SWEET DELIGHTS

Recently in Sheringham, I was with a friend in an old-fashioned sweet shop where we were delighted to see shelves full of jars containing our old favourites: winter mixture, cough candy twists, Tom Thumb drops, and rhubarb and custard, to name but a few. This prompted memories of the sweets we loved when we were children.

On my walk to the primary school in Bexley, I never passed the sweet shop without buying something with my pocket money. Liquorice novelties, sherbet dabs, flying saucers, and lemonade powder that turned our fingers bright orange were all displayed invitingly on the counter. I consumed Fruit Salad and Black Jack chews (four a penny) and numerous packets of sweet cigarettes. Many a time I was told off for chewing in class. The teacher would call me out to the front and demand I hand over my sweet bounty. Sometimes I never got them back. Maybe she kept them for herself?

Posh sweets like Palm Toffee in strawberry, mint or banana flavours, pink and white nougat and chocolate bars were our weekend treats bought from Mr Lloyd’s sweet shop in the High Street. You could buy five bars of chocolate for half a crown (twelve-and-a-half new pence) in fruit and nut, whole nut, caramel, mint cream or strawberry flavours. My grandmother bought her Pontefract Cakes and Mitchum Mints here to eat whilst watching television; Coronation Street (which had only just begun) or No Hiding Place, a police drama with actor Raymond Francis, and Wagon Train were her favourite programmes.

Mum and Dad’s treat was a box of Macintosh’s Weekend which I would sneakily dip when they went to the pictures on a Friday evening. My grandmother would take me to the cinema on Saturday afternoons.  During the intermission, ice-cream sellers would display their wares in trays hung round their necks. I was bought either a Lyons Orange Maid or Strawberry Mivvy ice lolly while my grandmother had a sedate miniature ice cream tub or a choc-ice.

During our beach holidays Mum and Dad would sit in deck chairs with a tray of tea from the kiosk, while I would try to keep the sand off my ice lolly. On leaving the beach the ice cream parlour beckoned. This was rare treat, sitting on wicker chairs to eat a Peach Melba or Neapolitan ice cream in silver dishes, but I would gaze longingly at the Knickerbocker Glories which I was never allowed.

On the way to secondary school in Bexleyheath there was a little sweet shop that used to sell delicious homemade red and green lollipops 1d each and frozen Jubbly orange cartons which were very tricky to get into. At lunchtime Mr Whippy would park enticingly outside the school gates where I bought and consumed numerous soft ice cream cones dipped in chocolate sauce and chopped nuts. On the walk home to Bexley in the summer, my friends and I could never pass Lovell’s sweet shop in the Broadway without buying a quarter of chocolate coconut macaroons. The three of us would pool our money and savour the shared out sweets on our way home. In the winter we would buy penny currant buns or ‘yesterday’s’ cakes from the baker’s to eat on the bus journey.

At the sweet shop in Sheringham my friend bought 100 grams of winter mixture but we were disappointed that they tasted nothing like they used to. Either sweets the have been modified or our taste buds have changed with age. Who knows which?

 

 

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PEN TO PAPER, TO PUBLISHED BOOK

In 2008 my husband and I retired to a little village in Cornwall called Rilla Mill, on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Our bungalow was situated on a hill with views over the surrounding countryside and three different hilly walks from our front door. Each one of these took us about an hour to complete with beautiful vistas through farm gates along the way. Our nearest beach was at Looe which was about a twenty minute drive. We would park at Hannafore and walk down a steep hill into the harbour where we would sometimes buy fish and chips and eat them on the quayside, always mindful of the seagulls of course!

But after a few months of doing the walks and the beaches I was looking for a pastime, something creative that I could get my teeth into. One day, I was coming out of the local village stores when I spotted a poster for a creative writing course. I took the number, went straight home and rang. The woman’s voice on the other end was very cheerful and friendly. The six week course was held in Stuart House in Liskeard. I had never attended a writing course and didn’t know what to expect but after the first session I was fired up with enthusiasm. There was a book in me gasping for air, a part of my life I wanted to share with the world. I had already written it chronologically in 1997, in three A4 notebooks taken from my old diaries and had  put them away in a safe place hoping one day to do something with them. Now was my chance.

