Sunday, 14 December 2014

Merry Christmas, everyone by Margaret Graham

The mornings are frosty, the sky blue, and the air crisp. Just right for this time of year.

We are celebrating a great year for Words for the Wounded. We have launched our new prize, The Independent Author Book Award, and already have entries arriving, both for the book award, and for the shorter length competition. We're most excited.

January will bring a great feature in People's Friend about Words for the Wounded which will spread the word, and Debbie Young, of the Alliance of Independent Authors is going to put us on her own marketing blog Off The Shelf Book Promotions (for which we're heartily grateful)  and our lovely Joshua Edwards, who handles our social media, has been 'shooting' us for Youtube.

I think it was when he mentioned 'close-ups' that two of the grannies blanched. The third one, Penny Deacon, was heedless as she was swimming amongst seals around the Galapagos Islands.  Meanwhile  Jan Speedie and I found ourselves in a complete dither.

You will have to wait until January to view this extravaganza but I give you a taster now.

Tony Pain, patron, and our lovely Josh setting up a shot for the moment when Tony talks of the creative arts at Tedworth House Recovery Centre, and what Words for the Wounded means to him.

Here's Matt, one of our trustees, telling the camera about Combat Stress which we support in memory of my grandpa, Percy Newsome, who returned from the 1st World War seemingly untouched, only to take his life a few years later. 

Tony reading more about Josh's shooting script, with Jan Speedie catching up on the gossip whilst the 'grands' do their bit.

Josh and the girls having fun as they prepare for their shoot. Josh kept asking if they would like to nip in and find their coats, but they insisted they were fine. He was FREEZING and longed for them to say yes, so he could 'coat up'. They talked of their efforts on behalf of Words for the Wounded and how they had raised money through their loom band WforW bracelets. They then talked to camera about Forces Support.

The two grannies walked along to the common at Downley with their director, (Josh) and did their bit as various dogs added to the sound track. We dreaded the close ups and the camera had an exclusion zone. As I was being filmed, there are no more photos here today of our momentous moment. Needless to say, the moment we'd finished all three of us hot footed it to The Bricklayers Arms, just opposite, for a carvery lunch and a medicinal tot.

Jan and I welcomed the chance to talk about Words for the Wounded and the skydive. We missed Penny because she enjoyed the skydive so much she'd do it again. We talked of the charities we support. Well, the charities you help us support. As you know, the grannies absorb all expenses so every penny goes to where it should. You probably know by now we feel we must earn our donations. So, as well as the writing competitions that give opportunities to aspiring writers, the grannies took to the sky in the summer.  Next year we think we've decided to try and sort out the Mud Challenge, which seems to consist of getting very very muddy as we heave ourselves over, and under, and through various obstacles which go on for several miles. We are hoping that some of the younger members like Matt and Kris join us to help toss us over some of the exceedingly high 'thingies'

So, for now, thank you for helping us help those who return with life changing injuries, and not only the wounded, but the bereaved, who we consider are also wounded.

A very merry Christmas and a happy new year from all of us here. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

At last 11 November 2014 is here and we launch our competitions - Margaret Graham

As you all know, we at Words for the Wounded are determined to create opportunities for aspiring writers as well as raising funds for the recovery of the wounded.

This year we are introducing The Independent Author Book Award for self-published novels and memoirs (for children or adults) in response to requests we have received. Full details are on our website.

We are thrilled that this year Palamedes PR are sponsoring our top three places.

1st prize is a professional press release, and 2nd and 3rd have the opportunity of a discounted press release.

Palamedes is a shining star in the public relations world, and a press release from such an organisation will be like a dream come true to any independent author.

