of it and I’m at least posting regular tweets on Twitter and linking those to my personal Facebook – which then directs people to a Facebook page I’ve created. Not bad for someone who doesn’t really know what they are doing! I have to admit to neglecting my website due to keeping on top of these online social activities I’ve started – with more to follow.

I feel ready now for the expert training to move forward with this and I’m hoping to free up a couple of hours (including some head space freedom) to get along to a training session. 

Meanwhile, please visit my Creative Breathing in the Community Facebook Page, which is a run up to The Postcard Challenge at the Scarborough Flare Festival in April 2014, and I look forward to reading one or two of your own special moments on there.

Blessings to all, Julie

PS I know I don’t need all these buttons…

The Big Tour!

Today is ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour day, when writers post about their writing process answering four set questions. Last week the effervescent Kate Evans posted hers and invited me to join the tour. I read Kate’s blog, visited her website and was in awe of how she utilises her creative self within every aspect of her life. Click here for Kate’s Post.

Here are my responses to the questions:

What am I working on?

My second collection of short stories – as yet untitled, though I have designed the image for the front cover in my head so the title won’t be far removed from that. Also in progress is a devotional book of prayer and meditation, my personal poetry and ongoing journal musings – though the latter two are not for publication, unless of course something metamorphoses into an absolute gem and encourages me to include it in a blog!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Talking about my short stories, I am obsessed with the darker side of human nature and the subject of death, and explore this obsession within my fictional stories by using raw emotion from real experiences, which results in disturbingly compelling perceptions of the truth.

My prayers and meditations are also based on real experiences and as the topics are universal they can (and are) used as a resource in churches for pastoral/spiritual support. My poetry is a personal indulgence, again based on real experiences, and though I have had a few published in various anthologies in the past, I rarely put them out there.

As to the question, I’m not sure my work differs from others in the same genre, though I will state that my overall aim is to allow the reader to seek out their own truth from within my writing.

Why do I write what I do?

I can’t exist without writing creatively in some shape or form every day. It is a constant motivator to my personal well-being. I write to tease out hidden thoughts from within myself, based on my own or others’ experiences. I write to try and get to the truth of emotional impacts relating to various scenarios. I write to experience the joy in the sense of release when transferring emotional truths into fictional settings. I write because I can be open and honest about emotions within my work without fearing the consequences. I write to get rid of unhealthy negative feelings and turn them into something positive. I write to heal my wounded soul. I write because I enjoy it.

How does your writing process work?

Quite chaotically in the sense that I usually have lots of writing on the go at any one time and add to it as and when inspiration takes hold. When I feel I have enough material to complete one particular project, say a short story collection, I focus on that alone until it’s complete, placing the others on a back burner until I can pick them back up.

Ideas come easily to me through regular journal writing and everyday observations; I also find some of my memories in connection with my dysfunctional family background provide a lot of my material. Once the seed of an idea is planted in my mind, I tend to let it lie for a few days until it ferments and becomes so embedded that I think around it constantly. Once it’s at that stage, I use a sprint writing exercise to connect to what’s already started to develop in my imagination (write quickly without caring about punctuation etc – i.e. stream of consciousness). From this I glean the raw emotion for the piece. It then grows intuitively and branches out into strands of a story (or whatever it wants to be). It becomes the bones of a first draft. Then I start on the hard work that is the crafting and editing, again and again, until I’m satisfied with the piece of writing and confident that I’ve successfully wrapped and hidden my ‘self’ within the fiction. In other words, I’ve added layers of flesh to the bare bones of the initial raw emotion in a creative way.

And talking of adding layers, I’m now passing the baton on to Alan Combes who will continue the ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour on Monday 24th February. I met Alan last year at a Writers’ Circle and have a high regard for his varied writing skill.

Alan was born in Newark, Notts, and attended the Thomas Magnus Grammar when it was worth mentioning. He did teacher training at King Alfred’s, Winchester, and was awarded a degree by Nottingham Uni and later a Masters at York.

Alan’s first published piece was a poem about Adam and Eve which was a runner-up in the Lancaster literary festival. His first paid piece was about a camping holiday behind the Iron Curtain, published by the Guardian, which was a forerunner for his regular human interest pieces for that paper as well as a column in Young Guardian (not there now). As a teacher, he had a lot of pieces published in the Times Ed, then started writing football for the Observer, the Independent and, for 11 years, the Sunday Times. He began getting published for kids in 1997 and combined football and fiction for Barrington Stoke, producing two best sellers for dyslexic boys who were footy-mad. He toured Dublin on the back of his ‘Dead Man Files’, which was also written for young problem readers.

His musical ‘Black Potatoes’ filled the Upstage Theatre in York for a week in 2010 and he is currently submitting ‘Her Cambodian Bodyguard’, a play about Alzheimer’s, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

Read more from Alan on his website and blog ‘latest news’ at