Thursday, 29 April 2021

Notts Authors and Novels - online courses

 Two Courses Starting Soon

Nottinghamshire Authors (online Zoom course)

12th May to 2nd June 2021 (Must register by 5th May)

Wednesdays: 2pm - 3pm

For ages               19+

Group size           5 - 15

Cost       FREE - £9

This online course will introduce some of Nottinghamshire’s finest writers, from the quirky to the quintessential. Learners will discover the county’s remarkable literary history and the impact its writers have had on the world.

LINK to INSPIRE Website for details and booking:

 and a NEW course:

Nottinghamshire Novels (online Zoom course) 

14th May to 28th May 2021 (Must register by 7th May)

Fridays: 2pm - 3pm

For ages               19+

Group size           5 - 15

Cost       FREE - £6.75

This online course is a celebration of the best novels set in Nottinghamshire. From DH Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe to many lesser-known authors, a wide range of books will be discussed, introducing you to the stories inspired by the county. You'll also leave with a never before seen list of the "possibly" 100 best novels set in Notts. Now that's a reading pile!

Link to INSPIRE Website for more details and booking:




Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Literature & Creative Writing Courses 2021

 New Courses for the New Year - from Inspire

Literature, Poetry, Creative Writing, Wellbeing... 

All of the sessions are to be delivered on Zoom, with each course including an induction session. The classes will be taught to between 5 and 12 learners. 

Literature Courses

Sherwood Writers (4 sessions)

When: 10/01/21 – 10/02/21

Cost: Free

Age: 19+

Featuring writers and their association with the legendary Sherwood Forest area. The course will focus on different locations such as Newstead Abbey, Annesley Hall, Blidworth and Edwinstowe, and look at some of the stories, poetry and literature related to the writers of Sherwood. Details

Nottinghamshire Authors – Crime Writers (4 sessions)

When: 22/01/21 - 12/02/21, Fridays 2pm-3pm

Cost: Free - £9.00

Age: 19+

This online course will focus on Nottinghamshire’s crime writers, featuring bestselling authors, long-forgotten stars, and the pick of the county’s contemporary scene. Learners will also discover many of the greatest crime novels that have been set in Notts. Details 

Reading for Wellbeing (6 sessions)

When: 25/02/21 to 01/04/21, Thursdays 10.20am – 11.30am

Cost: Free - £13.50

Age: 19+

The aim of this course is to explore the idea that reading is good for you. It is not about telling anyone how or what to read but it is about examining and valuing the act of reading. Details 

Creative Writing Courses

Creative Writing - Step into Creative Writing (5 sessions)

When: 18/01/21 to 15/02/21, Mondays 10am - 11:30am.

Cost: Free - £16.88

Age: 19+

To introduce learners to different stimuli to get writing and to try out different styles of writing, including Different ways to start a piece of writing, Evoking atmosphere through setting, Creating an authentic ‘voice’, Character development, Narrative arc, and Ending a piece of writing. Details 

Creative Writing - Short Stories (5 sessions)

When: 18/01/21 to 15/02/21, Mondays 1pm – 2pm.

Cost: Free - £11.25

Age: 19+

This course aims to bring together writers of all abilities to introduce you to short story writing. For more experienced writers, we will look at refreshing and honing your writing skills. Throughout the course, advice and support will be provided about how to develop an idea and structure a short story. Details 

Creative Writing - Write a Novel (5 sessions)

When: 20/01/21 to 17/02/21, Wednesdays 5.30pm – 6.30pm.

