Una Rose – Author

Putting the world to write!

Life in the slow lane


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I have for the best part of my life been spent in a rush. It comes with being a parent, working as a journalist and having an insatiable appetite for adventure and change. So it was going to happen, that I was finally going to crash.

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with CFS/ME, although that is just a label when doctors cannot really diagnose a condition. What it has meant is that I have had to slow right down, and so things like tweeting and blogging have had to be put aside while I regain my strength (which I am happy to report is on the rebound). But this enforced partial shutdown on activity has given me something I haven’t had in quite some time, time to think. Part of the recommended recovery plan from ME/chronic fatigue is to meditate, which I simply cannot do, but I have instead used that downtime to plan my next few sagas.

I am already mid-way through writing a children’s tale, set in the old town of Leigh-on-Sea where I live. I don’t want to give away too much right now but it is a time-travelling adventure story, with a haphazard wizard (Harry Potter he is not!) and a cast of fascinating characters from cocklers to suffragettes in some real quirky locations. The wizard lives in an actual turret attached to the library and uses the tunnels dug by the smugglers to avoid the customs men and the press gangs.

I am writing this in a studio I have been given to use for free for a month, which comes with an amazing view of the estuary which is where the heart of the story takes place (see picture below of that view!) The studio is in an 19th century fishermen’s chapel (founded in 1749) recently taken over by an arts focused group. I feel that the white-washed walled chapel with incredibly scenic stained glass window, depicting the lives of the local community, must also make a cameo role in the story. The Thames estuary is also a key part in the story, and in this part of the river, so do the startling mudflats which are so expansive they have their own names!

And I must fess up that I am writing this book with my children’s assistance! It is fantastic to tap into the incredibly fertile imaginations of young people and inspire them to write also. My youngest who just turned 11 last month, is already writing her own animal story and has already penned a song she’d like to offer to One Direction! Mum may not be the best at everything but they do like it that I can tell stories. I remember them being bored in a queue a few years ago as we waited to visit the Eiffel Tower. I began telling them a funny story about a race to the top by their toys and soon I had a little gathering of other children in the queue listening to me.

My girls are also both inspired to create artwork for the book, getting their talent for drawing from their dad and granny! They watched with great interest as I worked last year with an author and artist to publish another local book set in the Thames Estuary region called Festival of the Gargoyles, which is set in the mid 1880s, featuring a feisty young lady able to take on the might of the gargoyles and other creatures in her quest for justice and honesty. She is joined by a menagerie of wild animals and a gypsy boy who come to her rescue when the smugglers stick her out in that mud I described earlier! I attach some of the drawings (credit David Hurell) from the Festival of the Gargoyles book by Robert Hallmann (isbn 9780957063518).

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Illustrations are becoming less common in books and yet can often tell more than the writer. Just think of how Quentin Blake has brought to life the Roald Dahl series. The walls of my studio is covered in artwork by a local illustrator which has me in stitches every time I take a break and look at it.

Like Robert, I take great inspiration from our locale. Essex gets a bad name (no thanks to the likes of TV shows like The Only Way is Essex TOWIE) where people apparently dress in white stilettos, men in open shirts drive flash cars and is a land of shopping malls and tacky Dallas style houses and yet it is an amazing landscape of crumbling castles, smugglers’ coves, marshy terrains and chocolate box-style villages. Old Leigh is especially unique with a thriving fishing community that dates back to the 9th century Doomsday Book and many pubs and buildings over 200 years old. How can an author not be inspired?Image

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