Saying No Should Be Guilt Free

Today in my inbox was an enquiry from an editor asking if I’d be willing to submit an article for a new online publication. At first I rubbed my hands together with glee thinking this could be a new opportunity to have some new work published and a new revenue stream.

The email went on to say that he/she (gender unknown) had read several of the articles I’d written in the past for various publications both online and print. Also the sender talked about my years as a writer for Italy Magazine and how they were looking for some Italian travel and culture related articles. I was pleased that he/she hadn’t just chosen to copy and paste past features. (This has happened before and leads to threats of legal action and unpleasantness.)

Italy Magazine Online Bio.

I read through the email and am thankful that the person writing to me has done some research and knows a little about me, including having knowledge of my other blog I looked for the part of the message that mentioned fees and came across a statement that told me that no payments will be made, but I can be content in the knowledge that my work has been published and it could bring me more readers.

This got me thinking about how many emerging writers will write for no payment. Now my opinion is, if it’s for something prestigious that will look good on your CV then yes go for it. But if it’s for an editor who’ll be making money from readers’ clicking on adverts etc then say no. You can always sell your copy to a publication that will pay you for your toil, all it takes is determination and drive.

So as I reply thanking him/her for the message I decline saying no, but if in the future there’s payment for the copy then do contact me again.

Never feel guilty about saying no, just remember that your energy supplier won’t give you free electricity just so you can tell everyone how great they are. And restaurants don’t hand out free meals hoping it’ll gain them more diners. If you work then you deserve to be paid.

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Widows and Workmen

Today I was looking through the drafts that I had put together for this blog and noticed the next one was due to be called, “Finding the Time to Write’. I then looked at the last post I had written and saw that it was in May, three-months ago. Would Alanis sing about it being ‘Ironic?’

This made me think about why I’d neglected to write any posts and I came up with two reasons. Widows being one. I’m currently writing my third novel and it’s been my most pleasurable so far. I’m 78,000 words into draft one and despite it being 6 weeks overdue I do have a good excuse.

Widows’ United, is the story of five women who meet at a widows forum and become firm friends. They form their own club – hence the name – and together they support each other through their first year of losing their husbands. There’s lots of humour within the chapters and some surprises and dark secrets too.

I think I’ve enjoyed writing this story because it has been my first time moving away from a first person narrative; I think when you’ve spent most of your writing career as a monologue producer and playwright and a magazine features writer, you do develop a more insular, singular way of writing regarding the POV.

Photo (C) and courtesy of

So why the delay? What’s my excuse?


We’ve had our old roof replaced which has meant weeks of scaffolding up around the house casting shadows inside that made it similar to living in a cave. Creative writing is difficult with workmen clattering around above your head as they fit new slates. We’re also in the process of having all the doors and windows replaced so we’ve got draughty open spaces, more workmen and a barking dog that hates all the disruption. None of which are conducive to allowing your imagination to run riot.

Is it a valid excuse? I’m not sure. I could have sloped off maybe and found myself a table in the corner of a café or maybe a park bench, but as I require a specific set up perhaps that wouldn’t have worked.

So all said, The scaffolding is down, the roof is now complete and I’m thrashing away with just twelve chapters to write before the first draft is finished – then the hard work starts.

Many thanks to Stitchfinity for the permission to use their image above. Run by friends Annie and Alison Stitchfinity create contemporary and original cross stitch designs. Check them out at

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Mum’s Chair

I had the privilege of being an arc reader for this new novel and it’s a superb read.

Misha Herwin

Mum at 491

My Reading Chair

When Mum died and we had to empty her flat my brother sister and I had to move out all her stuff. We’d agreed among ourselves which pieces we each would have and I got Mum’s easy chair. It was something I’d always wanted, partly because, being small, it was the perfect size for me. Sitting in it, my feet touch the ground which is not often true of today’s overblown over-sized sofas and chairs. What I also love is its shape. Its button back and upright arms cradle the sitter, so that sitting in it is almost like being held.

