Winter reading

Just before Christmas I read some more poems at Karamel in Wood Green. The poems were inspired by Jehane Markham’s Poetry In Colour course, part of the Haringey Literature Live programme co-ordinated by Kate Pemberton of Ambit magazine.

Red Woman On A Pink Bed came from a painting by Anne Rothenstein.



I am tipping

like the flower heads

enjoying my own curves

touching with palm frond fingers


Sensation starts silver

melts through pinks and sapphires

into red


My bed

doesn’t contain me

I drape above

propped only by myself

I love the petal smoothness of my shape

I love its dense intensity


After the painting

after the still moment

I will rumple

I will burn

White Icing

At the end of last year I did a flash fiction workshop at the wonderful Chocolate Factory in Wood Green. We were invited to wander round the galleries and write a piece inspired by one of the artworks.

I fell for Kielle Rutland‘s portrait called Happy Days and managed to turn it into a sad little tale called…


White Icing

I had plenty of other offers, mind. Albert down the bookies. Tom at the coal yard. But I’d told Sam I’d wait. So when he came back and I saw him get off the boat down the docks and my body turned to run away I told it not to.

His mother said she’d do the cake. That clinched it, really. Her icing was known all over Cardiff. She had a secret sugar supply and I had a very sweet tooth.

After he came home Sam didn’t say a lot. Except I love you. He said that. And he said sorry, which didn’t make sense till the day before the wedding when they came and told me he was in the canal, frozen white to his fingers.

Funny thing, I couldn’t look at cake after that. I put my sugar in my tea instead.

Oh it’s alright, you weren’t to know. Pass it round them in the TV lounge, will you? Highlight of their day, that’ll be. All they can remember of the last 75 years is their weddings.

No love, I never did find anyone else. Turns out he must’ve been the one after all.

First poetry reading

On Thursday night I stood up in front of an audience and read some of my poems for the first time. I was in great company – fellow poetry students and established poets Lisa Kelly and Graham Clifford – but it’s a while since I’ve read any of my work in public and I’d forgotten how precious a warm reception is.

It made me think about Marty, one of Tidings’ two narrators, the singer in a band who worries about not being able to follow through on the promises of freedom his music makes to his fans.

But perhaps he shouldn’t have stressed so much. Maybe it’s not about giving and taking away. Maybe it’s about creating resonances, reminders of what’s already there.


Mother the weather is coming
slow skies I thought may pass us by
but no escape now, even if you wanted to

Waiting I will watch
till the cloud falls down
and joining up the shadows

makes a face of the ground with no creases
no eyebags, no furrows
no light and shade

And when they take you out
into this fallen world
you’ll be laughing

As you are carried to a place
that doesn’t matter
and dropped in ground that makes no sound

And when you’re gone I’ll mount the horse
and spur it on beyond the clouds
escaping if I want to

Always ever here


Where is the fireman?
He has gone back for water
Putting out the flames
Will take more than this this time
He will need love, and pity

Pouring words like milk
Softly coat the wounds
Touching hands as friends
Our flaming minds, our raw hearts
These are now what catches fire


orange yellow glow
fire buried deep under gold
love long laid, now lit

Poems and guides

I’ve just come to the end of a short poetry course – Memory, Myth, Movement – led by Jehane Markham.

Horses featured large as we explored poems by American and Russian poets and were inspired to write lots of our own. Here’s one of mine:


Horsehead down
I don’t know who you are

Your hooves wear nails
and shoes like metal smiles

Your teeth disgust me
I hate the place they join your gum

Life is so monstrously

I read that each whisker
has a nerve path to your brain

Makes me want to pull one out
pain means we’re alive, yes?

You’ve come to ride me
dark into the middle of my night

But you are beast, I shout
and I am my own burden

Don’t let me in
however tightly on I cling

Negotiating life’s trickier days (months/years…) it seems helpful to find role models, people who’ve discovered ways to find their own ways onwards. Thanks Jehane; and for the lift home.

What I’ve been up to


My whole working life is about words. I started out as an in-house ad agency creative; now I work freelance, both with agencies and direct with clients. I’ve studied literature and written academic essays; now I write novels and teach creative writing.

What holds it all together is the instinct for story – as profoundly important for a good business as a good novel. I really enjoy getting to the heart of both.


Freelance writer      

To date

In 2015 I was asked to rewrite all Brunel University’s subject brochures to a tight deadline. The project was challenging on lots of levels, but I thoroughly enjoyed the learning process of getting to grips with subjects way out of my (arts-based) comfort zone!

