All Aboard the Runaway Creative Train: The Year of the Handbag

In March, I discovered my husband had published my manuscript on Amazon. Clutching the lilac handbag, I went into a bit of a panic.  The delete button on my laptop did not remove the book from Amazon. There was no chocolate in the house, so I ignored him by reading a book.   Little did I know, he’d presented me with a ticket to begin a creative writing journey via social media.

While waiting to board the creative train, I watched YouTube footage about how to engage in social media. I wish I had known about Neetsmarketing rather than shouting at the lovely people who were trying to explain.  Fortunately,  there was light at the end of the tunnel, Sue Moorcroft was the first person to accept my friend request on Twitter.    Her response to my book review and ideas to promote ‘Just for the Holidays’ lit the creative spark, and she helped me to understand Twitter. The sound of the whistle jolted the pistons in my imagination.

Once I had boarded the creative train, some wonderful people waved me off. The first review request came from Angela Petch.   Her reaction to my review of ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’ fuelled the creative enthusiasm and the train started to increase pace.  She also agreed to join me in a whacky race to meet up with Sue Moorcroft’s character, in France.  Angela introduced me to Patricia Feinberg Stoner and Rosemary Noble.  Rosemary ‘Ranter’s Wharf’ made me rant on behalf of my ancestors. Patricia’s book is funniest book I have ever read about becoming an accidental expat, in France. It was a great day when Patricia sent me her ‘Rude Book of Limericks’, and I realised she had quoted me on her front cover.

I crashed into the inspirational Diane Need, in the Midlands, when my creative ideas were heading in all directions.  Diane’s heart-warming, fun novel was a great read on the journey.  Jan Ellis asked me to review one of her books and sent me a book parcel, and this was the ticket to my new collection of books. Jan is currently writing a blog post about the contents of her handbag, and I know it will be amusing.

On my creative journey abroad, I stopped off to meet Patricia Furstenberg. She took me on a magical journey back to my childhood through her children’s books.  She is also my Twitter guru and is Queen of the Hashtags.  At her stop, Patricia introduced me to Jennifer from ‘Jennieration’.  Jen is a ‘fearless thinker’ who delights in language, culture and creativity. Jen’s daughter, Ella, is the youngest author in my Handbag Gallery, and she wrote a wonderfully creative guest post.

While speeding along the tracks of creativity, I met Carol Cooper.  And I was thrilled when she came up with the idea of interviewing the interviewer.  She looked inside my handbag and made me reflect on my journey. Angela Petch also asked me questions about the editing journey.  At this point, I reached a bit of a crossroads, I had neglected my writing.  The blogging train had been gaining speed and getting out of control.  I decided to get off at the next stop and visit my book again.

Locked in my study, in ‘Editingland’, I couldn’t resist interacting with Wendy Clarke.  I stopped over at ‘Silent Night’ to present an extract, and found Wendy incredibly supportive.  She featured me in her blog, and wrote a generous blog post about how to use software to market a book.  What a wonderful stopover!  I would never have found out about this if I had not boarded the creative train via social media.

Finally, I realised the creative train isn’t out of control.  Sometimes, one shouldn’t worry too much about the final destination, but one does need to interact with others on the journey.  ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’ so I recently asked Angela for support. Angela will talk to me about my editing next year.  My interactions with Adrienne Vaughan and Jan Brigden also gave me a lovely boost on my journey.  Caz Greenham, the children’s author, has convinced me that Eric Seagull exists. I now live inside the creative world with authors. It was lots of laughs with the hilarious Lisa Mary London.  However, it was frightening inside the Dutch woods and the world of Imogen Matthews’s characters.  She is mailing a guest post to Books in Handbag about how she stumbled on a forgotten World War Two.  I will be travelling back in time to the seventeenth century with Anna Belfrage.

Having established my seat on the creative journey, my role as blogger has gained pace in 2017. Thanks to the response of the writing and reading community, I have had a wonderful year. My role as an ‘accidental’ blogger and supporter of writers has pushed me towards an exciting, unknown destination. Each day, I open photos of handbags and develop more interactions with wonderful authors.  Next year, I will launch an initiative for readers with Anne Williams. I hope that many others will hop aboard the new initiative to celebrate reading.

While writing about my journey, Judith Barrow has just tweeted that she has ‘enjoyed being part of the journey’.  The people I have met on my journey have made the whole adventure worthwhile, as I get to peer through the window at their writing world.  Sue Bentley’s friendly comments always make me smile as I head towards my unknown destination.

A big thank you to everyone for supporting my blog – your enthusiasm has fuelled my creativity and put me on track. Have a wonderful Christmas! Best wishes for 2018! Hope you will join me for more adventures in 2018. 