And then of course there are the memories it holds. For years it stood in Mum and Dad’s living room, in the house where the three of us grew up. It was where Mum sat when people came round, when first I and the kids visited…

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20th July is the new 6×6!

It’s back. 6×6 at the library. 6 readings of original work by local writers each lasting just 6 minutes. That’s 36 minutes of new and diverse writing and a cuppa and biscuit too – what’s not to like.

6x6 Writers Cafe

We have the green light for a July 6×6!

Covid restrictions will apply so we shall be updating you all on the whys and wherefores close to the date, but meanwhile keep the 20th July free.

So looking forward to seeing you all then!

Writers: if you can have you submissions in by 30th June that would be fabulous!  See the guidelines page of this blog for notes on how to send in your subs.

6x6 flyer july 2021 1_edited-2

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Crossing the Line

Today I received an email from an author – nothing unusual in that you may think, but this was from an author I have never met but have read. In June 2020 I read one of this author’s books and subsequently went on to review it. I gave the book three stars and pointed out why I didn’t think it merited a higher score and also my personal observations.

So why the email?

It was asking me to rethink my review, to redraft it – in essence rewrite it. Why I wondered, and then a look at Amazon showed that my three star review was the first one showing below his book on their page, meaning it was the first one people thinking of buying it had the option of reading. It didn’t seem to matter that below it was two, five star reviews. It was mine the author singled out to respond to.

Ten months seems a long time to react to an unfavourable review. Or is there such a wealth of them that it’s taken so long to get to mine? (I haven’t looked to see how many three or below it’s received as I’m not interested.)

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

So why this post?

Because I personally think that responding to ask a reviewer to change their opinion is an act of crossing the line. Not to mention unprofessional.

I shall not name the author here, nor, as he requested, contact him to confirm that have complied with his wishes. Maybe this will serve as a lesson that he needs to accept that not everyone will like his work and shower him with five golden stars. storytelling is a subjective thing and all producers of the written word must accept this.

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Where and What #bunchcourtney #writing @mishaherwin @BarryLillie1 @mca_debbie @CorrineLeith @bunchcourtney00 @KTScribbles @nic_writer

I feel your pain but the elation once it’s completed is worth it.

Jan Edwards

britThroughout the writing of my Bunch Courtney Investigations series, set in the imaginary  Sussex village of Wyncombe, I have always had a reasonably clear vision of what and where the various parts of my village are.

This week while writing Book 5 – A Deadly Plot, however,  I found myself rootling through back stories to check on various points mentioned in Book One – Winter Downs. Where, I asked myself,  did I say the village pharmacy was in relation to the village hall? And for the life of me I could not remember.

It was high time I sketched out a rough plan for future reference. Easy, you might think, except that I still had to skim through all of the books in the series to see how I have described various portions of Wyncombe.

Now Wyncombe is fictitious so in theory none of this should not matter, and so…

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Misha Herwin

Juggling Picture from Mick Walters design for the cover of “Juggler of Shapes”

Years ago I was featured in an article in “Writing Magazine” which took writers who were looking to be published and analysed the steps they were taking towards their goal. At the time I was writing a play, while simultaneously working on a novel and mulling over the idea for a children’s book. The play was to be performed at the school where I was a drama teacher, the novel would be sent out to a list of agents and in the meantime I would begin the children’s book.

The feedback when it came was not encouraging. Although I was commended for working hard it seemed that if I wanted to make it in the publishing world I needed to concentrate on one thing and one genre at a time. That way I could put the maximum effort…

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Lemon Chutney #recipes #cooking #lemons @BarryLillie1 @Mishaherwin

I want to try this

Jan Edwards

I have had this book for over forty years and it never ceases to surprise me with its weird and wonderful suggestions for various preserves and pickles.

What do you do when you have two lemons that are in imminent danger of getting over ripe – but don’t want to make a cake? You make Lemon Chutney! Not one I have tried before, though I have seen it in an old book – right above the recipes for lemon curd.