Cost: Free - £11.25

Age: 19+

If you are interested in writing a novel, join us on this course and look at how to sustain your work and what you need to do to become published. This course is suitable for both beginners and more experienced writers. Details 

Creative Writing - Writing Your Life (4 sessions)

When: 21/01/21 to 11/02/21, Thursdays 10.20am-11.30am

Cost: Free - £9

Age: 19+

The principal aim of the course is for learners to develop the confidence and skills to record and reflect on their lives through writing. Details 

Creative Writing - Your Life Through a Lens (5 sessions)

When: 22/01/21 to 19/02/21, Fridays 10am – 12 noon

Cost: Free - £22.50

Age: 19+

Every life has a story worth sharing – the challenge is finding a fun way to tell it! Details 

Creative Writing - Writing for Wellbeing (5 sessions)

When: 23/01/21 to 20/02/21, Saturdays 10am – 12 noon

Cost: Free - £22.50

Age: 19+

After such an awful 2020, the aim of this course is to help you find a little more peace, a little more space, and a little more joy through writing creatively. Details 

Creative Writing - Further Steps into Creative Writing (6 sessions)

When: 22/02/21 to 29/03/21, Mondays 10am – 11.30am

Cost: Free - £20.25

Age: 19+

To challenge learners to step outside their comfort zones and create pieces of writing using different styles. Details 

Creative Writing - Crime Writing

When: 22/02/21 to 29/03/21 (6 sessions)

When: 6.30pm – 7.30pm, Mondays

Cost: Free - £13.50

Age: 19+

Engage in creative writing in this introduction to many aspects of writing crime fiction, including research, creating characters, dialogue, plotting and a sense of place. Details 

Creative Writing - Finding your Inspiration (6 sessions)

When: 25/02/21 to 01/04/21, Thursdays 6.30pm – 8pm

Cost: Free - £20.25

Age: 19+



Play Writing

Play Writing - Beginners (5 sessions)

When: 21/01/21 to 18/02/21, Thursdays 6.30pm – 8pm

Cost: Free - £16.88

Age: 19+

This course aims to provide useful introductory techniques for any aspiring playwright. On this 5-week course, learners will gain skills to help encourage and guide them to get started on writing their own play. Details 

Play Writing - Next Steps (6 sessions)

When: 25/02/21 to 01/04/21, Thursdays 6.30pm – 8pm

Cost: Free - £20.25

This course aims to provide the next steps for any aspiring playwright.  On this 6-week course, learners will gain a further understanding of the play writing process. We will cover the following topics. Details 

Poetry - Creative Writing

Creative Writing - A Poet and I Didn't Know It... (1 session)

When: 19/01/21, Tuesday 1pm – 3pm

Cost: Free - £4.50

Age: 19+

If you’ve ever wanted to have a go at writing poetry but weren’t sure where to start, this fun and informal session is for you. We will use objects and prompts to start some poems, as well as writing a ‘class poem’ with everyone’s contributions. Everyone is welcome, no experience of creative writing is needed. Details 

Creative Writing - Poetry for Beginners (2 sessions)

When: 26/01/21 to 02/02/21, Tuesdays 1.30pm – 3pm

Cost: Free - £6.75

Age: 19+

What are the aims of the course?  

To enable learners to feel confident about writing a poem, To equip learners with tools, resources and techniques for writing poetry, To support learners in turning an idea in to a strong piece of writing, To learn from the work of published poets, To remove the barriers to getting started on writing poetry. Details 

Creative Writing - Poetry in the Making (3 sessions)

When: 05/02/21 to 12/02/21, Fridays 6.30pm – 8pm

Cost: Free - £12.38

Age: 19+

This course is for people looking for some focused help to kickstart writing a number of poems. Taught by two Inspire tutors who are poets themselves, the course offers a retreat-style experience to focus on the process of making a poem. Details 

Creative Writing - Spring Poetry (1 session)

When: 23/03/21, Tuesday 10am – 12 noon

Cost: Free - £4.50

Age: 19+

Spring celebrates hope and renewal. Through time and across the world, Spring has inspired poets to capture that spirit of the new. Using some famous (and not so famous) examples of Spring poetry to start us off, this course aims to help you record what you notice and want to remember about this special time. The session is particularly suitable for beginners, but those who have some experience are welcome also. Details 

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Some of 2020’s Best Books (with a Notts connection)

The Fall of the House of Byron: Scandal and Seduction in Georgian England by Emily Brand

