Enjoying The (Writing) Journey!

As an Early Years Practitioner, there are a few classic Picture Books that never fail to enthrall and delight the children I look after.

These stories are often about very ordinary things, such as having tea at the dinner table – coupled with an added twist, such as a tiger knocking on the door and inviting himself in…

One such story is Michael Rosen and Helen Obxenbury’s ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ – a delightful tale, about a simple family stroll, on a beautiful day.

The twist is, that as the children are walking along, they pretend that they are off to find a Bear! They’re going on a Bear Hunt. They’re going to catch a BIG one!

As their walk continues, they meet LOTS of different obstacles along the way, such as:

  • A deep, cold river
  • Thick, oozy mud
  • and a swirling, whirling snowstorm

Because everybody knows, that every good story must contain OBSTACLES!

And anyone that has read the story will remember the repeated refrain:

We can't go over it. 
We can't go under it. 
Oh no! We've got to go through it! 

It struck me this morning, as I was reading the story for the gazillionth time, that a writer’s journey is very much like this…

As we attempt to write our stories, to dream up vivid characters, to create a solid story arc, to nail the perfect ending, to hook our reader from the very beginning – we come against MANY obstacles along the way.

It can be so hard to keep going when we feel stuck in the thick oozy mud, lost in a whirling snowstorm and totally unable to cross the deep cold river (or face a blinking cursor on an empty page…)

We journey on, through the ups and downs. We finish our stories. We do our best to query agents, to enter competitions, to send our stories out there.. only to be faced with knock-backs, closed doors and rejection letters. It can feel like an endless journey fraught with obstacle after obstacle, set-back after set-back.

But something within us keeps us going… The sense of adventure keeps calling us onward. The beauty of the journey – the high-point of connecting with one reader – helps us get back up again. The thought that the journey is leading us ‘to catch a big one’ – keeps us pressing on…

The thought that we are doing all we can to use our gift for the glory of God, makes it all worthwhile.

And we know instinctively that there are absolutely no shortcuts. There are no easy routes through. We know, along with all other writers, that:

We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!

So, at the start of 2022, let’s keep pressing forward. Let’s seize the day. Let’s pull our coats ever tighter around us and brace the wind, the rain, the snow! Let’s say together: “We’re not scared!” and enjoy this beautiful day, this beautiful opportunity that we’ve been given! Let’s enjoy the journey! You never know, we might even discover a bear at the end of it!

Happy New Year!

Ring out the old, and ring in the new,
Another year passes, but one thing is true,
A thousand small blessings have slipped through my hands,
Moments uncountable, vast as the sands.
Ordinary days that have come,
And then gone,
A sunrise, a sunset,
A whisper, 
A song.

Times spent with family,
Long summer days,
Here for a moment,
Then gone in a haze.
I wish I could hold all these moments forever,
Time marches onward,
But love ceases never.

So I'm thankful, so thankful,
For all that has been,
For the highs and the lows,
And the bits in between,
This journey of life 
With its ups and its downs,
The trials and the triumphs,
The joys and the frowns,
This life I've been given,
I long to embrace,
To cherish each moment,
Each dear, precious face,
Yet to live in surrender,
Not grasping too tight,
To live for eternity
To walk in the light,
Knowing this life is a gift from above,
That it all comes from you,
Oh great Father of love.

Melrose & Croc, Together at Christmas, by Emma Chichester-Clark

I’m an unabashed collector of books of all kinds – particularly Picture Books. I am drawn to Picture Books like a Magpie is to shiny things. I love the marriage of words and pictures. I love sharing stories with children. I love the humour and playfulness that Picture books often contain, and as a writer, I particularly admire the skill of the illustrator, at adding so much of the magic.

A small percentage of Picture Books are both written and illustrated by the same person. I would absolutely LOVE to be in this category, but sadly, my drawing skills are woefully deplete.

Emma Chichester Clark is one such talent – and there is a particular book that comes out again and again at Christmas in our house – first being enjoyed by my own children, and now by the children I look after.

It’s the story of two strangers, Melrose and Croc, who come to the big city. Both are lonely and looking for a friend.

Like all good stories, things go from bad to worse for both of them – especially Croc!

Until lovely music draws them both to the ice-skaing rink…

…where they are destined to bump into each other!

And the two lonely strangers become best of friends.

This sweet book will always be a favourite of mine. And it could partly explain my deep affection for Labradors…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post.

12 more sleeps till the big day!

Reflections on ‘The Snowman’, by Raymond Briggs

Boxing Day, 1982. I had just turned eight years old. And something magical was about to happen.

