Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The fundraising mud challenge by Jan Speedie

There we were, sitting comfortably in our committee chairs at the Wellington on the Strand, London in February 2015. A  decision needed to be made between white water rafting and a muddy military assault course challenge. After a lunch with wine it’s the mud challenge for us. Our slot is booked for 23rd August 2015.

The months slip by and suddenly I realise a little training might help. So down to the local gym I go and explain what I am to do in a month’s time - they enrol me there and then. Not sure what they thought about a 70 year old Grannie doing this challenge but they were ready to get me fit and yes they managed it; not quite the size 8 I had hoped for but definitely on the way.

As for the other grannies: Penny wild swims in the sea, so is as fit as a fiddle, and Margaret? Well, Margaret does what Margaret does ...  relying on a stiff upper lip and and the occasional heave-ho from the sons-in-law, suspecting they will  let her drop - 'payback' comes to mind. 

Because, yes, the families are doing it with us, bless their hearts. So there are to be 16 of us, ranging in age from 10 to 70. 

Sponsorship is already rolling in, from those eager to help the wounded (remember 100% of everything the charity raises always goes to those in need, because the grannies absorb all costs.)

Josh, our social media guru, did it with us, of course, and Corinne, his girlfriend baked cakes for his colleagues to help the donations.

Nonie, Margaret's daughter baked cakes for her office too. We'll be able to help more and more people.

Sunday 23rd August arrived and we all met up at  Action Days Out near Dorking.  We were briefed  by the fantastic Ian and Callum Marshall, (as well as Boris, the Norfolk Terrier puppy),  on safety and team work (there is no I in team, troops).  We're off. With Ian and Callum keeping a careful eye on us all the way.

Clean and buoyant, but we hadn't yet begun

We stood looking at 3 trenches stretching over what seems miles of mud. Time to get down and dirty. This is supposedly the 'warm up'. Ho hum. Down we slid, and slogged knee deep through muddy water. We climbed up the muddy bank and completed two more trenches. It's as well there's a big tub for unwanted clothes outside the showers.

We slid down into a flowing stream and waded along, minding the booby traps that were set to send us head first into the water. 

As we rounded the corner I was faced by my worst nightmare - a tyre wall to climb but with much help, encouragement and pushing I made it over (hip joints will never be the same) and on I went wondering what lay ahead.  

Out of the stream we sprinted. Ok, we clambered, hauling some up, shoving others, and being hauled and shoved ourselves.

Then, we saw ahead of us the dreaded  ‘birthing tubes’ (oil cans linked together like chimneys, a rope). We continued to remember there is no 'I' in team, thank heavens, and while someone shoved, we tried to heave ourselves up the wretched things to get out of the river. We had  to ignore the skinned elbows, and bruised knees, not to mention the rear ends brought into use to lever ourselves up. Smiles slipped a bit here, guys.  Once out we scrambled up nets, down firemen’s poles. Honestly, never have we laughed so much, or was it hysteria?

See Nonie go and Ian's legs. 

There were rope swings across water, and oh, did I mention the pouring rain?

A scramble through more tyres.

Mart, Margaret's son in law.
She was pushing, unaware he was stuck. Not helpful.

 Up and over a wall, and these were only a few of the 30 obstacles.

And on we skipped - er, maybe not... On we staggered towards the finish, all filthy with mud but exhilarated by our efforts. In front was an old army truck we had to scramble up and over and I thought I would slip round the side, when my daughter said, 'Margaret is up there, so up you go.'

We ended the escapade by scrambling under the netting, with the blokes holding it up for everyone. Truly we worked at a team throughout, and that's what made it so amazing. After 57 minutes we were home but I can't say dry. We were absolutely filthy, soaked, bruised, skinned, but  on a ‘high’. Every single one of us, from the youngest to the oldest did every obstacle. 

We three grannies like to think positively, therefore: we all experienced a full body mud-pack and from this moment on we look 20 years younger.

Kate, Margaret's daughter took these fantastic photos, and looked after the under 10s who followed us all the way round, with the other spectators. 

