Wednesday 27 April 2022

Leela Dutt


 Hi – this is my first post on Gill’s blog.  I’m LEELA DUTT and I’ve just published a collection of eleven short stories called FRESH BEGINNINGS with Bridge House. It’s a mixture of serious and hilarious, according to some of the reviews it’s had on Amazon.  What started me writing, you ask? But I’ve always written, since I learnt to read and write at around five.  Like Gill I read Enid Blyton as a child, graduating to Graham Greene and George Orwell as a teenager. Later I ran round after my own children aged ten downwards, seeking out the second-hand bookshops of Bangalore and Madras to buy copies of Enid Blyton. 

Frankly, routines have gone out the window since the children left home.  As for calling myself a writer, I didn’t seriously think of doing that until just the other day, when Gill hosted the launch of FRESH BEGINNINGS and she interviewed me.  But yes, people do understand what I’m doing; my husband publishes philosophy books and articles all the time, and the children assume that we are both writers.

What am I most proud of?  A novel I wrote ten years ago called ONLY A SIGNAL SHOWN, which is a long-distance love story incorporating many of the places I have been to – Nigeria, Rome, the Denmark that my Danish mother took me to, Kolkata which was my father’s home, South Africa, Lesotho, Iceland, Australia, the USA…  and so on. People liked it but it didn’t attract much attention, and so I’ve just signed a contract with 186 Publishing to rewrite it, a job I’m enjoying enormously.  My goals for the future include getting this novel the best it can be, and writing some more short stories for another possible Bridge House collection – if FRESH BEGINNINGS  sells well enough!

Writers who have inspired me?  A mixed bag, but foremost I’d have to say Penelope Lively – I’ve always read everything she writes. In recent years my husband and I both read all the Botswana novels by Alexander McCall Smith as they come out, and also Lindsey Davis’s crime novels about ancient Rome – I enjoy the ones about Falco’s daughter more than the original ones about Falco himself.  I’ve come late to Val McDermid’s crime novels, long after she became so famous, but I love them now because they are so meaty – full of twists and turns, characters that I’ve come to know and enjoy.  In particular her novel about the war in Croatia stays in my mind still.


Saturday 16 April 2022

Frequently asked question: where do you get your ideas from?


Book, Old, Surreal, Fantasy, Pages

Dreaded question

This is the question I always used to dread on school visits.  Not: how old are you, are you rich and famous or do you know J.K Rowling? In comparison with this question, those are easy to answer. For many of my works, certainly for my very early ones, I have no idea where the ideas came from; the stories were just there. 

Plucked out of the air

Yes, it did seem that they were plucked out of the air. One well-known writer indeed makes a feature of sprinkling invisible magic fairy dust over the students to give them ideas for their writing. If only.

People watching

Many writers, myself included, enjoy people-watching, Stories come from that:  just why are there so many distraught–looking people in the big out-of- town store’s café just after 6 p.m.? Oh I know. There are a few affairs coming to a close here. How did that young man become homeless? Whys is that colleague so temperamental? We make up plausible stories.

In fact, many of us become so good at this that we could take on another role as a private eye. I wasn’t at all surprised when a couple announced they were getting married, even though she was twenty years older than him. I’d seen it coming. Nor when a colleague left the school where we taught and set herself up as a financial advisor. Nor when a friend decided she didn’t want children.

We get so good at this that we know the way a film or a book is going to finish long before the end comes. We know how life works and we know how story works.

This doesn’t entirely spoil the fun; the figuring out brings its own pleasures.

And in fact life is presenting us with stories over and over.    


I enjoy working with prompts. They force the creativity a little. It’s good exercising that muscle. I’ve also enjoyed creating prompts for other people.

I have edited three books of wring prompts. Find them here.

My Writing Teacher blog often features prompts. Take a look here.

My U3A creative wring class meets twice a month and I set them a prompt each time.

I’ll often post a picture on Twitter as a wring prompt, also adding a few hints at how writers might interpret the picture.

At any time I can use any of these prompts to direct my own writing. Why should anyone ever run out of ideas?

