Miles & Miles: a creative journey

Miles W. Hewitt has just published Miles & Miles ~ A Lifetime of Travel Adventures in Asia and Latin America.

Elaine Cusack and Jane Roberts-Morpeth from The North Tyneside Writers’ Circle helped Miles on his creative journey from manuscript to Kindle.

Elaine asked him to share his thoughts on writing, publishing and travel…..

Miles&Miles_FrontCoverWhen I made the decision to write Miles & Miles, I had no idea that I was about to hurl myself into a creative oblivion. I set about acquiring the skills needed to navigate through this unknown world. The entire project took three years of determined anguish driven by an innate desire to share my travel experiences.

In the early stages, I gave various chapters to close friends for their honest feedback which indicated that it was a good story. My confidence was given a boost. All I needed to do now was learn how to create an interesting travelogue written as a novel.

Once the initial draft was in place, a grammatical mentor helped make the necessary adjustments. At this stage, I believed that I was eighty per cent of the way through to completion. When Elaine Cusack came into focus, I instinctively knew that she was my route to enlightenment. Her literary demeanour and creative countenance had a calming effect on my aspiring persona.

However, aspiration turned to shock and awe when she stamped all over the manuscript with her muddy boots and slashed at the copy with scrawls of red ink. Elaine’s professional observations were valid and her wondrous mentoring was underway. The realisation that I was in fact a mere twenty per cent into the process was juxtaposed with Elaine’s comments including “I like the pace of Miles & Miles…it has an exciting narrative.”

Miles 2017I gritted my teeth with a resolution to see it through to perfection. Comma clutter and split infinitives became the subject matter of my dreams. The creative journey was like crossing the Bay of Biscay in a rowing boat during a winter storm. Spring, summer and autumn followed but one day the wind suddenly relented, the fog dispersed and a pocket-sized seaport appeared on the horizon. The final stages were exhausting, I could see the church spire but making headway through the water felt heavy and progress was painfully slow. Even when we crawled into the harbour, I had to rub my bleary eyes to see the sculptured image of Miles & Miles beginning to emerge.

On the final lap, Jane Roberts-Morpeth added a new perspective with some positive input which included a slight structural change here and there plus further polishing before Miles & Miles came to life – published by Northumberland’s Limelight Classic Productions.

The book cover image was the only surviving photo from the 1970s of Herat in Afghanistan which I found in a drawer after my mother passed away. I chose a 10.5/13 Melior font to achieve the desired clarity and flow

The launch was two-fold, a quality paperback printed by Martins of Berwick who produce small runs with recycled paper at low prices for the retail market. Amazon covers the online presence with a worldwide print-on-demand facility for a hard copy which accompanies their Kindle download. They also have the infrastructure to originate an audio book on a royalty share basis. The links to various elements are listed below. Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Print-on-demand and Kindle download:

Audio book overview:



Buy Miles & Miles on Amazon







Keeping My Soul


Oh Lion in a peculiar guise,

Sharp Roman road to Paradise,

Come eat me up, I’ll pay thy toll

With all my flesh, and keep my soul.

These lines come from Stevie Smith’s poem The Roman Road A Christian speaks to a Lion in the Arena.

stevieStevie’s words inspired my colleague Sandy Chadwin to suggest Keeping My Soul for the title of this coming Thursday’s event at North Shields Library.

Keeping My Soul: A Feast of Poetry, Story and Prose is an evening of performances by members of The North Tyneside Writers’ Circle (NTWC) which I run with Sandy and  Jennifer C Wilson.

NTWC meets on the third Saturday of most months in North Shields Library. The circle is free to attend and is open to writers of all ages and abilities. Keeping My Soul is a celebration of the group’s collective talent and will feature a mix of poetry, prose and memoir.

The line-up runs: Krys Wysocki, Susan Collings, Suzanne Lambert, Jane Roberts-Morpeth, Rob Walton, Penny Blackburn, Mary Pickin, Ross Punton, Alex Heppell and James A Tucker.

The event starts at 6.30pm. It’s free to attend but please book in advance by phoning (0191) 643 5270 or contact any North Tyneside Library. See you there!

by Elaine Cusack





Review: A spirited book launch!

Today, we’re delighted to have as a guest writer for us, the wonderful Jane Roberts-Morpeth, who attended our own Jennifer C. Wilson’s book launch on Saturday, and has provided the below write-up. Thanks Jane!

