Category Archives: News

An adventure to Peru awaits, but before then…

Hello Everyone,

Just a quick post to help keep your morale up as you busily beaver away on your short stories for the competition.  Several of you have been in touch over the last couple of weeks to report your progress so far and I’m really excited that already so many of you have entries that are shaping up strongly.

This week saw the final Middlesbrough workshop taking place at Hemlington library – massive thanks to all those who took part for getting so involved in the sessions and being willing to share work in progress.  I know this is a daunting experience but everyone who took the plunge surfaced with some valuable pieces of advice (sorry, I was all out of pieces of 8!).

But don’t worry if you do live in the Middlesbrough area because you can attend any of the other workshops and there are still a few places available for a mentoring session at Hemlington.  The writing workshops will run through August across Stockton, Darlington, Hartlepool and Redcar & Cleveland and are open to anyone from any area.  Just ring the library concerned to book either the workshops on the mentoring.

I’ll be taking a short break from blogging for a couple of weeks as I’m off to deepest darkest Peru (in search of Paddington Bear, of course!) but I’ll be back soon and will look forward to meeting some of you in August.

Meanwhile, here’s a writing prompt to keep you going (holiday themed, naturally):

The pilot made his final approach, the runway growing wider and flatter as they dropped down towards it.  She looked out of the window, her mind filled with thoughts of…

Happy writing,

Hemlington workshops, music gigs, and a new writing challenge…

Hello Everyone,

Firstly, apologies for the slightly longer than usual gap between posts but I had a hectic week last week.  Not only was I running the first of the short story workshops in Hemlington (more on this later) but I was also away twice in the week.  I dashed down to Birmingham with my other half for the Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow gig on Wednesday.  NB: – For any 1970s rock fans out there who may be wondering – yes, it was awesome, even better than last year, and yes, I do feel very fortunate to have managed to get tickets for the ‘once in a lifetime’ gig two years in a row (am keeping my fingers crossed that Blackmore does it again next year too so that I can be three for three).  Then on Friday I went to London for the 20th annual Great Writing conference.

This year was my third time attending and giving a paper at what is one of the most useful creative writing conferences in the country, if not the world.  Every year it attracts those writers and writing teachers who are at the cutting edge of creative writing practice and studies.  People come regularly from Canada and the USA, Australia and New Zealand, the Middle and Far East, Europe and all over the UK and for the first time this year there were delegates from South America.  It really is a fantastic place to meet other writers and find out what they are doing with both their creative work and the teaching of creative writing.  Now I am full of good ideas for further courses and workshops so be warned I may be trying out some invented methods for teaching writing on any of you that might be inclined to enroll on any of my future creative writing courses.

And speaking of creative writing sessions I did promise a return to the topic of the Hemlington series.  So far we have had two of the three sessions with the final one next week.  There are places still on that and also a couple of slots for the mentoring day at Hemlington in August but if you want to be sure of getting a place best not leave it too much longer.  And in case you are wondering if these workshops are any good (they are, of course EXCELLENT!) here is a little feedback from Peter who has attended both the Hemlington sessions, is signed up for the third and also for some mentoring so you don’t just have to take my word for it.

“When I decided to enter the short story competition, I felt like I needed more help as the theme was vast! So I signed up for the first of the workshops and got more than just help for the competition. Attending these workshops has reminded me of what I love about writing in the first place and has got me writing multiple times a day again, whenever I get a moment to myself. There are plenty of opportunities to get feedback from other writers which is one thing I’ve always been afraid of, but I’m getting better at sharing my work.” Peter (Hemlington workshops)

So you can see from this that getting together with other writers, although daunting at first, is a rewarding opportunity in what is an otherwise solitary craft. If you feel your writing could use a boost like Peter has experienced then maybe now’s the time to get yourself signed up for a session or two.

And finally…the writing prompt.

As Peter said, one of the most useful things to come from the workshops is that he is back writing regularly.  I want to encourage all of you to do the same so this week I set the following challenge:

  1. Chose a book off your shelf.
  2. Open it at random.
  3. Read the first word on that page.
  4. Write one sentence using that word in it.
  5. Do this at least twice per day for a week (more often if you can manage it).

Try to make the sentences link together so that be the end of the week you have a paragraph that you can then develop into the opening of a story.

Until next week – happy writing,


We need your opinions!