  • 2 large lemons
  • 1/4 lb onions
  • 2 oz sultanas
  • 1/2 oz each sea salt, mustard seeds and ground ginger
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 lb sugar
  • 3/8 pint vinegar

  • Thinly slice and chop lemons and onions
  • mix together in a bowl and sprinkle with a little salt
  • cover and leave overnight
  • put lemon and onion in a pan with a splash of water and simmer until soft
  • add rest of…

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Happy New Year and Hello to Thirty Years of Writing! @mishaherwin @writermels @BarryLillie1 @6TRcurtaincall @Jennyamphlett @KTScribbles @rachlawtonxx…

I have been tidying up my web page for the year to begin and just realised that 2021 a landmark year!  (Being terribly British this blowing of my own…

Happy New Year and Hello to Thirty Years of Writing! @mishaherwin @writermels @BarryLillie1 @6TRcurtaincall @Jennyamphlett @KTScribbles @rachlawtonxx…
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Dinner At Downturn – A Christmas Tale.

As it’s Christmas time, this week our writing group decided we should all contribute a seasonal tale, poem etc for our final meeting before the big day. So here is mine for anyone who’d like to share this with their family over lunch or better still after a few glasses of something fizzy. It’s probably unsuitable for the very young and it’s certainly not politically correct. So if easily offended, go and sit in a dark room until it’s over.

However, if you like a little frivolous nonsense, then please enjoy it, share it and banish those covid blues.

Here’s a PDF file for anyone who’d like to download it to a reader etc.

Dinner At Downturn

by Barry Lillie

Mr Burrows supervised while Aggie straightened the napkins on the festive table. As he lit the candles she reflected on her six-months at Downturn Abbey. All of the staff had welcomed her and she fitted in nicely. Lord Bothersome had turned out to be an agreeable employer, although she wasn’t keen on his new beau, the frightful Flavia. Talk below stairs had been rife the day Flavia had arrived at Downturn, “It’s scandalous,” Cook had said. “His wife, the good Lady Bothersome is just three-months buried.”

Aggie watched as the food was brought into the dining room, Cook had done his Lordship proud and at the centre of the festive feast sat a succulent looking goose. Mr Burrows ushered the staff into place in front of the festive tree as the doors opened in readiness for the guests.

First to enter the room was Lord Bothersome, dressed in nautical attire and on his arm was Flavia, her scrawny frame barely covered by a diaphanous gown. Next to arrive was his lordship’s niece Ophelia, linking arms with her latest young man Rodney. “Uncle Henry, the room looks, meravigliosa,” she said giving Flavia a sidelong glance and whose face remained flinty and emotionless. Lord Bothersome shook hands with Rodney as through the door Mr Burrows pushed inside a wheelchair containing old Lady Beaversnatch. Discreetly he whispered to his lordship that he’d site her near the door in case of emergencies and her regular bathroom requirements.

Soon the room was filled with people and Claudia looking resplendent in green listened to the guests who stood around chatting and sipping their sherry. “Would you like a top-up before lunch?” Rodney asked the verger. “Oh I mustn’t,” Nancy Boyes said, and as he went to walk away she grabbed at his arm and thrust out her empty glass saying, “Just a small one. The vicar knows Nancy can’t handle a large one.” Rodney was topping up her glass when booming laughter came from over by the door. Godfrey Butts-Rimming was regaling Ophelia and Lady Beaversnatch with tales of his latest holiday on the continent while his sister Hortense stood by, shyly glancing over at the reverend who was standing silently beside the tree.

“I do hope you shall all enjoy this splendid spread that Cook has prepared for us,” Lord Bothersome said loudly to his guests. “Will you be carving the bird Henry?” Godfrey bellowed.

“I’m afraid not old chap, my wrist is rather sore after yesterday.”

“What happened yesterday your Lordship?” asked Nancy, as her sherry glass was refilled again.

“We had our usual December frolic together on the estate,” Godfrey boomed.

