Friday, 7 October 2016

24th September saw the one day Short Story Workshop in action by Tracy Baines and Margaret Graham

24th September saw the one day Short Story Workshop in action by Tracy Baines and Margaret Graham

Words for the Wounded was really lucky to have one of the UKs most successful genre short story writers, Tracy Baines, joining founder and author Margaret Graham to teach the mechanics of short story writing and marketing.

Fifteen willing participants arrived with Margaret kicking off the day with the nuts and bolts of structure. As she said, she was pretty much Dobbin the carthorse preparing the ground for the thoroughbred, Tracy, to discuss and share the essential specifics of the short story.

Tracy Baines has been writing short stories for women’s magazine for many years, selling to magazines all over the world.  So once Margaret had made sure that the components of fiction had been accessed and understood, reinforcing this understanding with various exercises, Tracy took over, galloping over all the fences, and galvanising the willing participants to follow.

Again there were loads of exercises, and invaluable advice and help.

It was a fun day, that everyone enjoyed, and there have been many requests for follow up day workshop on the novel, which will be held in the new year.  This time it will be Margaret teaching, though Tracy will be along for the ride. As Michael Rowan explained to someone, it was pretty much a good cop, bad cop routine. (Well, really…) So guess which cop it is for the Novel Workshop.

Those who attended were encouraged to send in a follow up short story, just so the two mentors could make sure that their attendees were on the way. So, fun and progress, what could be better?

Remember, the WforW Independent Author Book Award for self-published books of any genre – fiction/non-fiction opens for entries on 11 November 2016. See the website ( on 11 November for full details. Our inaugural winner, Jane Cable,  was taken by a literary agent and is to be published by an independent Publisher, Endeavour, shortly- more on this soon, and last year’s winner, Dr Kathleen Thompson’s  From Both Ends of the Stethoscope is now selling internationally and has attracted a great deal of interest.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Yer what - £1050 raised at the WforW LitFest Day on 16th April?

By Margaret Graham

How great is that

‘Make it, and they’ll come’ or so Kevin Costner’s film went. Well, we’ve ‘made’ the WforW LitFest for the 2nd year running, at the Downley Community Centre and the audience has come – from as far away at Lyme Regis in Dorset, Salisbury, and London, as well as the immediate vicinity.

It seems that not only is my village of Downley, High Wycombe, building a reputation for hosting arts events, but news of the Words for the Wounded jamborees is on the march.

As founder and administrator, I was, on the day, momentarily tempted to behave, but that became a step too far. With my other two grannies, Jan Speedie and Penny Deacon, plus the Graham family catering team (including honorary Graham, Josh Edwards) we welcomed the audience with Starbucks coffee and the day began.

Matt Pain, a trustee of WforW opened the event, before introducing Elizabeth Buchan, No 1 bestselling author and a patron of WforW. Elizabeth and I chatted about her latest bestseller, the evocative and intriguing I Can’t Begin to Tell You, set in Denmark during the war. It is an intricately plotted novel, and the audience found it inspiring and encouraging to see how this excellent author worked. 

Dick Graham, him indoors, was allowed out for the day to act as taxi driver, though he was refused a uniform because where would it all end?

He swopped Elizabeth at the station for Jemima Hunt, Literary Agent and Editor of The Writers’ Practice who was introduced by Penny. Jemima hammered home the need for editing one’s work. But more than that, she talked about the books and authors she represented, explaining how even memoir needed to be shaped and the core story drawn out, to create a satisfying read.

Lunch was extended this year to 90 minutes. This worked well, and gave more time for chatting networking and buying raffle tickets.

Tracy Baines, the hugely successful genre short story writer swept aside the fug of lunchtime wine by explaining the need to accept rejections and criticism as help, not as a condemnation of the writer as a person, and how important it was to write to a market. She didn’t leave aspiring writers dangling though, but instead loaded her talk with helpful hints. Tracy and I are joining forces to offer a WforW Day Workshop in Short Story Writing on September 24th  at Downley Community Centre.

Catherine Balavage, author, owner and editor of Frost Magazine, spoke of blogging, and how it is necessary to write in a different way for digital magazines. Apart from the universal need to  grab the attention of the reader quickly, she emphasized the importance of images, and keeping the text even more succinct and accessible than usual, as the attention span wavers more than when reading print.  (Please note the plethora of photographs in this blog).

Paul Vates, well known actor and playwright, read excerpts of the speakers’ works before each talk, which really lifted the day, and Sharon Bennett and Julie Winters exhibited their art.