This is not all. We have been offered sponsorship by the razor sharp and increasingly popular lifestyle Frost Magazine, an online magazine, whose editor and owner, Catherine Balavage is going to
review each of the top three. In addition, Frost is continuing its amazing support for Words for the Wounded's efforts through ongoing publicity and we, the grannies of Words for the Wounded, consider ourselves enormously privileged. Entry fee £12.50. Closing date 11 March 2015

But that's not all. Our short prize is also launched today, with the ever popular Writers Forum Magazine  publishing the winning entries.
Write up to 400 words of Fiction/Memoir/Poetry and you could receive the winning prize of £250 and publication in Writers Forum. 2nd receives £100 and publication  and 3rd £50 and publication. Entry fee £4.50. Closing date 11 March 2015.

Further details are available on our website. Please, please spread the word in this commemorative year, one  that has drawn attention to the horror of war and its aftermath. Though we have withdrawn from Afghanistan those injured still have battles to fight, and will be doing so for a long time. It is essential therefore, that fundraising continues for as long as it is needed. This year we are raising funds for Combat Stress, Forces Support and the creative arts at Tedworth House Recovery Centre.

No doubt the daft grannies will be going white water rafting or something similar after this year's skydive, which raised additional funds. Giving writers opportunities, however, is always close to our hearts, and if we can combine fundraising with that, we are more than pleased.

And now we move on to Katie Medina, an exciting new talent who has written this post especially for the launch of this year's competitions, and I leave the last words to her. (Crikey, isn't she young!)

K.T. Medina

My parents have a photograph of me, aged seven, sporting a crew cut, an Army camouflage outfit and a mad grin.  I was an outdoorsy, wild child and always wanted to be a soldier – which is probably why I ended up spending five years in the Territorial Army and working for Jane's Information Group, the world's leading publisher of defence intelligence information.  My parents were nonplussed by my obsession because our family has no military background.  However, my interest probably developed from the many hours I spent hiding behind the sofa when I was supposed to be asleep, watching such World War 2 classics as Bridge On the River Kwai and The Dirty Dozen through my dad’s legs.
It was my involvement with and interest in the military that led me to write my first novel, White Crocodile, a thriller set in the landmine fields of northern Cambodia, which was published in August, by Faber and Faber.  

White Crocodile came out of personal experience: a month spent working in Cambodia with a wonderful and highly dedicated British based mine clearance charity, Mines Advisory Group.  Whilst in Battambang Province, I was privileged to spend time with both Western and Khmer clearers and to meet Khmers who had lost limbs to land mines.  There are huge numbers of amputees in Cambodia, including very young children who, in many cases, thought that the anti-personnel mine they found was a toy.  Off the tourist trail, Cambodia is a heartbreaking place to visit and left a huge and lasting impression on me.
It is mines and IEDs – improvised explosive devices – that seem to do most of the damage to our troops currently serving in Middle-Eastern conflicts.  It must be psychologically devastating to be a physically fit, ‘Alpha’ person, and then to be grievously injured, and the wounded must be helped to regain their independence and self-confidence, so that they can lead fulfilling lives - albeit lives that will be very different from the ones that they dreamed about when they were children.
I was probably lucky to be in the Territorial Army between wars: after the first Iraq War and before the next intervention in Iraq and in Afghanistan.  Perhaps it always was, but war feels particularly dirty these days, with an enemy who is potentially anybody and everywhere and who doesn’t comply with the Geneva Convention.  It is disturbing to know that young men and women – often just teenagers or early twenties – are exposed to such potentially physically and psychologically devastating harm in these dirty conflicts.
Today, as the situation deteriorates in Iraq - the country where the current unraveling of security across the Middle East started with Saddam Hussein’s overthrow in 2003 - and in Syria, with the seemingly unstoppable advance of ISIL, I fear that our military may soon be facing another ‘on the ground’ challenge against a particularly brutal and morally corrupt enemy.  It is critical now, more than ever, that we as civilians support the young men and women who have given so much in these conflicts.

