Tag Archives: charity

Judith Barrow – author and co-organiser of the Narberth Book Fair


Today, I’m excited to interview Judith Barrow on my blog, repaying the favour after she interviewed me for BookSmart on Showboat TV. I met Judith two years ago when I attended what was then the Tenby Book Fair, which has now flourished into the Narberth Book Fair, hosting over 40 authors and their books.

There’s a fabulous website too, where you can find out about the authors before you attend.


Let’s meet Judith and find out about her writing, and a little of what makes her tick…

1 How do you write? Is everything plotted, planned to perfection? Do you ever change tack as you go along or always stick to a pre-made plan?

I have vague plans for my characters but, as I’m sure many authors have already told you, Wendy – and you know yourself – they take a life of their own and won’t do as you planned. Usually they know what they’re doing, so I go with the flow.

 2 Do you have a writing ritual? Meditation, certain cup for your tea, writing trousers?

No, I don’t really have any rituals. I think this comes from years of snatching moments to write or scribble ideas in notebooks: as a child, as someone with a career in the civil service, as a young mother of three children under three (no, we weren’t careless, we had the lovely surprise of twins second time around), and then as a working wife and mother, and later as a carer for my aunt. It became a habit to fit writing around my life. Must admit, though, some days now, if I’m not teaching (I’m a creative writing tutor for our local council) I write all day in my kaftan and don’t get dressed.

 3 Aside from writing, what makes you tick? Tell us 5 things about yourself we probably don’t know.

Being proud I survived a…let’s say…a difficult childhood and turned into a reasonably ‘normal’ adult. I would love to buy a camper van and just go off travelling (seriously – so who knows!) I love painting seascapes – in pastels or watercolours. I used to make novelty cakes (did it for years for my own and friends’ children – made it into a business for a while but totally uneconomical) I am a qualified swimming teacher

4 If you were stranded on a desert island with shelter, food and water, what 5 items would youwant with you?

May I take four ten thousand page notebooks and an everlasting pen? No? Okay, If not, then my husband because he’s a great handyman and will keep everything ship-shape? Right, being serious…hmmm…obviously a pencil/pen and notebook, a wind-up record player (there is no electricity or batteries?) and a recording of Swan Lake, because it was the first record my favourite aunt  (who lived with us for many years after we moved to Wales) bought for me at the age of twelve. A full set of Dickens books (am I pushing my luck here? There are thirty editions and I’m only through two thirds of them. How many is that?) Toothpaste and brush – count that as one? Just had a thought though – if I could take Hubby, he’s another person, so he could take his five things? Yes? Right – that’s easy then – all his photography equipment to record our days for posterity – and for us to look back on in our old (er…older) days, after we’ve been rescued. Have to say here, he takes wonderful photos and will do nothing with them…like frame and sell them at craft fairs (been nagging him for years to do it.) Yes, I do know I’m rambling. And five things, you said, Wendy? As you can see, I’m no good at sticking to rules

5 On said island, what 5 books would you take and why?

Oooer… the set of Dickens – which, if I counted it here would mean I get an extra item above at question four? Sapiens – which might… might…make me understand the human race. Set of all Shakespeare plays? Which leaves me with three books? Or two? Anyway, back to childhood: The Tree that Sat Down. (Never did find out who wrote it but it was in my stocking one Christmas and I woke up and found it at two in the morning – yes, I have always been a poor sleeper!) Anyway, I’d read it by torchlight by the morning and had to spend the next few days pretending I was reading it for the first time. How many is that? Last, but not least, any book by Catherine Cookson because, I think, it was her who set me off loving family sagas.

 6 Off the island now, which famous person would you like to have dinner with?

Aphra Behn. She was a working playwright, author and poet in the middle of the seventeenth century who broke all sorts of barriers in such a male orientated literary era (and was accepted by some more free-thinking poets and writers). She was also a spy for Charles II. She got into all sorts of political trouble and debt at various stages of her life. A fascinating woman to chat with! Would we really have time to actually eat?

I studied her play, ‘The Rover, written in 1681 for my degree (I was a mature (well sort of mature) student, twenty something years ago. I remembered and dug out a quote from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Yay!!

 7 Your current writing projects?

At the moment I have a manuscript with my publishers, Honno (https://www.honno.co.uk/), waiting for editing and I’m fifty thousand words into my next family saga. I’ve also plotted out my next two novels.

 8 Other published work and links….

I do have a book I’ve Indie published, Silent Trauma: http://amzn.to/2kXIvRe.

I was involved with the UK charity for some years and then the USA charity. The book was the result of being asked to write something that the general reader would understand and be interested in.

Here’s the blurb: “When Meg Matthews gives an interview on the local radio station it leads to a friendship with three other women. They share a terrible secret. Together, can they find the strength to expose the silent trauma they have endured all their lives?

The story is fictional: the facts are real.”

The UK charity was disbanded through lack of funds and publicity. Despite writing many times to successive Governments, help/aid/support was not forthcoming, Unlike Thalidomide; the damage caused by DES is not immediately obvious. It usually comes to light in the teenage years of (mostly) young girls. The results are devastating to both daughters and mothers (and the guilt, totally unwarranted, of the mothers, is heart breaking).

I give talks to women’s groups about DES, whenever I’m asked.

Here’s a small explanation of the charity taken from the USA website: https://desaction.org/

In 1938, DES (diethylstilboestrol) was the first synthetic oestrogen to be created. DES was prescribed to millions of pregnant women, primarily from 1938 – 1971, but certainly not limited to those years, in the mistaken belief that the drug prevented miscarriage and ensured a healthy baby. But it didn’t work. Instead DES harmed the mothers who were prescribed it, the children born of those pregnancies and now possibly their grandchildren and beyond.

 Never patented, DES was cheap and easy to produce, so hundreds of drug companies made it all around the world. DES was marketed under numerous brand names.

I also have written an anthology, Secrets, a collection of stories about the minor characters in the trilogy. http://amzn.to/2swOWgg

This is the blurb:

 Ashford, home of the Howarth family, is a gritty northern mill town, a community of no-nonsense Lancashire folk, who speak their minds and are quick to judge. But how many of them are hiding secrets that wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of others?

Judith Barrow’s Howarth Family trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns and Living in the Shadows, along with the prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, published by Honno Press, is peopled with just such characters. Here are some of their secret stories – the girl who had to relinquish her baby, the boy who went to war too young, the wife who couldn’t take any more…

“Judith Barrow has surpassed herself in writing this great family saga… There is such a wealth of fantastic characters to fall in love with and ones to hate!” (Brook Cottage Books)

It’s been lovely having you here, Judith…I’m not good at sticking to the rules either! If family sagas are your read of choice, do check out Judith’s books here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6




Magic Matters


People say to me ‘Magic isn’t real though, is it?’ My last blog post https://wendysteele.com/2017/06/06/a-magical-life/  was about being ‘present’ to experience the magic. ‘Magic Matters’ takes this idea one step further.

One of the definitions of magic, according to my trusty, yet rather battered Oxford Concise, is ‘an inexplicable or remarkable influence producing surprising results’. In order to experience this, however, we need to be connected to ourselves, the planet and the living beings upon it. Why? Because so much of our lives take us away from this state. We live in a dream supported by those who want to control us and who want to sell to us.

In so many ways, we don’t live our own lives. We perform the stories dictated to us by others. Taking back control is the magic. Here are a few ways to rewrite your own story and live a life full of magic and love.

1 Connect with the planet and the universe

We live on an amazing planet within an awesome universe. I’ve recently been inspired by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, helping me to understand the cosmos from both a scientific, as well as personal perspective. Human knowledge at this time gives us a tiny hint at the enormity of the universe, a glimpse of where we came from and the planet on which we reside.

We can play our own part to stop global warming and the rape and destruction of the world’s resources. Recycling and being choosy who and where we buy from keeps us connected with a world community who love their planet too.

The media wants us to buy more of everything, even if we don’t need it.

I’m lucky to be able to stand barefoot on grass or in the river circling my home. I can light a fire on my pebbly beach and feel the breeze chilling my skin while red kites perform their circle dance above me. I used to live in a town but on day’s off, I sought woodland walks or trips to the sea and spent holidays camping beneath the stars. Those moments of connectivity helped sustain me and I invested regular time revisting those happy moments in the natural world and thanking the planet for its sustenance.

