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About

This website will tell you about my writing and about me. I hope it will interest you and make you want to read more of my work.

New Work

I’m currently working on a biography of an unusual couple – he was gay and she was disabled - who achieved much when apart and more when married. Constance Smedley and Maxwell Armfield were born towards the end of the 1800s, and both of them attended Birmingham School of Art, though not at the same time.

They had completely different personalities, and they lived most of their lives in London, the USA and the Cotswolds. Despite her disability, Constance’s energetic successes included setting up The Lyceum, (a ground-breaking International Women’s club), creating community theatres in the UK and in the US, and writing over 40 books, mostly novels. Meanwhile Maxwell, whose priority was always his calm and seriously focussed attention on painting, also produced many book illustrations, costumes and scenery. Furthermore, he was a thoughtful and steady writer of a range of books.

I am finding the Armfield’s lives intriguing, and my research has – so far – included such disparate subjects as Quakerism, goldmines, pageants, the women’s movement and modern dance.

However, there is another unexpected dimension to my book-in-progress, which is that soon after starting to write it, I discovered that my father and Maxwell Armfield had been close friends for just a few years as the war was coming to an end. This has altered what I intended to do and how I was going to do it. The project has therefore become quite an adventure. It’s now nearing the end of 2019, and I’ve a long way to go. But that’s what I’m up to right now.

I wish you the very best for 2020.

Books

A biography: Lady Sue Ryder of Warsaw, Single Minded Philanthropist

Writing this biography can best be described as an adventure, albeit a steady one which has taken me about two years. The research path led through many places including Suffolk villages, various museums, Audley End (a 15th century country house in Essex) and Warsaw. As well as getting to know my subject, who could be head-strong, empathetic and inspirational in turn, I’ve learned more about WW2, about Poland, and disability. My focus of course has been on Sue Ryder and the positive difference she devoted her life to making.

Poetry

A narrative poem: The Lewis Chessmen

Another project began when I came across the story of the Lewis Chessmen. In 1831 a group of 12th century chessmen were found near Uig beach in Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides. I was intrigued by this and soon found myself in a small plane on a clear December day heading for Stornoway. I started to work on my narrative poem as I looked down on islands, the sea, lochs, mountains and valleys.

Both of my newest books have required plenty of historical research which is a part of writing I enjoy greatly.

Radio Interviews

Shortly before my book on Sue Ryder was published I was interviewed on Woman’s Hour and on BBC Radio Suffolk.

To listen to those interviews, click on the audio players below.
BBC Woman's Hour
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BBC Radio Suffolk
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Talks

I am available to give readings and talks about my novels and writing. I also give talks specifically about John Howard and Sue Ryder, and I run writing workshops. I work with groups such as U3As, local history groups, colleges, libraries, schools and WIs.

Please contact me if you would like to discuss how I might best contribute to your organisation.

Mentoring

I have worked for The Literary Consultancy reading manuscripts and mentoring writers for many years. I have discovered that helping people to improve their writing means that I reflect more on my own work: a real benefit for me as well as for them.

There’s a skill to encouraging people who are hungry to do well. It’s a pleasure to encourage and praise novice writers but finding the right questions – ones that will actually support and develop them – can be tricky. But it’s work I very much enjoy.
tessa

Site last updated: 11-10-19