Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Was it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected

Well, yes it was worth it – we loved it,  now we don’t let anymore it’s good to look back. Even though there were a lot of unexpected occasions.

Having a holiday apartment attached to our house has brought us many friends; visitors who return year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We love seeing them again. And we are fortunate to meet many new people as well.

But there have been downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

I’ll start with the  vicar, his wife.


They arrived two hours early. But I’d finished the cleaning …




it was pouring down and there was no reason not to let them go in and settle into the apartment.

Within minutes there was a knock on the house door. Did we mind if they rang their daughter to tell them they’d arrived and to come and see where they were. Not at all we said. What they didn’t say was that the daughter was on holiday with two other couples – and five children. They came and stayed for the rest of the day. Okay, we thought, we’re not insured to have thirteen people in our one bedroomed apartment but it was still raining. And we felt sorry for them. And they’ll be gone soon. 

We found out the following day, they were camping in tents in a local farmer’s field. With no showers or cooking facilities.Alarm bells started to ring. Loudly!

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Weren’t we the mugs!

The daughter, friends, kids arrived the next day, and the next, and the next – and the next. They stayed indoors when it rained and, when it didn’t the children ran riot over the garden until they were all ready to go to the beach. In the evening they came back to cook their meals and to bath the kids. What happened to the children after that we never found out but the adults always appeared to be having a party until the early hours ‘ I thought we had a vicar staying?’ Husband said with gritted teeth as we lay in bed at one in the morning listening to the gales of laughter and crashing of doors. He was, it has to be said, slightly narked because he’d had to have a cold shower earlier because all the hot water had been used up. (the house and apartment run on the same heating, electricity  and water supply).

The crunch  (the last straw, the one that broke the camel’s -er husband’s temper– to coin a mixed cliché) came later in the night – three in the morning to be exact. We were woken by a loud bang. One of the friends had backed into Husband’s car. Well, as far as he was concerned, enough was enough! I should add at this point, he’s usually pretty easy going. But a trampled garden and a dent in his car was the tipping point.

They had to leave!


Easier said than done.  The vicar and his wife refused to budge; there was some very un-vicar -like language bandied about, the wife turned into a screaming fishwife, my husband turned a worrying shade of crimson and  I knew we were out of our depth.

We called the letting agent. ‘Come and sort it out,’ Husband demanded, ‘or I will.’ Worrying; in all the years we’ve been married  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen his ‘sorting out’ . It wasn’t a reassuring thought.

In the meantime the daughter, friends and kids turned up for another day of fun and frolics. Unfortunately it was a fine day and the kids decided to play football – mostly amongst the flower beds. And this time they had two dogs with them. ‘Where did they come from?’ Husband appeared from his shed with plastic bag in hand, pushing it at one of the men and pointing to defecating pooch Apparently they were usually left in the tents. ‘Not much of a holiday for them, then,’ was Husband’s  comment.

The agent arrived. He went into the apartment and came out looking slightly apprehensive. They followed him outside. There was lots of finger pointing. He wasn’t getting anywhere with them. Surrounded by shouting people I did feel sorry for him. But all I wanted was them all to leave and to have a husband go back to his usual colour and with less teeth gritting.

It took the agent three hours to persuade them to go.  And another two for them to pack up. Husband stood guard on the drive, glaring at mad dogs and kid. I went indoors (always the coward!)

Which poor souls got them after that we never found out. I breathed a sigh of relief. Until I went into the apartment. It took me ten hours to clean. I won’t go into further detail.

Husband put a ban on vicars.


And then there was the Football Man …


And the Hippies …


And the couple with the heavily pregnant wife – who wasn’t – when  the three of them left. Worked it out?

Oh, and the couple who insisted Husband was growing his vegetables all wrong and decided to give us a surprise. Husband went only slightly crimson that time.

And the …

 And the …

All stories for another time …

Here we are:


 And I’m here:



Another Wednesday’s Interview with #Honno authors – today with Caroline Ross

Today, I’m thrilled to be talking to Honno’s Caroline Ross, the author of one of my favourite books, The War Before Mine


Who or what inspires you?”

