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Rural Writing



Death can knock you sideways. One minute life is going on as normal and you’re getting on with work and play and your head is full of stuff that seems important – what to cook for dinner, what article to tackle next, the car tax needing to be paid, a pet due a vaccination, how long it is since you blogged or tweeted or Facebooked or what to do about a dodgy filling or what to get as a wedding present for someone in two months’ time and the next such everyday things are hurled into insignificance when utter tragedy strikes. Someone you love has died. Suddenly. Incomprehensibly.
And now no Sunday morning will ever be the same again because it’s the time you got the news that your nephew lost his life in an accident the night before. It’s a beyond grief experience. Looking back now it’s hard to understand how everyone has managed since, facing the stonewall finality of it – wake, funeral, aftermath still ongoing…
Here, it’s like losing a child, by one remove, your heart going out to your sibling and sister-in-law and their older child and you can’t find the right words to take away the pain nor make sense of it all yourself. You’re so grateful, though, for the friends and neighbours who braved the wall of grief then, and since, to extend a hand or hug. “It could happen to any of us,” they said.
And it could. And does. You know that now… And as days run into weeks and months, there’s some kind of thankfulness, too, for the daily, mundane tasks that erect scaffolding within collapse and take your mind away, even briefly, from what’s impossible to believe. Until another reminder comes… And now my prayer is that Wayne, only 23, will rest in peace and that understanding – and acceptance – will somehow come. Eventually.


I’m a notebook lover – no, not the film, the items that you write in.

I have a stack of them, collected since I was fourteen years old, so it’s a long-time addiction.

I love the feel of them and the look of them, even the smell of them, but above all I pay homage to their raising-agent qualities. Raising ideas into stories, that is.

Yes, for me, it’s a case of notebook leaven as well as notebook heaven. Read more


Traumatic – that’s what it was – the day the animals dropped off the face of our coinage.  No more bull, no more horse, no more deer standing regally over my purchases.  After January 1, 2002 they were side-lined, ditched, destined never to see the light of mint again.  Coming across an old penny between attic floorboards the other day set me off thinking about old coins and how much I miss them. Read more



I don’t normally spend a lot of time thinking about serviettes but every February, come Valentine’s Day, those colourful crumb-catchers and paper lip-dabbers always trigger a smile.

That’s because once upon a 14th of February, ten years ago, something happened that, let’s say, imprinted them on my memory…

Prior to that serviettes or table napkins of any description hadn’t really hit my radar much. Read more


Small box margaret hawkinsStories taking over my head – that’s the way my two books started.

In both cases it was visceral – an in-the-gut awareness that I couldn’t not get these stories down on paper. And there’s nothing to beat those magic moments of realization – they’re utterly life changing.

Restless Spirit:The Story of Rose Quinn, was about a voice from the grave seeking justice.

My latest book – my first novel – Deny Me Not, is about a woman, Hannah Casey, seeking justice too, but in the form of recognition from a father she has never known.

As writers it’s often life events that trigger books – overhearing something, experiencing something then adding to it and putting your own creative spin on it.

Imagine discovering that you had a cousin you never knew existed. That the aunt you loved – and thought you knew – had given birth to a daughter in 1940s Ireland, and had carried that secret for into her 80s.

That happened in our family – and to hundreds of thousands of families around the world, I’m sure.

Deny Me Not is not my cousin’s story but the novel would never have been written if I hadn’t experienced the joy, shock and anger that surrounded such a discovery.

Years lost, wishing that my aunt had felt able to tell… Anger about cover-up, about my cousin being kept hidden from us… Read more


Eavesdropping – most of us don’t want to think of ourselves as people who do that but it can be an unavoidable experience.

All you have to do is cross a car park, browse in a shop, sup in a café, travel on a bus, attend a meeting or get your hair done and life’s richness gets thrown into your path in the form of conversation snippets.

For anyone who likes to write or is just plain curious about human nature such overheard snippets are gold dust, fascinating, not to mention learning opportunities so here’s to dialogue – the nerve end of feeling and the verbal tip of the emotional iceberg in each of us.

Yes, you never know what you’ll hear where, even when you’re minding your own business. Here are a few examples of what I’ve heard already this month out and about in my home town: Read more


Dishwasher                I was thinking of writing an ode to my dishwasher.  Well, if Keats could do it for Grecian Urns and Autumn, I could surely do it for the machine I love so well.

          Oh! Item of wonderful characteristics and traits

        Close bosom friend of the maturing housewife

          Conspiring with her how to load and wash

          With detergent the dishes that round the counter-tops lie. Read more


If you have any questions or queries please do not hesitate to contact me