Dandelions and Bad Hair Days: Everybody loves it so let’s go for the top 10….!

Last month Dandelions and Bad Hair Days; Untangling lives affected by depression and anxiety was published on Kindle. Available around the world to read on Kindle, PC or even iPads and smart phones, alongside the paperback version it is now available to millions of people. All the reviews so far have been 5*, with comments such as ‘moving’ ‘enlightening’ ‘uplifting’ ‘accessible’. The book has been featured at a Psychotherapy conference where a reading by Vivienne Tuffnell of her piece that gives the book its title was viewed by many therapists present as one of the highlights of the day.


All good then. Since going to eBook DABHD has featured in two Kindle charts, reaching the top 50 of one of them and the royalties available from Amazon mean that selling at 2.99 we get nearly as much in royalties as we do for a paperback at twice the price.

But we really need a breakthrough to get it on to  ‘must read’ lists. Looking at the charts, the ‘self-help’ books that do well seem to be the ones with inspirational quotes and have a life coach angle to them. Nothing wrong with that at all. However, I do think there is a place for a book full of wonderful writing by inspirational people who talk about their own experiences in their own words, creatively and with passion. Reviewers have said that even if they have no direct experience of mental ill-health themselves, the book has helped them understand how it can affect anyone, in any walk of life and however resilient they think they are.

So how do we ‘go viral’? How do we bring Dandelions and Bad Hair Days to the attention of all those that would benefit from it, learn from it, come to a better understanding from it? All of those involved believe that to reduce stigma and raise awareness we need to get our stories out there. We have poked our heads about the proverbial parapets, which for many has been a courageous move.

So lets find a way to sell in the hundreds, the thousands. Remember ALL profits go to mental health charity SANE, with a contribution to OCD Action in memory of Sybil Macindoe whose mother, Lois Chaber, writes movingly in DABHD and whose own book The Thing Inside My Head has done so much to highlight how damaging Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be.

I have to say I am not very confident at marketing the work I do – it feels a little like selling raffle tickets – you know people are strapped for cash and it is hard to ask. However – this is not all my writing; it is poetry and prose by some twenty contributors. It has a beautiful and unique cover, using artwork by the talented artist Ingrid Smejkal and the paperback includes photographs by photographer Nettie Edwards.  Everyone wins with this book. Please do buy it, tell your friends, review it. I can’t thank you enough for the hard work so far, but there is so much more it could do.

‘Talking Books’…On trying to become Somerset’s answer to Mariella Frostrup

10radio…I wish!

But I do have my own book show on local radio -10Radio based at the heart of a Somerset community  – and the first programme  is looming large. I go on air at 11am tomorrow (Friday 29th March 2013) to start the series of fortnightly programmes which will offer book reviews, news and interviews with writers, poets, photographers – in fact anyone with a book out that I think will interest listeners on 105.3fm in Somerset or anywhere in the world online at www.10Radio.org. I will also be recording each show and putting links up on my blog so you can listen anytime anywhere. Aren’t you lucky?!!

I am nervous, but very excited. As a writer I am also a keen reader (and think you have to be) but I also love to talk about books and think about what they mean to me. I want to focus on a different genre each time and find an author willing to come on for a chat to talk about their work and their writing life. I also want to encourage a bit of audience interaction so would love to have requests for favourite poems – there is someone with a wonderful voice at the station who does readings and voice overs professionally so I am keen to take advantage of his skills.

The show came about purely by accident. I was being interviewed at 10Radio to plug the TAP conference and had talked about my book Dandelions and Bad Hair Days when I happened to ask whether they had a book programme in the schedule. ‘No! Do you want to do one?’ came the reply. I am in the mood for new challenges at the moment and after much discussion over a title for the show, ‘Talking Books’ was commissioned. On a voluntary basis of course. The station is held together by a committed band of Directors and a lot of willing volunteers but it is really well-respected and I am keen to ensure I don’t mess up.

Beth Webb
Beth Webb

The first show – as it is Easter hols – is on the children and young adults market. I am lucky enough to have Beth Webb as my first guest. She is a first rate storyteller and writer of books for children and teens, including the Star Dancer quartet (loved by teens and adults alike) and The Junkyard Dragon. I am hoping she will be kind – I suspect I will get so involved in our conversation I will be cut off unceremoniously at 11.30am as I overrun. Timing might be something I can only learn by experience.

So listen out for me. I would love to know what you think. Most of my readers here will have to listen online I suspect but feedback would be good (although not the kind you get from having the phone too near the radio of course…) and as each programme approaches I might be asking for your favourites in the ‘genre of the week’. So keep your fingers crossed for me. I would love a long career in radio and the chance to talk to you directly about the writing we all love.

Make a cup of tea and listen with a hob nob. Books and biscuits – what could be better?

Learning to love the rain again – Nettie’s story

Editor’s note: After a short break, we start the second year of monthly mental health guest posts.  For November I have secured a moving description of living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by Nettie Edwards, a hugely talented digital artist who creates work with her iPhone and iPad. Her images illustrate this piece and I urge you to take a trip to her blog – http://lumilyon.blogspot.com/ – to see more of her work.

A memory…
One of those sparkling early mornings that sometimes follow a night of heavy rain: birdsong rings brightly through air not yet choked with traffic fumes; the sun, low in slate-blue sky, glazes all with a golden wash. Inky shadows collect in the creases of the pavement. I usually miss all this: I’m rubbish at doing mornings.
You’re getting hard on yourself again! Move on, bring your focus back to the present. What am I feeling right now? Absolutely nothing, I’m numb, there’s no physical sensation, as if my life is happening in front of me on a cinema screen. This is heart-breaking, I used to love the rain. Then one day, the floods came and washed all the feeling away, leaving nothing but this feeling of not feeling.
But at least I managed to get out of bed this morning, managed to leave the house.

My mind wanders back a year…
I’m with my doctor, wrung out and desperate, telling her that I can’t bear being inside my body any more: I’m a bag of nerves: physical tension, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, hyper-vigilance, lack of concentration, memory and motivation. Exhausted from hardly sleeping, but having nightmares when I do, I’m afraid to step out of my house, most of all: of being with other people.
Then: words that I never wanted to hear myself saying: “Do you think anti-depressants might be a good idea?” My doctor shakes her head “no, you’re not presenting as a depressed person. To be honest, I don’t know what’s wrong with you or how I can help you…”

Continue reading “Learning to love the rain again – Nettie’s story”

Four seasons in one week: on a love of the Lakes and sunburn in September

This morning I was sitting inside at the PC, by french windows opening on to our south-facing garden. After thirty minutes I looked down at my left arm to see a distinct patch of sunburn. As far as I can recall I have never been burned by the sun in my dining room before and as it is now very late September the world feels slightly odd. I have always found Emily Dickinson a kindred spirit in confusion, and the first four verses of this poem express perfectly how I feel at present:


Emily Dickinson [1830-1886]

These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June, –
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!

Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,

Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!

Irony is not lost on me. Last week I wrote of my love of the cool days of autumn and discovered that many other people feel as I do about the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. I complained that I would love it more should it stop raining and hey presto, it is now 27 degrees celsius in the shade. It is actually too hot to sit out.

Continue reading “Four seasons in one week: on a love of the Lakes and sunburn in September”

Savage Grandeur & Noblest Thoughts? Well I gave it a go…

Where does the time go? Last weekend I was sitting in a room overlooking Coniston Old Man in the Lake District, miserably contemplating the long journey home to Somerset. I was full of enthusiasm for writing a blog post about my few days away, putting up a few photos and generally musing on the general fabulous-ness of my favourite corner of the world. Although I did post a poem inspired by a previous visit to the North Lakes, the world of work imposed itself upon me all too quickly and my blog has suffered as a consequence.

No matter really; it is never too late to write about what inspires us through life and besides, part of this post is about one terrific reason to go back up to Cumbria as soon as time and finances allow.

I watched Sheila Hancock on The Art of Watercolours on Sunday 20th February. It was lovely to watch and an interesting hour’s television but it seemed once again to follow the increasing tendency of BBC documentaries (particularly I noticed in the recent Faulks on Fiction) to assume we like to see moody shots of celebrities looking dreamily into the distance. However, it seemed to tie in with an exhibition that I simply didn’t have time to see when I was up in Grasmere last week.

Entitled Savage Grandeur and Noblest Thoughts, discovering the Lake District 1750 – 1820 it takes further the issues touched upon by Sheila Hancock.  Revolution abroad encouraged artists and writers from Britain to take a closer look at areas of outstanding beauty closer to home, resulting in a flurry of watercolour and oil paintings; sketches, books and prints that inspired an ever-increasing number of people to visit The Lake District. Unfortunately time did not allow me to take a closer look, but the Wordsworth Museum website suggests it will be an interesting look at this radical period in art and literature through the eyes of those visiting the Lakes through the eras of the Enlightenment and Romanticism. It draws on works held within the Wordsworth Trust’s collection, and my only reservation is the phrase ‘The exhibition will be complemented by a computer-generated guide to the scenery depicted in selected exhibits’…..Hmmm.

Continue reading “Savage Grandeur & Noblest Thoughts? Well I gave it a go…”

The sedge has wither’d from the lake and no birds sing…

The theme for this week at Sticky Fingers Gallery is ‘seasons’. I am sitting here writing this post, looking out of the window over the garden as gale force winds and squally showers fling the last few leaves from the rose bushes and I am fearing for the bird table. Something tells me it could be half way up the street feeding the robins in someone else’s garden by this evening.

It is most certainly autumn, and not really the autumn of ‘Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ anymore. It has a wintry feel about it now; the nights are drawing in and we bought our Christmas cards at the weekend. The one we always receive first, from an old college friend of Peter’s, will be with us in two weeks time with the newsletter telling us of the minutiae of her life over the past twelve months. Where have those 52 weeks gone?

At the weekend we went for a walk in our local park here in Wellington. The Park was a gift from the Quaker Fox family to the town in 1903 as a memorial to the coronation of King Edward VII. It is Grade II listed and it is utterly fabulous. It has the prettiest little house in it, with a beautiful Arts & Crafts style stone tablet embedded in the brickwork and there is  a bandstand still used on a regular basis in the summer. Children and adults alike love it, many sitting above the ‘ha ha’ (to which our attention is quickly drawn as an historic but rather dangerous feature as soon as you walk through the gate), to watch local football matches on the rec, of which you get a great view. It is a long way down…..

Continue reading “The sedge has wither’d from the lake and no birds sing…”