The raffle brought in over £250 thanks to the huge, (honestly) generosity of our own Downley Tesco Express, and MyLocal, and various well known companies, as well as pictures by our guest artists.

Arrow, my publishers, gave free books for the audience.

We are truly grateful to the above and all those who helped to make it such a good day.

The success of the day, and the money raised, will help WforW’s work enormously. We are one of the few charities where the expenses are absorbed by the team, which means that every penny raised goes to where it’s needed.

Such was the interest in Tracy Baines talk, that she has generously agreed to join me in holding a Short Story Day Workshop on 24th September at Downley Community Centre, with all proceeds going to Words for the Wounded. For more details: or 01494 630713.

I will put up more information in a couple of weeks.


Monday, 4 April 2016

The WforW LitFest Day on April 16th

By Margaret Graham

The WforW LitFest Day on April 16th 
 fast approaches.

The venue: 
Downley Community Centre, School Close, 
Downley, High Wycombe HP13 5TR.

The line up of speakers is incredibly exciting.

Elizabeth Buchan, one of our patrons and No 1 Sunday Times bestselling author, is our keynote speaker. She will kick off the day in what I know will be her usual hilarious and knowledgeable style. I will be in conversation with her, though whether I will get a word in edgeways remains to be seen.

She’ll be talking about I Can’t Begin to Tell You, her latest bestselling novel set in Denmark in the 2nd World War. Or she will if I have anything to do with it because it’s such a great book, and I want to know the background to it: the research, the characters, and how she actually writes. I wonder what she’s working on now? Well, we’ll find out.

We also have Jemima Hunt, the founder of The Writer’s Practice. Jemima is a writer, editor and literary agent and she’s going to explain about the importance of editing one’s work. It’s a really tricky thing to do so I will be listening hard. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn from an expert, someone who might, in addition, be able to tell us what is likely to be the next big thing so we can get an inside edge on what we should be writing in order to be the next BIG bestseller.

This year we’ve carved out an hour and a half for lunch because chat and networking seems a vital part of our LitFest Day. Food, wine, and good conversation, what could be better?

Well, how about Tracy Baines, the doyen of the womens’ magazine short story? This whirling invigorating dervish will talk us through the ins and outs - not just of the components of short story writing - but how to write for a particular market. This of course will vastly increase the chances of selling the story and is  an invaluable guide for anyone wanting to tackle something shorter than a novel, or indeed, for someone who enjoys reading the stories in womens’ magazines. Have a look behind the scenes with Tracy, and see how it’s actually done.

* If you’ve always wanted to find out how to crack the short story market Tracy and Margaret are doing a Words for the Wounded Short Story Day Workshop in September 2016. We will be posting the details  in the summer.

Catherine Balavage,  actress, writer, blogger and owner/editor of the popular Frost Magazine is rounding off the day.

The WforW team is really thrilled that Catherine can spare the time in her busy life to support our LitFest Day, but then she is a massive friend of WforW, and this year, as last year, she is publishing the results of the Independent Author Book Award on June 6th. There will be a review of each of the top three books as well as the opportunity for each of the winners to write a feature for publication in Frost Magazine.

Catherine will be in conversation with Margaret and they’ll be talking about how to blog, how to create an on-line magazine, and about her three books: on acting, weddings and the burgeoning world of blogging. 

We are delighted that Paul Vates, actor and playwright will be reading excerpts of our speakers works.

It’s going to be a great day. Margaret’s kids and the lovely Josh will be beavering behind the scenes producing coffee, tea, cakes, lunch and heaven knows what. Let’s hope they leave some wine for the rest of us.  

A few LitFest tickets are still available for the WforW LitFest ( on April 16th 9.30 – 5.00. £35 to include lunch with wine.

Tickets available from: Words for the Wounded, 12 Woodcote Green, Downley, High Wycombe, HP13 5UN. Send a cheque made out to Words for the Wounded  and a SAE.

* As you are all aware by now the three grannies who run Words for the Wounded absorb all the costs of the charity, which enables every penny raised to go to the wounded.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The fundraising mud challenge by Jan Speedie

There we were, sitting comfortably in our committee chairs at the Wellington on the Strand, London in February 2015. A  decision needed to be made between white water rafting and a muddy military assault course challenge. After a lunch with wine it’s the mud challenge for us. Our slot is booked for 23rd August 2015.

