despite my best intentions about a decade ago, my plan to gather old articles & leave the links here never happened, but I’m leaving the section because lots of people have left messages here. you can too if you want.
for more specific stuff, see the categories section in the sidebar.
Stella I want to tell you that I have just finished reading ‘The Room of Lost Things’ and it is the best book I have read for years. Why? Because I know nothing about South London but you brought it to life for me. Your characters were all people I believed in. I cried at the end of the novel. I couldn’t help it. Your book touched a part of me, call it ‘soul’ or whatever, but it did it. I truly think you are an artist in the widest sense of the word and I would say that the experience of reading this book was like another experience I had of sitting in the Whitney gallery of Modern Art in New York and looking at Mark Rothko’s paintings, or only last months watching some dancers in Barcelona spontaneously joining together, in circles, like in Matisse’s paintings and dancing as if they were communing with something ‘other.’ This sounds so trite and high flown but it is the only way I can express my feelings.
I have always been an observer in my life, sort of standing outside situations even when I am in the midst of them. I think you need to be like that if you write anything. I only write stories for The People’s Friend (100 odd and more) and for My Weekly but I enjoy doing it and try to do it with integrity.
I am going to try to write something better before I die, if I can, starting now. This has has been the impace of your book. (I have already made an several got to 44,000 words and gave up).
I think that writers are born, they can be taught better ways of putting across what they want to say, but the essential need to write is in me, always has been since I was a little girl.
I felt I needed to get in touch with you, to say thank you and to tell you to keep on writing the way you have in this book. 5 years is a long time but this book will live on in me whilst I live. It is a a distillation like ‘good’ poetry is.
I also know the deep hollow endless pain of not having a child of my own. Although my husband and I adopted a little boy who was ten weeks old and who is now 28 and on his second marriage with two children by the two wives, it is just not the same as reproducing a child that has your genes mixed with the one you love. I wish that had been possible and I have had to come to terms with it too. I am sorry you too could not have a child.
I saw you on tv when you tried so valiantly to write a Mills & Boon novel. It was intelligently done. I like that you are true to yourself and honest. I try to be like that in my life now, but only came it fairlyrecently because I honestly didn’t know what ‘myself’ was (it took two nervous breakdowns). However, I feel strong inside myself now and I think you do to.
Take care, do keep writing, you have so much talent, your book is compassional and truthful, deeply moving for me. So thank you very much.
I will read your other books as soon as I can get them, I want to read State of Happiness next.
With all best wishes. from Sheila Culshaw.
Sheila, thank you so much. You’ve made my day, and quite possibly my year! I love Rothko and find his work inspiring to me – when I went to the Rothko exhibition earlier this year at Tate Modern, all I could do was sit and smile with deep satisfaction, engagement, enthusiasm and sadness for the LIFE on the canvas.
I teach writing very occasionally and when I do my desire, my aim, is to share with people the pleasure and deep joy there is in telling stories – sharing stories, findiung the right way to let a story tell itself. The Room of Lost Things was a hard write for me, but – in the end! – totally worth it. I’m so glad it touched you too. And even more that it has inspired you to continue with and expand your own writing. I personally find my buddhist practice a huge help in being authentically ‘myself’ – and I admit it can be a daily challenge to stay honest/authentic! (and not take it too seriously either!)
Am very glad too that you enjoyed the M&B doc, I loved making it, and it’s all credit to the producer Claire that the main point came across so clearly – write what YOU need/want to write, not what you believe a market demands.
Thank you too, for your compassion. One of the things I think people rarely understand about how it is for those of us who wanted and did not have our own biological children is exactly what you say – that we, naturally, intrinsically, want to make a child with the one we love. And once that desire is in place, it never really goes away. Time and many things change how it feels – it is like any other grief, it mutates with time, but is still there.
I wish you all the best with your writing. There are pieces on this blog (under : sort of about writing) that you’ll hopefully find interesting or useful or simply encouraging. Go for it!
Am halfway through The Room of Lost Things and really loving it. I live in South Wales, miles away from the location of this story but feel as if I already now know the area so well. I read a huge amount of books and can honest say, I just knew within the first couple of pages that this would be one of my favourite reads this year. My sixteen year old daughter is an extremely avid reader and I recommend the best books I read to her – this is one I’m definitely passing on. I’ve already told her how much I’m enjoying the story. Thank You.
thank you Liz. I love that the book doesn’t have to read by (or in!) a south Londoner to touch them!
Hi, Stella: have just started reading The Room of Lost Things, am enjoying it. Was interested to see that you spent your childhood in New Zealand – my parents emigrated there so I spent over 20 years there – what did you think of it? I was born in Malaya, went to boarding school in England, then my parents took us off to Christchurch, South Island NZ. I found it very difficult to live there as a creative person – lots of weird people and very narrow minds.
However, appears you have survived and been a success.
my NZ experience was clearly very different to yours! lots of amazing people and extremely broad minds! a wonderful take on multiculturalism (in Tokoroa, long before the concept of multiculturalism was fashionable) and a welcoming, inclusive ethos … I’m sure we could all find towns or cities or villages where the people might not be to our liking, so I wouldn’t say the whole of NZ (or the whole of the UK, where I was born) was one thing or another, but I know I’m very grateful to have grown up where I did – inner city London borough, followed by small town Aotearoa. Both places informed me hugely, and all in a good way, I think.