One story leads to another

My Schellberg Cycle is indeed a cycle. As I wrote about a child who came to England on the Kindertransport, I then became fascinated with her grandmother who died in Treblinka. Part of the first story is about how a school for disabled children was saved from the Nazis.  I felt compelled to explore the motives of the ordinary girls who allowed the children to escape. As I have told the story of the daughter and grandmother, I must tell the mother’s story.  After all she almost changed history. And what about the ordinary German girls who were left behind? Their story came next. One of the girls lodges with her aunt who seems to know a lot about what’s going on. Ah, she also deserves a book of her own. And so it goes on.      

Retelling the same story

According to Christopher Booker, there are anyway only seven stories. His book is quite convincing. In fact, even the cover of his book is convincing. See it here.  And there are stories all around that we can clone, adapt and bring up to date: stories from the Bible and other religious books, fairy stories, stories form Shakespeare and stories from our favourite soaps. Why are Cinders’ sisters the way that they are? Why is that funny old man building such a big boat? What would a modern day Romeo and Juliet look like?   

Family histories 

Our families are full of rich stories. All families become interesting if we tell their story effectively. If I ever finish my Schellberg cycle I would love to tell my grandmothers’ stories: brought up in the back-to-back slums in  Birmingham, managed to get  a job in the jewellery  quarter, became a greengrocer, made hats, was a tailoress, had nine children, became the wisewoman of the street …. And much more.

Vivien Dockerty does this brilliantly. Take a look.   

 So then tell me, where do you get your ideas from?

Friday 15 April 2022

Peter Foster

 Today I welcome on to my blog Lancashire Authors' Association member Peter Foster: 



What do you write?

I write mainly poetry, although I have written a few short stories, none of which have been submitted for publication. I’m not entirely sure as to why I prefer to write poetry. I suppose it stems from a love of folk music and story songs in general and the way that a song or a poem can put across a message in a concise and often memorable manner.


What got you writing in the first place?

I’ve always enjoyed poetry and verse and wrote a little but didn’t consider writing seriously until the early nineties when I enrolled on a creative writing course at Runshaw College. I then dabbled a little for my own interest but nothing serious, then shortly after retirement, I joined Sid Calderbank’s Monday dialect group which reignited my interest in writing.


Do you have a particular routine?

I don’t have a routine. Initially it was just ideas that came to me through daily life. Then as I progressed if I saw a suggested topic that appealed I would have a try at it. Now it’s a mixture of both.


Do you have a dedicated working space?

 I don’t have a particular work space.


When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?

I had never considered calling myself a ‘writer’ until I began reciting some of my work at ‘Acoustic Cabaret’ events hosted by Phil and Sorrel Harty of Music for All, where I began to be asked if my poems were published. Encouraged by the response from my recitals I began try to find a publisher and discovered Leslie Atherton who was then presenting an internet radio show featuring poetry and verse and it was Leslie who persuaded me to compile a collection for publication. The result was The Dream and the Flowers, which became available on Amazon in March 2021. Now I compare my writing to gardening, which I enjoy although I don’t derive any income from it but I consider myself a gardener. The same applies to my writings: despite earning little or no income from it; I write, therefore I think I can call myself a writer.

You can find my book The Dream and The Flowers: A Collection of Traditional Style Verse in Standard English and Dialect here.


How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?

I receive very good support from friends and family.


What are you most proud of in your writing?

Until recently the publication of my collection would have been my proudest moment but that has now been trumped by winning the Lancashire Authors Batty Cup.


How do you get on with editing and research?

Fine, I try to make sure that any points I make in my writing are accurate.


Do you have any goals for the future?

As for future goals it would be good to put another collection out sometime.


Which writers have inspired you?

I’ve read many of the canonical poets but think as far as drawing inspiration my choice would have to be Seamus Heaney for the way in which he takes everyday activities and objects, many from his farming background, and gives them weight and meaning relating to the wider world.

Along with the classic Dickens and Bronte novels I also admire the eighteenth century satirists such as Swift and Smollett and feel that the late Terry Pratchett would compare favourably with them. The modern novelists that I enjoy include Michael Connolly, James Lee Burke and C J Box.