How to turn personal experiences into a non-fiction book

Kath KellyIn today’s guest post, author Kath Kelly talks us through how her first non-fiction book came about and offers her tips for turning your own experiences into publishing gold.

My first book, How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day, was also my first attempt at giving an account of a turbulent time I lived through.

I was surprised to hear that many people felt they knew me after reading it, although we’d never met. This demonstrates how keen a reader is to open a window into someone else’s life: as escapism, certainly, but also from a desire to try another life on for size. I wasn’t telling people that they had to stop spending money, but I seemed to spark their curiosity: they were willing to imagine themselves in my shoes. Continue reading

Book review – All The Birds, Singing, By Evie Wyld

All The Birds, Singing coverOpening with the discovery of a dead sheep, Evie Wyld’s second novel is a sensuous, brutal, disquieting book that will seep under your skin and haunt your dreams. Protagonist Jake Whyte is a strong, mostly self-sufficient sheep farmer making a life for herself on an unnamed British island where the weather is harsh, and the local people nonplussed by this new, unsociable Australian in their midst.

But now something is killing her sheep, and memories of the past are tugging at her.

In alternate chapters, the stories moves us forward and back, like an insistent tide. The flashbacks move through her past towards childhood, written in a present-tense form that gives them an immediate sense of urgency as we search through her experiences for the ingredients that have made her the frightened, solitary creature she is today, and, most specifically, what caused those terrible scars on her back. Continue reading

Why we cherish time alone

Green lizard, Borneo cr Judy DarleyThe world is full of attention-seekers. Loud-mouthed, large-charactered, extroverts who seem never to have a thought without it spilling outwards. It’s the way we’re told we ought to be to get on in life, prosper.

But nature enjoys balance, which means there is very much a place for those who think more often than they speak, who sometimes like to observe without engages, who are enriched by time alone. Who occasionally actually need time alone.

I’m one of those people. And it turns out, ironically, I’m not alone. Continue reading

Mid-week writing prompt – a Bornean longhouse

Longhouse, Sabah, Borneo cr Judy DarleyI took this photo in Sabah, Borneo, but really it could be anywhere in rural Malaysia.

This was the longhouse where our guide, Manuel, grew up, on a typical Sunday when everyone was relaxing,

What are these kids up to? What does their day have in store? And how do they feel about the tourists who are taking photos of them and their home?


Mid-week writing prompt – an economic wreck

I encountered this boat while meandering along the shore of Latchi, on the Greek side of Cyprus. I love the text across its bow, and the way it looks so abandoned.

Latchi boat cr Judy Darley

There are so many possibilities with an image like this. Why is the boat up on the shore? Who does it belong to? What will it be used for once it’s fixed?

You could bring in the curiosities of this island that is divided by Greece and Turkey, or even explore the dramas of the Greek economy. It’s your call.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

Poetry book review – Notes from a Bright Field by Rose Cook

Notes From A Bright Field book coverI encountered this poet at the night of readings I took part in for Telltales at Penzance Literary Festival. In a sea of stories and performance poetry, Rose Cook’s poetry rang out as something deeper and more substantial than most – nourishing in a way that few assortments of words achieve.

Because as writers, that’s what we’re trying to do, isn’t it? To string words together in ways that are original and fresh, yet cut through to a truth all can recognise and potentially be enriched by?

Rose has a defter hand than most, or should that be a keener eye? She sees the world with uncommon clarity, noticing the things, small and large, we might easily overlook, and helps the reader view it afresh. The collection reads as being distinctly personal yet generously shared, as Rose talks us through strolls through woodlands, pointing out the birds she seems to love, then sweeps us indoors to peek into her mother’s hand mirror, to spy contains reflections of “my eyes, quick green,/ wild sticklebacks in a rain pond.” Continue reading