‘The Snowman,’ a British animated film and symphonic poem directed by Dianne Jackson and based on Raymond Brigg’s delightful 1978 picture book, was first broadcasted to the British Public, on Channel Four.

It instantly won the hearts of viewers everywhere. With it’s hauntingly beautiful music, composed by Howard Blake, fantastic animation, and slightly poignant ending – the whole 26 minutes was just enthralling to me as a wide-eyed child.

It has since become something of an annual Christmas event! The Snowman is now televised every year, on Channel Four, normally on Christmas Eve.

Growing up, I became an avid fan, and vividly remember watching the version which featured David Bowie, (a huge fan of Raymond Briggs) with my little brother, John. Bowie, played the grown-up version of the boy featured in the animation, and as viewers, we found out that it was all true, and not just a dream, because grown up Bowie still had the scarf that was given to him by Father Christmas at the snowman’s party!

Collecting all things Snowman, soon became a craze.

Given by my parents, on one enchanted Christmas day!

I don’t remember the year that I was given these lovely Royal Doulton figurines…or whether I received them all at one time. But I do remember being absolutely thrilled with them, especially with the Snowman Musical Box, which plays a magical rendition of “We’re Walking In the Air’ as the Snowman pirouettes round and around. Quite delightful!

.These figures have been loved and admired and cherished for many years! And amazingly are all still in incredible condition.

Just look at this beautiful plate too!

Aaah, I’m feeling very nostalgic just looking at these.

I hope you’ll agree, they are beautiful keepsakes – and I know that my own children will cherish them some day too.

What are some of your childhood Christmas Memories? I’d love to hear from you!

Doggie Decorations!

Most of you will know by now, that we have recently welcomed a new addition to our family!

Meet Amber, our Fox Red Labrador!

Now…there was much debate this year about whether we should bother putting up a Christmas Tree. I wasn’t sure how a 17 week old pup would respond to a twinkling tree full of inviting looking baubles.

My daughter Grace convinced me to at least give it a try – with a promise that if the whole affair was a complete disaster, that she would help me pack the tree away again!

Well, I am delighted to announce that almost 2 weeks later, the tree is still standing – and still intact! Granted, there has been a little bit of bauble bopping going on here and there. But on the whole, this Labrador has been extremely well behaved!

I’m also delighted to share with you these delightful decorations that just arrived in the post today, courtesy of the wonderful Etsy based ‘Brown Bear Interiors!’

Aren’t they just the cutest?

Needless to say, I am over the moon with them! For me, Christmas is all about the little things. And these ‘little things’ just about made my day!

How about you, dearest reader friends? Do you have any photos or stories about pets at Christmas time? I’d love to hear from you!

Penhaligon’s Scented Christmas Treasury

I’ll let you into a little secret – today is my birthday! Hooray!

Birthday’s and Christmases throughout childhood, for me, always, ALWAYS meant books! Whether it was a brand new bundle of Notebooks for scribbling down my stories, or the next instalment of the Anne of Green Gables series, it was always such a pleasure to open a gift that kept on giving!

One such book was given to me, by my mum – oooh, many moons ago now. I can’t have been much older than 16, so this book has been on my shelf for over 30 years now! And it still brings joy every time I take it out of it’s hardback case and have a look through.

The ‘Penhaligon’s Scented Treasury of Verse and Prose’ is a wonderful collection of all things Christmas, containing extracts from ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Little Women’, plus all sorts of illustrated Carols and Poems – to name but a few! It even features a traditional Mrs Beeton recipe for Christmas Pudding!

‘Little Women’ remains one of my all time favourite childhood stories!

Penhaligon’s is a British Perfume House, founded in the late 1860’s by William Henry Penhaligon, a Cornish Barber who moved to London and became the Court Barber and Perfumer to Queen Victoria.

It’s no surprise therefore, that one of the unique things about this stunning hard-back book, is that it is delicately perfumed ‘with spicy notes of cloves and cinnamon and small fir cones, it is reminiscent of hot toddies and log fires and guaranteed to add a festive air.’

The scent still lingers to this very day. But what I love best about it, is the beautiful Victorian style illustrations. Here is a sneak peek inside.

The quality of light in this picture, emanating from the tree, is just lovely!
Wonderful Christmas Treats!

This lovely book will remain on my shelf for always – and I’m sure will be loved and treasured for generations to come!

I hope you enjoyed looking at it as much as I did.