We hope you enjoyed this year’s festival. Whether you joined us in Stockton Town Centre for Choc Lit day, attended one of the events aimed for younger ages such as Just Soph or Lipstick Library, or enjoyed a workshop with one of the great writers we had visit us such as Ben Kane or Adele Geras and Sophie Hannah – we want to hear from you!

We have put together a short survey and would really appreciate your feedback, it should take no longer than ten minutes to complete. You can complete the survey by clicking on this link

Even if you didn’t attend any of the events or know friends and family who didn’t, we would still like their feedback as we are interested in the reasons why some people may not have come.

Don’t forget you still have plenty of time to enter the short story competition and you can take part in writing workshops with Tracey Iceton who will guide you through the best process for writing your story. The workshops are happening until 23 August and are £3 per session. If you would like one-to-one advice then you can join Tracey on mentoring days which start from 29 August. You can find out more about the workshops and mentoring sessions here.


Join us for the short story competition creative writing workshops

Hello Everyone,

Well the excitement builds as tomorrow the short story competition creative writing workshops kick off with session 1 at Hemlington library 10-12.  The session will be covering what I consider to be the two most crucial aspects of writing a story – character and plot.  Without these ingredients you possibly have a lovely piece of well crafted poetic prose but you probably don’t have a story.  So come along tomorrow, or indeed to any of the session 1 workshops happening across the region, to find out how to make character and plot work together to create a brilliant story.  Most of the rest of the workshops are in August.  Just visit the short story competition page on the Crossing the Tees website for details of what is happening when and where.

To remind you how the workshops are organised I am repeating the same 3 sessions in all the five boroughs.  The idea is that hopefully, despite the hassles of work (curses to the boss who wants it ‘yesterday’) and the pressures of family commitments (how do five year olds get so messy so quickly?) getting in the way of your writing aspirations, you will be able to attend all 3 sessions by mixing and matching across the Tees Valley e.g. session 1 at Hemlington, session 2 in Darlington and session 3 in Stockton etc.  Of course most of you will probably be able to do all three in your local library but there is a great deal of flexibility so hopefully you won’t miss out on anything.  And you don’t have to attend all three sessions either, just do as many as you feel you need to.  So if descriptions and dialogue are your big concerns in terms of stroy writing then just come to session 3.  Or of it’s narrative structure and perspective then attend a session 2 somewhere.  Each workshop is £3 each and can be booked directly with the library where it is running.  Just give them a ring and they can sort that out for you.

You also have the option to just have a mentoring session with me rather than attending the workshops (although if you do any of the workshops the mentoring is free, otherwise 45 minutes one-to-one with me will cost you the massive fee of £3!). Again you will need to book the mentoring through the library and you will also need to EMAIL me the story you would like me to mentor you on a WEEK before we have the session.  (You can contact me through my website initially.) This is so I can spend time reading and critiquing your piece before we get together.  We will then be able to discuss the piece at length during the session and I will also be able to email it back to you with my comments so you can develop it at your leisure.  I also recommend you bring a note pad and pen as you might want to make some notes during the mentoring slot.

So with all this in place there is really no excuse for not having a fabulous entry ready by 30th September when the competition closes.

With all that said this blog’s writing challenge is to write a short piece that has a non-human character in it.  This could be an animal (think Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse), a fantasy creature e.g. goblin, fairy etc. or even an inanimate object that you give a voice to and bring to life.  As you are writing the character make sure to bestow it with human traits and try to use this fresh perspective on human life to create a really imaginative take on the ordinary.

Hope to see you all soon.


Get involved with the first ever National Writing Day!

Hello Everyone,

First of all a massive thank you to everyone who turned out for the events in Stockton on Saturday.  It was great to meet some of you keen writers who are hoping to take part in the competition workshops and submit an entry later in the year.  I know it was incredibly hot (certainly for me in the marquee – an extra blow was the chocolate seller had to pack up early as her stock was melting and I did’t get chance to buy any!) so kudos to those of you who are so dedicated to books, reading and writing that rather than spend one of our few precious sunny days at the seaside you attended the book fair!

So for those of you passionate about literature here is a good opportunity to get writing some of your own.  And handily it saves you from one of my writing prompts on this blog by providing one for me!

The inaugural National Writing Day will take place on 21 June 2017. It’s a one-day national campaign to celebrate the power and pleasure of writing that is being organised by NAWE (National Association of Writers in Education).  The aim is to get people writing on the day and to highlight ongoing work promoting creative writing across the year.  So all those who have booked on one of the 3 Crossing the Tees creative writing sessions happening on Wednesday are already ahead of the game!


