Category Archives: Fun

A year on…

One year and one day ago, I woke early and looked at Twitter – horrified by the news from Manchester Arena. I spent the day with friends, counting my blessings.

It was a gloriously sunny day and, as more news emerged about the victims, I reflected on how I’d feel if someone I loved had been involved. How would you feel if you’d had an argument then never got the chance to make up? Or, perhaps worse in some respects, you’d parted on perfectly fine terms but never got to tell them how much you loved or respected them?

That was when I decided to start writing to friends for no other reason than to tell them how much I loved them. My friend Emily, who moved home to the US, and I had been corresponding the old-fashioned way for a little while but that attack in Manchester made me realise that although I spend lots of time with my friends, I don’t tell them how much I appreciate them – because it’s implied. Well, I decided to make it explicit.

All we seem to get in the post these days (oh, how I’m showing my age) is bills and junk but when someone receives a heartfelt message in the post, it makes them feel valued. Ever since then, I’ve sent card and postcards and letters in the post and the feedback I’ve had has been lovely. People have reciprocated, of course, which was never the plan – I but it is a glorious feeling, knowing someone has taken the time to think about you then put pen to paper.

To me, a letter (or postcard or even an email) shows that the writer has thought about this. They have not just hugged you because you were standing in front of them, they are writing to you because they were thinking of you when you weren’t even with them. They have taken time out of their day to write to you.

I am not a tactile person – quite the opposite, in fact – but I am able to express myself with words far better than I ever could face-to-face. On the odd occasion that I found myself on the wrong side of my parents when I was a child, I would write a letter to apologise. Weird, I know.

I know some people wouldn’t feel able to express themselves fully through writing. To this I say: choose whatever works for you and do it.

Emma Whitehall once said to me that Elementary Sisterhood was partly borne out out of the support she had felt from receiving messages of support and encouragement through the post.

Yesterday, I had a massive wobble. Something inconsequential happened but it really threw me for a loop. However, when I messaged the sisterhood to tell them, the words of love and understanding I received heartened me. The people – in the sisterhood and beyond – who rushed to tell me what they felt for me and how I’d helped them really made me see the positive impact I’ve had on others.

So, in short, the message of this post is: if you feel something, say something.

Vic x

Noir at the Bar Edinburgh, 31/05/2017

In November of last year, I read at the first Edinburgh Noir at the Bar. Earlier this week, I returned to give another reading and, yet again, it was a wonderful night.

Many of the participants attended a meal prior to the event at Makars Gourmet Mash Bar which was organised by the lovely Kelly of Love Books Group blog.  The meal itself was delicious – I had ox cheek and creamy mash – and it was lovely to meet new people as well as catching up with others. The staff were really attentive and I’d heartily recommend this fantastic place if you happen to be in Edinburgh.

Hosted by Jacky Collins, and held at Wash Bar, Noir at the Bar Edinburgh sure is attracting a following in Auld Reekie – the number of attendees has grown massively since its first outing in November.

Mac Logan was first to read then it was my very good friend Lucy Cameron reading from her debut novel Night is Watching.

Then some Geordie got up and read a piece from her work in progress. The audience were very kind and laughed in all the right places. I got some brilliant feedback during the break. It’s really reassuring to hear that fans of crime are looking forward to reading my novel so I’d best crack on with it! As an aside, I will be writing soon about a method that I have found really works for me: watch this space!

I was glad that I’d read early, it left me free to enjoy the evening free of any nerves. Neil Broadfoot, Ian Skewis and May Rinaldi entertained the audience with readings that left my reading wishlist growing exponentially.

Aly Monroe read from Black Bear then we had a riotous short story by Doug Johnstone followed swiftly by a song.

Sharon Bairden and I at Noir at the Bar Edinburgh. Photo courtesy of Sharon Bairden.

Following another short break, during which I got to catch up with some more folks, Sara Sheridan kicked off the third act with an intriguing reading. Claire MacLeary followed with a great excerpt from Cross Purpose featuring the fantastic character of Big Wilma. CG Huntley was the final reader on the bill but there were two wildcard readings given by Jackie McLean and LP Mennock.

