Sunday, 13 March 2011

Is there life beyond chicklit?

At a recent writers' conference I met some very interesting fellow writers, most of them women over the age of 40. Whilst chatting about each other's work, we discovered that we're all writing something similar - that is, upbeat stories for women who are past the first flush of youth.

The younger market - 20 to 35 year old - has a wonderful selection of authors to choose from, all producing fun, exciting, hopeful stories that cheer the heart. For women beyond this market, available literature is sparse and, where it exists, often tackles issues like a husband leaving for a younger woman, problem teenagers, decrepit parents or depression over the empty nest.

Speaking as a woman of 50+ I find that these novels might reflect a part of women's lives but they mostly leave out the fun, energy and ambition we all still possess. Of my contemporaries, two have recently embarked upon happy new relationships; another has started a successful business; one has achieved promotion that takes her all over the world and another loves the fact that an empty nest gives her and her husband time to travel when holidays are cheaper.

A completely different picture to that painted by much contemporary literature. The fabulous Jane Green is one of the few writers that has made the transition from chicklit, aging beautifully with her readership and giving us satisfying, complex stories relevant to women over 40. If she can do it, why can't more authors be given the chance?

This is therefore a plea to publishers and agents. There is a HUGE demand out there for upbeat, interesting stories pitched at women who've outgrown chicklit and moved on from finding Mr Right. If you ever receive a manuscript about older women having fun and doing something fulfilling, please give it a chance. Move on from the misery memoirs and celebrity biographies and create a new genre specifically for that massive readership with time on their hands, money in their pockets and very few great books to choose from.

If you're a reader or fellow writer, please leave a comment - I'd love to find out if you feel the same.

Laura x

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Getting down to some serious work

After leaving my characters to do all the talking over the past few months, I thought it was about time I said hello and gave you an update on The Accidental Guru.

Things are not going well. If prevarication were an Olympic sport, I'd be captain of the England team and on for a gold medal in 2012. The first draft of The Accidental Guru is finished and parts of it are just luscious (even though I do say so myself). However, it's also huge, more War & Peace than women's fiction, and the re-writes are taking for ever because Twitter is such a terrible distraction.

I love my tweeps - they're so funny and endlessly fascinating - but by the time I've checked their blog posts, the publishers' new releases and seen photos of the ladies' new shoes, the morning's gone and I've wasted hours. Every single day.

If 2,000 tweets average out at 20 words each, this adds up to a 40,000 word novella, written in bursts of 140 characters. When put like that, it brings into very sharp focus the amount of time I've spent away from my work in progress since joining Twitter.

Therefore, as well as chocolate, I'm giving up Twitter for Lent. When I took a year out to study recently, I didn't log on once and ended up earning an MA with a distinction. This time around, I'll settle for some brilliant edits and a novel of distinction ready to submit to agents.

I'd still love to hear from people though so please leave me a comment here or let me know how you're getting on by email. I can be found at Laura (dot) Essendine (at)

Wish me luck. Lots of Love - Laura x x

Monday, 28 February 2011

Colin, we love you

Aurora Sheridan, actress and radio presenter, is beside herself with excitement over Colin Firth's Oscar win last night. She hosted a drinks party so Paula, Mel and I could watch the results with her and we had a great time sitting up until the early hours drinking champagne and bitching about the dresses.

As you might imagine, Aurora peppered the commentary with many theatrical anecdotes of her own - most of which were highly questionable, if not downright slanderous. She's currently working on her memoirs entitled My Life In The Spotlight which, to be frank, makes her appearance in a yoghurt commercial sound like an Oscar-nominated role. Never one to live life with a matte finish, she gives everything her own special gloss.

One thing you have to say about Aurora Sheridan, she's never been short of self-esteem.

Knowing that we'd be feeling tender today, we all stayed over in Aurora's penthouse apartment and took the day off work. Paula's done us proud with home-made muffins for breakfast whilst Mel is throwing back the black coffee like nobody's business.

May I therefore ask you to raise your own glass of orange juice to His Royal Highness Colin Firth, who's come a very long way since that wet shirt. God save the King!

Love Judi xxx

Saturday, 22 January 2011

If it ain't broke...says Aurora

Hello fans,

Laura phoned me just before Christmas. "Aurora," she said, "I'm asking each of you to blog your new year's resolutions. I want you to let my readers know what you'd like to change about yourself in 2011".

And there lies the problem. I don't want to brag, but there's nothing about me that needs altering. I mean...I'm in great shape, I watch what I eat, buy premium beauty products and would never leave the house without make up. I'm confident, sexy, successful and have a high profile career, not to mention a great pair of boobs.

