War Diary October 1915 – Edith Cavell

It is almost one hundred years since the execution of Edith Cavell, a brave nurse from Norfolk who served in Belgium during World War One, and I am reblogging a War Diary in her honour. Scant information is given here, and the matter of fact statement about her death does nothing to give us a picture of how she must have suffered – no matter how brave she appeared – as she wrote letters to her colleagues giving instructions about domestic matters as she waited in her cell for her final moments to arrive. During her trial, Edith revealed that she had helped 200 allied soldiers to escape capture by the Germans, in the full knowledge that in doing so she ran the risk of being court-martialed and executed by firing squad which, indeed, she was at 7.00am on 12th October 1915. It is her bravery, together with that of all the other nurses and medical personnel who served in The Great War which inspired my novel A Nightingale in Winter, and I am proud to live in the same county she was born in. I shall be attending the displays and memorial activities that are to take place here in Norwich this month with great interest and a sense of pride.

ANiW Final Cover

Norfolk in World War One

War Norfolk
German aircraft deployed on the Western Front

The German Fokker comes into service on the Western Front, able to fire forward through the propeller German air superiority is achieved.

Music Hall in Norwich

High Class Vaudeville entertainment comes to the Theatre Royal in Norwich as it changes name to ‘The Empire Music Hall’.

Execution of Edith Cavell

Norfolk-born nurse Edith Cavell is executed by the Germans in Brussels as a spy and for aiding escaped Allied prisoners.

New Social Housing

The master of the rolls declared open for occupation a block of residential flats in Recorder Road, Norwich. Built by Miss Ethel M. Colman and Miss Helen C. Colman, in memory of the Right Honourable James Stuart, they were built as social housing with low rents.

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Helping With Writer’s Block

I was in the newspaper last Saturday – here’s the piece that appeared. It’s the story of how I wrote my forthcoming novel, A Nightingale in Winter, which languished in an attic for sixteen years. I’m putting my experience of overcoming writer’s block to good use in a face-to-face course soon, and in the future I intend to make this into an e-course. If this is something that interests you, sign up to my mailing list or email me at margaretkjohnsonauthor@gmail.com for more information.
————————————————————————————————————————————–Norwich author to use her own experience to help others with writer’s block

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To help writers find their flow, Margaret Johnson has launched the Fiction Writing – Moving Forward course, which will run for ten weeks starting in September.It comes on the back of her own experience after her latest novel, A Nightingale in Winter, was left languishing in her attic for 16 years before she finally decided to put the finishing touches to it.

The course is aimed at those who have an idea for a story or novel but don’t know how to get started, or for those who have already made a start but are now feeling stuck.

Mrs Johnson said: “It took me two years to write the book on top of having a job at a college in Nottingham. I did a great deal of research for it, including going to the Imperial War Museum in London to read original diaries and letters.

“I ended up writing two versions of the story and thoroughly confused myself.

“But with increased experience, I could see exactly what I needed to change to make it work.

“I did not decide to try and publish it until 16 years later – but happily it was quickly accepted by Omnific Publishing.

“I know all about the fears and doubts that can plague aspiring writers and always try to include an element of writing confidence building in the creative writing courses.”

The course will help students to work on their plot and story outline, decide on their story theme, heighten conflict to add interest, decide on the best ending for their story and more.

Mrs Johnson also writes contemporary women’s fiction and fiction for people who are learning to speak English.

Fiction Writing – Moving Forward, will run for ten weeks from 7pm to 9pm, from September 17 at Oak Grove Chapel, Catton Grove Road, Norwich.

To book your place email Mrs Johnson at margaretkjohnsonauthor@gmail.com.

A Nightingale in Winter will be published in paperback and e-book form by Omnific Publishing on August 24 and is available to pre-order on Amazon now.

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Fiction Writing Lessons

My students move me; they really do. And inspire me. At every new class they arrive, feeling nervous and uncertain about what to expect, and by the end of the first lesson they’ve written something amazing and shared it with the group. I love that; that I’ve been instrumental in some small way in helping them to expand their comfort zones and to discover the joy of expressing themselves through the written word.
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On the surface, my students may seem to have many different motivations for enrolling on a writing class. Obviously lots have always wanted to write and just want to increase their skills and knowledge, but there are others who also want to use writing to help get over a past trauma, or to look for escape from illness – either their own or a loved one’s, or to pass on the experience of their lives to posterity. Some find writing an isolated business and want to meet like-minded people, and others are challenging themselves to do something different – something they find a bit scary.