A huge congratulations to my friend Jacky Collins for another successful evening in Edinburgh. Jacky and I may have some exciting news to share with you very soon…

Vic x

Whitley Bay Film Festival 2013 starts tomorrow.

Last year, there was a zombie-filled shopping centre, a pianist on the beach and Dorothy – along with Toto – at Spanish City Dome. In years gone by, there’s been a screening of ‘Jaws’ on the beach and ‘King Kong’ at the Spanish City Dome. Whitley Bay Film Festival, and the originality of screenings, has started to win awards; last year’s film festival won the Newcastle Journal Culture Award for Best Tyneside Event. I’d started to wonder if the Film Festival would be able to maintain the high standard set.

I needn’t have worried. Whitley Bay Film Festival is not only undertaking their most adventurous programme yet but the festival is also going international! As well as using the wonderful venues available in Whitley Bay, the film festival has teamed up with DFDS to offer a film and fun-filled mini-cruise to Amsterdam to close the festivities.

WBFF cruise

Pack your passports and get ready for yet another truly original event thanks to Whitley Bay Film Festival. While you’re on-board, you’ll be treated to a “Comprestival” which will include highlights of the festival as well as a second Secret Cinema event and the closing party. Let’s not forget the fact that you’ll get to enjoy a day in beautiful Amsterdam too. Prices start at £74.50 with a range of different cabin types available and the price includes all film festival activities as well as a buffet breakfast and dinner at the Seven Seas Restaurant on the outward trip, what a bargain! If you’d like to get involved in this exciting cruise, call 0871 521 1539 to book your tickets.

The cruise isn’t the only exciting thing happening at the festival this year. Spanish City Dome is going to be turned into a multiplex, showing up to six films a day. There’s a gala opening on Friday followed by screenings of ‘Casablanca’ and ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’. There’s Sci-Fi Sunday (18th) which features ‘The Terminator’, ‘Logan’s Run’, ‘Wall-E’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ as well as ‘Intra-Galactic Travel by Sound and Light’.

I’m most looking forward to Superheroes Day (Fri 23rd) – ‘Megamind’, ‘Kick Ass’, ‘Iron Man’ and, one of my all-time favourites, ‘The Dark Knight’. Come along as your favourite superhero – or supervillain!

There are also screenings at St Mary’s Lighthouse – ‘Vertigo’, ‘White Mane’, ‘Shutter Island’, ‘The Red Balloon’ and a Monster Movie double bill – as well as events at Di Meo’s Delaval Ices, The Avalon, The Rendezvous and Whitley Bay Football Club. Oh, and let’s not forget the Secret Cinema – clues coming soon.

You can read my daily blogs on the film festival’s website.

So get your gladrags on and head down to the Dome at 6pm on Friday for the grand opening. See you there,

Vic x

Elementary Writers’ First Performance Evening.

As many of you know, I set up my own business – Elementary V Watson – earlier this year. EVW is a proofreading, copywriting and critiquing business. I also “teach” Creative Writing to a wonderful group of people. The sessions are Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays in Whitley Bay (Di Meo’s on Mondays & Thursdays 4:30-6:30pm and Whitley Bay Library on a Saturday 3-5pm).

My group of merry writers asked me a few months ago if I would set up a performance night for them to showcase the writing they’d done in the group. Now, in all honesty, I was reluctant as I’m not much of a public speaker and I had my reservations about whether, when it came to the crunch, my writers would want to stand in front of people and read their work. Although I did a reading at Newcastle’s Lit and Phil in April, it’s not my favourite thing to do.

Thanks to the lovely owners of The Avalon in Whitley Bay, I arranged a venue for Thursday 11th July and the writers worked towards having something to read on the night. I remained skeptical. I was worried no-one would turn up and that my group may get cold feet. For some of them, it was the first time they’d done anything like this.

By Monday (8th of July), my anxieties were growing by the second and I really thought I’d be left with an empty venue. I couldn’t even escape my fears by going to sleep – I was literally having nightmares about it.