Would we do it again? Yes, especially if we raised over £2000 (and it's still climbing). But think we'll probably have to consider something a little different - kayaking perhaps, but can we do that as a team? Thinking caps on.

So thanks  to all those who have sponsored us. Though of course, it's not for us, but for the men and women who need it. Yes, we are out of Afghanistan, but the wounded continue their fight and will have to for many years to come. 

For the video on Youtube of the moment when Ian told us that we must link arms and run through shallow water, under which lay quicksand. Oh yeah ... click to have a look.

For our account on Frost Magazine: click

Donations - click: To donate 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Count down to the Muddy Military Challenge - 5 days to go by Margaret

Yes, we're ticking off the days, feeling totally confident - not. But the weather is set fair for rain, of course, which will wash off the mud as we go. Well, we have to put a positive spin on these things.
Last year Penny, Jan and Annie plunged from a plane and raised a lot of money. Grannie Graham couldn't do it at the last moment because of an old injury. So disappointing, but this year we decided to stay earthbound.
Penny drifting on the thermals

So, the whole Words for the Wounded team, together with our families will be present and correct,  for the Mud Challenge arranged by www.actiondaysout.co.uk   Nonie, Josie and Meg deserve a special mention because they're coming straight from the airport after enjoying a holiday in Zante.
Josh, our lovely PR bloke has been hard at work creating photos to illustrate the fun of it all?!

Jan in a refreshing mud bath

You will note that we are smiling. These smiles will stay pinned on our faces on the day.
Margaret stroking through...
I feel that our smiles would be good and broad, if those scaling the wall below were actually to be with us on the day. I gather there will be ex-servicemen shouting at us from the sidelines, but we've got grandkids so they're chicken feed. The tunnels might well be an opportunity for a little rest...

As well as the above hurdles, there are streams to ford, tunnels to crawl through, this, that and the other to overcome - 30 in all. 
This year we are supporting Combat Stress, Forces Support, Veterans with Dogs, and The Limbless Veterans (Blesma) and individuals.

So, the Words for the Wounded writing competition is over, the LitFest Day put to bed, soon the Mud Challenge will be a distant memory. Is that it? 

We'll be telling you more very soon about the Chindi's Words for the Wounded LitFest weekend , that the fantastic Chindi writers of Chichester are organising to raise yet more funds for WforW to help us help others.

So, back to Sunday 23 August - we will be letting you know how we do, of course. There will be photos (oh crikey) with smiles grimly in place.

If any of you feel like supporting the wounded, click on the link, because every penny Words for the Wounded raises goes to the wounded. We absorb all costs. Thanks so much to everyone who has already contributed this year. We are so grateful.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

What a great day at the WforW Litfest Day on 18th April! by Margaret Graham

On 18th April Downley Old School Community Centre was treated to an influx of readers and aspiring writers who came to spend the day with  bestselling authors of all descriptions. Words for the Wounded, founded and run by bestselling author, Margaret Graham, with her two other writing grannie friends, Penny Deacon and Jan Speedie, planned a fantastic line-up of bestselling ‘stars’.  It proved to be a great day; funny, interesting and inspiring.

        Katie Fforde, two Midsomer Murders writers, a literary agent, two Indie authors and Penny Deacon, hilariously held the audience in the palm of their hands from 10.00- 5.00. It was an amazing opportunity to chat to these stars of the literary world, learn from them, whether reader or writer, and make new friends.  

            After Trustee Matt Pain’s welcome, Katie Fforde (patron of Words for the Wounded) was in conversation with Margaret Graham. These two bestselling writers explained the life of a professional writer and answered numerous questions. Rachel Cuperman, another patron, and Sally Griffiths, chatted with Margaret and gave away the secrets of writing scripts for one of our most successful series, Midsomer Murders. 

Lunch was organized by Jan Speedie and Margaret’s family, with smoked salmon, quiche, beef and heaven knows what, amongst a feast of other dishes, and a huge range of salads, not to mention as much wine as you liked, finished with desserts and coffee.