The months slip by and suddenly I realise a little training might help. So down to the local gym I go and explain what I am to do in a month’s time - they enrol me there and then. Not sure what they thought about a 70 year old Grannie doing this challenge but they were ready to get me fit and yes they managed it; not quite the size 8 I had hoped for but definitely on the way.

As for the other grannies: Penny wild swims in the sea, so is as fit as a fiddle, and Margaret? Well, Margaret does what Margaret does ...  relying on a stiff upper lip and and the occasional heave-ho from the sons-in-law, suspecting they will  let her drop - 'payback' comes to mind. 

Because, yes, the families are doing it with us, bless their hearts. So there are to be 16 of us, ranging in age from 10 to 70. 

Sponsorship is already rolling in, from those eager to help the wounded (remember 100% of everything the charity raises always goes to those in need, because the grannies absorb all costs.)

Josh, our social media guru, did it with us, of course, and Corinne, his girlfriend baked cakes for his colleagues to help the donations.

Nonie, Margaret's daughter baked cakes for her office too. We'll be able to help more and more people.

Sunday 23rd August arrived and we all met up at  Action Days Out near Dorking.  We were briefed  by the fantastic Ian and Callum Marshall, (as well as Boris, the Norfolk Terrier puppy),  on safety and team work (there is no I in team, troops).  We're off. With Ian and Callum keeping a careful eye on us all the way.

Clean and buoyant, but we hadn't yet begun

We stood looking at 3 trenches stretching over what seems miles of mud. Time to get down and dirty. This is supposedly the 'warm up'. Ho hum. Down we slid, and slogged knee deep through muddy water. We climbed up the muddy bank and completed two more trenches. It's as well there's a big tub for unwanted clothes outside the showers.

We slid down into a flowing stream and waded along, minding the booby traps that were set to send us head first into the water. 

As we rounded the corner I was faced by my worst nightmare - a tyre wall to climb but with much help, encouragement and pushing I made it over (hip joints will never be the same) and on I went wondering what lay ahead.  

Out of the stream we sprinted. Ok, we clambered, hauling some up, shoving others, and being hauled and shoved ourselves.

Then, we saw ahead of us the dreaded  ‘birthing tubes’ (oil cans linked together like chimneys, a rope). We continued to remember there is no 'I' in team, thank heavens, and while someone shoved, we tried to heave ourselves up the wretched things to get out of the river. We had  to ignore the skinned elbows, and bruised knees, not to mention the rear ends brought into use to lever ourselves up. Smiles slipped a bit here, guys.  Once out we scrambled up nets, down firemen’s poles. Honestly, never have we laughed so much, or was it hysteria?

See Nonie go and Ian's legs. 

There were rope swings across water, and oh, did I mention the pouring rain?

A scramble through more tyres.

Mart, Margaret's son in law.
She was pushing, unaware he was stuck. Not helpful.

 Up and over a wall, and these were only a few of the 30 obstacles.

And on we skipped - er, maybe not... On we staggered towards the finish, all filthy with mud but exhilarated by our efforts. In front was an old army truck we had to scramble up and over and I thought I would slip round the side, when my daughter said, 'Margaret is up there, so up you go.'

We ended the escapade by scrambling under the netting, with the blokes holding it up for everyone. Truly we worked at a team throughout, and that's what made it so amazing. After 57 minutes we were home but I can't say dry. We were absolutely filthy, soaked, bruised, skinned, but  on a ‘high’. Every single one of us, from the youngest to the oldest did every obstacle. 

We three grannies like to think positively, therefore: we all experienced a full body mud-pack and from this moment on we look 20 years younger.

Kate, Margaret's daughter took these fantastic photos, and looked after the under 10s who followed us all the way round, with the other spectators. 

Would we do it again? Yes, especially if we raised over £2000 (and it's still climbing). But think we'll probably have to consider something a little different - kayaking perhaps, but can we do that as a team? Thinking caps on.

So thanks  to all those who have sponsored us. Though of course, it's not for us, but for the men and women who need it. Yes, we are out of Afghanistan, but the wounded continue their fight and will have to for many years to come. 

For the video on Youtube of the moment when Ian told us that we must link arms and run through shallow water, under which lay quicksand. Oh yeah ... click to have a look.