Thursday, 11th of July 2013, is a day that will remain with me forever. The kindness of people who turned up to help makes me realise that my hope in mankind is not misplaced. Ema Lea, one of the organisers of Whitley Bay Film Festival came to help with the microphone and sound, Mick of The Avalon opened his bar to us and looked after the music during the non-performance parts of the evening, and The Boy Wonder drove straight from working a ten hour shift to support me and my group.

I was still concerned I’d have a bar, a microphone and some writers but no-one to listen. I needn’t have worried. Thank you to everyone who turned up to listen to my writers read their work. Your support was so appreciated. And it was really great to meet people I’ve only previously talked to via the wonders of Twitter and Facebook – you know who you are 😀

At the end of the evening, after I got on stage to thank everyone for coming, one of my group got back up on the stage to thank me for everything I’d done for the group. I was almost in tears. I don’t teach because I want to be thanked – I don’t really think I do much to be thanked for if I’m honest – I do it because I love listening to others’ writing and helping them push themselves to create the best work possible. I’m frequently astounded by the talent of those who come to the sessions – and that has nothing to do with me.

I went home that evening walking on air. I was really thrilled that so many people had come out to support their friends and family. One friend even wrote a blog post about it.

So, rather than writing this off as a one-off experience never to be repeated, I’m already planning the next performance evening. I hope you can make it.

Vic x

Happy World Book Night!


Good evening folks, happy World Book Night. For the second year running, I have been chosen to be a “giver” so I have several copies of ‘The Secret Scripture’ by Sebastian Barry to pass on.

Here’s a bit more info about World Book Night:

“The more I read the more I fought against the assumption that literature is for the minority – of a particular education or class. Books were my birthright too.” Jeanette Winterson, ‘Why be happy when you could be normal?’

UNESCO defines literacy as the “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.”

It is widely acknowledged that reading for pleasure improves literacy directly by actively engaging emerging readers in the desire to read.

In the UK over half of adults of working age (56%) have literacy skills below the level of a good GCSE, 40% of these are at Level 1 (similar to a D-G in GCSE English), the government set standard for literacy, and 16% at or below the level expected of an 11-year-old. In teens, literacy levels have been steadily rising as a result of the National Literacy Strategy but directly alongside this, reading for pleasure has begun to decline. Surveys report that between a third and half of the UK population don’t regularly read, see reading as a chore and aren’t interested in or see the value of reading. Many regular readers take it for granted that everyone has had the same opportunity they have – to have been introduced to reading by someone passionate about and to have had the opportunity to develop that passion themselves.

Reading changes lives, improves employability, social interaction, enfranchisement and can have an effect on mental health and happiness.

Through its unique delivery World Book Night involves tens of thousands of people in sharing the value of reading in their communities and delivers brilliant books directly into the hands of those who might never otherwise engage with books and reading.

As a trainee teacher and writer, I am very aware of the power of the written word and that is why World Book Night is one of the most important dates in my calendar each year. The idea that giving someone a compelling book could change their life so fundamentally makes me want to do this every day of the year. 

If you know someone who is not “a natural reader” or “a bookworm”, leave a comment on this post or Tweet me @vpeanuts and I’ll happily share one of my WBN books in the hope of changing their mind. 

Last year I gave ‘Someone Like You‘, a collection of short stories by my favourite author Roald Dahl. The guest post that will follow this one explains how that book made the difference to one young man’s life. 

Vic x

Elope to Gretna for a weekend of crime writing.

Crime and Publishment


How do you fancy spending a weekend in the beautiful Mill Forge  in Gretna Green? What about, while you’re there, developing your writing skills; talking to bestselling authors and having the opportunity to pitch your idea to a literary agent face-to-face? Those kind of opportunities don’t happen every day which is why you should attend Crime and Publishment on 8th-10th March.

You’ll get the opportunity to meet best-selling author and all-round nice guy Matt Hilton as well as attending a session from north-east author Sheila Quigley. The multi-talented Allan Guthrie will be wearing two hats at the event, appearing first in his capacity as a best-selling author and, later in the weekend, as a literary agent. Inga McVicar of Full Paper Jacket Literary Consultants will also be on hand to give a masterclass in how to make sure your manuscript gets noticed.