For National Writing Day NAWE are asking the public to share the View From My Window. Based on a simple writing technique, the activity will give people the chance to express their vision of the world around them, whatever that may look like. In order to encourage participation, NAWE hope to reach as many writers as possible and get them to tell write about what they ‘see’ when they look out of the window. All you have to do is follow these simple steps:

  • Choose your window
  • This can be a window in your home, from your daily commute, a famous landmark.
  • Tell your story
  • Write what you see. Interpret this in any way you like, beginning with the line, ‘The view from my window…’
  • Share on social media
  • Snap a photo of the view and share online with your favourite phrase from your story using #TellYourStory. You can also @WriteDay on Twitter or @NationalWritingDay on Instagram.

You can also follow this link to find out more about what’s going on and how you can get involved in the first ever National Writing Day


Something for the weekend

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to weekend two of the Crossing the Tees Book Festival.  The first week of the festival has seen some fantastic events with great turn outs from enthusiastic readers and writers.  But don’t worry if you haven’t managed to get to anything yet as there is still lots more to come.  In particular for those of you who are keen writers Wednesday has lots to offer with Andy Willoughby leading a creative writing workshop in Darlington at 2pm, Anna Woodford running a poetry workshop and reading at Norton Library at 5:30 and someone called Tracey Iceton running the second session of her Fab Fiction writing mini series in Hartlepool at 6:30 (massive thanks to everyone who came to the first session of Fab Fiction on the 14th.  It was great to meet so many local writers).  And don’t forget that Saturday is a fun-packed day in Stockton with the book fair and Choc Lit event happening.  This is also your chance to come along and meet me in person, ask questions about the competition and find out more about the workshops and mentoring sessions I’ll be leading over the summer to help you prepare your (hopefully) winning entries!

So as we move into the last week of the festival, with the sun shining, a heat wave forecast and thoughts turning to holidays I thought I would leave you with this writing prompt:

Write a piece (poetry, story or script) that features; a tent or marquee, ice cream and the weather (wet and wild or sunny and sultry)

Have fun and hope to see some of you on Saturday,


PS if you don’t make it into Stockton this weekend you can tune in to Radio Zetland on Monday 19th at 10:10 where I’ll be talking to Julie Donaldson about the short story competition and hopefully answering any questions people might have about my role at Writer in Residence and the work I’ll be doing in the run up to the competition’s closing date on 30th September.

A few words from Kate Fox…

Ahead of An Evening with Kate Fox on Monday 19 June, we caught up with the lady herself about what to expect!

Hello Kate, we are delighted to be welcoming you back! What can people expect at An Evening with Kate Fox? What will you be talking about?

I’ll be doing some of my favourite poems about everything from small girlfriends to why Northerners are tough and talking about some of the things in my new Radio 4 comedy series which will have started that day. One show is about me not wanting a perfect body, the other is about me not wanting to be middle class!

Who or what inspired you to start writing poetry and did you start at an early age?

I always liked making up daft rhymes to liven up long car journeys or entertain classmates but certainly didn’t think I could make a living at it, or start taking it seriously until I started performing with lots of Newcastle poets in the mid 2000s.

Is there a part of Yorkshire or the North that inspires you the most in terms of ideas and creativity?

That’s a hard one. From Newcastle down to Stockton was where I first started gigging and meeting other poets. But my home city of Bradford inspires me because it has so many untold stories. And I’m doing a lot of work in Hull this year for the city of culture & they’re similarly full of untold stories.

You’ve mentored writers and performers in the past – what advice would you give to anybody who is wanting to pursue a career in stand up poetry?

Be frugal, your earnings will be irregular! Gig as often as you can, the thing you need most is stage time. Be prepared to work as hard on developing your writing as your performance-attend workshops. Get in the loops for competitions and opportunities. Travel beyond where you live-work comes from all over.

We’re looking forward to welcoming you to the festival this year, are there any particular quirks you notice about us North Easterners compared to other parts of the North?

To be absolutely honest I think Northerners have more similarities than differences but they tend to think their quirks are their own. I love the North and hope we can all be more united to end the rubbish we have to put up with from the South!

Grab a ‘Killer Cocktail’ with leading crime authors at Murder Mystery event!