Saturday 9th June 2018 – the Cinema Room of the Town Wall Pub. The lights are dim and there is a boar’s head stuffed on the wall above me. Comfy settees are full and the flagstones are ringing to babble and chatter as we all gather for the launch of the lovely Jennifer C. Wilson’s third volume in the bestselling series, Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey.

Outside, Newcastle is frantic with the odd mix of the Blaydon Race neon vest clad participants and marauding Ed Sheeran fans enjoying a beautiful summer afternoon. Indoors we lurk in a shady basement where I retreat into the medieval mists as Jennifer steps up and begins the first of two readings from her latest novel.

I smile at the image of petulant Queen Elizabeth I sulking over what she sees as the boring lot of a ghost at the Abbey. It is easy to fall into Jennifer’s world, to accept it as perfectly normal that the ghosts of the fine folk of many eras would congregate to see how much mischief they could raise en masse in the afterlife. After all, they were unquiet souls when alive!

signing book

Jennifer reads with aplomb. The first of two Q&A sessions follow, answered with good humour as she discloses plans for future projects including research trips to York and possibly France. I am in awe of her imagination and productivity.

During the break the audience submits questions for Jennifer to answer in the second Q&A. Second half opens with a raffle – in which the ghosts appear to have mischievously mixed up the tickets to ensure it took three draws to find a prize winning ticket! I wonder which ghosts haunt our basement – I have visions of the Northumberland Percy’s observing us with Lindisfarne mead and bemusement.

Questions follow about Westminster Abbey Tourist Bingo, conversations with your ghosts and possible projects in the local area. I am very glad to know I’m not the only writer out there wandering about holding conversations with my characters in public places!

FB_IMG_1528715660674The formal session concluded, Jennifer takes time out to talk to everyone, have photographs taken and sign books before a group of us head upstairs into the sunlight for a bite to eat – and a very well deserved glass of Rosé for Jennifer.

Appropriately, Richard III takes his place at the table to oversee a lovely end to a wonderful day. Kindred spirits abound indeed.

Jane Roberts-Morpeth 11th June 2018

The Kindred Spirits series by Jennifer C Wilson is published by Crooked Cat and available from Amazon as ebook and paperback here.

In the Beginning

February 1947, and post-war England is in the grip of bitter winter. At a prestigious girls’ boarding school in the north of England a deeply unhappy ten-year-old tries to drown herself in a freezing pond and is rescued by two classmates.

This is the shocking start to both ‘In the Beginning …’ , and The Coming of Age trilogy, by Jane Jantet. The book is published by Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge Publishing. Ranging from the perils of wartime France to a bleak post-war North East England, and to the hedonism of London high society, the story asks questions about love in its various forms, loyalty, and the lies that people tell themselves and others in order to survive.coming of age

Jane Jantet was born in 1936 and spent the war years with her younger brother, her mother and occasionally her father in the wild Northumberland countryside near the Roman Wall. The freedom of those years came to an end in 1945 when she was sent to boarding school. The family later moved to Tynemouth and then to Newcastle upon Tyne. After leaving school she trained as as secretary and worked briefly for the Territorial Army before escaping a grey post-war Newcastle for London. A job in publishing was followed by a successful career as a copywriter in a well-known advertising agency.

After marriage and bringing up two sons she was offered a place at Kingston University as a mature student and gained a first-class degree in English Literature. At the same time, as a challenge to herself, she began work on the novel which would eventually become the three volumes of Coming of Age: In the Beginning, The Middle Years and On the Brink. After University she worked as a literary researcher, principally on the biography of Iris Murdoch. She still lives in London. We caught up with Jane and asked her some questions…

  1. How long did it take you to write Coming of Age? What inspired you to start writing the novel?

Overall I think it took about 20 years, though I am still fiddling with it now. It was originally written as one long story and only later did I split it into three. Its roots are in the many ways I felt outside various situations – as a notherner is London, as wife of a Frenchman in England, as the only “foreigner” in his French family, and many other situations common to everyone.

  1. In the Beginning tells the story of three girls at a rather forbidding-sounding boarding school in the north of England just after the end of WW2. It also goes back to pre-war and wartime France. How far did you base this on your own experiences. Did you spend a lot of time researching?

I had to research almost everything about the war in both France and England. A French friend of my husband, Bernard who was living in England but had spent the war years in France with his mother and two brothers, provided invaluable facts about things in wartime France.

