Friday, 19 April 2013

World Book Night Comes to Appley Green!!

OK, so Appley Green is not real. I should know this!
World Book Night is real, however, and coming very close to Appley Green! Just to remind you, this is an initiative that involves authors, publishers, agents, booksellers, librarians and above all readers!  It is on Tuesday 23 April - wow! four days away, as I write this.

On their website they say, ‘World Book Night is a celebration of reading and books which sees tens of thousands of passionate volunteers gift specially chosen and printed WBN books in their communities to share their love of reading.’  I am one such volunteer, full of passion, needless to say; so on Tuesday I shall be giving away 20 brand new special editions of my first choice from the list of books offered by World Book Night. It was difficult to choose from a wonderful selection, but I was delighted to be allocated my top choice, a novel called The Road Home by Rose Tremain.

Of course, this book is just ‘up my street’ and please forgive the pun if you can find it in your heart; about an Eastern European immigrant’s struggle to make his way (yes it’s a ‘journey’) in London. It offers a new perspective of ourselves and I love this book. I really hope I transmit my enthusiasm to others and do it justice.

A snippet from the WBN website, declaring that reading can go beyond pleasure:

 Reading changes lives, improves employability, social interaction, enfranchisement and can have an effect on mental health and happiness.’ 

I could not put it better myself, nor agree more!

Next week I will tell you about where I am going – or rather where I went!  With pictures! I wonder who I will meet? Aren't you excited? Of course you are!

Book givers are charged with the mission to approach people who perhaps do not read books regularly. I say ‘perhaps’ for how can you possibly tell before speaking to someone! (unless you catch them at it - reading, that is.) What does a non-reading person look like? What would be their identifying features? Tell me!

It's 'horses for courses' as they say and some could not live without Grand Prix races or playing Bridge; but I genuinely cannot imagine living without books. They are, and always have been, such an important part of my life; now in retirement, even more so. I do what used to be called ‘Books on Wheels’ rebranded as ‘Library Direct Home Service’ that I consistently fail to remember; the words just keep re-arranging themselves in a different order, but I guess I need to stare at the title a little longer to fix it. I belong to a book club. I have kept a list of books read over the past ten years or so, with a brief comment about each one. I recommend this to booklovers! As the years roll by it is quite enlightening to look back and see what you have read and whether you enjoyed it and, if so, why. Now, I sometimes pop a little review up on Goodreads, go to Book Festivals, and, of course,  try to find time to write books too, the greatest joy of all.

World Book Night, The Company
‘Each year we recruit 20,000 volunteers to hand out 20 copies of their favourite book from our list to members of their community who don’t regularly read. By enlisting thousands of passionate book lovers around the country World Book Night reaches out to the millions of people in the UK who have yet to fall in love with reading in the hope that we can start them on their reading journey. In addition World Book Night distributes half a million books directly to the hardest to reach potential readers in prisons, care homes, hospitals, sheltered, supported and social housing, the homeless and through partner charities working throughout the UK. World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: it’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways, through the sharing of stories.’
Let me know of any good World Book Night (WBN) events down your way!
Added after the event - here in Deepcut Village Hall
See how they clutch their books!!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

‘Put yourself in my shoes’ - Parkinson’s Awareness Week

This week, beginning 15 April, is Parkinson's Awareness Week focusing on changing attitudes, using the strapline 'Put yourself in my shoes'. The idea behind the campaign came from a person with Parkinson's who told them how much he wished that people could put themselves in his shoes so they could understand what life is like.

If you have read Shades of Appley Green you may know, or have guessed, that I have some connection with Parkinson’s. I worked in and around Basingstoke and Farnborough as Community Support Worker for the excellent organisation, Parkinson’s UK (then Parkinson’s Disease Society) for a couple of years before retiring in 2008. The title has now changed to Information Support Worker and along with specialist nurses, they do wonderful work nationwide.

Says the society's marketing officer Clare Allen, ‘Working with people affected, we'll be using Parkinson's Awareness Week to expose some of the realities of living with Parkinson's and help the public to better understand the condition.’ She stressed how important it is to get the word out, especially people who have had first-hand experience of the condition.

A little while ago I wrote about ‘Who or What Inspired my Characters’, remembering the days when I travelled around visiting people in their homes or in residential care. 

‘I met some extraordinary people endowed with both spirit and stoicism, rising above the initial shock of diagnosis of a progressive illness, to live life as best they could. Most touching of all was the mutual support between married couples; a man and a woman each battling with a different set of problems but somehow able to get along together and make a good fist of old age. One creative lady, unable to do very much herself or get out of the house, had the unerring love of a husband who would spend many hours furnishing and fitting out miniature houses – like sophisticated dolls’ houses – in a given period, whether Regency, Victorian or 1950s. Days, weeks, years were spent together working with bits of wood, fabric and glue and an assortment of tiny household accessories to create absolute masterpieces. They were wonderful.
Another lady lived alone, in what I would describe as a shrine to all things Art Nouveau, including some exciting, theatrical memories. Scarcely able to walk at all, she relied on a rota of carers and a loving son who came when he could.’