Four leading crime authors, known as the Killer Women, are heading to Crown Street Art Gallery in Darlington on Saturday 10 June, 7pm – 9pm to host a Murder Mystery and whip up some ‘killer cocktails’ as part of the Crossing the Tees Festival.

Authors Laura Wilson, Kate Rhodes, Helen Smith and Melanie McGrath will be speaking about their books and brewing up some refreshing tipples at the Killer Women Murder Mystery event while you try to figure who out committed a heinous crime.

This is your chance to play detective as the four authors lead an hour long investigation into the demise of night club owner and all round villain, Eddie Glass.

To help you figure out the case, you will hear from a host of witnesses and a senior investigating officer as you work in teams to figure who the culprit is and find out why the gangster was murdered in cold blood.

The event has been written by the Killer Women group of crime writers, with input from former Chief Superintendent of Sussex police, and police advisor to Peter James, Graham Bartlett. The event will be followed by Crime Confidential.

This year’s Crossing the Tees Festival welcomes Teesside author Tracey Iceton as Writer in Residence, and there is also the chance to enter the Short Story Competition where entrants can win up to £100. Tracey will be holding a range of writing workshops and one to one sessions to offer her expertise, and help to anyone wanting to brush up on their writing skills. More details can be found at the Crossing the Tees website.

Tickets for the Killer Women Murder Mystery Event cost £5 (including a cocktail) and can be booked by calling the Box Office on 01642 525199 or at


The festival is almost upon us!

Hello Everyone,

Well what en exciting couple of days ahead of us as I write this on Thursday morning (8th June).  By tonight the votes will be in and by tomorrow we will know the result.  But far more exciting is the fact that Friday is the first day of the Crossing the Tees fortnight.  Two weeks packed with events kicks off with Lipstick Library at Stockton Central Library 6.30pm and there follows a fantastic array of talks, readings  and workshops between then and Saturday 24th June.  Please do check out the full festival listings elsewhere on this site or pick up a brochure from your local library but there are some highlights I particularly want to draw your attention to.  

Firstly Natalie Scott who is an amazing local poet will be offering a creative writing workshop at Middlesbrough Library on Saturday 10th June and a reading/performance of her work in progress (a poetry collection entitled Rare Bird – Voices of Holloway Prison) on Tuesday 20th June at Acklam Library.  

The Stockton Book Fair, a full day event being held in Stockton high street on 17th June is definitely an event not to miss.  Not only will there be lots of exciting and interesting things going on but this is also the official launch of the Crossing the Tees short story competition. I will be there all day so do come into the marquee and talk to me about the competition and the workshops/mentoring I’ll be offering in the run up to the competition’s closing date (30th September).

And finally, for those of you hoping to enter the competition who want to get a head start on your prize winning stories join me at Hartlepool Central Library on 14th and 21st June (6.30-8.00pm) for a series of two creative writing workshops designed to get you writing Fab Fiction in Four Hours!

I look forward to meeting many of you during the festival fortnight.  And, as promised, here is this post’s writing prompt (themed along the lines of the other important something happening this week)

The votes were in…


Join in with a writing challenge!

Hello Everyone,

Well, as many of you will know, we are now deeply into exam season, with many students sitting for their GCSE or A level qualifications. And it isn’t just the students who are busy this time of year. For the last four years I have been an exam marker for AQA’s Creative Writing A level.  Sadly the course has been scrapped as part of the Conversative Party’s education reforms and this is the last year students can take this subject.  But during its short life this unique qualification has given many sixth formers the chance to develop their creative writing skills and work towards producibg professional, publishable work.

As a marker for the exam module ‘Writing on Demand’ I have been fortunate to read the work of many talented young writers and have often marvelled at their ability to produce high quality writing in exam conditions.  The exam requires writers to produce two texts, each approximately 300 words in length, in response to a specific brief and all in two hours.  Students’ writing is then assessed on how confidently they have developed ideas, met the brief, used language imaginatively, crafted their work and maintained high standards of technical accuracy.  It’s quite a challenge and one I thought some of you might want to try yourselves so this post’s writing prompt is an ‘exam style’ one.  Remember you only have an hour to plan and write a skilful, highly developed piece!

Your time starts now!

“A national newspaper runs a weekly column for which people write about someone who has been an inspiration to them.  This might be a real living person, an historical figure, or even a fictional/literary figure.  You have been asked to contribute to the column.  Write a 300 word piece that discusses someone who has inspired you.”