For me, this has been the creative year of the handbag and new friendships!  How can you sum up your year?  The Year of …


Please see all my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my blog at

The Book, the Author and the Magic

Post from Sue Bentley via another world

Over Christmas, I received a letter marked with a lion’s head stamp.  The letter had been signed ‘Word Sorceress’. Author, Sue Bentley sent a mysterious letter to Reader Recommends.  She had also enclosed photos of:  a lion, a wardrobe, three children and a winter scene. This children’s author lives in a dark, fantasy forest, and often wears very glamorous Dr Marten boots. I was suspicious that the door to Sue’s writing room looks like the wardrobe leading to Narnia. Intrigued, I wanted to visit Sue’s writing world to find out more.

Is this the door to Sue’s writing world?

I passed my handbag to Sue, and she placed a classic tale inside.  Snowfall concealed my handbag, but I followed the footprints into Sue’s magical world. On my adventure into Narnia, I hoped to discover how she came to write children’s books and young adult fantasy fiction.

You will need to tread ‘on the edge of darkness’ as you read Sue’s words.



Midwinter and Magic

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis.

Lion personifying all things brave and true

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe captivated me from the moment I read it, aged about ten. Always winter but never Christmas, talking animals, a wicked witch, a fight against good and evil, a Lion personifying all things brave and true. Wow! You can write about things other than the everyday? It doesn’t have to be a school setting or a pony club drama? This was pure magic and it spoke directly to me. In that moment I became an author – if only in my mind.

Years later I began writing books for adults, collecting a drawer full of publishers’ rejections slips. It took longer to learn how to write quality fiction that I expected. Meanwhile my agent thought I’d be good at writing for children. This didn’t prove an easier option, as I’d foolishly imagined, but I stuck at it. She was proved right. My books for younger children have been translated into over 20 languages and continue to sell worldwide. Not surprisingly they often feature magical animals and fairies.

Always winter but never Christmas

My enduring love of snow and winter also stems from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. The shapes of trees sketched against a snow-clouded sky. The fresh linen smell of icy air.  Wonderful.  I enjoy reading books set in winter as well as writing them, while looking out of my workroom window onto a bleak landscape.

I’ve just finished reading The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper – set during snow-bound mid-winter and teeming with English Folkore. There was a readathon on Twitter, over this mid-winter and up to Twelfth Night. Reading the book in like-minded company was a wonderful and totally magical event, which has prompted lots of ideas for future novels.

After around 70 titles for children, I’m again writing for adults. In We Other, my recent fantasy novel, one of the most important events takes place in snowbound mid-winter. We Other could be described as an adult fairy tale. It’s darker and more complex than anything I’ve ever written, with many twists and turns. It’s territory I’m enjoying. I plan to stay there for a while! If it snows tonight, all the better…

More about Sue…

I would like to introduce you to an author who is supportive, full of fun and has a magical presence.  Author, Sue Bentley, adds sparkle and magic to children’s books and young fantasy, with her unique perspective.  Using her wand, she explores another world and adds glittering enchantment.

Meet the young Sue who discovered: You can write about things other than the everyday?

Indeed, she has sprinkled her enchanting magical vision on over 70 children’s stories. But she does venture into the darkness with her young adult fiction. We Other was her first venture into young adult fiction. 

Sue Bentley is fascinated by English Folklore, the extraordinary in the everyday and the darkness that hovers at the edges of the light.

Recently, Sue has been missing, as she has been penning her second novel for young adults.  The title of her second novel is Second Skin. Apparently, Aledra, the main character, belongs to a conquering race of shape-shifters, who are hated by the native people.  The new novel is very different to We Other, but it is sure to charm the readers.

The collaboration on this blog post commenced when Sue agreed to add a book into my Reader Recommends gallery.  I have invited all readers to share the book which inspired their reading journey.  Readers can send me a photo of the inspirational book, in their handbag, with twenty words.

Sue says…

Louis Armstrong says it best – ‘the bright blessed day and the dark sacred night’ You can’t have one without the other.

I always enjoyed ‘real’ fairy tales – not the sanitised Disney versions. For example, in some versions of Cinderella – the ugly sisters snip off their toes to be able to cram their feet into the glass slipper.

I was that kid in a class of pink tutus who was dressed as a vampire bat. I never wanted high-heeled dancing shoes, I wanted sturdy boots to go tramping around forests looking for the shapes of goblins in the trees.

As for characters – Goody, Goody is all very well, but it can get boring. We all love the ‘bad’ characters who do doubtful things – they’re much more fun to write about.


Please see all my Guests’ posts at Mail from the Creative Community and my website and blog at