So, what with age and sex differences thrown into the mix, my students are a pretty varied bunch. But as they work on their writing together, they quickly form strong bonds and any differences are swept aside. And I love that. In fact this type of situation – where a group of disparate people comes together and bonds due to a common cause – was the inspiration for both my novels The Goddess Workshop and The Dare Club. But if I ever wanted to write a third novel in the series called The Writing Class, I’d have to invent some conflict to make the novel interesting!

When I finished art college ages ago, some of my friends went into teaching art and rarely picked up a paint brush again. It was as if the act of instruction drained the creativity out of them so they had nothing left for their own work. It was something I was a bit wary of myself when I decided to launch my courses, because I knew I definitely didn’t want to give up writing. But I needn’t have worried. As I’ve worked out writing exercises to help students learn, I’ve gained greater clarity myself. For example, a lesson I taught about theme in stories really made me pinpoint those themes in my own books. How surprised I was to find that two of my novels – The Goddess Workshop, about a group of women attempting to become more sensual, and A Nightingale in Winter, (to be published on 7 July by Omnific Publishing) a story about a volunteer nurse in the First World War, share the same theme! It’s there too with the character of Michael in my novel Taming Tom Jones, which has recently been accepted by the wonderful Crooked Cat Publishing. How different these books are to each other on the face of it And yet the theme of You can’t move forward in your life and really fulfil your potential until you’ve dealt with the issues of your past”  runs through them all like the lettering in a stick of rock.

At the moment I’m eagerly waiting for a first sight of the book covers for A Nightingale in Winter andTaming Tom Jones. But here’s a photo I had taken for Nightingale which expresses the feel of the book, together with the cover of The Goddess Workshop. You can see how different they are on the face of it. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find the similarities.

A bit like my students!

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What will the cover of Taming Tom Jones be like? I can’t wait to find out!!!
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In reading about blogging lately, I came across a useful article called 40 instant business blog post ideas and thought it would be fun to insert my own name into the title of one or two of them. Here’s the first. It was great fun to write! I hope you enjoy reading it.

choosing cakes

At first glance, Margaret K Johnson may seem to be quite a complicated, hard-to-pin down mix. She is confident and determined enough to have had a go – three times – at stand-up comedy, and loves teaching, since it allows her to share her passions and to enable others to pursue theirs. But put her in a room where lots of people are talking together, even if it’s a group of her own friends, and she can clam up.

This could partly be due to the writerly practice of people watching, and it is quite probable that Margaret is, in fact, squirreling away nuggets of conversation and observational detail for her books. However, this could also be a simplistic view of the author’s behaviour. Those who have known Margaret K Johnson intimately for a number of years, will be aware of several key reasons for her lack of confidence in social situations, and these have little or nothing to do with her being unfriendly, distant, disinterested, self-absorbed or even downright boring as might appear to be the first impression.

The truth is, Margaret K Johnson has always been shy, and the possession of an overly strict father and a relentlessly teasing brother did little to remedy this situation. Given the additional fact that her mother saw fit to perm the author’s hair in the summer holidays preceding her commencement at senior school, thereby giving her new peers and teachers the impression of Margaret being somewhat poodle-like, it is not surprising that this situation continued into her teens.

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Unfortunately, just as Margaret was finally beginning to settle into senior school and had made managed to make a small group of friends who were prepared to ignore her hairstyle, the decision was made to transfer her to a different class. Although this was because Margaret was doing well academically, it was impossible for her to see this as a reward for making good progress at school. The daunting prospect of having to make new friends all over again, when everyone else had already established their friendship groups, left the author emotionally scarred, even before the unfortunate incident when she mistakenly used the word “pheasant” instead of “peasant” to describe Joan of Arc’s upbringing during a talk to the whole class.

pheasant

It is true that Margaret K Johnson ought to be able to move on from these events, and that there is no longer any reason for them to be a part of the fabric of her begin. The author is aware of that she finally needs to address these issues. But in the mean time, should you be due to spend time with Margaret K Johnson, you can take charge of the situation by following these 5 simple steps.

This blog is moving! To read the rest, including the 5 vital steps, please go to:

http://www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk/blog/5-simple-steps-to-take-charge-of-margaret-k-Johnson

Thank you!

Margaret x

 

Consulting an Oracle to help with decision-making

Do you ever wish you could consult an oracle when you need reassurance that you’re on the right path in your life?

Back in my single, childless days when I lacked confidence and was pretty much drifting and dreaming my way through life, I used to frequently consult the I Ching , the ancient Chinese book of changes, when I had a question about my life. Hundreds of years ago, people consulting the I Ching threw yarrow sticks, but my book suggested throwing three coins six times, the combination of the heads and tails making a pattern or hexagram.

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Coins thrown, I would read the relevant page in the book for that hexagram, trying to interpret the poetic language that described the answer to my question. Almost invariably the ancient, translated words felt uncannily wise and right, if only because they helped me to tap into my intuition and gut reactions.