Katie Medina

Remember, spread the word. Every penny counts, and every penny raised goes to those in need. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

October news by Margaret Graham

Our writing competitions are looming, and open on November 11th so the mail shots will begin. Gear yourself, fellow grannies! This year we have added the Independent Author Book Award. So now there is a short and a long opportunity. On November 11th we will post more about that but our website has the details. Do help these wonderful men and women who Words for the Wounded does its best to help.
It's been a really busy time for the grannies who run WforW. 
Penny Deacon has finished the first draft of her crime novel, I'll Swing for You,  and I have seen my 15th novel published by Random House, Easterleigh Hall, which is the first of three which follow the lives of two families in the north east.  I've had the greatest time researching it, because I had to go back up north which is where my mum lived, and which I love.
Of course we had to celebrate the launch at The Wellington on the Strand (The Wellie) with a few friends, including he who must be disobeyed, and our third grannie, Jan Speedie.

From the left: Janet Speedie, Margaret Graham, Pat Heath, Dick Graham and Sue Atkins. (Thanks to Sue for some of the photos below). Thanks to our friend, Esther, for taking the photo and looking after us so well, as always, and to The Wellie for the bottle of Prosecco. 

We had spent the morning at the Tower of London, seeing the poppies. I have posted the article I wrote for, Frost Magazine which is a great online magazine and what's more supports, Words for the Wounded with publicity. 
I will be posting on 11th November again, with more about our competitions and something about our LitFest in April, but for which we already have reservations. We have Katie Fforde, and two Midsomer Murder writers, an agent, a crime writer and a self-publishing panel. Random House, my publisher are donating new books for the prize draw. Frost Magazine are supporting us with publicity. You can find details on our website.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
Yesterday, on a brilliant clear October morning two of the granny administrators of Words for the Wounded, Jan Speedie and Margaret Graham, arrived at the Tower of London  to view the art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.

Two of the grannies at the Tower.Jan Speedie and Margaret Graham

The art installation commemorates Britain's involvement in the First World War, a war to which so many marched in the early days, certain that it would ‘be over by Christmas’.  It was not to be, of course. The war ended four years later at 11.00 am on the 11 day of the 11 month of 1918.

And these represent only some of our fallen.

One of those who went early to war, was a Derbyshire man who died in Flanders. He wrote in his will, knowing that everyone was dead and he was surrounded by blood, The Blood Swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread. It is these words that inspired ceramic artist Paul Cummins’s design.

In those trenches, classes mixed for the first time, barriers were broken, lives were destroyed. ((888,246 British and Colonial dead) many many others were injured, mentally and physically . It was a defining moment in our history, if you could call such relentless effort and sacrifice a moment.
The setting was designed by stage designer Tom Piper. In total, 888,246 ceramic poppies will progressively fill the iconic Tower's moat over the summer. One for every single man who was lost. Volunteers fix the stems and plant out the poppies, for sale for £25. In due course, the poppies will be packaged and posted to the purchasers, again by the volunteers.  Bravo the volunteers.

Volunteers beavering

By yesterday the tide of poppies had extended in some areas to the edge of the moat, and in others, were lapping towards the walls,  but there is room and time for more, just as there was, sadly, time for more in that First World War.

It is a heart stopping vision, one that promotes a moment of deep reflection, of commemoration, and for the grannies a determination to continue with our voluntary work - raising funds for the recovery of injured troops, so on with the mail shots for our fundraising writing competitions opening on 11th November.
I believe the last poppy will be planted on the cusp of 11 November.

The start of a new wave

The Tower of London website says ‘We are hoping to sell all of the poppies that make up the installation and, in doing so, raise millions of pounds which will be shared equally amongst six service charities.’

I would love to know exactly how much is distributed as our servicemen, and ex-servicemen are still sorely in need.