Emily Brand’s research into the colourful eighteenth-century ancestry of the 6th Lord Byron has resulted in the publishing of a dramatic and scandal-filled family saga unfolding over three generations, setting the stage for the rise of the nation’s most revered (and on occasion reviled) Romantic poet. Following the lives of three siblings – a flirtatious countess desperately seeking true love, a villainous lord maligned as a murderer, and a navy hero with the century’s most remarkable tale of survival (the poet’s grandfather) – it offers an exciting and sweeping history of eighteenth-century Britain, through the eyes of a once notorious family now shrouded in legend.

More Non-Fiction:

Nottinghamshire (Pevsner’s Guide) by Clare Hartwell, Nikolaus Pevsner and Elizabeth Williamson.

A definitive guide to our buildings, this richly illustrated volume offers an enlightening introduction to the memorable and surprising structures of Notts. The county features the exquisite medieval churches of Newark, Worksop Priory, and Southwell Minster, whilst our country houses offer a fascinating range of architectural styles: Wollaton Hall shows Elizabethan architecture at its most fantastic, and Bunny Hall demonstrates the English Baroque at its most bizarre. Newstead Abbey, home of the poet Lord Byron, incorporates the haunting monastic ruins from a former Augustinian abbey. The city of Nottingham teems with Victorian and Edwardian commercial buildings, and is enlivened by a local tradition of first-rate Modernist architecture. 

Nottingham: The Postcard Collection by Alan Spree

Author Alan Spree has drawn on a remarkable selection of old postcards to give a pictorial record of life in Nottingham from the late nineteenth century to the early 1950s. Although much of Nottingham has changed over the years, many landmarks have remained and will be familiar today. The postcards show the changes to Nottingham’s fabric and its community adapting and changing over the course of this period.


The Catch by T M Logan

Ed finally meets his daughter's boyfriend for the first time. Smart, successful and handsome, Ryan appears to be a real catch. Then Abbie announces their plan to get married. There's just one problem. Ed thinks Ryan is lying to them. All of Ed's instincts tell him his daughter is in terrible danger - but no-one else can see it. With the wedding date approaching fast, Ed sets out to uncover Ryan's secrets, before it's too late… Another page-turner from Nottingham’s latest million selling novelist.  

Devil Gun by Steve Pickering

Set in the 19th century, this tale of danger and friendship follows the life of a Denim Armstrong: from working on his father’s farm, to hardship at sea aboard the Endurance, to a life on the run from both British Navy (for mutiny) and the Pinkertons (for murder). The story takes us across the turbulent Atlantic and the treacherous landscape of the Wild West, where we witness revenge killings, showdowns and turns of fortune with memorable, and sometimes notorious, historical characters that shape Denim's destiny. Never predictable, this debut novel (available in hardback and paperback) is a good old fashioned adventure story. The author was educated at Birklands Secondary Modern School in Warsop.  

If I Never Met You by Mhari Macfarlane

Laurie and Jamie have the perfect office romance. Everyone can see they're head over heels. This must be true love. Only, they’re faking it all. When Laurie is dumped by her partner of eighteen years, she's blindsided. Not only does she feel humiliated, they still have to work together. So when she gets stuck in the lift with handsome colleague Jamie, they hatch a plan to stage the perfect romance. Revenge will be sweet... But this fauxmance is about to get complicated. You can't break your heart in a fake relationship - can you? Always funny, always emotional, Macfarlane’s novels are a treat.


Sweet Nothings by Rory Waterman

Rory Waterman, a Senior Lecturer in English at Nottingham Trent University, brings us a book of hopes and passions - quiet and lyrical at times, but also fiercely witty and bold. The poems sometimes come in sequences; always they are in dialogue with one another, responding, echoing - within and between the book's two sections. At times, the leitmotifs are apparently personal, exploring divisions and painful losses. But we also encounter the largely invented academic Dr Bob Pintle, an anti-hero of the modern university system. 