  1. The main characters struggle to cope with very adult pressures on their young lives … they are only 10 at the start. Did you find yourself using some of your own experiences to inform your exploration of how the three girls engage with their difficulties.

Yes, quite a few of the things that happened were my own experiences – the business with the bread and dripping, the lanced boil, the being picked on by the headmistress, Harriet’s dread of going back each term and her homesickness … the list is long! The school is also based physically on the school I went to, but the ethos of the school is not. Baynes is a highflying school, with huge demands made on the children there, while my school was not.

  1. Did you have a clear idea of where your plot was going or did the story evolve as you wrote it? And when you reached the end of In the Beginning did you have a picture of where the story might go in the next two books which take the girls through their teenage years?

I always had an idea in my head of where the story was going and the knowledge that I wanted to write about certain episodes, but I had to work out where I wanted to put these, and so the story evolved around them.

5 The back stories of the girls are told in parallel. Did you build up a clear picture of their background, history and characters before you before you began to write? Or, again, did they evolve as you wrote?

Once I’d worked out the reasons for each girl to feel an outsider their characters evolved from that. I had a clear picture in my head of where they were in relation to the world – they were all born in the year I was, so the details of their lives were already in place, timewise and geographically. Again there were certain episodes I wanted to examine in detail, so in a way the girls evolved in order to be able to do this. I’m very interested in “closed” societies such as nunneries or clubs or families – Harriet longs to be part of Arabella’s family but she never quite manages it – she remains on the edge, just as Georgina is always aware of her class difference and Laura remains uncertain in both French and English society.

  1. There are many timeshifts in the narrative, from prewar to wartime to post war. Was it hard to weave these shifts into the main story.

Not at all – I always had a clear picture of the time I was writing about.

  1. Did you revise much in book 1 of the trilogy as books 2 and 3 began to take shape. They will be published this year. How hard is it to say OK, I’ve finished. Is it tempting to keep on revising?

There wasn’t much need to alter much in book 1 as the book was written as one long story. However, it is almost impossible to stop wanting/needing to alter things; I keep seeing things that could have been better phrased.

  1. When you were writing the novel, full of powerful emotions and dramatic events, how real did the characters become for you? Do they stay with youi? Do talk to them. Do you miss them?

I often ask myself “what would Miriam have done?” in this or that situation. I think this is because Miriam is so different from myself that she stands out. I also tell myself to stop acting like Harriet would, as she is the character most like me. In a way I miss them, but I don’t have the energy to go on writing about them, even though I have some idea of what will happen to them in the future.

  1. Which authors have been inspiring to you?

Many. In particular women writers like Margaret Drabble, A.S Byatt, Olivia Manning, Frances Partridge, Curtis Sittenfeld, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Anne Tyler, Carol Shields, the list is long. But there are many male writers who have equally been inspiring – Anthony Powell, William Boyd, Evelyn Waugh…

10 Do you recommend novel writing? It must have taken a lot of determination, energy, and focus.

It took a lot of energy and determination – I started it as a challenge to myself, an exercise, to see if I could do it. It is quite empowering to be able to think in a certain situation this is all grist to my mill, I’ll put you in my novel!

coming of ageComing of Age: In the Beginning… is published by Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge Publishing.  You can buy a “real” copy from Newcastle City Library as well as via Amazon.

Thanks to Anna Flowers and Jane Jantet.


Luck plus one

Are you sitting comfortably, then let Sandy Chadwin tell you all about the Pot Luck Club, returning to Newcastle’s Old George on Thursday 22nd March….

IT WAS NOT twenty years ago today but about two years ago that Elaine Cusack, Jen Wilson and I were drinking in North Shields’ oldest pub, the Low Lights Tavern. We were chatting about the spoken word events we were considering when one of us, I forget who, came up with the idea for the Pot Luck Club.

It had started as a joke. We had chatted about our perfect spoken word evening.  Who would we invite if we had access to unlimited funds and a time machine? I was holding out for Stevie Smith but Elaine vetoed her on the grounds that she had heard recordings and Smith had a terrible reading voice. TS Eliot was vetoed on the same grounds. Byron was dismissed as he would probably insist on bringing his bear with him and none of us were sure whether public liability insurance covered that kind of thing. I forget who ended up on the list, if we ever actually settled on a definitive one, which I doubt but I do remember that we agreed that such an evening would be invite only. A private evening for the connoisseur as it were.

fab-audienceAnd then, as these things happen, the conceit began to mutate and warp. We discussed the various writing forms that we had all experimented with but were outside our comfort zone. We chatted about how appalling it can be that first time standing up at an open mike evening in front of a friendly crowd who are, nevertheless, partly wondering if this is going to be the complete car crash reading of the night.