A lot of things. Historical events, in the case of ‘The War Before Mine’, when I had the good fortune to ‘bump into’ history through meeting survivors of the WW2 raid on St Nazaire. I love history – especially medieval history, though I have never written about it. I’m also inspired by what happens to me and who I meet. ‘Small Scale Tour’ was inspired by living with members of a touring theatre company in the 1970s early 1980s.



Why do you write?

 I think my best writing comes from strongly held feelings – so my desire to set down my own ‘truths’, usually based on my experiences.

Do you have to plan to write or are you constantly jotting ideas down?


The best plans fall apart quite often! I try to jot things down and sometimes succeed.

What does your writing space look like?

It’s a converted outside loo, but much nicer than that sounds! It’s at the bottom of the garden, has a heater, a kettle, computer, a battered Roget’s Thesaurus. It’s lovely. You can see it on my website: www.caroline-ross.co.uk

Tell us about your next/new book,


My last book ‘Small Scale Tour’ was about a touring theatre company in 1970s Newcastle. I am now writing a novel set mainly in the 1950s and 1960s on the Isle of Wight. It starts with a plane crash that actually happened in 1957.

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What keeps you writing?

To be honest, a need to make myself a bit more interesting to myself! To have something else besides work and family (fulfilling as they are)

What do you think it takes to stand out from the crowd?

 A brilliant idea – one that someone else has not had – or at least not had for a good while.

What is the ultimate goal you hope to achieve with your writing? 

 I suppose having my work read by as large an audience as possible.

What are your three favourite books including the authors?

The Inheritors by William Golding, Middlemarch by George Eliot – either Catch 22 by Joseph Heller or Persuasion by Jane Austen

Is being an author your dream job? If so, how long have you been chasing the dream?

It sounds lovely but I’m not sure it’s good for your writing. Better to do something else as well. I’ve been writing, as a journalist and then as a writer of fiction, for 30 years.

What has been your best moment as a writer?

Hearing people laugh at the funny bits.

What challenges have you faced in your writing career?

Greatest challenge is getting down to it.

How do you find the promotional aspect of being an author?

I think, like most writers, I feel ‘I’ve written the bloody book; why do I have to do all this stuff?’ But I accept that it is now an essential part of being a writer.

How much time a day do you spend on social media

Maybe 20 minutes

What is your preferred genre to read?

I’m an English teacher so I am into what is called ‘literary fiction’ and aspire to write it – but I have had a great time reading in other genres, science fiction, for example. Lots of people writing so-called genre fiction are very great writers – John Le Carre for instance, who is seen as a writer of spy thrillers, and Cormac McCarthy, who writes what are sometimes called Westerns. Both of these are brilliant, superior to most in the ‘literary’ category.

Do you read your reviews and if so, how do you cope with a bad one.

Certainly I read them. If I recognise a critic has a point, I just have to suck it up. If it feels unfair the result is rage!

Please give us a random fact about yourself.

 I’m married to a Vietnam vet.

Links to Caroline’s books:



You can link up with Caroline on Twitter

Twitter – https://twitter.com/jcarolineRoss


A round up of #honno Interviews:

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I thought I’d revisit a few weeks of chats I’ve had with my fellow Honno authors. I hope you enjoy reading them again as much as I do. All these authors’ books are available at http://www.honno.co.uk/

 And, for a bit of fun, I’ve included a list of random facts about me from an old post.about-judith

1) I was once a swimming teacher.

2) I make novelty cakes

3) I like painting and I’m not bad at it.

4) I failed Maths GCSE. I hated Maths and would often hide at the back of the class and read.

5)  I zip – wired over  the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, near the historic slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. 

6) I’ve walked on the Great Wall of China, stood on top of Mount Cook in New Zealand and flown in a helicopter over the Banff and Jasper National Park

7) I took an A level in English Literature as a mature student and was one of the top twelve in Wales – me and eleven seventeen year olds. Quite embarrassing. I was voted Learner of the Year in my area of Pembrokeshire and my three children went around telling everyone I’d learned to read and write

8) I gained a BA degree and a Masters in creative writing following the A level.

9) I love watching snooker.

 10) I support Wigan Warriors in  Rugby League

11) I need silence when I’m writing – so often use earplugs.