For our account on Frost Magazine: click

Donations - click: To donate 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Count down to the Muddy Military Challenge - 5 days to go by Margaret

Yes, we're ticking off the days, feeling totally confident - not. But the weather is set fair for rain, of course, which will wash off the mud as we go. Well, we have to put a positive spin on these things.
Last year Penny, Jan and Annie plunged from a plane and raised a lot of money. Grannie Graham couldn't do it at the last moment because of an old injury. So disappointing, but this year we decided to stay earthbound.
Penny drifting on the thermals

So, the whole Words for the Wounded team, together with our families will be present and correct,  for the Mud Challenge arranged by   Nonie, Josie and Meg deserve a special mention because they're coming straight from the airport after enjoying a holiday in Zante.
Josh, our lovely PR bloke has been hard at work creating photos to illustrate the fun of it all?!

Jan in a refreshing mud bath

You will note that we are smiling. These smiles will stay pinned on our faces on the day.
Margaret stroking through...
I feel that our smiles would be good and broad, if those scaling the wall below were actually to be with us on the day. I gather there will be ex-servicemen shouting at us from the sidelines, but we've got grandkids so they're chicken feed. The tunnels might well be an opportunity for a little rest...

As well as the above hurdles, there are streams to ford, tunnels to crawl through, this, that and the other to overcome - 30 in all. 
This year we are supporting Combat Stress, Forces Support, Veterans with Dogs, and The Limbless Veterans (Blesma) and individuals.

So, the Words for the Wounded writing competition is over, the LitFest Day put to bed, soon the Mud Challenge will be a distant memory. Is that it? 

We'll be telling you more very soon about the Chindi's Words for the Wounded LitFest weekend , that the fantastic Chindi writers of Chichester are organising to raise yet more funds for WforW to help us help others.

So, back to Sunday 23 August - we will be letting you know how we do, of course. There will be photos (oh crikey) with smiles grimly in place.

If any of you feel like supporting the wounded, click on the link, because every penny Words for the Wounded raises goes to the wounded. We absorb all costs. Thanks so much to everyone who has already contributed this year. We are so grateful.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

What a great day at the WforW Litfest Day on 18th April! by Margaret Graham

On 18th April Downley Old School Community Centre was treated to an influx of readers and aspiring writers who came to spend the day with  bestselling authors of all descriptions. Words for the Wounded, founded and run by bestselling author, Margaret Graham, with her two other writing grannie friends, Penny Deacon and Jan Speedie, planned a fantastic line-up of bestselling ‘stars’.  It proved to be a great day; funny, interesting and inspiring.

        Katie Fforde, two Midsomer Murders writers, a literary agent, two Indie authors and Penny Deacon, hilariously held the audience in the palm of their hands from 10.00- 5.00. It was an amazing opportunity to chat to these stars of the literary world, learn from them, whether reader or writer, and make new friends.  

            After Trustee Matt Pain’s welcome, Katie Fforde (patron of Words for the Wounded) was in conversation with Margaret Graham. These two bestselling writers explained the life of a professional writer and answered numerous questions. Rachel Cuperman, another patron, and Sally Griffiths, chatted with Margaret and gave away the secrets of writing scripts for one of our most successful series, Midsomer Murders. 

Lunch was organized by Jan Speedie and Margaret’s family, with smoked salmon, quiche, beef and heaven knows what, amongst a feast of other dishes, and a huge range of salads, not to mention as much wine as you liked, finished with desserts and coffee.

            In the afternoon the fun continued with an Indie writers’ question and answer panel - Amanda Hatter and Catriona Troth enlightened us all. 

          Felicity Trew, a literary agent from the highly respected agency Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency presented a powerpoint presentation and answered questions. Here's Penny Deacon with Felicity.

           Penny Deacon ended the day talking of the difference between Mills and Boon writing and crime. 

The mixed media artist, Sharon Bennett,  displayed and sold her work. 

The day was strongly supported by the Community Centre, who discounted the hire fee for the charity, Tesco who provided cakes, coffee and champagne (for the raffle) Morrisons for the cheese, The Wellington on the Strand with a voucher for the raffle, Sharon Bennett – a print, and the lovely Katie Fforde gave  a signed copy of her latest book, published by Random House, The Vintage Wedding. 

£1500 was raised for our wounded servicemen and women, with £250 of that being raised by the raffle. As I said, at the start of this post, it was fantastic day. 

Mark 16th April 2015 in your diaries for the next one. We have Elizabeth Buchan best selling author (another patron!), Jemima Hunt, literary agent,  Tracy Baines, successful genre short story writer and Catherine Balavage, actor, writer and founder of e-magazine Frost Magazine. (Many have already reserved their places Margaret 01494 630713.  To read a more detailed review, go to 
     * Margaret Graham’s latest novel, published by Random House is released on 21rd May. Easterleigh Hall at War, sequel to the bestselling Easterleigh Hall.