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In The Spotlight Guest Blog Author Juliet Greenwood….

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My interview with the lovely Roy Noble for ‘The Roy Noble Show’ on BBC Radio Wales is being aired on Mother’s Day, Sunday March 30th, between 10.30 am and 12.00 pm.

I’d only been interviewed on radio once before, so I was very nervous sitting in my little room in the BBC studios in Bangor, waiting for the voices from Cardiff to begin. But everyone was great, and Roy Noble put me instantly at my ease, so I have a feeling I chatted away like anything.

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I shall be talking about my research for ‘We That are Left’, including the brave women of WW1 who kept life going at home, and also worked on the front line, driving ambulances and picking up the dead and the dying between battles. Along with the inspiration of my own mother’s terrifying journey on the day WW2 broke out, when, as a teenager, she had to make her way on her own across France in a desperate bid to get home, including being stalked by a German submarine as her ferry crossed the Channel …..

You can find the programme by clicking on this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03zq8yy

This is the WW1 poppy seed cake that I made for the staff of the BBC . Since I was in Bangor and it was vanishing fast by the time I left, I’m afraid I don’t think any of it quite made it down to the Cardiff studios! The recipe is the one I’ve posted earlier, and is also included amongst the recipes in the book.

 

WTAL at BBC Radio Wales

And this is me and my mum in more peaceful times, in our cottage in the hills in Snowdonia when I was a baby (my dad’s the one taking the photo, you can just see his shadow)Juliet and her mum at home in Snowdonia

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Today is the official publication day for We That are Left 

we that are left draft 6aug13 smI set out this morning for the usual dog walk, telling myself that this was just another day, and I had plenty of work to do, and there would be time to party later, and anyhow Amazon had jumped the gun and has been selling the paperback for nearly a week, so it was really no big deal.

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Well, that didn’t last very long.

It was a bitterly cold morning, with bright sunshine over Anglesey on one side, and dark clouds over the mountains on the other. We met up with dog walking friends and walked and chatted, and removed Harri the Labrador from An Incident with the remains of pizza in a bin, watched by next year’s prize rams-in-waiting in one field (the ones Phoebe tried to round up under the nose of the shepherd when he left the gate open while serving their hot breakfast, but thankfully came back while he could still remark that she was just being playful, gulp) and the first lambs having a mad race around in another.

P1010404At the point where I would usually go back to my computer, I found I just couldn’t. It might not be the first time I’ve launched a baby out into the world, but it’s still as exciting. Maybe even more so. And I’m still amazed that it has happened. I didn’t quite dare look inside my author’s copies until today, just in case it was a mistake and I hadn’t written it at all. But it’s okay. It’s there. It’s the same book that appeared in my manuscript, so it must be mine!

This morning  I wandered off in a wonderfully aimless way, popping in on friends for coffee and even a celebratory bit of cake.

So this wasn’t the industrious day that I had planned, or the deep and meaningful post I’d been intending to write. But it was a lovely day, all the same. Like most writers, I spend most of my time plotting or writing or social networking or heading off to the day job. Today I didn’t do any of that. I even sat down during daylight hours with a book that had nothing to do with research and just took pleasure in reading.

Now the sun is back, the frogs are sitting in my pond, and I’m throwing caution to the winds and heading off for a glass of something bubbly with a friend this evening.  The parties will come later. Today might have been a very sedate kind of publication day – but for me it was perfect!

Tomorrow I’ll be rolling up my sleeves for the excitement to begin …… :-)

Juliet With We That are Left

One proud author, who can’t stop smiling!

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Today I have great pleasure in welcoming fellow Honno author, Jo Verity, to the blog.

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Jo is an award-winning writer of short stories, novels and poetry. Her stories and articles have been  broadcast on Radio 4, and she has been a finalist in the Mslexia International Short Story Competition . In 2003, she was the winner of the Richard & Judy Short Story prize.

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A very warm welcome to the blog, Jo.  Can I start by asking how you began writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

I’ve always been a reader but, until 1999, it had never crossed my mind that I might be a writer.