12) I don’t need much sleep and have been known to write all night.

13)   I tutor creative writing.

My Books

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First Thorne Moore:



Clawr | Cover of MotherloveTFSweb

Hilary Shepherd


Hilary Shepherd

Animated BaggageIn a Foreign Country

Lindsay Ashford



Product DetailsProduct Details

Sarah Todd Taylor


Sarah Todd Taylor

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Mannon Steffan Ros



Margaret Redfern




Carly Holmes  

Carly Holmes cover photo

Alys Einion



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Jacqueline Jacques


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The Colours of CorruptionLazy EyeSomeone To Watch Over Me

Juliet Greenwood


Juliet Greenwood

Eden's Garden

Jo Verity


Jo Verity

Left and LeavingSweets from MoroccoEverything in the Garden

Alison Layland



Product DetailsThe Colour of Dawn

Editor for Honno & Firefly Press, Janet Thomas



Marketing Manager for Honno, Helena Earnshaw


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By Helena Earnshaw and Angharad Penrhyn Jones

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Wednesday’s Interview with #Honno: Today With Janet Thomas, Freelance Editor for Honno & Editor for Firefly Press

Today I’m really pleased to be chatting with Janet Thomas, Editor for Honno and Firefly Press.


How did you come to be an editor?

I studied English at university, which taught you to analyse writing and also how to explain your views of a text, which isn’t always easy. I did it because I loved the subject, I had no idea what I was going to do afterwards. After college I got a job as a secretary to an editor at Hodder and Stoughton, and worked my way to editor from there. All the editors I was working for were willing to explain their decisions, etc, so I learned from them. I was very lucky in who I worked for, but I was also incredibly lucky to have support from my family so I could live in London on a tiny salary. After doing that for a while, I wanted to move back home so I went freelance, which suits me as I don’t really fit a big business environment.

Now (years and years later!) I work as a freelance editor, I am on the Honno management committee and I’m Firefly Editor. Honno has been a fantastic part of my life since 2001 — I get to work with the brilliant staff and committee and to work on some wonderful books with authors I think the world of (like you, Judith, though I’m not your editor). Last year Penny Thomas, Firefly Publisher, and I set up Firefly Press, specialising in children’s books, and that’s been a whirlwind but such an exciting project. Penny’s extraordinary. We’ll have 17 books by the end of 2015, and each one makes me burst with pride. Small publishing is very exciting because it’s really personal. The downside is that we never have enough money or time for all we want to do!

My great enthusiasm is for stories. I love working on fiction and children’s books — that’s where my heart is. Editorial is a lovely job, but like anything it has its negative sides. Nobody knows what will sell — you have to have (or fake!) tremendous belief in your own opinion, and when you have times when you lose faith in yourself, you can’t get the job done. Juggling all the different books is hard, and it’s always horrible to have to turn down books you know a writer has put their heart and soul into — but we can’t do every promising book, we only have limited resources. I have to tell myself that I can only do justice to the authors I have taken on if I don’t overstretch the press. That’s what I want to do — to do justice to each book in every element of how we publish it. I’m not saying I achieve that at all, but it’s the aim.

What do you look for in a manuscript?

It’s really hard to put into words. You know that feeling where you only meant to read a page and you’ve read ten pages before you could stop yourself, because the story pulled you in? I love being surprised. As a reader, I love an author who does whatever they do full-bloodedly, whether it’s escapist entertainment or tiny eccentric stories or a literary epic.

Generally, the mistake I see most authors making is trying to stuff too many good ideas into one book, and ending up not doing justice to any of them.  Sometimes that’s because they don’t have enough confidence in their ideas, so they keep adding more. Sometimes it’s simply that structuring a novel is hard. I think it’s one area where an editor can really help. And sometimes I think authors get caught up in the sheer fun of making stuff up and just get a bit carried away!

Write a book you would love to read. Imagine yourself in an enormous shop or library, as a reader what are you naturally drawn to? Write that, and then find the right publisher for it, rather than trying to second-guess what a publisher wants and copying it. Write what you love, whether it’s genre or literary, fantasy or historical — stories connect to the reader’s heart more than their head and you can’t generalise about how to do that, but it’s more likely to happen if you are writing something that you feel passionate and brave about. A story that people will lose themselves in, that they’ll love and remember — and talk about. Almost all sales for new writers come from readers recommending books to each other. To succeed your book needs to inspire such passion in a reader that they must tell their friends all about you.