“Yes,” his lordship said. “What fun, and I shot a load, didn’t I Godfrey?”

“You certainly did Henry.”

“How many was it, eight or nine?”

“Ten your lordship. Three partridge, three pheasant a grouse and two mallard.”

A hush descended upon the room as a man wearing a black cape and with hair as black and shiny as treacle entered. “Splendid, you made it. Everybody,” Lord Bothersome said commanding attention. “Let me introduce you to my new friend, Count Olaf.” The little man in black bowed deeply and walked around the room shaking the men’s hands and kissing those of the ladies. Mr Burrows looking at his pocket watch ushered the staff back to work and they assisted the guests with their seating before removing the covers from the food. There followed lots of oohing and aahing before Lord Bothersome stood up. “Welcome my friends, before we begin, I’d like to call upon the Revered here to say grace.” A little whoop came from the table and all eyes drifted across towards Hortense who blushed and looked down at her lap in shame.

“So Flavia,” the count said, “Which part of Italy are you from?” There was no response and when he started to question her again, Ophelia said, “I’m sorry Flavia speaks no English.” And then as an aside to Rodney she whispered, “Or recognises Italian.”

“Why do you say that?” he asked.

“Earlier I told uncle the room was marvellous, I translated the word into Italian and there was no recognition of her native language upon her face.”

Mr Burrows began carving the bird as the girls from below stairs exited quietly. Claudia spotted Aggie looking back over her shoulder to take one last look at the merry meal and winked at her, though she was certain Aggie hadn’t seen her, in fact apart from a sneer she’d received from Lady Beaversnatch, no one seemed to have noticed her.

Wine was being poured and Nancy Boyes held out her glass eagerly, earning her a serious look from the vicar. “Lovely service at the church last week,” Hortense said. “I do like a rousing carol at this time of the year.”

“So do I,” Godfrey bawled. “And for the rest of the year I like a lusty Lucinda and an agreeable Annie.” Embarrassed by her brother’s remark, Hortense turned her attention to the count. “Tell me Count where are your family from?”

“Originally Moscow but we now reside over the border in Belarus.”

“Moscow, you say. Pray tell me are you related to the family Romanov?”

“Not at all my good lady, I’m Olaf the Third, one of the famous Crackingoneoff’s”

As conversation overtook, Claudia watched as eyes darted over the table taking in the dishes laid out before them, only Rodney appeared to have noticed her, everyone else had passed her by with a look of disdain. She couldn’t help being rather squat and rotund, all her family had been fat and round and one can’t be held responsible for one’s genetics.

Nancy Boyes, her wine glass now refreshed, wished everyone a Merry Christmas and the sound of cutlery on porcelain increased in volume as the guests tucked into their lunch. Suddenly a deep baritone voice exclaimed, “Ee ba gum, that gravy’s reet grand.” Everyone’s eyes fell upon Flavia.

“Ha!” Ophelia said rather loudly, surprising old lady Beaversnatch, causing her to break wind loudly. “So, you’re not an Italian.”

“’Fraid not. I’m not a lady either. Me name’s not Flavia, eet’s Fred and am from Batley Carr, near Dewsbury.”

“Oh my,” Hortense said. “Does his lordship know you’re a chap?”

“Ay does that. Why dost think ay’s dressed as a sailor boy.” At this his lordship flushed, Godfrey choked on a parsnip and Nancy slid off her chair and under the table.

During the commotion no one noticed the young spunk Rodney, as he reached across the table and took Claudia into his hands and pulled her towards himself. As she reached him, his lips parted and she could smell the sweet sherry on his breath and her heart fluttered in anticipation. His velvety tongue caressed her before his molar descended upon her and she sighed aloud. For it was the sound of a happy sprout on Christmas day.

Disclaimer: No Brussels sprouts were harmed in the creation of this nonsense.

© Barry Lillie 2020

Have a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year everyone, stay safe and take a little time to check on those spending the season alone. Let’s spread a little love rather than the virus at the close of 2020.

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