Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Artichoke Hearts, Jasmine Skies and Kite Spirit

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the book launch of writer Sita Brahmachari. She was launching her latest teen book, Kite Spirit. Now, the Universe must have been listening when I wrote my last blog post about wanting to read a new novel each week ~ because I came home last night with all three of Sita’s books!


I was really touched (and encouraged) to see Sita brought tears as she read part of her book. (Not just me who cries at their own book launch, then?) It was deeply inspiring to hear what life experiences or people she drew upon for her writing. For me, it’s fascinating to hear what brings other writers to the page ~ to find out what makes them laugh or cry.

Sita came across as a genuinely lovely person, and it was a delight to meet her. Thought it rather crafty of my 15 year old daughter to sell one of her novels to Sita. I think Eliza must have forgotten that she had her own book launch last week!

I have to take my hat off to Andrea and Jon Dennison of Wordsworth Bookshop ~ what an incredible job they did in decorating the store with a kite and artichoke theme…and don’t even get me started on the delicious food…I’ll be too scared to step on the scales for the next week. They’re such lovely hosts, and so passionate about nurturing and caring for the people who come into their bookshop and café. It is a delight to know them. Do visit Wordsworth if you're ever in Penrith.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, three books to read!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Guilty Words

I guess it goes back to my teenage years, but reading fiction brings up a lot of guilt for me. I hated school with a passion, and being forced to study subjects I detested, such as maths and science, was not my idea of living an enjoyable life.

In the late afternoons when I should have been studying the biology textbook, I was instead immersed in a Mills and Boon romance novel and being swept of my High School feet. My heart was content. Love was here. And then, I’d hear my mother walking up the hallway… and my novel would be quickly shoved into the top draw of my desk, and my head would be buried in the mind-numbingly boring world (for me) of how to dissect frogs.

In my younger years, I was always reading. I’ve lost count of the number of times my mother had to call me to set the table for dinner because I simply refused to climb down the magical Faraway Tree. I had every Enid Blyton book that was published, and I’d admire the collection on my bookshelf imagining that one day I’d give them to my own children. (Turns out I travelled too much, and any such dreams got left behind in imaginary suitcases.)

As an adult, I mostly read non-fiction. And I can read non-fiction all day long and not experience an ounce of guilt. I’m learning, researching, and acquiring knowledge. It’s part of my ‘work life’. But pick up a fiction book and read for ‘pleasure’? That’s for a lazy Sunday afternoon, right? Well, as someone who tends to work seven days a week (in some form), there are no fiction reading days. I’m trying to change my habits and read at least one fiction book a week ~ and not just on a weekend! Yesterday, for example, my daughter read the first book of her second trilogy out loud to me. No guilt! See, I’m getting better already.

The guilt of fiction inexplicably extends to writing fiction, as I discovered when writing Mosaic and Bluey’s Café. I’d creep out of bed well before sunrise to write; well before my family awoke, and well before the ‘official’ work day started… There was one day, with Bluey’s Café, where I wrote till midday ~ apologising the whole time. (I was in such a flow that I literally couldn't stop and wait till the next morning. Stupid to apologise! I write. That’s what I do. Why feel guilt?

I live words. I breathe them in. Why should some words be forbidden and others welcomed in? Perhaps fiction is like a drug, a socially acceptable addiction? One this is certain, it’s hard to come back to the ‘real world’ after a good read. Am I scared of avoiding 'reality'? 

So, one fiction book a week. Any recommendations? (For the record, I prefer happily ever after endings!)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dreams and writing

It was 1994, and I was awoken from a dream by a voice saying that I would write ‘the beautiful birth book’. I can tell you, almost twenty years later I can still hear that voice clear as day. But what was really unnerving was that I was not remotely into the parenting world. In fact, I wasn’t even interested in having children, and I certainly wasn’t in any sort of relationship that would consciously bring children into the world. 

I’d been working as a journalist in the animal welfare field. At the time of my dream, I had just moved from New Zealand to the UK to work as a media officer for Compassion in World Farming. I stumbled out of bed with the voice still strong in my head, and something guided me towards the New Age bookstore in Petersfield, Hampshire, where I was living. I don’t know if the shop is still there, but it was called The Open Window, and it was an oasis from the world outside. I can still hear the gentle music and smell the scent of incense.

And then the strangest thing happened. Two books on waterbirth literally fell off the shelf before me. Two books! I bought them immediately and went back to my flat to read them. Utterly charmed, I entered this new world with great curiosity, and it wasn’t long till other books came into my hands, such as Dolphins, Telepathy and Underwater birthing.

I never did write The Beautiful Birth Book, but I feel that when I wrote The Birthkeepers: reclaiming an ancient tradition I was writing the book from my dream.

Oftentimes I’ve dreamt of ideas for blogs, and recently I dreamt very clearly that I should write a book on being a stay-at-home mother. The words poured out of me the following morning, and though I’ve been side-tracked a bit since the idea, I’ve now written more than half of it. Apron Strings: how I found joy as a stay-at-home mother will be published later this year.

The first draft of my novel, Bluey’s Café (publishing later this year), ‘poured’ out of me in five days….and by five days, I mean five mornings… That is, writing before dawn and continuing until the family woke up. Clearly I need to work on the first draft, but it was a good example of being ‘tuned in’ to another energy.

I truly thought I only had one novel in me, but then the idea and plot line for a third novel came to me very recently ~ in a dream. Thank you Universe! It sure makes things easier when ideas are delivered in this way.