What are your tips for submissions?

All the obvious stuff really. Read the agent or publisher’s website, see how they want work submitted, and do that. Do your best with the synopsis, but don’t agonise over it — nobody says, ‘Brilliant sample chapters, poor synopsis, let’s say no.’

Your first job is to get the reader to care. Give us a character and situation we can invest in, start focussed on one storyline, and once we’re invested, then you’ve got us for the rest of the book — then you can expand the story, build the world and weave in the other plotlines, etc.

s well as starting the plot, your beginning tells the reader what kind of story it is. You need to have the confidence to say to the reader, by how you begin: ‘This is the kind of book this is. If you don’t like this kind of book, you should stop reading now. If you like this kind of book, you’re going to LOVE this one.’

What does an editor do?

At a big publisher an editor is the middle person, working with the author and making sure the production, design, accounts, contracts, marketing, PR and sales departments all know what they need to do and when. At a small press, the editor has cover many more of those areas themselves. It will vary from small press to small press which ones.  Generally you don’t have anyone to delegate to, so you do everything from the big business decisions like which books to do, right down to the admin, masses and masses of admin!

Honno’s an established firm with a staff of four and a management committee of nine volunteers. I simply help with some of the admin for the meetings, attend meetings, take part in some of the grant bids (Honno is supported by the Welsh Books Council) and edit a couple of books a year to help Caroline Oakley, Honno’s editor, with her huge workload. Most of Honno’s authors are Caroline’s. It’s a privilege to be part of it.

Firefly Press is new and is Penny and me, with several people helping us with marketing, particularly at the moment the brilliant Megan Farr. It’s a completely different game from working as an editor for someone else. We read the scripts, select them, plan them, book the printers, commission the covers, get everything designed, send out review copies, organise events, store books in every spare corner of our houses, etc etc, and do all the admin. Masses of admin!

All that work has to be done before the unsolicited manuscripts are read. It’s a constant battle to find any time to read them. I have to prioritise the books we are doing. We’ve just come to the difficult decision that we’re not going to accept any more submissions at Firefly for the next six months, as our list is full till the end of 2016 and we’ve had so many submissions I’ve not been able to keep on top of managing them and replying to everyone. I apologise very deeply to anyone still waiting to hear. We will still read everything we’ve already been sent thoroughly.

I think an editor’s job in the editorial process is to help the author but at the same time represent the reader, the person who paid their money to read this book. Writing is hard work and sometimes things get fudged when the writer is tired, so it’s my job to find those points in the story and push the author to come up with a better idea. It’s not my job to tell them what to write, only which bits to look at again. Or sometimes the writer is too close to the material to see that they haven’t said what they think they’ve said, or they have a little tic that they don’t notice that they repeat too often. It’s picking up things like that. And then there’s all the issues of what books to do, when to do them, how many to print, what market to aim for…

I think if you get useful advice, you know it straight away. Sometimes you might have to compromise on smaller issues, but if any advice will make your story something you never intended, that goes against why you were writing it in the first place, don’t do it. Even if you have to pull out of the deal, don’t do it. I think that when advice is right, you already knew it really, you were just too tired or scared to do it. Sometimes an author needs an editor to give them permission to tell the story they want to tell.

Any tips for building a career as a writer?

As I say, I don’t think you should worry about what a publisher wants till at least you’ve finished the first draft. But I will say that you make life easier for a publisher if you choose a type of story and concentrate on that at least for a few books, to build a readership. Sometimes writers feel they should be able to turn their hand to anything, and I meet writers who want to show me a fantasy novel, a historical novel, a children’s book and a radio play, and that’s great, don’t get me wrong. But thinking as a business person, a writer who chooses a type of story to specialise in, and builds a reputation in that, writing books at consistent intervals, is more likely to do well in the current trade. But if that’s not who you are as a writer, then you must trust who you are.

The best advice is the hardest — keep going. Tell your stories.