That year, I’d planned to fly to Budapest to link up with Ruth, an American acquaintance – an eccentric Jewish zen-buddhist sculptor whom I’d first met in Prague when I was Inter-railing several years earlier – but, at the last moment, she cried off. At the time I was working as a medical graphic artist at the Dental School in Cardiff. I’d booked a week’s leave and I decided to use the week to get to grips with my new PC – a daunting task for a non-techie in those days. I needed a document to practice saving, copying etc. and my husband, bless him, suggested I ‘write something’. I was cheesed off at missing my trip, cross with Ruth for letting me down, and I got this off my chest by writing a story with her as my central character. By the end of that week I knew I wanted to write – but I never dreamed I would get ‘stuff’ published.

2. Do you feel there were advantages to not having your first novel published until you were older? Did you feel you benefitted from more life experience, or were you afraid you had started too late?

My first novel – ‘Everything in the Garden’ was published in 2005. I’d been writing for 6 years by then which is probably pretty average for novelists. The fact that I started writing late (I jo-verity-656477782was 54) seemed like no big deal. It certainly didn’t cross my mind that it was ‘too late’. And there were many advantages. My free time was pretty much my own to do with as I pleased. As a daughter, wife, mother and grandmother, I’d seen life from lots of angles. Having first-hand experience of the events that shape everyone’s life has enabled me to write (perceptively, I hope) about birth, death, marriage and parenthood. All that ‘ordinary stuff’ that becomes suddenly extraordinary when it affects us.

51E3FaUFqUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_I choose my protagonists carefully. It’s horses for courses. For instance I would be crazy to attempt to write a novel from a teenager’s point of view. On the other hand, if you want to know what it’s like being responsible for a teenager, you might like to read ‘Not Funny, Not Clever’.

There is one disadvantage to being an older writer. I don’t want to sound bitter here but I’ve come to the conclusion that some agents and publishers are age-ist. To them the author is a commodity. And it’s easier to market a glamorous young thing than a ‘more mature’ person.

3. Do you prefer writing novels or short stories? Or do you enjoy the different discipline each brings?

I love writing both. I recently finished writing a novel – ‘Left and Leaving’ – and before embarking on the next, I’m writing a short story as a sort of palate cleanser cum brain shaker-upper. It’s a mistake (for me, anyway) to try and do both at the same time because I need to stick so closelyto my characters – take my eye off them for a moment and they might wander off.

A novel is a long haul. You have to like your characters because you’re going to spend a couple of years with them. When I start writing a novel I begin with a character or two and a ‘what if’. (In ‘Bells’ it was ‘what if’ a reliable husband stumbles out of his banal routine and into the life he feels he should be living.) I never plot my novels. I let my characters dictate where the story goes and who we might meet on the way. I definitely have no idea how it will end. This keeps it fresh for me, but this organic way of writing means that my characters often lead me down blind alleys and I have to back-track. It makes writing slow. I’m delighted if I can produce five hundred new words in a day.

Short stories are totally different. You have pretty much to have the whole thing in your head before you start. In a few thousand words you must transport the reader to a different world; give them a glimpse of something that might illuminate their own life. There has to be a point to it. There’s no room for waffle. Every word must earn its place. It can be great fun, too, as it allows you to play around with structure and style.

4. And finally, I have to ask what it felt like to win the Richard and Judy short story competition in 2003, and do you feel it helped your writing career. And on a more frivolous note – did you get to meet them?

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 My writing career has been shaped by two pieces of what seemed like bad luck. Firstly, my cancelled holiday and secondly a bout of food poisoning. Were it not for the latter I wouldn’t have been off work lying under the duvet watching the Richard & Judy Show. It was the last call for entries to their short story competition. I happened to have recently finished a story which I thought was okay so I stuck it in the post and forgot about it. Three months later, I got a call saying that my story – ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ – had made it to the last fifteen and inviting me to the show when the winner would be announced. I was thrilled to get that far and had no idea that my story had been judged best (of 17,000!). When Judy read out my name, my only thought was that I was going to have to speak ON LIVE TV. That part is all a bit of a blur. I do remember afterwards, in the green Room, chatting to the judges – Martina Cole, Tony Parsons and Suzy Feay, the then literary editor of The Independent on Sunday. I was incredibly excited to know that three such respected members of the literary world rated something I’d written. I got to meet Richard and Judy, of course, who were EXACTLY as they come over on the TV. Judy would fit in fine with a crowd of women on a shopping weekend. And Richard was, how shall I put it, pretty sure of himself. 