Next, I joined some writers’ groups, one of which was a critique group where we discussed our work.  I found this exptremely helpful. I showed the members some of my work and gradually gained confidence to talk about my ‘magnum opus’ which I had now transcribed to Microsoft Word. I wanted to put my heart on the page but I didn’t know in what format. I tried it in several different ways  – was it a novel or a true story? A novel felt too remote, I wanted the reader to feel my emotions. I finally decided to write it in first person, in diary form with flashbacks. Next I had to decide what genre it fitted into. This was discussed at length at the writers’ group and as it was only part of my life I eventually decided it was a memoir.

The next thing was to approach literary agents and publishers. But after six months I knew I had a niche genre that they were reluctant to take on because I wasn’t a celebrity. I was classed as a ‘bad risk’.The memoir was once more put away.

We moved to Norfolk in 2015. I was still eager to publish my memoir and whilst attending a Writers’Day I learned that there was another way. Self-publishing. This was a huge learning curve but I persevered and finally self-published NO ONE COMES CLOSE in September 2017. I felt very proud of my efforts. The whole process took me twenty years from first pen to paper to proudly holding a copy of my book in my hand.

 

Memory – The Scribe of the Soul.

I fancied a slice of toast and jam this afternoon with my cup of tea. The taste instantly transported me back to my childhood – Saturday tea time, sitting in front of the black and white television, watching Doctor Who or Thunderbirds Are Go! Mum would make a huge plate of buttered toast and we would help ourselves to jam, chocolate spread, marmite or peanut butter. This would all be washed down with copious amounts of tea, after which we would delight in the cream choux buns topped with chocolate icing, licking our sticky fingers.

Beans on toast transports me back to Hide’s restaurant in Bexleyheath where I used to tag along with a friend after ballet lessons. We thought ourselves very grown-up ordering our food, sitting in the wicker chairs like the grand ladies and gentlemen.  Even then, people-watching was a favourite pastime. Hide’s was a department store that was a constant in my youth. After paying our bill we would browse the shelves in the food hall and have a giggle over the delicacies such as ants in chocolate! To this day I wonder who on earth would eat such a thing.

Roast lamb and mint sauce takes me back to Sunday lunchtimes, sitting in the breakfast room with the French doors open onto our large garden and our cats Pim and Smudge stretching lazily on the step in the sunshine. It was my job to make the mint sauce – the  mint picked from the bed beneath the kitchen windowsill and chopped on the wooden board, placed in the green and white dish with sugar and vinegar added. I only have to open a jar of mint sauce to be taken straight back to that kitchen.

Memories do not fade with age but stay as vibrant as the day they were made, like replaying a favourite film, stored in our data banks waiting for us to return. As writers, this is very useful when writing memoir but can be equally valuable when writing a novel. We all have a store of memories on which to draw that can enrich our writing, especially when it comes to using our senses.

Not only mine but memories of previous generations are being used in my current W.I.P. I can remember the stories my mother told me about how she met my father, the hardship they endured through the rationing years and the places she took me as a young child. She was an excellent story-teller and I am really enjoying revisiting these experiences.

 

Thanks to Claire for this Interview

Authors 40+ Series: Julie Newman!

Welcome to my Authors 40+ Series – sharing the stories of amazing authors who published their first book over the age of 40. The series features talented, experienced and inspirational writers who share their (often non-conventional!) writing and publishing journeys honestly and articulately. Next to feature, is Julie Newman!

1) What is the title and synopsis/premise of your first book and how old were you when you published it?

NO ONE COMES CLOSE is my memoir. I published it in 2017 when I was 68.

‘When Julie meets Ron at a jazz club in South London in 1966, she falls for him in a big way but he is reluctant to relinquish his freedom. They are both very young, she seventeen, he nineteen, and after a few months they go their separate ways after a misunderstanding.

Twenty years later Julie is in a loveless marriage and dreams of finding Ron again. She sends him a 40th birthday card hoping it will reach him. Weeks pass. She’s about to give up hope when the phone rings one evening. It’s Ron phoning from Sydney, Australia! He’s coming to England and wants to meet her, and he’s still single.