Pictures courtesy of Susan Atkins and Margaret Graham


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

WforW news and a great piece from Fiona Field - by Margaret Graham

Words for the Wounded went to the Invictus Games - the wheelchair basketball. Talk about exciting. It was a triumph for the teams. We loved every minute. The atmosphere was fantastic, and I do hope it grows and grows and becomes a regular event. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

Our LitFest plans are blooming nicely, though autumn is virtually here. Sorry, terrible link but it's the best I can do. We have Katie Fforde to lead us off on April 18th, in conversation with me. Note to self. Must not chat too much, and certainly not laugh uncontrollably, which is a hard task, with the lovely Katie. We'll be joined by Sarah Taylor of Kate Nash Literary Agency, Midsomer Murders writing duo Rachel Cuperman and Sally Griffiths, Penny Deacon, a Words for Wounded granny, who's also a crime writer. We have a self-publishing panel with PennyDeacon, me, Amanda Hatter and our publicity sponsor,  Catherine Balavage, editor and owner of Frost Magazine

The WforW team are thrilled to bits that this is actually happening. It will be on April 18th at Downley Community Centre, High Wycombe 10 - 5.  Lunch is included and a glass of wine, lots of tea and coffee too. The fee is £50. As always it is in aid of the recovery of the wounded. There will be our authors' books on sale, and they will be delighted to sign 'em.

The Words for the Wounded Competition is brewing nicely. He who must be disobeyed is working on the website, the grannies have their designated mailshot areas,  so we are gearing up for November 11th when we'll be open for business. As you know, here at Words for the Wounded, we feel our brief is not only to raise money to help the recovery of the wounded, but to create opportunities for aspiring writers...

As well as our Short fiction/memoir/poetry Prize we are hoping we get loads of self-published books, either fiction or memoir, for children or adults, entered into our Independent Author Book Award. These can be sent as attachments or by post. Next month I will include details, but in the meantime there is information on the website:

We want to welcome Joshua Edwards who is now helping with publicity, and has taken over social media. What a star! We so need him and, though ridiculously young, having just obtained an excellent degree, he's nothing daunted by the grannies and will lick us into shape in no time.

We're thrilled that Catherine Jones, who writes as Fiona Field, has joined us for this edition. She writes fantastic books, that are well researched and from the heart. She'll tell us all about them, and her life as a soldier and soldier's wife. 

Fiona Field

I heard about Word for the Wounded some time ago and the idea that people like me – writers who don't generally run marathons or undergo feats of endurance – could do what comes naturally and, through our writing,  raise money for our wonderful servicemen and women who need support following physical or mental injury, was a stroke of genius.  So when Margaret asked me to write a piece for the blog I was very honoured, not least because I was a soldier, so was my husband, and my son is currently serving too.

In my youth I spent eight years in the army.  I was an officer in what was then called the Women's Royal Army Corps.  Like the ATS, its predecessor,  it no longer exists and women are now just part of the army full stop.  However, back then, sex discrimination wasn't much of an issue and I was happy to be admin-fodder rather than cannon-fodder.  I was a bit more hacked off though when I discovered I was pregnant (I had been married for 6 years by then) and was made to leave.  Fathers could soldier on, mothers couldn't.  Anyway, my husband's career path meant that we then moved six times in five years and, being pretty much unemployable with all that moving I decided I might as well try and complete the family,  I had two more children in that time.  Oh, and I wrote my first book which I co-authored with a fellow army wife..  

Gumboots and Pearls was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek, side-swipe at the army, but it struck a chord with other service spouses and, despite being self-published when there was no POD, no Amazon, no internet , no viral marketing, it did very well.  I then went on to write a novel called, with stunning originality, Army Wives – well, they say write what you know.  I was lucky, it got picked up and  published.  Since then I have had published a further fifteen novels and I have just delivered number sixteen.  

However, just as Army Wives came out my husband left the army – the kids really  didn't need yet another change of school, my eldest was on her seventh – and we settled down in Oxfordshire.  Ian got a job doing what he did in the army (bomb disposal) only now he worked for the Met Police.  We got to know our neighbours, I planted stuff in the garden other than annuals  and the kids made proper best-friends-forever.  But the army moved on, we stayed still and I soon realised that I couldn't carry on writing books with a khaki backdrop because, frankly, I no longer knew what I was talking about.  However, my daughters were growing up and going through the teen-angst of boyfriends and body-image and the occasional spot, which triggered all my own memories of those times.  I plugged into my inner adolescent and started writing romances for Little Black Dress.  

