I’ve recently returned (reluctantly!) to the UK from Sardinia, Italy. I was there for three months, house-sitting near Santa Teresa Gallura. As lockdown locations go, it was pretty idyllic!!
Sapphire blue skies, glorious rugged coastline, villages with houses made of granite, donkeys, Italian coffee, wild pigs, the hypnotic Mediterranean Sea (which was eternally blue, whether it was mirror-calm or smashing against the rocks.) Myrtle berries, wild strawberry trees, ancient stone towers called Nuraghes, burial tombs fit for giants, stories of elves with red caps and the Devil hurling enormous granite stones across the landscape… Sardinia (or Sardegna, as the Italians spell it) was truly captivating.
While I was there, I made a story den beneath some ancient olive trees (as you do) Here it is 😉
Introducing my first non-fiction book for children – DREAM ADVENTURES. It’s a book of true-life stories from my travels in India, Peru, Bolivia, Spain, Egypt and the UK.
It’s not all me, me me! I also introduce the extraordinary explorers, archaeologists, treasure hunters, scientists and visionaries behind the wonders I am seeing: architect Antoni Gaudi, high altitude anthropologist Johan Reinhard, plant hunter Ernest H Wilson, Egyptologist Howard Carter…
There are bold girls too: Maria Reiche, who dedicated her life to studying and preserving the mysterious Nazca lines in Peru. Kitty Loyd, who was one of the first women to study horticulture at university before launching a career as a freelance garden designer in the 1930s. Diane Leather, who broke the Five Minute Mile for women just a few weeks after Roger Bannister ran the first Four Minute Mile. But unlike Bannister, she was not given a world record because the distance was not recognised as a suitable distance for women by the International Amateur Athletic Federation.
I also talk about the power of dreaming and the joy of reading, talking about my own childhood in Liverpool.
The book has the look of a travel journal, thanks to my lovely illustrator Alicia Walker.
During lockdown I created something I have dreamed of for at least two years. Inspired by my own love of coffee shop dreaming, The Woman at theNext Table celebrates women who dream and write in coffee shops, tea rooms and cafes. It’s a safe, welcoming space where women can learn to appreciate the value of their own life stories, feel more confident and explore their creativity.
The blog is up and running, along with the weekly online coffee shop. This is proving very popular! Please contact me if you would like to attend one (via Zoom) It is FREE.
My first online workshops – Pilates for the Pen – have been announced. I have written, drawn, filmed and edited two YouTube videos. You can check them out on the YouTube channel. There’s an Instagram inspiration feed.
Once cafes re-open, I will start the podcasts, featuring interviews with real women in real coffee shops.
I have been busy, busy, BUSY with all of this! It was a huge amount of work and enormous thanks go to Arjun Jain at the John Ruskin Manufactory in New Delhi for creating such a gorgeous site. I am very excited about where this project will take me in the future.
I am thrilled to announce the publication of a new paperback from Welsh publisher Gomer. Where Magic Hides is a collection of seven brand-new stories set in Wales, with a twist of magic.
They are not re-tellings of traditional Welsh folktales or legends. With the exception of one story, they are all set in contemporary Wales and show bold, imaginative children encountering magic – whether they want to or not!
Roald Dahl famously said there is magic everywhere if you care to see it. Can you find magic even on the A465 Heads of the Valleys road to Merthyr? Yes! Other tales are set in Hay on Wye, Brecon, Beddgelert and the Radnorshire hills, so Welsh children especially will find something to inspire them here.
Where Magic Hides celebrates imagination and kindness. Danny conjures an entire army of ice warriors to do his bidding on the snowy peaks of Pen y Fan. Rhiannon encounters a wild hill pony as glorious as a unicorn. Wil saves an ailing village with a generous wish. Other children encounter real mythical creatures – water leapers and trolls. It’s a magical mix, delivered with great warmth and heart, if I say so myself!
Although the stories are newly-written, the ideas have been with me a long time. For twenty years I lived on a remote hill farm in the hills of Radnorshire. The landscape seeped into my bones (along with the wild Welsh weather!) Although I now live in England, I was easily able to conjure it again while I was writing, and it was pure joy to do so.