I’ve written a lot of case studies this year, where again the trick is to find the story and tell it well. Subjects have included the National Gallery, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Serco consultants.

Previous clients include: Cooper Bearings; Arthur J Gallagher; Greenpeace; BBC; New Zealand Tourism Board; Iceland; Kia Cars; Dr Martens; Pret A Manger; Kelloggs.

Creative writing tutor

 To date

I teach a ten-week course based on my Creative Writing MA, designed to help would-be novelists get going. I run follow-up workshops and mentor individual writers, helping them develop and complete their books. I have also co-written an online creative writing course for a major publisher.

I give workshops in schools and universities designed to get students excited about writing. I’m particularly interested in what stops young people feeling they can write, and in helping them find ways to overcome these blocks.


* Just wanted to say how amazing today was! We had a great time and enjoyed your company. It was refreshing to learn so much in such a short amount of time.

I am so inspired about copy! Thank you so much, Such a great day.

JD, 2nd year BA Advertising student, Bucks New University.

My Manifesto is one of the things I worked on with JD’s class.

My own writing

I am currently working with an editor on my own first novel. The second novel is in progress. I have published short stories and poetry. Non-fiction pieces are here.



Blue Inc Creative


I co-ran Blue Inc from a dusty office above an Italian tailor’s on Dean Street in Soho, on the corner where the Soho Hotel now sits. Working with an art director I freelanced for most of the big direct marketing agencies of the time, including Ogilvy, Rapier and Leo Burnett, and also worked directly with clients.


Copywriter & Creative Director

McCarthy, Cosby, Paul, Berners Street, London W1


I ended up with responsibility for the creative department’s output at a rocky time for the company. It taught me a lot about how businesses work. Clients included WWF and Vauxhall Motors.



DDM Advertising Eastbourne Terrace London W2              


Gathering more experience with major clients such as British Airways and Thomas Cook.



MSW Rapp & Collins Baker Street London W1                                 


This is where I learned the business. I was lucky to be surrounded by very experienced creatives and loved watching and working with pre-digital production pros too. Clients included the TSB and Carphone Warehouse.



MA Creative Writing 2008           

Birkbeck College, London University

Published short stories, gave public readings, acquired a literary agent


BA Humanities 2002

Birkbeck College, London University

Art history/film/postmodernism/postcolonial literature


MA English Literature 1989

Queen Mary College, London University

Dissertation on repetition and dialogue in the work of Samuel Beckett


BA English Literature 1986

Royal Holloway College, London University

The works, but mostly 20th century



I live in a great part of Kentish Town where neighbours talk to each other, and ideas and skills are shared. Each year I help a group of local young people, aged around 6 to 14, put together a magazine for our street party. I also lead a group – Friends of Fortess Road – set up to support our independent shops and last year organized a ‘photograph your local shop’ competition for nearby secondary school pupils which has developed into an annual project for the school’s gifted artists.



I asked a few of the people I’ve worked with to say a bit about me. As you can see, I’ve worked with some very nice people.

I’ve worked with Alison many times over the years. We’ve worked together on small tactical projects and big pitches, both of which she approaches with an unerring instinct for understanding the consumer. She has a talent for simplifying the most complex problems and delivering both concepts and copy that completely meet the brief, in any discipline.

At the heart of this is her ability to gently question what is unclear until she has complete clarity on what is required, giving account handlers and clients reassurance that she understands their problem and has produced the optimum solution (she’s great in front of clients).

It’s not often that you get to work with someone with so much experience across so many industry sectors. I struggle to think of many instances that I would not recommend Alison for a project.



* I would not hesitate to recommend Alison. A consummate professional with an enquiring mind – a rare and valuable quality – who works to schedule and budget every time. A joy to work with.



* Taking one of Alison’s writing classes is fun, informative and challenging. It made me write; but also read more widely, more often and with more thought and enjoyment. Alison creates a warm and friendly environment where reading out work in progress isn’t scary and writing is celebrated and encouraged. And the coffee is great too! 



* As a writer looking to gain competency and confidence, I found Alison’s classes struck exactly the right note. She offers encouragement and support on the one hand, and on the other, clear and thoughtful advice on how to improve your writing. She draws on her own experience as a writer and a reader to inspire students, and effortlessly creates an atmosphere of hard work and good fun.