Then my youngest, Tim, joined the army himself and promptly got sent to Afghanistan.  I'm not a worrier – truly I'm not.  My husband did a number of tours in Northern Ireland defusing IRA bombs and then spent the next eighteen years doing similar for London and I'd have the odd spike of anxiety but mostly I was quite sanguine.  But when one's youngest is fighting a real, proper, nasty, no-holds-barred war it does make one take a different perspective.  I thought I was pretty calm about it until I was driving to Brize Norton the day he came back for good and I saw his plane coming into land.  As the worry lifted off my shoulders I realised what a dead weight it had been for six months.   I will admit now I cried a lot of tears of relief as we covered the last miles to the RAF base.  And Tim, bless him, had always worn a helmet camera and was more than proud to show his mum and dad what he'd got up to.  As I was watching the videos I suddenly wanted to write about the army again.  Yes, it had changed hugely since I was in – women are now on the front line and are just as likely to get shot at as the men – but some things are just the same; the random nature of the postings, the drab quarters, the amazing camaraderie of the service wives, the frustrations of being a wife with a great qualification but being virtually unemployable because of the constant moving.   Inspired by Tim's experiences I decided to revisit my khaki roots and the result is Soldiers' Wives.

'I couldn't put it down' says Katie Fforde

Published by Head of Zeus

Saturday, 2 August 2014

A blog from our lovely patron, Elizabeth Buchan, with some WforW information first from Margaret Graham

Hi Everyone

Over this gloriously sunny summer, WforW have been busy putting together the new writing competitions. This year we are raising money for individuals, Forces Support and as usual, the creative arts at Tedworth House Recovery Centre, and as you know, every penny raised goes to the cause.  The competitions will be ready for November 11th and the excitement is building amongst the grannies! 

We will let you know all the details at the end of the summer, but start preparing those self-published novels and memoirs in readiness, as well as brushing off your flash fiction skills.

We are also arranging a brilliant WforW fundraising LitFest day for Saturday April 18 2015 at Downley, High Wycombe, so do keep the day free. Once we have all the speakers set  in stone we'll let you know the details, but so far we have some belters. 

The 'grands' have excelled themselves this summer.  Josie, aged 10, arrived after school a couple of weeks ago with something held behind her back. It transpired she had written a speech which she proceeded to recite to me: 

'Me and my friends at school made some bracelets out of loom bands to help raise money for WforW and we raised over £11 but some was stolen, so we now have £5.27. We raised this money because you are all an inspiration to me and my friends.'  

She drew the bag of money from behind her back. 

The bag actually contained £16 because Meg had done the same at her school and they'd put all the money together. I think it's the most valuable £16 there has ever been... And more, Josie and her friends just kept going each time the money was stolen, (which it was, twice). They really do feel that the wounded need every penny.

But that's not the end of it:

Meet CHUM - 

The grands have created, and show us in a selfie, the WforW mascot out of loom bands. CHUM, stands for charitable, homely, unique mascot and CHUM will be present at everything we do. Thanks girls. Love the selfie!

Now we hear from Elizabeth Buchan. Elizabeth and I have known one another for more years than either of us care to remember and not only is Elizabeth a fantastic writer, but HUGE fun, and one of the busiest people I know.

I see she's just been interviewed in the brilliant on-line Frost Magazine, and I do hope Frost will be reviewing I Can't Begin To Tell You, which is Elizabeth's latest novel. Frost Magazine writes such comprehensive and detailed reviews. Incidentally, I hear that Frost editor, Catherine Balavage's excellent ebook, How to be a Successful Actor,  is really taking off, here and in the States. All very exciting.

I have enjoyed all Elizabeth Buchan's novels, which have been huge sellers worldwide, and I have a sneaking favourite in Consider the Lily which won the Romantic Novelists' Association  Novel of the Year Award. It's an evocative coming together of love, gardening, family and loss, and packed with empathy and warmth. And for those lovers of Downton Abbey it is a must.