After three clandestine meetings in London, Ron declares his love for Julie and wants to come back to England for good and for her. She can’t believe it. She can’t help blurting all this out to her husband one evening but he is devastated at the news. He reminds her she has a daughter; what does she think she’s doing? How can she even think of leaving them both? After a very traumatic few weeks, Julie goes to stay with Ron. But things do not go according to plan.’

2) Tell me about writing the book e.g. where did the idea come from / how long did it take / what did you learn along the way?

I first wrote the whole story from my original diaries, in longhand, in 1997. I found it very cathartic but I didn’t know what I was going to do with three A4 notebooks, although I desperately wanted to set them free.

When my second husband and I moved to Cornwall in 2008, I took a creative writing course and joined a writers’ group. I was 59. I transcribed the notebooks to ‘Word’ and the members of the group were very helpful in critiquing my work and loved the story. I chose to keep it in diary form with flashbacks and approached various agents and publishers but was always met with the same answer – you’re not famous so who would want to read your memoir? They were not prepared to take the risk of publishing my work unless it was a safe bet. Time was running out – it had taken me twenty years to get the manuscript into a publishable state, so in 2017 I took the bull by the horns and decided to self-publish. This was a steep learning curve but I felt very proud of myself when I finally held NO ONE COMES CLOSE in my hand! Since September 2017 I have had some wonderful comments from my readers and eleven 5 star reviews.

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3) Tell me about your publishing journey step by step – what happened once the book was finished?

As I have said, I was disappointed every time a publisher or literary agent turned me down but I was determined I wasn’t going to give up. It took me three days to structure the book in the required format for CreateSpace. I then had to go through all the requirements it takes to actually display the book for sale on Amazon. Being a complete novice at all these stages I then had to market and promote my book. This I find harder than writing the book, formatting it and publishing it!

After the success of this book I decided to publish my début novel WHERE THERE’S A WILL. This is a rom-com set in South East London that started life at one of the creative writing evenings in 2008 when we were asked to create a character and put them in a situation:

‘Struggling to pay the bills and unsure of her future, Jess thinks all her dreams have come true when she meets Giles Morgan, a wealthy lawyer, who stumbles in front of her motionless car one Monday morning.

Eddie, Jess’s former boyfriend, has never stopped loving her or given up hope of them getting back together but he can’t give Jess the lifestyle she craves.

Will Jess listen to her heart of choose a life of luxury?’

Having self-published once I didn’t bother taking the traditional route. Now I have two books on Amazon.

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4) Who or what has helped you the most in becoming a published author?

Without a doubt the most help I received was from the critique group in Cornwall. It’s so important to belong to a writers’ group, I cannot stress this enough. Writers are, by nature, very solitary beings and writing ‘in the dark’ you’re never sure how your work will be received until someone reads it. The members of the group were invaluable in spotting things I’d missed and we discussed the story structure, format and dialogue. I looked forward to my turn to have my work critiqued and was very heartened by their favourable comments. Although online groups have their place, face-to-face writers groups are far better. It helps tremendously to be able to talk to others and hear their reactions.

5) What are the main obstacles you faced / overcame when writing and publishing your book(s)?

I think the main obstacle was deciding whether or not to publish my memoir or turn it into a novel. By nature a memoir is sensitive because it’s a true story and the people involved could be very upset that you have ‘laid them bare’. For this reason I changed the names of the people concerned and wrote a disclaimer in the front of the book.

6) How do you promote/advertise your book(s)?

I am not accustomed to promotion or marketing of any kind. I have used social media and Amazon book promotions. I have given author talks at a writers’ day and at my local library where I sold some signed copies. It was a lovely surprise when the local paper came to photograph me and published an article on me, but I think the best surprise came after writing an article for my local paper about both my books – this was seen by my library and they bought my novel! I was on cloud nine to think people were taking my book out and reading it.

I also took my books to a Christmas fair and sold some. I have asked another library if I can do an author talk in the next few months and I have emailed BBC Radio Norfolk to ask if they can interview me on air. I have also done radio interviews in Cornwall to promote the short story anthologies the ‘Caradon Hill Writers’ produced. This was another writers’ group to which I belonged. In fact, I belonged to four groups in Cornwall, all very inspiring in their own way, but since moving to Norfolk I am struggling to find any.

7) How did you celebrate the incredible achievement of your first book being published?