Little Grey Rabbit’s Christmas, by Alison Uttley

I would love to share with you a few highlights from one of my all-time favourite Christmas Books. Alison Uttley, was an English Children’s author, who was born and brought up on a farm in Derbyshire at the end of the 19th Century. ‘The yearly tasks of sowing, harvesting and preserving were an important part of her childhood. Feast days and holidays were highlights and Christmas was especially important to the young Alison. Her mother spent many hours baking and preparing food for the festivities.’

This delightful book features the most exquisite illustrations by Margaret Tempest, who worked with Alison Uttley for almost 40 years.

It was first published in 1939 (way before my time), but I’m sure you will agree it still deserves a place on any child’s bookshelf! This book conjurs up a great deal of nostalgia and captures the simple childhood delights of Christmases gone by.

Front cover

It opens with the words:

It had been snowing for hours. Hare stood in the garden of the little house at the end of the woods, watching the snowflakes tumbling down like white feathers from the gray sky.”

“However did you get inside a snowball?” asked Hare. “I didn’t get inside. It got around me,” replied Fuzzypeg.

“It’s a Christmas Tree,” replied Mole. “It’s for all the birds and beasts of the woods and fields.”

What a treasure of a book!

I’d really love to hear about any Vintage Christmas books that you recall from childhood!

Friday Funnies

Book Jokes

Photo by Sam Lion on Pexels.com

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell us these ridiculous ‘book’ jokes.

They involved a made-up book title, followed by an appropriate author!

Here are the ones I can remember… plus a few more that I’ve either made up, or discovered along the way.

Your challenge (should you choose to accept it): Think up some more of your own and then add them in the comments section below!

  1. ‘Piles In The Road’, by G. G. Dunnit
  2. ‘Overboard’, by Eileen Dover
  3. ‘Haunted House’ by Hugo First
  4. ‘Someone’s At The Door’ by Isabella Ringing
  5. ’20/20 Vision’ by Seymour Clearly
  6. ‘Race To The Outhouse’, by Will. E. Makit (with illustrations by Bettie Won’t)
  7. ‘Stray Bullet’ by Rick O’Shea
  8. ‘How To Fit A Carpet In Ten Easy Steps’ by Walter Wall
  9. ‘Stony Broke’ by Len D’Fiver
  10. ‘Baggy Trousers’ by Lucy Lastic
  11. ‘Tying The Knot’ by R. U. Shaw
  12. ‘Cowboy Builders’, by Bodgitt & Leggitt
  13. ‘Blind Date’, by Ron Day-Voo
  14. Dangerous Reptiles, by Al. E. Gator
  15. ‘Hole in the Roof!’ by Lee King
  16. ‘Late For School’ by Misty Bus
  17. ‘If Looks Could Kill’ by I. C. Stare
  18. ‘Chicanes’ by Ben D. Road
  19. ‘The Bull-Fighter’ by Matt Adore
  20. ‘Shocked To The Core!’ By Will I. D. Clare

I know….they’re absolutely dreadful. But they’re really fun to think up. How many can you come up with?

Autumn Snaps, 2021

Being woken every morning, incredibly early, by a hyperactive puppy can be a bit of a shock to the system! But rising earlier than normal, even in these dark November mornings, definitely has it’s advantages…After the initial reluctance to get out of my cosy bed, pull on my clothes, coat and wellington boots and head out the front door, I find myself rewarded with a park that’s practically empty and bathed in soft, morning light.

The pale light of morning breaks through the trees…

All is peaceful and still, apart from the occasional squawking of the Crows and Magpies, who flit and flap about, foraging for seeds and berries. Industrious Squirrels scamper around me, burying their hoards before winter sets in. Darkness gives way to dawn. The stream gurgles. The fresh air invigorates. The senses slowly awaken, drinking in God’s handiwork and silently giving thanks for this fresh start, for this beautiful, breath-taking, brand new day.

Before the rush begins, there is a narrow window of time. Time to think. To breathe. To ponder. To pray.

Blink, and it is gone – never to be recovered.

So instead of complaining, I’m learning to embrace these early morning outings. In fact, they are becoming quite a gift!

All Kinds of Antics

Hi friends, it’s me again, Amber!

This is a picture of me pulling my ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ face. I’ve been practicing this face a lot lately. Why?

Because this face gets me out of whole heaps of trouble. Yep. I might be little, but I am BIG trouble! Trouble with a capital ‘T’!

Take the other day for instance. Mum was minding her own business, doing some gardening. I really wanted to help. So I decided to dead-head a few of her favourite flowers. I snapped off a whole head of Hydrangea, and shredded up her prize Sedums.

