Posted in Reading, Writing

Thoughts on Reading, Writing & Community for World Book Day

CoProduce Care logoOn World Book Day yesterday I was pleased to be invited to take part in a special online eventrun by CoProduce Care, a not-for-profit organisation connecting people, communities and organisations to influence the decisions affecting the care community.

World Book Day logoI’ve been involved for many years with World Book Day both as a parent and when I worked for the children’s reading charity Read for Good. Knowing how a love of books and reading can transform the lives of people of all ages, I was really pleased that CoProduce Care wanted to extend the celebration to adults also, and in particular to the providers and clients of social care services.

CoProduce Care’s event, expertly hosted by Sophie Chester-Glyn, was livestreamed on World Book Day and is now available to watch at your leisure. Click the image below to watch on Youtube:

I’m introduced six minutes into the show, but it’s worth watching the whole thing to enjoy the talks and readings by historical novelist and historian Lucienne Boyce and YA author Luke Palmer, and the Q&A session with Sophie.

About My Talk

I was asked to speak for ten minutes – five minutes talking about books and my writing life, and five minutes reading from one of my stories, choosing a passage relevant to CoProduce Care’s activities.

I don’t usually use a script for talks, but as time was so tight and I wanted to make best use of it, I wrote my talk down beforehand, and today I’m sharing it below in case anyone would like to read it.

Thank you very much. I’m very pleased to be part of this event celebrating the joy of books and reading and writing.

I’ve always been an avid reader, and I enjoy escaping into a good book. When times are tough, books can be especially comforting and even healing. When I had pneumonia a few years ago, the gift of a box set of P G Wodehouse novels seemed a better tonic than any medication. During the pandemic, starting each day by quietly enjoying a chapter or two of a good book has been grounding and calming.

If you’re not sure reading is for you, maybe you just haven’t found the right book yet. To help you find books you’ll love, visit your local library and have a chat with a librarian – they love being asked for recommendations, and they’ll be very pleased to help you find books that you would enjoy.

Like reading, writing has been very therapeutic for me in times of trouble or distress. For many years I kept diaries, and for the last twelve years I’ve been a blogger.  I also enjoy writing fiction and non-fiction for other people to read.

Like reading, writing can be an enjoyable hobby that costs you next to nothing. If you’ve never tried writing, give it a go. Writing for your eyes only is fine – no need to share it unless you want to. All you need is a notebook and pen. Just write whatever comes into your head for ten minutes or so first thing in the morning or last thing at night. If you keep at it for a few weeks, you’ll find yourself writing what matters to you, and understanding and working through your own feelings. You may uncover thoughts and feelings you didn’t even know you had, and you’ll feel better for it. You might even find yourself writing stories you’d like to share, as Lucienne, Luke and I are sharing ours today.

I’ve written nine novels and lots of shorter stories. I write what is known in the trade as cosy mystery. This means that despite a crime being the jumping-off point for the plot, the stories are never dark or graphic or bloodthirsty. Instead they provide gentle, upbeat entertainment that leaves you smiling – and they often make you laugh out loud along the way. My stories are all set in the Cotswolds. They have a strong sense of place and a cast of quirky characters, most of whom are lovable, and the villains are the kind you love to hate.

My inspiration comes from my home village in the Cotswolds. When I moved here 30 years ago, I was immediately impressed by how people here look out for each other and support each other in good times and bad times, and I write to celebrate that sense of community.  My stories show that when people take time to get to know and understand each other, the world can be a more tolerant and generous place. The conflict in my stories – and also some of the comedy – often comes from initial misunderstandings that are eventually resolved. I hope they might inspire readers to be equally caring about their own neighbours.

About My Reading

cover of The Natter of Knitters

For my reading, I chose an extract from The Natter of Knitters, my quick-read novelette, about a yarnbombing event that goes haywire, thanks to the intervention of Ariel, an odd newcomer to the village, who stages a one-woman protest under the slogan:

“Say No to Knitting: Let Sheep Safely Graze”

To hear my reading from The Natter of Knitters, click here and scroll to 12 minutes into the video.

If you’d like to read the whole story, you can download the ebook or buy a tiny pocket-size paperback online here.