I did a happy dance and shouted from the rooftops! My husband doesn’t share my enthusiasm for my writing, so we didn’t go out to celebrate.

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8) What advice would you give to other authors about to begin their publishing journey?

Join a writers’ group! Having your work read and critiqued is invaluable. Apart from that, read all you can on the subject of writing and publishing and always have your work edited by a reputable editor. There are so many books out there that have not gone through this process. They are peppered with typos and grammar mistakes and look totally unprofessional.

9) Where is/are your book(s) currently available to read and where can people find you online?

Both NO ONE COMES CLOSE and WHERE THERE’S A WILL are for sale on Amazon.com.

NoOne Comes Close: A memoir by J A Newman

Where There's a Will

WHERE THERE’S A WILL is stocked in two Norfolk (UK) libraries.

You can find me on www.facebook.com/J.A.Newman.author and on my blog:  julieannnewman.wordpress.com.

10) Are you working on anything new we can look forward to in 2019?

I am currently rewriting my NaNoWriMo novel titled THE BAY that started life in 2014. I hope to publish this later in the year. This is the story of a family who owned a guest house in Cornwall in the 1960s and the effect this old house has on its previous occupants in the present day.

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WHERE DO STORIES COME FROM?

As some of you may know, I am rewriting my NaNoWriMo novel that I initially wrote in 2014. Since then, it has been bubbling away in the background, gaining pace and crying out for me to add a backstory.

The subconscious is an amazing thing. While you’re asleep it gets to work digging around in your memories, and making sense of what you can’t fathom in your waking hours. The plot is being fully fleshed out thanks to my subconscious. Two mornings lately I have woken up with connections to the past and the present in the novel and answers to the questions I have been asking. This is exciting! I also have a very different ending to the one I had intended back in 2014, one that makes everything more complex and adds to the mystery of the story.

When I started writing the novel I had no outline, no plan and just wrote by the seat of my pants to see where the story took me. NaNoWriMo does not allow for much planning because you have to write 1,677 words a day to keep up the momentum in order to reach 50,000 words during the month of November. I managed to do this and felt very pleased with myself. Having completed the book in the allotted time there were certain offers given by some of the publishing companies. One of these was a hardback book of the novel as it stood, without editing. I ordered a copy and was surprised at how professional it looked without much intervention from me! But of course, I didn’t let anyone read it as it wasn’t properly formed.

Now I am into researching life in the 1940s in London’s West End and in Cornwall. ‘Write what you know’ was my mantra whilst embarking on nano but now my subconscious is tapping into what it was like for my parents during that time. My father was a commercial artist in the West End at a place called Phoenix Studios. He was a lettering artist while others he worked with drew the illustrations for the products to be advertised in magazines and newspapers. Names like Wall’s Ice Cream, Cutex Cosmetics and B.O.A.C airlines. I remember my mother taking me to see him at work when I was  four years old. There were about eight artists working at their drawing boards and the room was filled with cigarette smoke. These memories are all part of life’s rich tapestry, gifts indeed for any writer.

As my characters have their honeymoon in Cornwall I am researching the public transport in the 1940s. Luckily I have a very good friend in Cornwall who’s husband is a railway enthusiast and is proving invaluable where the railways journeys are concerned. I will have to rely on my imagination for what a Cornish guest house was like in the post-war years but there again, I was brought up in that environment so I have used some of the rooms in my childhood home.

Mystery and imagination are at the root of the novel and I’m enjoying the way it’s shaping up.

SURPRISING GIFTS

Being a self-published author I have to go it alone in more ways than one. Having come to creative writing late in life, I don’t have the time to wait for literary agents and publishers to reply to my query letters only to hear ‘thanks, but no thanks’, so I decided the quickest way for me to get published was to go the indie route. I had a story bursting to come up for air and this seemed the perfect solution.

Although initially a very steep learning curve, I found self-publishing perfectly acceptable  except you have all your own marketing and promotion to handle yourself, which, for a complete novice, is bewildering to say the least.  The realisation that you are a minute fish in a very large pond comes home to you with a jolt, so imagine my delight when I was asked to give a talk at my local library! Here I was able to strut my stuff, although I was ‘bricking it’ at the thought. I have never been confident at public speaking, (I hated having to stand up in front of the class or in assembly at school) but once I got started I found my audience was enjoying my stories. I even sold some signed copies, just like a ‘real’ author.