Wednesday’s Interview with #Honno authors – today with Sarah Todd Taylor

Today, I’m chatting with Sarah Todd Taylor. Sarah’s work has appeared in several Honno anthologies, including, Mirror, Mirror,

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Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re currently working on or promoting.

My name is Sarah Todd Taylor and my début book, Arthur and Me was published by Firefly Press in October last year. It’s about a young boy who is being bullied at school who finds the sleeping King Arthur on a school trip. Convinced that the old hero will sort out all his problems, he wakes him up, only to find that Arthur has problems of his own and that the history books don’t always tell the truth. It’s a time-slip romp and very silly, but I hope people will see that at its heart it’s a story about friendship and about believing in yourself.

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What advice do you have for writer’s just starting out?

Definitely write every day. It really is true that writing is like a muscle – the more you use it the more you find that the words flow freely.

The most important thing I’ve learned over the years is not to edit while doing my first draft. It used to take me far too long to write a first draft because I was trying to perfect it as I went along. I would get stuck in the detail and fed up with each project, then get despondent because I had a load of unfinished projects. Now I cut the first draft as quickly as possible to get the shape of the book, and then go back and rework until I’m happy.

Please explain how you came to be a writer, what inspired you to write your book(s) and how long it took What does your writing space look like?

I’ve been a ‘scribbler’ all my life. Encouraged by a lovely teacher in my primary school I threw myself into writing and when I was ten I won ‘Writer of the Year’ in my Primary school. Most of my early teen writing was about an inept King ruling over a tiny imaginary country and making a hash of things through various schemes that never quite came to anything. Writing became a dream and when I was 13 my Dad caught me pushing the books aside in the ‘T’ section of our local bookshop. On being asked why I apparently said “They’re going to need some room for my books”. I was first published when I was 16 in the Cadbury’s Children’s Poetry competition anthology and the thrill of seeing my name in print was immense. Ever since then I’ve been scribbling away, helped by some fantastic local courses and a supportive writing community in Aberystwyth. I started to write short stories when I was doing my PhD and was thrilled when one was accepted for publication by Honno press. The desire to write for children, however, never left me. In my short stories I often dabble in a bit of magic. I like to make the world obey slightly different rules, and I think that’s what draws me to writing for children. It’s immense fun because you can be wackier and indulge your imagination so much. It’s also a huge challenge, because children will put up with a lot in fiction, but they will not abide being bored, so as a writer it keeps you on your toes.

What are your three favourite books including the authors?

My favourite children’s books are all ones I grew up with. I love Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and have far too many copies of it (including a pop up theatre, a facsimile of the original hand-written work and a treasured 1898 copy of Through the Looking Glass). I love the world that Carroll produced and the language is so playful.

I also love Michael Bond’s Paddington books. Paddington is such an instantly loveable character and I love how Bond uses his innocence and helpfulness to create humour.

Children’s books are having a fantastic resurgence right now, which is wonderful, and there are so many great ones out there that it will be difficult to choose just one favourite, but I do read and re-read the Lemony Snickett Series of Unfortunate Events, laughing out loud at them.

What project are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a detective series for 7-9s and a historical action adventure for 9-12s.

What has been your best moment as a writer?

The best moments are always when someone enjoys your work. A friend told me that when she took her children to a castle they ran around it shouting out scenes from the book and incorporating it into their play. That, to me, was one of the biggest compliments I could ever get.

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Sarah with her new children’s’ book published by Firefly Press – new venture for Honno editor, Janet Thomas.

How much time a day do you spend on social media?

Probably too much. Facebook and Twitter have been fantastic, though, as a way of connecting with other writers and getting hints and tips from industry insiders. I am a member of a group of writers who all had their first book published over the age of 40. We met on Twitter and then in real life and we now chat regularly on Facebook. It’s a wonderfully supportive group of writers who I would never have met without social media.

Please share your social media links with us :

On Twitter I am @scraphamster. (because one of my hobbies is scrapbooking and I keep hamsters).