            In the afternoon the fun continued with an Indie writers’ question and answer panel - Amanda Hatter and Catriona Troth enlightened us all. 

          Felicity Trew, a literary agent from the highly respected agency Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency presented a powerpoint presentation and answered questions. Here's Penny Deacon with Felicity.

           Penny Deacon ended the day talking of the difference between Mills and Boon writing and crime. 

The mixed media artist, Sharon Bennett,  displayed and sold her work. 

The day was strongly supported by the Community Centre, who discounted the hire fee for the charity, Tesco who provided cakes, coffee and champagne (for the raffle) Morrisons for the cheese, The Wellington on the Strand with a voucher for the raffle, Sharon Bennett – a print, and the lovely Katie Fforde gave  a signed copy of her latest book, published by Random House, The Vintage Wedding. 

£1500 was raised for our wounded servicemen and women, with £250 of that being raised by the raffle. As I said, at the start of this post, it was fantastic day. 

Mark 16th April 2015 in your diaries for the next one. We have Elizabeth Buchan best selling author (another patron!), Jemima Hunt, literary agent,  Tracy Baines, successful genre short story writer and Catherine Balavage, actor, writer and founder of e-magazine Frost Magazine. (Many have already reserved their places Margaret 01494 630713. adminstrator@wordsforthewounded.co.uk)  To read a more detailed review, go to http://www.frostmagazine.com/2015/04/the-words-for-the-wounded-litfest-review-by-pat-heath/ 
     * Margaret Graham’s latest novel, published by Random House is released on 21rd May. Easterleigh Hall at War, sequel to the bestselling Easterleigh Hall.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Our competition is now closed... Judging begins... by Margaret Graham

We are already reading through the entries from our Words for the Wounded Writing Prize and The Independent Author Book Award.

As always it's an absolute pleasure to see how many aspiring writers are producing inspiring work. It makes our task hard though, as a fine line separates the good from the excellent, but we'll get there in the end. Well done everyone, and June 6th will see the winners announced on the website.

Whilst on the subject of Independent Authors, I am posting a press release from Catriona Troth, (one of the independent authors sitting on our Self-Publishing Panel at our Words for the Wounded LitFest on 18th April:

Independent Bookshop Opens Doors to Independent Authors

Foyles on London’s Charing Cross Road, is playing host to
The Indie Author Fair (IAF)
on Friday 17th April 2015.

Part of the London Book Fair Indie Author Fringe Festival, run by The Alliance ofI Independent Authors/Indie ReCon, the fair is organised by Triskele Books and sponsored by XPO North.

After the success of IAF 2014 at Chorleywood Literary Festival, the event has grown to include over fifty authors who represent the best in independent author-publishing.

Organiser Catriona Troth said “The Indie Author Fair is an unmissable event for readers, writers, publishers and observers of the publishing scene, providing an opportunity to meet the best indie authors in the business, meet suppliers, talk to experts and discover great new books.”

“Bringing writers and readers closer together is a core part of ALLi’s mission," said Orna Ross, Director of ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors). “We are delighted that the Indie Author Fair will showcase the talent and enterprise of so many ALLi members at Foyles, London’s largest indie bookstore, with the support of London Book Fair’s Book and Screen Week, and look forward to fostering new author-reader bonds at the fair.”

The fair will take place from 16.00–19.30 and is FREE to the public with drinks reception, goodie bags and personalised signed copies available.

This should be a great day and so good that Foyles is encouraging Independent Authors.

Sadly, the three grannies who run Words for the Wounded will be too busy to go, as we will be preparing for our LitFest which is the next day, (baking cakes is one of our tasks - all rather nerve wracking when it's for others to consume) but we're really looking forward to seeing you all.

Matt Pain, one of our trustees will welcome you  and then Katie Fforde will kick off the day at 10.00 in conversation with me. Then we have our two Midsomer Murders writers, Rachel Cuperman and Sally Griffiths in conversation - wait for it - with me. They are breaking their necks to complete their latest script at the moment, as they are first up in the new series about to be filmed at any moment. No doubt we'll hear all about it in April.