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My prize was a trophy and publication of my story in the Independent.

The best thing about winning was confirmation that someone thought I could write. I naively assumed I would be inundated with offers from agents wanting to take me on. But after a few weeks I accepted that that wasn’t going to happen. Around then I received a letter from Honno Welsh Women’s Press. Had I, by any chance, written anything longer? (‘Short stories by unknown writers don’t sell.’) I had, that very week, finished the first draft of ‘Everything in the Garden’ which Honno published in 2005.

Thank  you for your insight, Jo, which was fascinating. And good luck with your latest novel, ‘Left and Leaving’

51yBOE8soUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_“Humane and subtle, a keenly observed exploration of the way we live now… I am amazed that Verity’s work is still such a secret. A great read
Stephen May, author of Life, Death, Prizes

The fifth novel from Richard and Judy Award winner Jo Verity, author of Sweets from Morocco a “pitch perfect evocation of childhood and sibling relationships
Marcel Theroux

Photographer Gil is on an extended grey gap-year, working in
the London hospital to which Vivian brings Irene for emergency
treatment; together they try to establish calm amid the chaos.
Irene is thrilled with her ‘guardian angels’, they less so with her ongoing interest in their lives.

Gil has a girlfriend, living in the same building as him, and a troublesome family back home. Thirty-something Vivian has a high- flying boyfriend, an irascible father and a demanding job. But they keep finding reasons to spend time together in the run up to Christmas. And still there is Irene, intent on filling the holes in her life…

Marooned in Tooting by a sudden snowstorm, Vivian and Gil are forced to spend the holiday confronting secrets and responsibilities they’ve been complacent about for too long.

Wales Book of the Month January 2014

Praise for Left and Leaving

her best yet. It is beautifully written… both rewarding and inspiring and I would recommend it unreservedly.
Ian Kirkpatrick

Humane and subtle, a keenly observed exploration of the way we live now… I am amazed that Verity’s work is still such a secret. A great read
Stephen May, author of Life, Death, Prizes

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Thank you to everyone who voted for Eden’s Garden in

The People’s Book Prize!

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I’m delighted to announce that Eden’s Garden made it to the finals! Hurrah!

I’m still pinching myself.

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I have no idea what happens next, but watch this space.

Congratulations to all the other finalists, and I look forward to meeting you.

Thank you, to all my wonderful readers. A glass of virtual Elderflower Champagne, straight from the Snowdonian hillsides, is winging its way towards you all.

Enjoy!

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:-) xx

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Autumn for blog 1Tomorrow, the last day of November,  is the final day for voting for this round of The People’s Book Prize.

LibraryTPBPPostersmlWhatever happens, thank you to everyone who has voted for ‘Eden’s Garden’, and to all those who left such wonderful comments. I am amazed and humbled. And grinning from ear to ear. Thank you! One author feeling very warm inside here. If you would still like to vote, you can do so HERE

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Meanwhile, the publication of ‘We That Are Left’ is growing ever closer. The proofs are winging their way towards me, and once they are done it’s heading straight for the printers – and a real book will finally appear.

I can’t wait …..

Autumn for blog 2

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Making Rosehip Syrup from a War Time Recipe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Rosehips October 2013Rosehip syrup was used in both world wars as a source of vitamin C and a soothing home remedy for coughs and colds, so as the first rosehips appeared this autumn I was eager to try out the kind of recipe that Elin, the heroine of ‘We That Are Left‘, might have made during the 1914 – 18 war.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With most of my recipes for the book I’ve tried to be as authentic as possible, with many coming from newpapers of the time. But many are also traditional ones that would have been passed down generations of women to keep their families safe and healthy in a world where a visit to the doctor cost money that poorer families simply could not spare. Many older people I spoke to still remember rosehip syrup as a remedy from their childhood. Some remembered gathering the hips, and all remembered the delicious taste as it was spooned into them – much nicer (and of course far cheaper) than shop bought medicine!