I also have a blog – https://sarahtoddtaylor.wordpress.com/

 http://www.honno.co.uk/med full colour honno logo

Wednesday’s Interview with #Honno authors – today with Carly Holmes

Today I’m chatting with multi-talented Carly Holmes.:-

Carly Holmes cover photo

Please tell us about your writing background and history


My path to becoming a writer is so common as to be a stereotype: I was an introverted child, painfully shy and insecure. My favourite pastime from about age 5 was curling up with my cat in my bedroom and reading books. I lived mainly inside my own head, creating rich and fantastical worlds; I still do, which may be why I’m at my most content when I’m at home. Unlike the rest of my family, who gad about the globe, eager to explore the world, I get anxious if I’m away from home for any length of time. My deepest fulfilment comes from having the time and space to be, either in my garden or at my writing desk. With or without a gin and tonic.

I started writing excruciating poems and implausibly plotted short stories when I was in primary school, copying my idols (fairy tales and Enid Blyton through to Georgette Heyer and then the Brontes), and I continued to write creatively through my teens. After completing my first degree (in English Lit) I went straight on to a Masters in Creative Writing. I focused on writing short stories and was thrilled to start getting them published. I then, for reasons I’m still struggling to understand, stopped writing creatively for over a decade. There was no impulse to. I didn’t even miss it.

Now  I fear that happening again. I have a very conflicted relationship to writing. It’s an unhealthy mix of dread and need. If I’m not writing then I’m thinking about it, fearing it, missing it, worrying about not being able to do it. In writing I experience a concentrated peace and contentment that I’m unable to reproduce in any other area of my life. You’d think that alone would mean I make it a daily occupation, but as strong as the desire is the desire to resist it.

Having my début novel, The Scrapbook, published last year was, in my view, the biggest achievement of my life so far. Actually, writing it was the biggest achievement but having it signed by Parthian was incredible. It gave me, my very existence, a validation I think I’d always been looking for.

What are you working on now?


I’m currently writing a collection of ghost stories. I was lucky enough to receive a bursary from Literature Wales last year to work on these, which range from traditional chillers to inversions of the standard ‘ghost story’ trope. It’s great fun. Hauntings are as much a construction of human loss and longing as of actual apparitions so there’s a lot of room within the genre for the imagination to rove.

I’ve also started writing poetry over the last few months, for the first time in nearly 30 years. After my novel was published I found myself unable to write anything lengthy for a long time, I think because I wasn’t ready to let the book go. I tend to self-edit as I write so the manuscript was largely in a finished state by the time it reached Parthian and I didn’t have months of tearful wrestling with it. I suspect the re-writing process eases the writer away from their creation and allows them to turn from it, towards something new. Or maybe I just need to learn to overcome my separation anxieties!

In the last month I’ve started writing a new novel. It’s very early days and I’m still looking at it out of the corner of my eye rather than straight on, in case it takes fear and runs away, but I’m excited and hopeful.

What do you do when you don’t write?


It seems that all of my non-writing life revolves around writing to some degree. I pay the bills by editing and case-managing other writers’ books from manuscript through to publication, which is incredibly creatively fulfilling. I’m also on the editorial board for the Lampeter Review which is (for the acting editor of an issue) a huge amount of work but rewarding with it. I’m currently in the hot seat for issue 12 so I don’t expect to get out in the garden a great deal this summer.

My novel is due out in paperback in May so I’ll be promoting it as much as I can via readings etc over the next few months. Marketing and self promotion are necessary evils for any writer who isn’t a bestseller. If you don’t push your book then it won’t get noticed.

I host and manage The Cellar Bards, a group of writers who meet monthly in Cardigan, usually with a guest reader, for an evening of spoken word. We’re a thriving group and the evenings are very popular.

When I’m not doing any of the above I’m likely to be reading, sleeping, walking the hound or eating. I discovered the gruelling joys of rowing a Celtic longboat last year and loved it. The season should be starting again this month so I’ll be back to doing that a couple of times a week in the evenings.

What would you like to take to a lonely island?


I would take a king size bed with a good mattress, because I can handle most adversity if I’ve had a comfortable night’s sleep. Something to write with and on. An unlimited supply of good coffee (and a kettle/coffee machine). Insect repellent. Books. The ridiculously out-sized sun hat I bought once and have never had the courage to wear.

Find Carly’s website here: