Childhood Status Symbol

Umbrella The SeeThrough Raincoat and Brolly (2)

When we grow up we don’t really shed childhood.  It is tucked away inside us, nice and quiet, suppressed by what we perceive as Adult Behaviour.  Until something triggers that child-proof gate.  Our sillies jump out!  Irrepressible, childlike joy will spring into our hearts, gleam in our eyes and beam from our faces.  Oldies will smile benignly at us but a child will shriek with delight because they understand.  Anything can trigger your past.  A puppy, red shoes, a TV show, theatre tickets, sweets, that winning point, a favourite song, splashing in a puddle with a clear plastic umbrella, er, wait, what was that?  “A clear plastic umbrella?” said Adult Voice.  Yes, when I was young, the most coveted accessory for primary school students was a clear plastic umbrella.  The plastic was plain, you could see the metal spokes through it and the handle was white.It was enthralling to watch raindrops falling on a see-through umbrella held over your friend’s head, water trickling off and dripping onto the ground while she stayed dry.  If you were really fancy (or your father had enough money for kids fripperies) you could buy them with ladybirds or slices of fruit and suchlike imprinted on them.  If you were really rich (and more of a teenager) you teamed it with a short skirt, beehive hairdo and white vinyl go-go boots with lipstick to match.  Trés chic.I haven’t researched this but I’m pretty sure one or two models would have slinked down the catwalk twisting a clear plastic umbrella shaped like a mushroom.  Or, shock horror, wearing a clear plastic raincoat!  “Personally I think you would sweat horribly inside one of those,” said Adult Voice. Anyhow, here comes the sad part.  I was not one of the groovy girls, I never owned a clear plastic umbrella.Somehow I managed to survive the ignominy of having a pale blue nylon umbrella.  Its saving grace was a real bamboo handle and it lasted for years.  Once I left it on the bus and my parents tracked it down in the city council’s lost property office.  Hard to believe now, but there it was in all its pale blue opaque glory.  I have since owned a stylish British brolly, frilly French parapluie, Winnie-the-Pooh bear parasol and various brands in various colours mainly used as sunshades. Until last week, drum roll please, when I came across a clear plastic umbrella hanging on a sale rack.  It was the standard shape, with the usual opening and closing action and it was only a couple of dollars.  Sold!  I actually whooped with excitement.  Finally, a dream come true.  “Pity it’s a clear sunny day,” said Adult Voice.  I brushed this aside.  Once I was out of crowd eye-range, I shook it out.  So clear, so transparent, so useless in the glare of a hot day.  “Be quiet,” I snapped at Adult Voice.  I pushed the umbrella open and twirled it wildly above my head.  I’d made it.  I had joined the Groovy Girls.  My childish delight brimmed over!  And delight brings recollections.My very own CPU has flourished several times in light rain, occasionally the plastic will stick together, but that doesn’t stop me opening it just to marvel at the concept.  Truly, an umbrella worth waiting for.  Now I’m thinking about those white vinyl go-go boots...

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Burning Cauldron of Summer

Maud Fitch 05
Maud Fitch lives in a subtropical climate and 2018 summer has been extremely hot.

Hot nights, boiling days
Anger bites, temper frays.

Clothes stick, sweat drips
Fans click, weekend trips.

Seaside splashes, kids squeal
Sand rashes, sunburn peel.

Straw hats, ice-cream soothes
Cricket bats, sluggish moves.

Lush green, drooping leaves
Magpies preen, beetle weaves.

Shimmering heat, mown grass
Barbecued meat, chilled glass.

Family spats, neighbour snoops
Buzzing gnats, endless loops.

Afternoon heat, swaying palm
Tired feet, wanting calm.

Soft breeze, cooler places
Air-con freeze, calmer faces.

Car toots, dog greets
Unlace boots, cotton sheets.

Dissolving day, warm rain
Moonlight ray, night again.

Maud Fitch

Jasper Fforde 2018 Author Events

Excited beyond belief when I found out Jasper Fforde, my all-time favourite post-modern author, has some cool events coming up!  Including another book.  And the eponymous Fforde Ffiesta rolls around again next year.  If any reader attended a recent US event, or may be attending a future UK event, I’m jealous, but hoping I will read your WordPress review.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Photos by Mari Fforde (hover to see date)
Information from Jasper Fforde website (see below)


 Jasper Fforde says:  As usual, please call the venue to check times and dates before you set out just in case I am kidnapped by badgers, eager to promote their dangerous monochrome agenda.  Updated 22nd Jan 2018:


Feb 21st-22nd, Casper, Wyoming.
Wyoming Humanities Festival 2018

Book signing and lectures. I’ve never been to Wyoming, and the frightfully pleasant people at Casper have been asking me for a while. Talk and Book Signing Courtesy of Windy City Books, and a lecture plus Q&A the following day. Full details at the Humanities Festival website.

1-2nd March 2018, Cardiff Library
Crime & Coffee Festival, Cardiff

First Crime and Coffee Festival at Cardiff Library. More details to follow, but I am assured the coffee is the crime, and there will be no actual murders of crimes taking place. Either days, or both, details to follow. Cardiff Library Website.

August 2018
Launch of Early Riser in the UK.

About bloody time too, say I.  Likely 1st to 12th August.  More details to follow.

August 13th – 18th, 2018, Wales.
Ty Newydd writing retreat, Wales

With Belinda Bauer, the course is called: Crime Fiction: A Twist in the Tale and from their website: “This course is designed for those who would like to write best-selling crime fiction – with a twist. Whether you’re writing your first novel, are switching from another genre, or have only dreamed of being a published author, we hope you’ll enjoy this down-to-earth, fun, and practical course. In workshops and one-to-one mentoring sessions, we will be sharing our tried and tested methods of creating character, plot and tension, while helping you to avoid some common pitfalls. We’ll offer advice on a range of issues, from writer’s block and the art of pitching, to how to cope with bad reviews!”
For more details, please mouse you way to the Ty Newydd Website.


25th-26th May 2019, Swindon, UK:
Fforde Ffiesta VIII, Swindon, UK.

These Festivals are held biannually and oh, what ffun we have – and hopefully a lot more to talk about this year as I will have at least one more book published… Their Website is here.


March 02031:   Asteroid belt and Saturn (technology permitting) More details TBA.

October 02042:   81-year-old Fforde talks to other members of old people’s home: “I used to be a novelist, no really, I did. Is it lunchtime?” More details TBA.

July 02175:   Semi-lifelike cloned Ffordesque replicant to tour Gamma Quadrant in the Cygnus Cluster. More details TBA.

Setember 03431:   Much improved Fforde cloned back to life to face execution for sedition; all works consigned to erasure.

Janfebry 008910:   Last evidence of Fforde’s books vanish forever with the removal of the ‘Formerly Thursday Street’ plaque from what is now W23-61 Rd in the conurbation known as EuroWest-79.

00012972:    Visiting archaeologists from Thraal-7 discover incomplete copy of Well of Lost Plots from excavation in landfill. Deciphering takes seven hundred years and a further four hundred years of academic scrutiny before being accepted as historical fact.

More ffun, books, merchandising, photos  Jasper Fforde Grand Central
For those who like a bit of backstory  Wikipedia – Author Jasper Fforde
Twitter  @jasperfforde
Instagram  Jasper Fforde
Facebook   Jasper Fforde Writer

Proof-reading Style Errors

Breaking the proof-reading rules?

The style guide reads: Below are errors in style due to inappropriate or poor choices of language which can lead to boring, imprecise and inaccurate writing. In some situations, they may be relevant and suitable, but they are usually best avoided––

  • Clichés, over-used phrases, e.g. bed of roses, pretty as a picture.
  • Vogue words and trendy expressions, e.g. proactive, meaningful dialogue.
  • Colloquialisms in formal writing.
  • Parochialism in documents intended for a wide audience.
  • Jargon in documents intended for a general audience.
  • Euphemisms, e.g. pass away, upwardly mobile.
  • Overstatements, e.g. fabulous, incredible, fantastic, amazing.
  • Archaic words, e.g. herewith, thereby, hereinafter.
  • Sexist terms, e.g. man-made, nurseryman, waitress.
  • Tautologies, e.g. totally unique, completely empty.
  • Ambiguity, e.g. maybe I would if I could.
  • Unnecessary use of foreign words and phrases.

This information was retrieved from my older Word.doc files with no acknowledgements attached.  As a touch of humour, I wrote the short profile of Aunt Belinda.  I can only suppose such formal advice is for non-fiction writers.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Let Your Heart Be Light

Jen Storer is an established Australian children’s author brimming with imagination and inspiration. This post encapsulates her talent, personality and future plans. Jump into The Duck Pond and start paddling with emerging writers and illustrators!
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

girl and duck


I like writing blog posts at Christmas. No one expects much. Do they?

IMG_3967Writing: I finally finished Truly Tan: Baffled! (book seven) and delivered it to my publisher on time (working right up until December 15, the day it was due). Phew! Next year I’ll be waaaay more organised. Ahem.

Finalising: We signed off on Danny Best: Me First! Check out the full cover. Talk about The Best! 😉 Due out in Feb 2018.

DB_MEFIRST_FC2Receiving: I received a Christmas card from a Tan reader. The letter attached said, I know you like wolves. So here’s a card with a fox on it. God, I love my readers.