So the idea of the Pot Luck Club was born. We would invite established performers to try something different. Poets reading prose, story writers reading poetry and so forth, along with first time performers, nervous but wanting the experience. And it would be a safe space as the audience would all be invited.

There it was left and we moved on to discuss other matters of high moment and philosophical depth. Honest.

Later that  year Elaine and I were back at the Low Lights and were sitting in the separate room they have there, what in Edwardian detective or ghost stories would be described as the parlour, which has no bar, an open fire and is cut off from the rest of the pub by a glass door. Cloud 9, the Coast based theatre company, were performing a play in there the next week and we could see posters for talks and other such events, all to be held in this room.

This, we decided, was the venue for Pot Luck Club.

mister-creenSo it was, in late January 2017, we held the first Pot Luck Club and it was a success. We had playwrights telling stories, poets singing, story tellers reciting poetry, writers who had never before stood on their hind paws before an audience reading their stories and poems and the Legendary Ken Creen rounding the evening off. Did it work? Well it seemed to. The only problem was that the room was too small.

The logical, though sad, thing to do was to find another venue and this, with heavy steps we did. After some rootling around we chose the Old George in the centre of Newcastle. As it happens, the Low Lights Tavern is widely thought to be North Shields’ oldest pub and the Old George is widely believed (since the closure of the Cooperage) to be Newcastle’s. A pleasing albeit unplanned bit of continuity. We had already held a Pure Fiction event in the upstairs room there and found it good so, in the autumn of last year, we held the second Pot Luck Club. Same as before, though it happened that there were more first-timers this time rather than people outside their comfort zone though Elaine did recite a poem she had written that rhymed, a thing she had never done before in front of strangers. Vicky Arthurs, the poet, did us proud by acting as the headline act.

And now we’re doing it again. Same place, upstairs at the Old George, off the Bigg Market in the centre of Newcastle. We have established writers doing new and daring things and newer writers risking a plodge for the first time. Harry Gallagher is our headline. Other performers include  Rob Walton, The Cornshacks, Krys Wysocki, Alex Heppell and Isaac Parker .Harry Gallagher photo credit Phil Punton

And you are all, of course, invited.

The Pot Luck Club, Old George Inn, Cloth Market, Newcastle, NE1 1EZ. Thursday 22nd March. Free entry. Thanks to Chris Anderson and Phil Punton for photos.

Football & Poetry

There’s something about this time of year for football fans. We’re two thirds of the way through the football season and the FA Cup’s moved up a few gears. What’s this got to do with writing? Over to our football correspondent, Rob Hawley…

I love football, but not for the usual reasons.

I don’t love it because of the tension, the passion, the glory, the thrills and spills. Nope, none of these things are the real reason I love football. I don’t even love it because of the sense of community, the camaraderie, the feeling of our club, our tribe against the world. No, none of that is the root of my football love.

My love comes from two things. One is the wonderful history of the sport, its Victorian origins, its rootedness in the story of northern working life, its (if you like) deep past. This, to me, is essential to football’s amazing glamour, its intoxicating allure.

footballThe other is (for want of a better phrase) the grammar of a football match, the shapes and patterns which endlessly repeat during match after match, which play out in similar yet constantly varied ways. Football, like chess, is played on a rigidly confined space, with players who obey rigidly-enforced rules. Yet despite the apparent tram-line uniformity of pitch and rule-book, the games which reveal themselves every Saturday are a series of never-ending variations, so different from one another that each one is memorably distinct – though some are much better than others. I’ve heard it said that there are more chess games, that is, more variations of the moves which can make up a game, than atoms in the known universe. The same must be true of football.

Perhaps this freedom-within-rules which creates the grammar, the syntax, the punctuation of football, is the reason I find watching it so restful. To me it is a kind of meditation – a ritual act. I think lots of people are like me in this, though few acknowledge it. The thought inspired this poem, which tries to convey something of the feelings I have about the Beautiful Game.


To a smattering of applause and some desultory chanting

twenty-two men trot out to enact it all again,

moves worked on since Edward VII was new minted,

pubs had stained glass and Players were on every corner.


As it starts the trusted ways are immediately taken:

the full backs’ line-length parabolas

the neat midfield passing keeping it in triangles

the clever ball into corner-flag space:

all met with approving claps and yells from the bench.