Alan Sillitoe - Selected Poems Chosen by Ruth Fainlight

Drawn from Alan Sillitoe’s eight volumes of poetry, this selection has been chosen by his wife, the poet Ruth Fainlight. Presented here are poems that present the world as Sillitoe saw it. Using a storyteller’s skill, he brought to life the people and places that captured his imagination and took him on a search for meaning. It’s a vision that is at the same time clear and precise, politically engaged, fiercely intelligent, and deeply personal. 

Get Over Yourself by Leanne Moden

A biographical delve into belonging, exclusion, and the relationship between self-awareness and self-delusion, the rejection of social norms, and the ways in which we accept and question implied cultural rules. The poems in this collection question received wisdom, playfully unravelling the awkward and the bizarre aspects of modern life. Leanne’s poetry is an exploration of human failures and resilience, the things that make us angry, and the things that make us laugh. There’s social commentary ('A Piece of the Pie'), humour ('Bad Kisser') and wisdom ('Call and Response') as Moden brings us her take on modern life. 

Herd Queen by Di Slaney

Di Slaney is a poet, publisher and animal sanctuary founder who lives in Nottinghamshire. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University and owns Candlestick Press. Since 2005, Di Slaney has been filling her ancient Nottinghamshire farmhouse and its land with more livestock than is sensible. Herd Queen’s heroines remember teenage trysts, do battle with the slings and arrows of ageing, collage a poem from Prince lyrics and dream of achieving Shirley Bassey-hood in their seventies. 

Loves Burn by Kevin Jackson

A queer activist, Kevin Jackson writes poetry that “dares us to care”. His new poetry collection is ‘Loves Burn’, a book that sets out its stall on love with a patient probing, a tender curiosity that seems to place the narrator in that place where poetry uniquely exists - on the edge. 

Honourable mention: 

Speak Up My Voice Anthology

Across prose, poetry and script, the young writers explore racism, homophobia, bodies and gendered violence, the climate crisis, and the principle of taking a stand. The contributions to this anthology encourage the reader to experience the fears and anxieties young people experience to powerful effect.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Dorothy Whipple and Nottingham

A. H. 'Henry' Whipple was appointed Nottingham's first Director of Education in 1924, having held a similar post in Blackburn. He re-organised the city's education system, dividing schools into three: Infant (up to 7 or 8 years), Junior (with boys or girls from 7 or 8 to 11 years) and Senior (11 years and up), and the city into 16 districts. He was also a strong advocate for the education of women. The appointment had a hidden benefit for Nottingham in the form of the director’s wife, for ‘Henry’ had married Dorothy Stirrup in 1917, a woman half his age.

Between the world wars, Dorothy Whipple (1893-1966) was the best-known novelist living in Nottingham. The “Jane Austen of the 20th Century”, according to J. B. Priestley. The Whipples lived at 35 Ebers Road in Mapperley Park and it was from here that Dorothy wrote her hugely popular stories.

Dorothy Whipple’s ‘Greenbanks’ (1932) was chosen as the ‘Choice of the Book Society’ in 1932, helping it to become the author’s breakthrough novel. Following an ordinary family's joys and sorrows before and after the Great War, ‘Greenbanks’ is a tale of infidelity, divorce, autocratic parents and rebellious offspring. Two characters, the emotional and irresponsible grandmother, Louisa, and the unsentimental yet charming granddaughter Rachel, were particularly well received.

“It was queer, it was frightening, she thought, how in life you got what you wanted. Men, for instance, who admired above everything else, beauty in women, married beauty and, more often than not, found themselves with nothing but beauty.” (From ‘Greenbanks’)

‘Greenbanks’ brought with it a great success that continued with Whipple’s subsequent tales of everyday life, most of which are set in Notts, or as it appears, ‘Trentham’.

‘They Were Sisters’ (1943) tells the story of three sisters, the different marital choices they make, and how those choices impact on them; all set in an era when women stuck in a bad marriage had little or no option of reprieve. It’s an authentic account of domestic middle-class life, with a menacing undertone that holds attention.