IMG_3984 2

Planning and: pondering 2018. I have some lovely plans for girl and duck, including a Scribbles Boot Camp in Feb, and an IRL (in real life) Scribbles master class in Melbourne in May. We will also be launching the Girl and Duck…

View original post 518 more words

‘The Diary of a Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell

Real life book shop owner Shaun Bythell tells of the humorous, exasperating and madcap experiences he encounters working in The Book Shop, the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland.  Also, The Book Shop is situated in Wigtown, known as Scotland’s ‘National Book Town’.  Bythell writes a compelling and amusing account of his daily life, from eccentric local characters to a decline in traditional ways of life where diversity is not always good news for rural farmers or booksellers.  A good book for booklovers or would-be book dealers.

Read a full review by George Delaney:
Readings Review of ‘The Diary of a Bookseller’

Excerpt from The Diary of a Bookseller:

“For a few years I have given over the formal drawing room above the shop to an art class for one afternoon a week. It is taught by local artist Davy Brown and takes place every Tuesday. A dozen or so retired ladies make up the group. At this time of year the house is bitterly cold, so I left Norrie instructions to light the fire and put the space heater on for an hour before they were due to arrive, but he forgot. One of them almost needed to be resuscitated. I would happily let them use the space for free, but they kindly pay me enough to cover the heating costs and a bit more beside.”

Shaun Bythell Bookshop Owner
Shaun Bythell (PIC: Robert Perry, The Scotsman newspaper) and website link The Book Shop Wigtown Scotland

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Don’t Thrash Around

Highs and Lows Graph 01
Ups and Downs

Maud tilted her head at me and said “Everything is fine for the first three months then the rot sets in and the wheels fall off.  Or, for a modern analogy, your reception drops out.”  She checked to see if I was listening.  “You are left high and dry and feeling cheated, let down, out of sorts, tired, jaded or basically unmotivated.  The first three months of anything are the best, then comes the worst three months.”  As she took a breath, I gave her a querying look.  “Why?” she responded, “Well, who knows?  This is my take on human nature.”

I was perched on a wooden stool while Maud had settled herself down in an easy chair, cardigan wrapped tightly and slippers wedged firmly on her small feet.  She coughed delicately and adjusted her spectacles before continuing.  “A new career, a new car, exercise workout, bonsai class, creative writing, artistic pursuit, second marriage, an extended holiday, all seemingly wonderful for those crucial three months.  Then, bam, a total train wreck.  Worse, it’s a total bore!  Then you wish you had never started.”  I opened my mouth to protest but she ploughed ahead.  “Of course, this phenomenon can work in reverse.  The first three months of a new baby, the first three months of post-operative surgery, or worse, the first three months of giving up smoking. Two words – mindset.”  I stifled a laugh.  “Okay, one word.  But keep an open mind because nothing stays the same for long.”

Uncomfortable, I stretched my shoulders.  “Don’t thrash around,” Maud shouted, startling me.  She waved her arm dangerously close to her favourite cat figurine.  “Look up, look ahead, search for those footholds and handholds to help move you forward again.  Work your way out of the slump, not by changing direction (although you might, she hissed in an aside) but by forging through the undergrowth on that overgrown path until you reach a reasonable destination where you can relax, regroup and start again – when you are good and ready!  It may not be the perfect spot to wait, nevertheless, it will do until you reinvigorate.”

Maud slumped back.  “Do you think that’s too strong for them?”  I smiled.  “Maud, I am sure the ladies luncheon committee has heard stronger things than that.”  She eyed me dubiously, the inference being that she knew them better than I ever could.  I was sure her delivery would win them over and if it didn’t, just like seasonal change, there was always another one.

After some shuffling, Maud pulled out a crumpled sheet of paper from down the side of her chair.  “I was going to reference Julia Cameron when she says ‘Sometimes these U-turns are best viewed as recycling times’ but I’m going to read this genuine job advertisement first and say ‘Ladies, be thankful you are relaxing here today’ then launch straight into my talk.”  Maud cleared her throat and read loudly:

“About you – Highly motivated, you possess excellent listening and strong customer service skills. You have proven ability to build rapport with customers, key partners and management. You possess strong problem solving and resolution capabilities. Resilient, flexible, literate, you have the ability to work under pressure, deal with rapid change and work to strict time frames. Self-motivated, available at short notice, you are currently looking to embark on your next career challenge and add value to a growing organisation. If this sounds like you APPLY today! Previous exposure dealing with print/sales/retail is desirable however not essential.”