2 Family and friends

One good quality of social media is the ease in which it enables us to keep in touch. The huge downside is how it drags us in, wasting our time looking at a screen. Communication has changed but, speaking to our loved ones or preferably hugging them, is far more rewarding. During the second year of our move to Wales, we spent months trying to get a new roof, rebuilding, knocking concrete off walls and remortaring with lime, clearing rubbish and brambles as well as working at our ‘day jobs’. Everything seemed to go wrong, take forever or land us with costs we hadn’t expected. Short of time and funds, we hardly saw our family. It wasn’t a healthy time for myself or my partner. I was a functioning but empty shell. I recognised what was lacking, started a ‘weekend away’ fund and have booked time to see family and friends on a regular basis ever since.

3 Animals, birds and other wildlife

Caring for the planet means caring for all living creatures. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was twenty two and moved onto a plant based diet last year. When my children started school, talk between parents often moved to ‘what are you having for dinner?’ By sharing tasty, nutritional but meat free recipes, friends started adding one or two meat free meals to their repertoire each week. The production of meat, especially beef, is unsustainable. Vast areas of land and millions of gallons of water are used, resources that if sustainable crops were planted, could feed the world.

Other friends only buy their meat from local, organic farms and have switched to free range eggs. It’s definitely a step in the right direction but if you fancy trying some new recipes, have a browse on YouTube for inspiration. Cheap Lazy Vegan is funny and her recipes are easy to follow and delicious. Veganlovlie is adorable and her recipes are scrummy.

4 Caring for the world family

I love leading Tribal Unity Wales out to dance for our local community but in the past year I’ve arranged impromptu haflas (belly dance parties) to raise money for people who need help around the world. We’ve helped Wales Air Ambulance, Smalls for All and Hafla for Humanity and are supporting SHARP, Swansea Humanitarian Aid Response Project at the moment, raising money with a hafla and collecting donations of clothes from friends and family and adding one item of toiletries to our weekly shop to put together a box to be delivered to SHARP at the end of this month.

It isn’t about the amount you donate. When I shop, I add one item for the local food bank and one for SHARP and I think of those mother’s desperately trying to feed their children and keep them clean and well.

I’ve been criticized for my views on helping others but I refuse to judge or exclude. We are one family, the family of humanity. ‘Do as you would be done by’ is a good creed to live by in my humble opinion.


So where’s the magic?

Living in tune with the planet, loving friends and family, caring for all animals and wildlife and supporting the human family is the first step to magic and these lifestyle choices will change you. Why not give them a try? How bad can it be living the life you choose?

The next step is all about you so I hope you’ll join me and discover more about magical influence the surprising, exciting results???.

Keep sharing the love.

Bright blessings xx




The BEAUTYof a Book Fair


Love books but never been to a book fair? Let me tell you how much fun they are…

B is for books…one of my favourite dreams is finding myself in a room surrounded by books.14441101_928492490589252_1450220905486666353_nTables weighed down with glistening covers and colourful banners fill the hall and all you have to do is browse. It’s a wonderful spectacle and an exciting opportunity to find a book that transports you to another world.

E is for education…because you can talk with the authors, you hear the books synopsis but, more importantly, learn why an author wanted to share their story with you. 14492328_10153797841252327_6965602039928982529_n

We don’t just talk about books either…authors are real people. At Carmarthen Book Fair, I shared about lime mortaring and learned great tips on organic gardening as well as talking about magic. Often, there are talks and workshops where authors share their passion for their work and educate with tips on writing or opportunities to delve deeper into a specific genre.

A is for authors…a book fair is a great place for authors to meet, share and unite. Most of us are introverts by design, creating our stories alone in our own world of words, so book fairs are a great place to feel part of the writing community. 14462752_928492613922573_8779798483905616230_n

U is for universal…at a book fair, there is something for everyone, books spanning all the genres. They are inclusive events, often using the opportunity to raise money for charity. 14440912_928494113922423_5699407015268787620_n At Carmarthen, money was raised for Multiple Sclerosis with a raffle. Prizes were donated by authors and the local community.

T is for time…as an author, it’s time to be yourself and time to share the writing you love. The atmosphere buzzes with excitement yet there’s no rush…time to relax and share with our readers. 14449818_10210590035252262_8255655491257185578_n

Y is for you…we wouldn’t be there without you! Book Fairs give authors the opportunity to be there for you, answer your questions and inspire you to immerse yourself in the world of story.14463312_10153797841292327_4601279399998354486_n

Look out for local book fairs in the press and on social media. If you’re in Wales, I look forward to meeting you at Llandeilo in December.

Happy reading!