Recently, an article in The Guardian newspaper reported that the actor Mark Rylance had consulted the I Ching in 1987 in order to decide between working with Stephen Spielberg or at The National Theatre. Quite a decision to have to make, eh? He chose the theatre, and has done very well for himself. I’d forgotten all about the I Ching until I read the article, but now I clicked a link in the piece which took me to an I Ching Website. No need to even throw coins these days, let alone yarrow sticks, whatever they are!

I posed my question: “What is the best way to proceed with my business?” The judgment was instantaneous and, thankfully, encouraging.

This blog is moving!! To read the rest of this post, please go to:

http://www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk/blog/consulting-an-oracle-to-make-decisions While you’re there, why not subscribe to receive an email whenever I post on my blog? It would be lovely to have you!

Cheers!

Phone Confidence – How to sabotage your fledgling business with one grunt

Are you good at answering the phone? Me, not so much.

Picture it. I’m in the heart of writing a scene where my heroine is meeting her birth mother for the first time. She’s feeling beyond excited – can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t string two words together excited – and yet she’s terrified too. This is what she’s wanted all her life; the event that’s been the focus of her dreams and plans for years, ever since she first made the decision to search for her birth mother. What if it doesn’t work out? What if her mother hates her? With her confidence beginning to slip away, she slowly approaches the café where she and her mother have arranged to meet…

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Then the phone rings. But it’s not my heroine’s phone, it’s mine; about two feet away from my ear, jolting me violently out of my writing zone. I know as soon as the bright, smiley voice on the other end of the line asks how I am, that she’s from a green energy company trying to sell me solar panels, because the same company has already phoned me twice that week. So I scream internally, cutting off her cheerful sales patter with my best assertive phrases, but the damage, as far as my writing goes, has been done. I have to leave my heroine at the café door and go to make a restorative cup of coffee for myself.

So when I get back to work and the phone rings again, it isn’t surprising that I snarl my hello. Not surprising, but not such a good idea either when I want to attract people to my writing courses.

A woman – let’s call her Linda – has wanted to do a creative writing class for ages, because she has a dream about writing a book. Her self-esteem is low about it because people have always laughed at her dream, demanding to know what on earth she could possibly have to write about. Linda sees the advert for my WriteUP Courses, and reads that they combine creative writing with confidence building activities. It is like a sign to her. “Yes,” she thinks. “That’s just what I need.” So she takes a deep breath and finds the courage to pick up the phone to make the call. “Hello?” snaps the woman on the other end of the line bad-temperedly, sounding as if she’s standing in the middle of a kennels. Off putting? Just a bit.

My blog is moving! Read the rest of this post at its new home – and if you fancy hitting the subscribe button, it would be fantastic to have you! Cheers!

http://www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk/blog/phone-confidence-how-to-sabotage-your-fledgling-business-with-one-grunt
http://www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk/blog/phone-confidence-how-to-sabotage-your-fledgling-business-with-one-grunt

A Winter Ghost Walk and a Call to Action

The other evening I went on a ghost walk in the old part of Norwich with friends. It had seemed like a good idea when I was invited to go – Manin Black, who leads the walks, is a well known character in the city with his black coat and top hat, and to have him and his evocative tales all to ourselves for an exclusive tour would be a fun way to start February.

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Ah, February. A part of me had forgotten that February evenings can be a teensie bit on the cold side, to say the least. We stoked up beforehand on ale and cake in the Adam and Eve, the oldest pub in Norwich, and at least it had stopped sleeting when we left its cosy quaintness to start our walk with Manin. 

adam and eve

The Adam and Eve, by the way, is haunted by the ghost of Lord Sheffield, who had his neck partially severed by an irate butcher with a cleaver during Robert Kett’s Rebellion in 1549. Mortally wounded, he was taken to the Adam and Eve, and here he died. These days he spends his time causing the beer tankards to dance on their hooks, tapping people on the shoulder and running fingers through their hair. He’s also known to remove personal items and return them again the following day. I’m quite glad I didn’t know about any of this while we were having our pre-walk drink.
before the #ghost walk - getting #confidenceDid I encounter any ghosts on my walk? Did my hair stand on end with terror? To find out, and to read the rest of this blog post, please go to:

http://www.margaretkjohnson.co.uk/blog/a-winter-ghost-walk-in-norwich

In future, I will mostly be blogging from there, since it seemed to make more sense to blog directly from my website. I do hope you will continue to follow my blog if you already do so, or start following if you’re a newcomer! I really appreciate your support and interest, and it would be good to keep in touch! Just click on Subscribe once you’ve opened the link.

Thank you so much!

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