With a snap of fingers on paper, Maud whooped “Burnout dead ahead” which I thought was a bit unfair.  “Oh, Maud Fitch,” I said, picking up my phone, “You make me want to grab a coffee and start scrolling endless, mindless amusements across my screen.”  I don’t think that was quite the incentive she had in mind and may have misinterpreted my gesture.  She frowned and started flipping through the pages of her speech, obviously keen to memorise more text.  “Look.”  I offered her the phone.  On the screen was an old Gary Larson ‘The Far Side’ cartoon.  Now, that really did make her laugh.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Primative Resumes
Pressure put on us from the dawn of time…

Wise and Weird

Yeah Yeah Yeah

What if my dog only brings back the ball because he thinks I like throwing it?

♦   Your future self is watching you right now through memories.

♦   If poison expires, is it more poisonous or is it no longer poisonous?

♦   Which letter is silent in the word “Scent,” the S or the C?

♦   Do twins ever realise that one of them is unplanned?

♦   Why is the letter W, in English, called double U? Shouldn’t it be called double V?

♦   Maybe oxygen is slowly killing you and it just takes 75-100 years to fully work.

♦   Every time you clean something, you just make something else dirty.

♦   The word “swims” upside-down is still “swims”.

♦   One hundred years ago everyone owned a horse and only the rich had cars. Today everyone has cars and only the rich own horses.

♦   The doctors who told Stephen Hawking he had two years to live in 1953 are probably dead.

♦   If you replace “W” with “T” in “What, Where and When” you get the answer to each of them.

♦   Many animals probably need glasses, but nobody knows it.

♦   If you rip a hole in a net, there are actually fewer holes in it than there were before.

♦   Please note I am only the purveyor of these words of weirdly wiseness.

  When 22/2/2022 falls on a Tuesday, we’ll just call it “2’s Day”.

♥   Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Calendar Date 22.2.2022
Where will you be on Twosday?

Writer’s Self-Help

My Reading Tray 05
Afternoon Tea

Over the years I have read a handful of self-help books aimed at emerging authors, including the famous volume by Stephen King, but recently I came across these two quite diverse publications which really gave me a nudge in the right direction.

“Use Your Words” by Catherine Deveny 2016 published by Black Inc.
“See Me Jump” by Jen Storer 2016 published by Girl And Duck.

Catherine Deveny’s book is written in plain straight forward language, and she gets right to the heart of the matter.  There’s no place to hide once the momentum starts rolling.  Be warned, this book is for adults.  Catherine uses impolite language and bad manners to push you forward, sometimes against your will.  Then you see that glowing light at the end of the tunnel, er, book.  Well worth reading this boot-camp style book.

Jen Storer’s book is slim yet informative with small sketches dotted through the pages.  Her style is easy, encouraging, friendly and humorous.  It’s a book for adults but those with a yearning to write good books for children.  Note the chapter 4 heading “Don’t let adults fix your character’s problem” which is a must for kids literature.  Many of Jen’s sentences make memorable quotes, my favourite “Be brave. Don’t wait to create.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Catherine Deveny Writer
Jen Storer Writer

Elements of Literary Life

A humorous periodic table illustrating the highs and lows of a writer’s life.  Word choices and re-writing seem to be part of it but if you are a genius with talent, you’ve got it made!  I’ll stick with the hard work and dream my dreams.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Periodic Table of Elements of Literary Life
Literary Theme

Jasper Fforde Ffun

Fforde Ffotos 012
Book Series

As a dyed-in-the-wool Jasper Fforde ffan, I recommend Shades Of Grey.  No, not that one!

Shades Of Grey deviates from Fforde’s brilliantly off-kilter, zany other-Britain adventures of Thursday Next, a LiteraTech operative for SpecOps-27, a crime fighting division inside literary fiction – literally – but there is some serious world building going on.  The Fforde trademark of inventiveness and unusual plot twists is there but the tone is sombre, the protagonist Eddie Russett lives in a tightly controlled world with a rigid hierarchy based on primary colours.  However, Eddie is not stupid and rises to the challenge of solving a perplexing mystery with the aid of some ‘colourful’ locals and a feisty Grey woman, Jane.

I have to say it is not my all-time favourite book in Fforde’s repertoire: Thursday Next wins.  I found the ending unsatisfying (except discovering where spoons go) although I do think it has been left open for a sequel.  If you’ve read the odd humour of Douglas Adams or inimitable Terry Pratchett and want a neo-noir version, try Jasper Fforde for ffun.  There’s enough books to keep you going!

Fforde has also written humorous Nursery Crimes series, and The Last Dragonslayer series about teenager Jennifer Strange.  Her agency, Kazam, employs weird and wonderful wizards who create magic and mayhem.

Check the website Grand Central

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Thursday Next Camoflage 001
Thursday Next SpecOps-27
Jasper Fforde Dodo 002
Pickwick Dodo