Reviews for Consider the Lily
'An outstanding, beautifully written and memorable story' - Good Book Guide 'And old fashioned novel in the best sense of the word' -Chicago Tribune
'A gorgeously well written tale: funny, sad sophisticated' - The Independent
'The literary equivalent of an English country garden' - Sunday Times
'In her way Elizabeth Buchan is a chronicler of time and atmosphere as adept as Jane Austen' - Birmingham Post
'Superb characterisation, an absorbing love story and wonderful evocation of an English country house and garden make this a joy to read' - Annabel
'An excellent story... strong imaginative power... wonderful atmosphere' - Joanna Trollope

But now onto news of Elizabeth Buchan's latest novel which I will be reading very soon, and which I suspect I will love as much as Consider the Lily...

I Can’t Begin to Tell You
By Elizabeth Buchan
Some years ago, I wrote a novel about a female SOE agent going into occupied France during the Second World War. It was a fascinating project to research and to write – and, as the family helpfully informed me, I became an obsessive.  Soon after it was published, the phone went and a voice asked me if I was the author of Light of the Moon as she used to work for SOE’s F-section and she had liked the book?
         We became friends and, over the years, Noreen Riols (who has recently published her own remarkable memoir, The Secret Ministry of Ag and Fish) and I often discussed various aspects of the SOE. Such is her generosity, she invited me down to Valençay to celebrate with French veterans and descendants of SOE agents the seventieth anniversary of the first parachutage into France.  It was an extraordinary day. Princess Anne arrived in a helicopter, the town was en fete and the service conducted with banners and music at the memorial was poignant and unforgettable.
         Over my writing life, I have found that I like to circle around a subject, often returning to it to write another novel from a different angle. I knew one day that I would return to the SOE. However, in the interim, many other writers have seized on SOE,  particularly F-section. I needed to rethink and to find a fresh approach. Someone said: ‘why don’t you look at Denmark?’
         I took their advice and found there was actually a new area in which to roam as the writer. Denmark had had a very unusual war – it had been annexed peacefully and the Reich had bestowed on it the status of a ‘model protectorate’. This remained -  more or less - the case until August 1943 when the order went out to round up the Jews. From that moment, the situation in Denmark changed.
         A novel is not a history. It is fiction and fiction tries to explore emotional truths and human behaviour. So what was I writing about? At the early stage, I thought it would be about the tensions and problems of someone taking a decision to enter this infant theatre of war – i.e. the covert and undercover. Why would they do it?  How would they manage?  The novel would also be about lies. An agent must live on many levels and not only has to construct a charade for the enemy but for friends, lovers, spouses and family.
         I thought further around the subject. Do women make better spies and undercover agents? If so, why?  Actually, if you are the right temperament both sexes are neck and neck on that. Where women had an advantage in the Second World War was the Germans weren’t expecting women to be spies or agents.
         What else did women do? Some of the answers were also to be found in the SOE. There were women coders and decoders – such as my character, Ruby Ingram, brilliant mathematician and angry feminist.  There were also the listeners, such as Mary Voss, the FANY,  who listened out day and night for the call signs of the agents and, although they had no idea of their sex or their names, grew to know their agents simply by listening to their ‘handwriting’ or ‘fist’ as they tapped out their messages in Morse from whatever hiding places they could manage. Who was to say that the coders and listeners didn’t cherish and love these agents and strove always to protect them – even if it meant taking on the bosses?
         Even in relatively peaceful Denmark, life was difficult and loyalties were conflicted and bought much suffering. Searching to find the plot of the novel, I read histories, memoirs,  biographies and  then finally … I stumbled across a biography of an English woman who worked for SOE during the war while her Danish  husband tolerated the occupation. They lived in a house with a lake in front of it.
         I had my story. 

 I Can’t Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan (Michael Joseph Hardback & E-Book, £14.99, 28th August 2014)

To find out more about Elizabeth Buchan, go to