I’ve always been an active dreamer ~ except for the early years of parenting when I was majorly sleep deprived. Dreams invite us to places we would never go to in daily life, and I’m so grateful to have this resource in my writing life.

The Green Grass

The first time I left my native Australia was when I moved to New Zealand at the age of twenty three. As the plane lowered over Auckland, my breath was taken away by the green land. So green!

Having grown up in rural Australia where we’d experienced a seven-year drought, the verdant countryside of New Zealand was like nectar for the eyes. And now, after fourteen years living in the north of rural England, I still feel delight when I look out the window and see lush green fields.

Last March I returned to Australia for the first time since living in the UK. There for my father’s funeral, I made sure that I remembered all the things I love about Australia and let them seep into me: strong sunshine first thing in the morning, the scent of eucalyptus leaves, the lively birdsong (very different from polite English birds), and the gregarious nature of the people. One thing I did find odd though was the tough couch grass used for garden lawns. It felt so harsh under my bare feet. The purpose of couch is very practical ~ the grass needs to survive the harsh climate. The grass here in my English garden is soft like a baby’s cheek, and in Summer is covered in daisies.

For quite some time after my return from that trip, I found myself pining for my native land, and for people who were bright and happy rather than reserved and scared to talk.

There’s nothing more fatal for the human soul than believing the grass is greener elsewhere. Like a sheep looking longingly over the fence to the next field, we start to feel deprived, inadequate and in turn we shrink with inner poverty.

What woke me up from this was my husband’s heart attack in January. I was suddenly surrounded by friends from far and near offering their love and support. I may have pined for the more social way of living in Australia, but it turns out that I had everything I needed right here.

The grass is greener where we pay attention. As a writer, it’s important to live in the moment and to observe what is happening around you and within you. For a while, I forgot where to put my attention. I’m so grateful to have noticed the grass beneath my feet ~ right here, right now.

Friday, April 26, 2013


My favourite time of day to write is just before dawn. I thrive on the still and quiet of early morning. When it's just me and the birds up early, something stirs within and I find my creative muse. Truth be told, she's actually there before I get out of bed. I search the skyline looking for the first traces of daylight... The birds tell me its a new day but my eyes feel deceived...Are the stars still out? 

I crawl out of bed, and on chilly mornings reheat the water bottle before heading up to the barn which serves as both my office (as a magazine editor) and my writing room. The view in front of me is of the Pennines, trees and green fields. This is how I start the day... When my early morning writing is undisturbed and peaceful, it feels as if the whole day has a beautiful blueprint established.


My debut novel, Mosaic, was launched this week at a party in my favourite bookshop: Wordsworth Bookshop and Cafe, here in the Cumbrian market town of Penrith. We were joined by the cover artist, Sara Simon (www.sarasimon.co.uk) and Irish singer-songwriter Mandy Bingham and her husband, Graham, performed beautiful ballads.

It was a delightful event which I shared with my daughter, Eliza, who was launching her second novel! www.elizaserenarobinson.com

At the book launch ~ ready for signing.

What readers are saying about Mosaic


Well I could savour no more and just sat and read it all!! I can tell you it takes a lot to make me sit down in the day and read! I have cried my way through your beautiful book. I have truly loved it, and am so honoured to be in it. I really am. It is a beautiful book, and I miss all the characters hugely already! Bring on the next one!! Mandy Bingham, singer and songwriter

It's a fantastic book, I finished it last night (Monday) (it arrived Saturday morning). I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to everyone. It has the most beautiful description of a birth that I've ever read in a novel. I look forward to your next novel, Veronika. Michelle  

I awoke early this morning to sunlight streaming through the house. Making a pot of cinnamon tea I settled down in my favourite chair and read Mosaic. What a treat ~ simple, truthful, peaceful, evocative, inspiring. A time spent with friends old and new ~ Thank you. Samantha

I just have to share that I received my copy of Mosaic yesterday, and managed to
finish it already between naps and my son's bedtime. What a WONDERFUL read. It
is poignant to all of us who share the ethos of The Mother, and truly relevant to
everyone who is human. It was an amazing catalyst for me into some of the sore
places in my heart that are so deeply in need of healing; places that are
affecting my mothering of my son, and are crying out for ways to heal. I
literally began to remember how to cry them out as I read the book.

The first page had me... the characters were immediately like my old friends and
as they shared more of themselves with Topaz, the main character, I felt like I
had known them all my life... it reminded me how incredibly important it is to
have a circle of women in my life... something I have been desperately missing
since moving to England 2.5 yrs ago.

Topaz is a beautiful mix of already-amazing woman and one open to expanding
and learning new ways of being in the world. I was inspired and reassured that
there is still time to become everything I dream of. And the storyline
unfolding in her life kept me turning the pages well after I should have been in

It was also incredibly refreshing to read a novel that fully encompasses the
parenting life I find so natural and comfortable... scenes of delicious
vegetarian food, sweet experiences of birthing, parenting, educating ~ a way of
being in the world that is in line with Nature. Usually reading novels there is
some place that sticks, or prickles; some place where the way "the world"
assumes a way of being that just goes against what I feel that I end up with a
bad taste in my mouth. Mosaic left me with sweetness the whole way through,
even through the bitter, painful, tearful parts.

If you have considered getting a copy... don't wait :)

Much Love,


Mosaic is published by Starflower Press. Signed copies available when purchased directly from the website. Also available from all good bookshops and Amazon.