But, sadly, I also saw situations that were less comfortable, where the wider public did not evidently understand the symptoms they saw. Someone who shakes, is slow to move or respond, and perhaps shuffles when they walk may be assumed to be drunk, or have dementia, but of course this is almost always not the case.

In Shades of Appley Green there is an elderly, intellectual gentleman trapped inside a body that would not do as it was told, a victim of both Parkinson’s and arthritis. He becomes isolated. His children have long since flown the nest; his friends have mostly died and he ‘rattles around’ in a big house. He was once famous, lived a rich and interesting life, but who is to know now? Fortunately, he finds a true friend in Steph, a single mother with problems of her own, who has the wit to see that, whilst Parkinson’s is not going to go away (albeit controlled by medication), something can be done to remedy loneliness.

Extract from Shades of Appley Green:
      ‘With a tea-trolley heading towards them, Jackson was suddenly asked to step back. It was an abrupt interruption and she saw how fast anxiety flooded his face, sweeping away the smile he tried so hard to keep pinned-on from within the static Parkinson’s face. He had been politely listening to Lilian, with immense concentration, hearing-aid probably full-on, thinking heaven knows what, then out of the blue he was asked to “please move”.

      “Come along now,” said the lady in charge of the trolley, cheerfully, seeing no sign of any attempt to get out of her way. “There’s a love. Just a wee bit more room …”

      Steph put up her hand, as if controlling traffic. “Sorry! Just give us a minute, if you would, please,” she said. “People with Parkinson’s need time. OK?” Turning to Jackson, she whispered in his ear, “One, two, left, right, go!” and he neatly stepped back two short paces. Any onlooker might reasonably question why he had been so deliberately stubborn and slow to shift himself.

       Lilian returned to them, by which time the trolley had moved on and Jackson appeared to be calmly awaiting the next leg of the tour.’
Says Steve Ford, Chief Executive, Parkinson’s UK: ‘Can you imagine your body not doing what you told it to? To deal with people staring or tutting when you struggle to get out the right change at a supermarket till? Or how life would be if you were scared to leave the house for fear of freezing to the spot or losing balance and tripping over?’
If you have Parkinson’s or know someone who is affected by the condition, then it would be wonderful to hear from you. Leave your story below in a brief Comment or contact Parkinsons UK to help spread awareness of how the general public could perhaps be more empathetic and imagine themselves in the shoes of a person with Parkinson’s, or indeed, with another neurological condition.

I would really love to hear from you; it may help others. Spread the word please. Retweet and support.

You can find out more here from Parkinsons UK 

Review of Shades of Appley Green in Parkinson's UK magazine The Parkinson

Shades of Appley Green on Amazon paperback and Kindle

Thursday, 4 April 2013

I Wrote it My Way - Linn B Halton

I am delighted to give a huge, loud, warm welcome to the amazing Linn B Halton, who not only writes 'contemporary women's love stories that reflect life ... often with a psychic twist', but also spearheads the fantastic Love a Happy Ending project that has brought together writers from both the UK and abroad. This has now evolved into the Loveahappyending Lifestyle magazine of which she is Editor in Chief. This is one very versatile and talented lady!

So - fanfare over, we ask ourselves what set Linn off on her particular genre and style? Just reading Linn's first paragraph here leaves me in awe!

'There was no forethought involved when it came to sitting down and writing my first five manuscripts. I had waited a long time to have the luxury of giving up work and being able to sit down and write. So I opened a blank word doc and didn’t stop typing until I had completed five manuscripts. 

However, it wasn’t until after that point that I began Googling what to do next and realised the writing was the easy bit! I also hadn’t realised how specific the genre headings were, or in some cases how ‘wide’. One of my books was a true story – easy, memoirs/biography. Two were psychic romances – but I wouldn’t say they were ‘paranormal’, which to me is much heavier. My light touch is because the incidents I write about come from my own experiences. I like to keep it real. One was a collection of stories about love at all ages, although there is a cameo appearance from a spirit named Sarah. And then I decided to write a chick lit, where the subject is in her early forties! Forty is the new twenty… what can I say? 

I suppose because I knew nothing about the writing business, I wrote from the heart. I was also trying to stretch myself with each manuscript I penned and experimenting to test myself.  

It’s rather nice to be at the stage where all five of my books are now ‘out there’ and I will learn from reader feedback as my writing journey continues! 

Thank you for featuring me on your lovely blog Miriam, you are a fascinating lady and I love the gypsy theme running through your books!'

Thank you so much Linn for giving us a teasing little insight into how you write from personal experience, yet somehow blend this reality with the surreal.

Doesn't it make you want to know more? I do! Intriguing ...