The arts programme I host on BBC Radio Sherwood Forest brings me to the attention of a wider public and I'm in constant demand for public appearances and endorsements. Wherever I go, there's a fan there with an autograph book, grateful that I'm able to shine a bit of glamour into their otherwise dull lives.

So as you see, there's absolutely nothing about me that needs altering, which is why I'm so late blogging about my plans for self-improvement during 2011. Therefore, I'm going to keep on doing what I'm doing because, if it ain't broke...

Lots of love and kisses, Aurora Sheridan x x x

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Artist Formerly Known as...

Laura's asked me to blog my new year's resolutions so here goes. I've decided that this year is going to be a little bit special. I've decided to say goodbye to the old Paula Lawrence and make room for a new Paula.

After Mum died I hit an all time low and it made me ask myself whether I wanted to spend all my time doing things for other people. Until then, my life had been full of charity work and supporting my husband, Dennis, in his career. But I thought that wanting time to myself made me incredibly selfish. My daughter, Avril, soon put me straight! She told me it was about time I started "carving out my own space" and that I shouldn't feel guilty about pursuing my own interests, even if it does leave Dennis to fend for himself occasionally.

As Dennis has been less than supportive over Mum's death, I decided to take Avril at her word. I've therefore resolved to take up painting again. I did very well in my fine art degree and even won a scholarship to study in New York. But Dennis's career was just taking off and he didn't want us to jeopardise this, so I turned my place down. I won't say I've regretted it exactly, but I have often wondered what it would have been like to spend a year in New York, living and breathing painting every day.

So, I'm changing that in 2011. This is the year when the artist formerly known as Paula Lawrence picks up her brushes again. You can read all about the consequences of this in The Accidental Guru, hopefully coming soon.

Best wishes and good luck with your own resolutions, Paula

Friday, 7 January 2011

Judi's New Year Resolutions

I begin every new year with the determination to :-

  1. lose two stone in weight
  2. take up jogging (and stick to it)
  3. read War and Peace
  4. become fluent in Spanish
  5. be more efficient over housework/ replying to school letters/ buying milk
  6. redecorate the lounge

Sadly, none of these has worked over the past decade so I'm scaling down my ambitions and aiming simply to achieve on a smaller scale.

In my alter ego as motivational guru I'd be warning you against making unrealistic resolutions because you're setting yourself up to fail by the end of January. Instead, make smaller goals, aim lower, then build on your success to achieve more. Instead of War and Peace, go for an easy read but read every day. Rather than take up jogging, go for a brisk walk every Sunday morning holding hands with your husband/ partner/ significant other. If you want to redecorate, pick up some paint charts and home decorating magazines to inspire you

But in real life, things rarely work out that way. I can't tell you how many tester pots are on the wall behind the bookcase and how many home magazines clutter up my shelves. I've turned procrastination into an artform and, if time wasting were an olympic sport, I could captain England. Therefore, my resolutions for 2011 are:-

  1. To seize every minute and enjoy it
  2. To spend at least half an hour every day in self improvement
  3. To stop checking my Twitter profile every two minutes and do some work
  4. To take my lovely husband out to dinner once a week
  5. And finally, to pay my daughters to paint the lounge.


Love Judi xxx

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Mel's New Year's Resolutions


Laura's asked us all to write down our resolutions for 2011 as a way of making us stick to them. I came up with mine in no time at all - I make the same one every year so you can guess how bad I am at keeping it!

I'm giving up smoking in 2011 and, this time, I really mean it. I only started ten years ago, to calm my nerves when the taxman was banging on the door for the VAT and the building society was getting tetchy about missed mortgage repayments.

Lester's always smoked and, to a fifteen year old school girl, it gave him an air of sophistication and glamour. However, I see now that it didn't give him panache - only fag ash. We lived with Lester's parents when we were first married and it was like being in the house with the Battersea power station chimneys. Tony was newly born so I spent every waking minute out of the house to give him some fresh air. Hours and hours I walked around Nottingham, rain or shine, trying to escape the smoke and Lester's witch of a mother. One winter's day, I walked all the way across town and didn't have the bus fare back so I sat down in a park shelter and cried my eyes out.

I'll be telling you the whole story about this, and my life with Lester, in The Accidental Guru. Although I've known Paula, Aurora and Judi for over twenty years, parts of my story came as a complete surprise but mine wasn't the only secret. To find out who else was hiding from the past, keep your eyes open for The Accidental Guru's launch in the new year.

Good luck with giving up your own vices!

Love, Mel x