Skip to main content


By midnight last night I had reached 13,000 words on my current project. It is provisionally titled 'Fragments of Horror'. I feel it is ok to say that now, although if anything goes wrong with it between now and the continuance of this, the first draft 'spewing out' stage I shall blame this blog post! When is it ever a safe time to 'talk' about stuff one is writing? Even if something manages publication the author's words can damage the always precarious relationship between herself and the words she has delivered herself through a bloody birth by her own hand. Before that there were the pains of contraction as she wondered when full term would finally allow the first sighting of those head of words. Name/title may have been there all along or may only make itself known once momma has seen the full shape of her offspring. Me, I only ever declare provisional titles. Fragments of Horror was the title scrawled as I first began to spew out what are fragments. Of horror. Of course, now that I'm hopefully about a sixth of the way through this delicate stage, I realise it can't all be horror. There has to be something a bit lighter. No. Not sketches, but the odd bit of commentary that serves as the equivalent of a bench overlooking the cool gardens in the corridors of the asylum. One may wonder what sort of horror I am writing that can only be spewed in fragments. It's back to 'Joan's Book'. Instead of trying, as I so disastrously did in 2008, to piece together a life into a whole narrative, I have embraced the fragments. Fragments of story. Fragments of my understanding at various ages. Fragments of a life, from which the whole life can be more meaningfully and perhaps more realistically gleaned.


Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…