After lunch, you are then saved from an overload of MG as Penny Deacon  chairs the Self-Publishing panel comprising Amanda Hatter and Catriona Troth who will talk about their experiences as highly successful Indie Authors, and the pros and cons of the whole thing. There will be  plenty of time for questions. Janet Speedie will introduce the lovely Felicity Trew, literary agent with Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency, and Penny Deacon will close the day, chatting about her route from Mills and Boon to crime writing.

My publishers, Random House, have provided a massive box full of free books as gifts for you, and we also have a bookstall with the speakers' books so you can buy signed copies.

The Litfest is to be held at Downley Community Centre on 18th April from 9.30 (Registration) - 5.00. Price £50.

You can book a ticket by sending a SAE, enclosing a cheque for £50 payable to Words for the Wounded  to Words for the Wounded, 12 Woodcote Green, Downley, High Wycombe HP13 5UN.

Do rest assured that all money raised does go to the wounded, as the grannies absorb the costs of the charity. Hope to see you at Downley on 18th April. We have fans coming from as far away as Lyme Regis and Sussex - we can't wait to meet you all.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Great excitement: Our writing competitions and Elizabeth Buchan's wonderful news. Read about both. Margaret Graham

Our writing competitions close to entries on 11 March: flash fiction/memoir/poetry up to 400 words, and our inaugural Independent Author Book Award. Do make sure you don't miss our deadline. As you know, we three grannies absorb all expenses so every penny goes to the wounded, and trust me, every one of those pennies is sorely needed.  For details: www.wordsforthewounded.co.uk

I think one of my most profound experiences recently has been  learning about a young soldier caught in an IED explosion. He's lost not only his legs but hips. His torso is therefore truncated. His stomach has had to be reduced so that it can be accommodated, and so on, and so on... He is by no means alone in this type of injury, and every day must be a painful mountain for him, and his family, to climb. But as I say, he is NOT ALONE. There are so many recovering wounded, far more than you would dream. They need us all.

Make sure you get your entries to us in time. Apart from anything else, it is so good to read such wonderful work. Every one thus far has been excellent. Judging will be difficult.

Our LitFest on 18th April is sorted. As you know we have the delicious Katie Fforde, a patron of ours who is a Sunday Times No 1 bestselling author, and my lovely pal Rachel Cuperman, also a patron,  and her writing partner Sally Griffiths who will  talk about writing scripts for Midsomer Murders. We have Penny Deacon, one of the WforW grannies talking of the change from Mills and Boon to crime fiction, and a self-publishing panel including Amanda Hatter and Catriona Troth who will talk to us, and answer our questions. We have Felicity Trew of Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency to take the place of Sarah Taylor, who has personal commitments. Felicity will be with us all day, so what better place for you all to be than at Downley Community Centre, HP13 5TR, 10.00- 5.00(tickets in advance) networking and learning.

The food will be good too, and the wine, not to mention the cake and coffees, all included. Go to www.wordsforthewounded.co.uk for further details.

Remember every penny goes to those who have been wounded, like the young man I've just told you about.


ELIZABETH BUCHAN, another one of our patrons, has been shortlisted for the Epic Romantic Novel category of The Romantic Novel of Year Award 2015 with I Can't Begin to Tell You. 

Elizabeth told Words for the Wounded about I Can't Begin to Tell You, some months ago, and I am now repeating her feature and send congratulations and fingers crossed, from us all. 
Elizabeth won in 1994, with Consider the Lily. How wonderful it would be if she did it again.

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. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

A post from a great pal of mine,Steve Blayney, and great news, his daughter, Gemma is on our team. By Margaret Graham

Do remember that the grannies absorb all the costs of the charity so every penny raised goes to where it should.

Just a reminder to everyone that the 400 word maximum Fiction/Memoir/Poetry category closes on 11 March, and though we're receiving fantastic entries every day, keep spreading the word. We need every penny for the wounded, and we want to be able to shine the spotlight on all the good writers out there.