When the game warms and unfolds they delve

deeper into their past, into the box of tricks

likeliest to call up the luck they yearn for:

chips to the edge of the box,

cushion headers of the number 9, holding it up

while comrades flood into the gaps.

New things are permitted: drag-backs,

deft turns, outside-of-the-boot sliced passes

to the man overlapping.

Each team rummages for its rituals

and yet is thwarted. Whoever thought

of two teams and just one ball? It gets cruel

when they can’t both get it and the fouls begin.


Unable to rub up luck they opt for blind hope

and the aimless long balls are fought for in leaping thuds.

The dance, the trickery is abandoned.

It is a melee, as they opt for bludgeoning out a result.

The spectators accept this mostly. They’ve seen it before,

their own grandfathers did much the same thing

and it will happen again.

The crowd comes here to make the next week happen

while out on the grass coloured armies clash and shout and harry.


Copyright Rob Hawley

Rob Hawley was born in Lancashire in 1966. He is a teacher of History, a contributor to various county magazines under the pseudonym Jonas Holdsworth, a freelance copywriter and member of the Pennine Poets. His poetry seeks the union of formal style with vibrant musicality


On the issue of subsidies

This month’s post is from Sandy Chadwin:

pexels-photo-207636.jpegSO I SAID I would do January’s blog and I had a bright idea about considering the issues arising from the Art Council’s report on the future of Literary Fiction which was released at the tail end of last year. The report says that it, literary fiction, is dying out and ponders whether subsidy might be the way of keeping it alive. This, of course, begs the question that literary fiction should be kept alive. After all, if no-one wants to read it then why should the taxpayer fund it? You may deduce, from that last sentence, where my sympathies lie in this matter. Will Self is on record as saying that he believes that literary fiction will end up becoming an esoteric hobby, like Morris dancing I suppose, with small amateur groups keeping it alive.

The problem, or at least one of the problems, in this discussion is that no-one seems to be entirely sure exactly what Literary Fiction is. Some presumed that it was fiction that was not consciously written to fall into one the established genres – crime, science fiction, romance and so on – but that was quickly disabused by those who said that such writing is actually ‘general fiction’. The closest I came to a definition was someone on the Guardian website who suggested that literary fiction was fiction that concentrated on character and style to the exclusion of all else which led me to a tetchy Kingsley Amis-esque harrumph that if that was indeed the case, then the sooner it died out the better. That peculiarly WASPish form of fiction is one that I am not sympathetic to.

And yet, and yet. I do strongly believe that the arts deserve and need public subsidy. And furthermore that such subsidy makes sound economic sense. When Newcastle City Council a few years back made the headline grabbing announcement that it was going to cut its arts budget to nil on the grounds such funding only benefitted middle class people, it was pointed out somewhat forcibly to them that every pound put into the arts by the taxpayer brings back £5 in tax revenue. It might also have been pointed out that if you want to get businesses to relocate to the north-east, while they may not actually go to the theatre or concert hall or poetry readings, most business people like to live somewhere where they could if they wanted to. The policy was, of course, quietly dropped and the council closed all but three of their libraries instead in what seemed to be an act of rather petty spite.

So where do I stand? Direct government payments to Will Self (the only novelist everyone seems to agree writes literary fiction) sticks in the craw. The novel has never been directly funded by patronage, which is all subsidy is. Poets, composers, painters and even playwrights have taken the penny from the obliging aristocracy and taking the Government’s penny is no different, but novelists never have. Well, Fay Weldon did that weird thing a while back when she wrote a novel sponsored by a jewellery company if memory serves, but it hasn’t seemed to take. Fiction has always had to stand on its own merits, like rock music in that way, another art form that has never been directly subsidised.

Ay, and there’s the rub. Directly subsidised. All the arts of all forms have benefitted immensely over the centuries from indirect subsidy and patronage through the provision of education and libraries and town and village halls where bands can play and actors act and writers read, from the provision of night classes where people can study and learn about the cubists and the modernists and the romantics or whatever there may be a demand for. So, rather than give Will Self £20 grand a year to keep him in similes, let’s keep Cullercoats Library open, let’s return to the old adult education system when you could, for about a tenner, sign up to learn Latin or all about the Bloomsbury Set. Let’s teach music in our schools and take the children on outings to the theatre and to the concert hall.

Yes, that’s a subsidy I can get behind.