There are plenty of recipes still out there. In the end I went with this one from the BBC  ‘Woman’s Hour’ website, which is the one given out by the Ministry of Food in 1943 during the Second World War. You can find the link HERE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo first I needed to gather 2lbs (900gm) of hips. These would have been crushed, but I used a food processor and a potato masher. They were then put into 3 pints (1.7 litres) of boiling water. I brought it back to the boil then left it for around 15 – 20 mins. The smell was exquisite! My whole house was suffused with a warm, fruity, slightly fluffy scent. I sat there with a cup of tea just breathing it in.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next part is to strain this through a jelly bag or muslin. It has to be that fine to strain out the hairs that can be an irritant. I got my straining bag from a kitchen shop in Conwy for just a few pounds. The bag is hung up and left to drip. A rusty coloured cloudy liquid appears in the pan underneath. When it’s all done, you can put the rosehips back in a pan and add 852 ml of boiling water and do the whole thing again to get the last bit of goodness out.

Then it was a matter of boiling it all down and until it thickens, then adding just over 1lb (560gr) of sugar and boiling for about 5 mins more. Then it’s ready to bottle.

I’m not sure it’s an exact science. I’d like to keep on experimenting to see the best taste for me. The first batch was delicious and the colour was beautiful, but it was very sweet. Which I suppose is the point, as it needs to keep and it is a syrup to be used in small doses. I haven’t tried it on icecream yet, but it was very soothing when I came down with a cold, and I have to say I recovered very quickly. I did put a small amount in hot water, which was very comforting.

I’m off to find more rosehips, and rosehip syrup is definitely on my list of autumn treats!

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I’ve had a nice write-up in the local paper this week.

Bangor and Anglesey Mail 23rd October 2013

Okay, so the Bangor and Anglesey Mail isn’t exactly world wide coverage, but I know it’s some of the best publicity I can have. I’m always surprised at how many people have read (and remember!) even the smallest bit of information about me that finds its way in there.  I always think I lead this quiet, slightly eccentric, hermit life, quite forgetting I’ve lived and worked all over the North Wales coast for more than twenty years. In small communities like these, it’s surprising just how many people know me, or know of me.  And because I am local, I’m flying the flag for local pride, too. So even those who don’t know me are rooting for me.

I still have this faint (but excruciating) feeling that I’m boasting and everyone’s going to run a mile. But of course local papers love stories, and especially good news stories. It was something I learnt when I was running a small charity. It was easier then, because it wasn’t directly about me, but I’ve learnt to apply it to publicising my books. It’s a fair exchange. I send in an article, with a selection of photographs, the reporter has an easy life and something good to put in the paper. Plus you make sure you get all the facts right. Everyone is happy.

So hurrah for local reporters and local papers!

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And while I’m being shameless, if you would like to vote for Eden’s Garden in The People’s Book Prize, please vote here: 

Thank You!

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Today I’m being interviewed on Dizzy C’s Little Book Blog, talking about my new book We That Are Left, which was finished with the aid of  a Writers’ Bursary from Literature Wales. Plus the excitement of  being in the running for The People’s Book Prize with Eden’s Garden.

Thank you Carol for a great interview!

You can pop on over and read my interview here:

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‘We That Are Left’ makes its entrance!

we that are left draft 6aug13 smIt was with great excitement this morning that I spotted ‘We That Are Left’  up on Amazon! To be published February 13th 2014. So just a little bit of a wait until then.

But in the meantime, the book made it to The Bookseller’s First World War Special. The cover might not be there, but I’m still amazed and astonished and hugely delighted.

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Or gobsmacked, if you prefer.

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‘We That Are Left’ is in the last column on the right hand side!

So now I need to get on with trying out all the recipes from the era I’ve collected along the way, and which will appear on this blog very soon. I’ve collected my plums for jam, am eyeing up all the rosehips I can find for syrup, and am considering potato bread.

Let the countdown begin!

Meanwhile, ‘Eden’s Garden’ is up for The People’s Book Prize. If you’ve enjoyed it, please vote for it here. Thank you!

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