Since then I have given away more books than I have sold but this has paid off. My first publication NO ONE COMES CLOSE a memoir, now has eleven wonderful 5 star reviews. I am very proud of this. I published my second book WHERE THERE’S A WILL last September. This is a rom-com novel and I wasn’t sure how it would be received. I gave a few copies to friends for Christmas and sent one to a professional reviewer. I waited with baited breath. I wasn’t disappointed. Yesterday I went on my Amazon page and did a happy dance after reading two reviews – one by a friend and one by the professional reviewer – that had been added. A wonderful way to kick off the New Year!

When I first began writing in  2008, I wrote an article titled ‘A Day Trip To Ely’ and sent it to Evergreen magazine. I was over the moon when they published it in 2010 – people were reading my work! Since then they have published eight more of my articles – some in This England, some in Evergreen, and each time I am just as thrilled as the first. Yesterday I decided to send them another article titled ‘Waste not, Want not’, something that is becoming very relevant in today’s climate with the increasing amount of food waste and discarded plastic packaging. I took the opportunity to include my publication news in the email. I didn’t really expect anything to come of this but having been a contributor for ten years, I thought they might be interested. So, imagine my surprise and delight when I had an email this morning telling me they would certainly read and consider my article and asking me to send them a copy of my memoir!  I have no idea where this will lead but to have my work read by a person in the media is very gratifying. For me, these little gifts are what makes writing so worthwhile. It just goes to show you should never give up.

FATHER CHRISTMAS DELIVERS

Santa loaded the last of the presents onto the sleigh and arched his aching back. Christmas Eve again. His memory wasn’t what it was but he did remember a little girl named Jenny who had started asking questions – things like, ‘How does Father Christmas know what I want? How can he deliver presents to all the children around the world in one night? And how come there are so many Father Christmases in different grottos?’ He scratched his head. He needed something to make the child believe.  Now where did he put those big foil-covered chocolate discs?

Santa went back indoors, stamped the snow off his boots and slumped down in his armchair beside the fire. He’d look for the chocolate discs later, when he’d thawed out a bit. He never used to mind snow, quite enjoyed it really, but he was becoming less and less enamoured with the stuff, especially when there was nowhere to park the reindeer on those modern estates. And what with the vet’s bills and the M.O.T. on the sleigh – it was all rather depressing.

He went to put the kettle on. He was tempted to have a glass of rum punch but that would have to wait; he couldn’t risk being drunk in charge of a sleigh on top of everything else.

As he sipped his Earl Grey his mind began to wander back to when things were much simpler; when children were happy with a stocking, an orange and a few nuts. Not like today, always wanting the latest Xbox or whatever. To be honest, it all went over his head.

He awoke with a start. Rudolph was banging on the window with his antlers.

‘All right, all right, I’m coming.’

Santa glanced at the cuckoo clock. Oops! Five to twelve, but what about Jenny? The disc? Oh well, he didn’t have time to look for it now.

It was just the sort of night he liked – crisp and clear so he could see where he was going. Racing through the skies had always cleared his head. Ah, now he remembered! Chocolate discs, kitchen cupboard. He quickly spun round, parked the sleigh, went to find one and put it in Jenny’s sack.

Meanwhile, Jenny was sitting up in bed hoping to see Father Christmas come in with her presents. She desperately wanted to believe but Lisa at school had said she was silly – of  course there was no such thing as Father Christmas. But surely, that couldn’t be right? Her mum and dad wouldn’t lie to her all these years, would they? Even so, she couldn’t help wondering…

Jenny’s eyelids began to droop.

Father Christmas parked the sleigh, dug out Jenny’s sack of presents and the saucer-sized disc.  He wrote in the foil with his special pen and placed it on top of her sack. That should do it.

It was still dark when Jenny opened her eyes. The sack was there! But how had she missed him? She jumped out of bed to see if he’d brought all the things she’d asked for. Lying on the top was a big foil disc like a big old-fashioned penny. She rubbed her eyes. There was a message scratched into the foil – ‘To Jenny with love from Santa.’ Wow! He’d written it with his own hand! She couldn’t wait to tell Lisa.