Just wanted to thank you for the Story Surgery in Brighton earlier this week. I’ve started on the prescription already! Will let you know how it works out.
I was inspired!
am delighted, hope it works out for you! x
Didn’t you leave your ‘inner city London borough’ at 5 years old? Just curious. From a Londoner who has many years on you.
I lived in Woolwich until I was 5, then my childhood in New Zealand, back in London for past 25 years, the last 14 in Loughborough Junction.
Lately, I have not learnt that it’s my right to do the DIY, but it’s my right to choose to ask for help if I so wish – from a man or a woman, of course. I always thought I was ‘womens’ lib’ because I did the ‘male’ chores around the house and did not ask for help, even if it meant struggling. So, all in all, I’ve learnt recently, through asking for help, to be a human being. Because what I thought was about womens’ lib really isn’t. I’m happy to do the jobs I can do, learn the ones I can’t and now…ask for help with any of them if I need it!
Yes, I don’t think feminism has ever suggested that we can’t share/help each other/do what’s best for us individually as well as collectively – though there have been plenty of people keen to persuade others that all forms of liberation movements (women, LGBT, race, dis/ability etc) was about enforcement rather than freedom.
Stella I am in the wrong place for this entry but hey here we go. My dad was a wellington pilot shot down over holland in Aug 1941. His wireless op was an ozzie. This ozzie kept a diary too and we now have the full story of the happenings to that crew. Aircraft Z8807 crashed 6th Aug 1941. The wireless op was Ron Mackenzie and his book is ” an ordinary War” from shoe string press Wangaretta Victoria AU. If our paths connect in any way EG hut sharing/camp sharing and tunnel digging we must put this together. I am in contact with 2 other children of crew who shared a hut. I have also met a guy called Gerry Tyass who was a mechanic on wimpeys at Bassingbourne where dad flew from.
Gerry until recently had a Wellington museum and I spoke to him at some length a couple of yrs ago. Google him!
My dad was Ronald Charlesworth. He died 40 yrs ago as a result of ill health in POW and a genetic heart weakness. We carry their bravery on. Also I have a picture of him in POW camp with a load of guys. Maybe ur dad????
It all sounds so garbled but it is beacause so much has surfaced since they went and we have no way of putting it in to context.
come back to me if we have a thread.
hi Di, my Dad’s plane was shot down on 7th Nov 1941 – he was in several different camps, at least one of them twice. He was president of our local ex-PoW Assoc when I was a child and there seemed to be an awful lot of old ANZACS – I do think many of them died fairly young (my Dad was 67), I’m sure those years of imprisonment and (relative) hardship were definitely part of the reason.
I have his diary and can check all the different camps – will get back to you once the show I’ve just directed (that opened last night) is fully up on its feet.
I heard you on Woman’s hour and wrote a piece about Tatler in my blog http://www.sepalia.com/blogs/news/6256452-where-are-all-the-lesbians
… thought you would like to know! Would be great to connect with you. Marga
Hi Stella, I only know you through your blog and through Mary Price-O’Connor but my admiration for you grows each time I read something of yours. You are quite simply, a winner…I cannot offer any advice because you have listed everything you need so well…nor would I presume to know more than that…however, if you do not mind, I will add your name to my list and I will send Daimoku to you with my morning prayers every day. Very best, Ken
Ken, thank you so much, your daimoku means, as you know, everything. thank you.
The Times has a story today that you said that Bo Peep is not a real feminist as she falls in love and lives happily every after. Please explain. Would you have been happier if Bo Peep married someone who was not a feminist and she got divorced and lived unhappily ever after? Or is it that you think the whole idea of heterosexual romance is anti-feminist, and that all men should be hated and despised?
Please can you explain why a Times journalist has reported you making a rather strange comment about Bo Peep. I cannot believe that Bo Peep married someone who was not a feminist, but if she did, she would have got divorced and lived happily ever after. The story is not that Bo Peep never got divorced. It is that she lived happily ever after, not necessarily only involved with her actual husband, and married to the same husband or wife (or non-binary person) ever after. Also it is just conceivable that she married a feminist (it is possible for a man to be one) and that she lived happily ever after married to him. Why is that so wrong?
Well, The Times also says I called the film ‘racist’, which I didn’t, so I suggest you listen to the actual programme they’ve misquoted me from? You’ll hear the things I liked in the film too.
Can’t explain the disablist bit (spoiler), I simply think it was a cliched storyline for Bo Peep (formation of the trad straight couple). Feminism is about way more than being ‘sassy’ – and that’s what they did with the character, they just made her ‘sassy’. Which felt weak to me and wouldn’t have mattered if it hadn’t been touted as ‘feminist’, but it was.
It was a review, I didn’t much like the film. neither did 2 of the 3 other panellists.
Do listen to the programme, it will save you querying misquoting.
and no, I can’t explain why a Times journalist has failed to listen to the programme and misquoted me. suggest you ask the journalist.