Next I tried to help with the washing….Mum put the washing in the machine – and I dragged it out again and just sat on it.

What a good and helpful little doggie I am!

And of course, when Emily plays with the sand, I have to play too! Only I like to get right inside the sand-pit. Oooh, that sandy stuff really tickles my snozzle and makes me sneeze! Mum just loves my paw-prints all over her clean floor!

And I just can’t help it – I really love to chew things. Toys, shoes – anything I can get my teeth on. What’s so wrong with that?

It’s a good job I’m such a cutie pie, don’t you think? But just to be on the safe side, I think I’d better keep practicing that face!

Stay tuned for more of my pawsome adventures. x

The Pup With The Yellow Collar

Here’s a little snippet from a Picture Book series I’m currently working on. Can you tell who inspired it?

Once, there were ten tumbling, bumbling, honey-coloured puppies, who needed a forever home. None of the puppies yet had names. Instead, they each wore a different coloured collar, so that people could tell which one of them was which.

At first they were small and snuggly and cosy and dozy. But every day, they grew!

They wobbled and wiggled.

They toppled and tumbled.

They nuzzled and nibbled.

Until soon, they were big enough to chase and race around the garden.

One day, a nice family came to adopt a puppy of their very own. All of the puppies were unique and special so it was very difficult to choose.

Some were big.

Some were small.

Some were sleepy.

One was sassy!

But the pup with yellow collar was funny, licky, snuggly and sweet….

Pebble on the Beach

Last summer, as I was walking around Seagrove Bay on the Isle of Wight, I happened upon the brightly painted pebble that you can see pictured above. It had been left on the beach – quite deliberately – to bring a smile to whoever was fortunate enough to find it. Wasn’t I the lucky one? And what a sweet, sweet idea! An idea worth sharing, I thought, hence the poem below. And when I return to Seagrove Bay, I shall paint a pebble and leave it for someone else to find!

I found this pebble on the beach,
Quite by chance, the other day,
Painted brightly,
Just for fun,
And hidden there along the way.

I saw this pebble lying there,
Whilst walking round the shingly bay,
Coincidence?
A random chance?
A gift to make another's day.

I'll keep this pebble from the beach,
Because it always makes me smile,
Reminding me
That joy is free,
And kindness always so worthwhile.






 

A Spider’s Skill!

How doth the little spider be,
A Master of Geometry?
Oh tell me, tell me, if you know,
Where did she learn to weave quite so?
Please tell me little Spider friend,
How many hours did you spend
Creating such a sight to see,
Such skillful lines of symmetry?
Concentric frame,
Installed at night,
A work of art,
By morning light!



Autumn Glory

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com
It's Autumn once more,
What a sight to behold,
Streets lined with crimson
And laden with gold,
Moon like a saucer,
Days getting shorter,
As summer lays down
To make way for the cold.

Warm woolen knits,
Crackling fires,
Wild geese take flight
Over pink sunset skies,
Off with a flap of migratory wings,
The earth gives birth,
Creation sings!

Season of beauty,
Nature's last fling,
Before winter makes bare
And the earth sleeps til' Spring,
Emblazoned in scarlet,
You take your last breath,
Your most glorious hour,
Was found at your death.

Amber’s Adventures – Settling In

Hellooooo!

It’s so good to meet you!

I’m Amber, an eight-week-old Fox Red Labrador Retriever. I thought you might like to read about some of my adventures from time to time.

Yesterday, the most paw-some thing happened…

I got adopted by my new family!

This is me with my new mum and dad. Just look at their happy faces! I like happy faces. I especially like to lick them. Mum has almost the same colour hair as me – what a great way to accessorize!

Anyhow, suddenly I got strapped into my very own car seat. At first I was all squirmy and wormy, and wriggly and giggly – but as soon as the engine started and we pulled away, I was lulled off to sleep. Good job, because it was a LONG way from Leicestershire to London. I slept the entire way, apart from when we stopped at Motorway services for a coffee break.

When we finally got to my new home, it was dark. Everything smelt strange and different. But I soon found my way around – I was beside myself at all the new things to explore.

But the very best thing of all was that there were more people with happy faces waiting to greet me! They all made such a big fuss of me. And everybody wanted to play! It was one big play fest!

Oh and by the way…I noticed there were also these two funny fur-balls, of the feline kind. But they gave me a wide berth….well, for the time being, anyway.