There is £400 in prize money, and publication in Writers Forum.

We're having a really great time reading the Indie books (self-published fiction or memoir) coming through the letter box and into our inbox for the Independent Author Book Award. There are some exceptional writers out there. How lucky the team is to have the chance to read them all. Remember, the closing date is 11th March, and Words for the Wounded needs you ALL.

Palamedes PR are offering a free professional press release as first prize, and a discounted press release for second and third. Frost Magazine will publish a biography and review of the top three prize winners. All fantastic publicity for the winners.

Results will be published on 6th June, on the website.

I had the great pleasure to review Bryan Adams' photographic exhibition at Somerset House for Frost Magazine. Wounded - a legacy of war, shows in shocking detail the injuries our men and women receive, and the inspirational way they receive help, process their situation, and move forward, onto rich and rewarding lives. Get the book, it's on Amazon. See how much your help is needed.
Jaco van Gass - copyright Bryan Adams

The photographs have certainly pushed the Words for the Wounded team to greater efforts on their behalf. In April we have the LitFest Day at Downley Community Centre, Downley, HP13 5TR. Have a look at our website for more details have. We the lovely Katie Fforde, two Midsomer Murders writers, a crime writer, an agent, and a self-publishing panel. Lunch is included, and wine. Coffees too. The community centre has a lovely atmosphere, and is the former Victorian School.  Come and meet us, and network as much as you like.

We are also doing a Mud Challenge, which is basically we silly old idiots clambering over a military assault course (in August but they promise they will soak the ground to create mud - oh thanks!). There will be younger family members in the team to give us a bump up. Or it could be the moment the sons-in-law have been waiting for...

Now for a post from a great pal of mine. I met Steve Blayney some years ago when he joined one of my writing workshops, which ran for ages and was good fun. I am really indebted to Steve because he volunteered to dress as some dastardly character in a short panto 'wot' I wrote to say goodbye to Grant Sellen, who was leaving the Octagon Theatre, Yeovil, Somerset. I'm particularly grateful as I was dressed as a fairy in a very green dress, with a tiara, and a wand. Not the best look around the bazaars. Steve's a really good writer too.

Steve Blayney, looking James Bond 'smooth'. Good one, Steve.

Falklands War April 2 1982 - June 14 1982

I remember that it had been almost a year since the conflict had ended, but the scars were there. The ground was scarred, the foliage was scarred and we were scarred. Even those of us that hadn’t been here for the fighting, such as it was from the RAF’s point of view, bore traces of what our friends, acquaintances and comrades had gone through. We were united in the cause, regardless of the politics and we had done our duty, whether from a distance, as I had, or up close and personal.

Ultimately, the Islands remained as the Islanders wanted them – British. As far as I was concerned, that was the key point. The people had spoken and we had responded.
I will always remember the shift in attitudes after it ended. Before it started, we would go down to town on our rare nights off and have to demonstrate a mastery in diplomacy. One word out of place and the muttered ‘Bloody warmongers’ would reach our ears. It usually took several beers to defuse the situations, but it didn’t always work and we still carry a few more obvious scars in testament to that.
Everyone had to do a three month tour Down South and eventually it was my turn. I arrived in their winter and it was cold – bloody cold. In the terminal building (shed), I watched the Britannia take off to return from whence it came and wondered how long it would be before I was on the other side of those cabin windows.
The transport arrived to take us to our new home for the next quarter. Bedding was issued, locations of various useful amenities were barked and we were reminded to make sure our respective watches were set on the right time – none of us had remembered that.
After a few weeks, the one thing that struck me was that the locals weren’t scarred. They always seemed genuinely pleased to see us. Even disregarding the slight drop in their faces when we told them we were RAF and not Paras or Bootnecks.
But what was the most memorable thing? Sounds pathetic, not to mention incredibly shallow, but it was when the Bennies came back to drop off their load of Island virgins and take back the veterans who’d done their time. It was usually an overnight stop (unlike when I’d been delivered) and they always had hosties onboard. Believe me, those girls knew how to party...