“Moral failure or spiritual failure or whatever you call it, makes such a vicious circle... It seems as if when we love people and they fall short, we retaliate by falling shorter ourselves.” (from ‘They Were Sisters’)

Tastes changed after the Second World War and Whipple’s books fell out of favour. This was just as two of her novels had been made into films. 1945’s ‘They Were Sisters’ was voted one of the four best films of the year. The sisters are played by Phyllis Calvert (as Lucy), Dulcie Gray (as Charlotte) and Anne Crawford (as Vera), whilst James Mason is Geoffrey, one of their pursuers. He is an ambitious and cruel businessman, wanting a stay-at-home trophy wife. The film is noted for its harrowing depiction of marital abuse.

A year later, the noir-ish ‘They Knew Mr Knight’, starring Mervyn Johns, was released, featuring scenes of Ebers Road and the city centre.

The last of her sixteen novels, ‘Someone at a Distance’ (1953), is another of her best. Whipple describes it as, "a fairly ordinary tale about the destruction of a happy marriage.”

Whipple is another Nottingham writer to be have been published by John Murray. She wrote two memoirs: ‘The Other Day’ (1950) and ‘Random Commentary’ (1966). The latter offering reflection on her time in Nottingham. She returned to Blackburn after her husband’s death in 1958.

Persephone Books recently republished eight of Whipple’s novels and a collection of short stories. The writing has aged well; her characters well-drawn and recognisable.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Dr Dolittle, its Nottingham link.

Matt Turpin, the intrepid Lord Beestonia, has written about a ‘strange link’ between two Nottingham plaques, Henry Kirke White’s and J M Barrie’s. @Beeestonia’s theory is that the tragically short life of Kirke White (partly) inspired Barrie’s Peter Pan. Have a read.

Inspired by this, I’ve another story for you: that our Henry Kirke White plaque set in motion a chain of events that led to the publication of ‘Doctor Doolittle’.

Henry Kirke White was born a butcher’s son in the Nottingham meat market known as The Shambles. His plaque was put up near there in 1906, to mark the centenary of his death. In addition to this plaque, Nottingham University College launched their annual Henry Kirke White Prize for poetry.
The Shambles

A young poet, by the name of Cecil Roberts, knew of the HKW plaque having worked in the Shambles as a ‘snooper’ for the council. In 1912 Roberts entered a poem into the HKW competition. His long poem called ‘The Trent’, lamenting the loss of a friend, won the Prize, helping Roberts on his way to a successful career as a writer, one that would later see him return to the Council House to become the first novelist to be named a Freeman of Nottingham.    

Our boy Cecil Roberts, winner of the HKW Poetry Prize

Roberts was on a ship sailing to New York for a lecture tour when he found himself lounging next to an English civil engineer called Hugh Lofting. Every night at six, Roberts’ deck-chair companion would say “I have to go,” and he’d pop off to tell his kids a bedtime story.

Hugh Lofting, Roberts' shipmate.

Enquiring about this, Roberts was told, “Oh, I’ve invented a character called Dr. Dolittle. It’s a nickname I’ve given to my little boy Colin who has set himself up as a doctor for sick animals. They have all sorts of adventures.”

Roberts asked Lofting if he ever wrote the stories down. Lofting told him he did, and showed them to him, complete with his own illustrations.

“You should have these stories published,” said Roberts.

Lofting looked surprise. “Do you think they’re good enough?”

“Indeed I do,” said Roberts, who gave him a letter to present to his New York publisher Frederick Stokes and Co. 

Within 12 months, Roberts received an inscribed copy of ‘The Story of Doctor Dolittle’, the first of a successful series.

When Lofting died, his third wife inherited the Dolittle copyrights, which later passed to her son Christopher who became a millionaire. The original inspiration for Dr. Dolittle, Lofting’s son Colin, never received a penny.

Monday, 1 June 2020