When it was bedtime, I settled down in my crate. I woke my mum and big sisters up a few times in the night. 1am, 3am and finally at 5:30. I just needed to know that my new family were still there.

Then….from 5:30 – 7:30am, I enjoyed a really long play with my special new friend Emily. She’s little, just like me. I like her a lot.

And then we both kind of collapsed for a little snooooozle.

I was a bit sad when some of my family members had to leave for work and school. No fair!

I can’t wait for them all to come home this evening.

I really hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about how I settled in. I will post some more ‘pup-dates’ from time to time, plus some of my very best Labrador Life Lessons – so make sure you stay tuned by subscribing!

But for now, here are some pictures…

Until next time….goodbye!

Zacchaeus





The Streets of the City were crowded that day,
The Teacher was coming, He was heading this way,
My heart leapt within at the sound of His Name,
This man who healed lepers, the blind and the lame.

But the crowds all around me were blocking my view,
And try as I might, I just couldn't push through,
(There's not much to be said for my stature - it's true,)
So I ended up right at the back of the queue.

Then ahead of the crowds, in the distance, I see,
Down the long, dusty road,
There's a Sycamore Tree,
I was desperate to see Him,
It had to be done,
I kicked up the dust and I started to run!

My robes snagged on twigs as I scrambled up high,
And I hoped against hope,
That He'd not pass me by,
Still, my heart skipped a beat when He stopped by that tree,
And He peered through the leaves, looking right up at me!

What would He say to a man such as me?
What was I doing here?
How could it be,
That this wonderful stranger should call me by name?
In that moment, I knew, I would not be the same.

The people were outraged,
He was going to eat,
At the home of Zacchaeus, the swindler, the cheat!
But whenever He spoke, all my pride fell apart,
Until something had changed in the depths of my heart.

The tears started falling, 
My heart overflowed,
I would pay it all back - every penny I owed.
I would give it all gladly,
I'd do anything,
For this wonderful man,
For this beautiful King!

The love that He showed me,
The grace that He gave,
Swept over my being,
Like wave upon wave,
What joy filled my soul,
And what gladness within,
When the Son of God cleansed me
From all of my sin.

The Story So Far

Photo by Maria Tyutina on Pexels.com

Hi! My name is Angela. I write stories and poems for both children and adults.

Around fifteen years ago, I began to take my life-long love of creative writing to a new level and started writing Picture Books.

Like in every good story, there have been plenty of obstacles along the way! It’s been fifteen years of stops and starts, highs and lows, plus a few depressing rejections in between! But, thankfully, the story isn’t over just yet.

Some of my Picture Book stories feature:

  • a noisy, guitar-playing goose
  • a squirrel who loses a treasure
  • and a loveable tortoise called Hugo.

Hopefully, one day, you’ll get to read them.

Kids, Kids, Kids!

Besides writing, I’m a busy mum to four growing kids, including a set of twins! I also work as a Child-Minder, specialising in Early Years, which gives me plenty of scope for the imagination! Our house is constantly full of children (of all ages) and there is never a dull moment!

Breaking into Print!

Back in 2015, I wondered what would happen if I combined my passion for writing with my faith. Soon after, I received my first ever YES from a publisher, when two of my short stories, ‘Pitch-Black Patch’ and ‘Hidden Blooms’ were published by Keys For Kids Ministries in their quarterly devotional.

It was so much fun, that I went on to write a few more stories, some of which include:

  • Don’t Forget the Toothpaste
  • Teacups and Trainsets
  • One Hundred Percent
  • Only God Can Do That!
  • That’s Not My Job!
  • and The Doll’s House

I’ve also contributed articles and devotionals for Unlocked, Devozine and Creation Illustrated.

To order your copy, read or listen online, visit https://www.keysforkids.org/

Learning

I love to learn all I can about the craft of writing, and have recently completed courses in Picture Book writing, plus chapter books for older readers.

I have recently discovered and joined an amazing Writer’s Group, called ‘Write For A Reason’ and I am currently working on my first kid’s Novel.

Connecting

I’m a member of the SCBWI and enjoy being involved in the writing community on Social Media. I am a firm believer in learning from and helping to encourage others along the way and love to connect with other writers and creatives.

Relaxing

When I’m not writing, chances are I’m either curled up in my favourite arm-chair, (book in one hand, cup of tea in the other), cooking up a storm for the family, or pretending to be a country singer. I’m also a bit of a novice gardener, and keen wild-life lover.

I live in London with my amazing husband, Nathan, our four kids, two Rescue Tabby Cats, and our adorable Fox Red Labrador, Amber.