The Mill Forge have several flexible options for attendees so check out their website for more information. Alternatively, you can give them a call on 01461 800344.

This is a mini break and a writing retreat all in one – don’t miss out!

Vic x

Very Inspiring Blog Award

V inspiring blogger

Thanks to Gerry McCullough for nominating me for the ‘Very Inspiring Blog Award’. Gerry has written several great books which you can find on her Amazon Author Page.

So, here are the rules:

  1. Display the award logo on your blog.
  2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  3. State 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate other bloggers for this award and link to them.
  5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

OK, so now I have to open my heart up to you guys and tell you 7 things about me that you don’t already know. Hmm, tough one…

  1. I used to be a city swimmer and one of my records (set almost 20 years ago) still stands today. 
  2. I wrote a play aged about nine or ten at school for drama club but my friends’ dad said it was too sensitive as the main thread of the story was about a character’s grandma dying. Apparently, I’ve always had a knack for writing stories that aren’t exactly light-hearted!
  3. Two weeks ago I finally revealed to my brother that the letter he received from Chessington World of Adventures after writing to them, aged five, regarding a new roller coaster he designed was fake. My dad had been kind enough to mock-up a letter in response to my brother’s design. I thought my brother already knew and I was absolutely devastated when I saw his face drop in realisation.
  4. I’m terrified of fish and pictures of fish. I don’t suppose I’ll ever do any diving or snorkeling.
  5. I have very strict rules about how I eat food. For example, I only allow myself to eat certain flavours of crisps depending on the sandwich filling. If I’m eating a salad or a roast dinner, I am only allowed to eat veg together in the same mouthful (E.G. potato and carrots on the same forkful are ok but I wouldn’t add meat into this).  I can’t bear the thought of a tuna melt as cheese and tuna, to me, seem completely wrong. I have to separate M’n’Ms and Skittles into colours, I couldn’t eat a mixture – that would just be bizarre.
  6. Throughout my life, my dad has potentially told me hundreds of lies (as a joke, nothing too serious) and I’m still just finding out the truth regarding some of them. For example, he told me that eating raw mushrooms would kill you. 
  7. I once asked The Boy Wonder if ‘The Simpsons’ were yellow because they had been affected by the nuclear power station in Springfield. According to him, it’s just because they’re a cartoon. 

So, now I’ve revealed myself to be a terrible big sister, an idiot, an OCD eater and  a depressive writer from a young age, it’s now my turn to pick my top blogs. Here they are (in no particular order):

  1. Gemma Wilford. Gemma’s blog ‘Missuswolf’s StoryLand’ is about sharing her reading and writing with the world. Like me, Gemma is on a mission to publish her first novel before she is thirty. I worked with Gemma on the second ‘I Am Woman’ anthology and am a big fan of her writing.
  2. Mark Taylor. According to his blog: “Mark occasionally has too much time on his hands and thought he’d share his love of watching random nonsense with a world which doesn’t, and in fact shouldn’t, care.” That is not true – I care, as should the rest of you!
  3. Maria Smith. Maria is a writer of dark fiction, urban fantasy and paranormal stories. Why do I love her blog? She has a weekly “goal list” and reviews her targets from the previous week. However, the best thing about her blog is her monthly Small Pleasures – a lovely idea.
  4. Rachel Cochrane. Rachel runs Listen Up North, a website based in North East England, featuring audio drama, short stories, poetry, extracts of novels and interviews. Rachel also had her poem ‘Sisters’ Away Day’ featured in the first ‘I Am Woman’ anthology.
  5. Allison Davies. Allison is a very dear friend of mine who is not only an amazing script writer but a philanthropist too: she runs a fair trade jewellery business with two friends. You can read more about that at Danusha. To read more of her wonderful writing, please check out her blog, Found Poet.
  6. Claire McGowan: The author of ‘The Fall‘ (a great book I read last year) incorporates her blog into her full website. With handy hints for writers and debunking writing myths as well as some interesting articles on relationships and more!

OK, I cheated and chose six. My thanks again to Gerry McCullough, I had a great time writing this post.

Vic x