Boldwood Books opened for submissions at the start of February 2019, announced their first twenty authors in mid-June and the first books were published in August of the same year. By the time we’d grown sufficiently to justify trying to get everyone together for a party, a certain pandemic had taken hold and we were all plunged into lockdown.
Over the past couple of years, Boldwood have hosted several Zoom parties for their authors but Monday night was the very first opportunity for us all to meet in person and what a fabulous evening it was. More on that in a bit.
As Scarborough to London is a bit of a trek for a three-hour party, I always try to tag on something extra when I make the journey. Two of my Write Romantic buddies, Jo Bartlett and Helen Rolfe, are part of Team Boldwood too. With so many people to meet on the evening, I suggested we meet for lunch and a catch-up. Trains were fortunately running on time so we had plenty of time for lunch and a cuppa afterwards… although we all forgot to take any photos!
I’d ordered a couple of new dresses, one to wear at the party and the other to wear at the gala dinner at the RNA’s conference in July, so I had the choice between orange and pink. I went for the orange one for Boldwood’s party and wish I could claim I’d done it because orange is Boldwood’s brand but I hadn’t been that clever! Although maybe subconsciously I chose orange over pink for that reason. Yes. that sounds good. That’s my story!
The party was being held at Fulham Palace and many of the #TeamBoldwood authors were staying in the nearby Putney Bridge Premier Inn so we’d arranged to meet in the bar there at 5.30pm to have a quick drink and wander along to the venue for a 6pm start. It was a really pleasant walk through the park although we were a bit late leaving the bar so there was no opportunity to stop for photos.
Fulham Palace was a lovely venue although I was too busy chatting to explore properly. It was a chance to meet the full team from Boldwood although I didn’t get a chance to meet a couple of the editors so must rectify that next time.
I met some of the team from ISIS Audio and Ulverscroft who create and distribute our audiobooks, our main contact at Kobo, and Boldwood’s web designer. I also had the chance to meet Sue Lamprell who has been the proofreader on every single one of my books so far. What an absolute delight it was to meet Sue after working on so many books together and only ‘speaking’ by email. Wish I’d taken a photo! Do you sense a theme building here? I used to be brilliant at taking photos at events but after a couple of years of barely going anywhere, I seem to have got out of the habit! Anyone else finding that?
The party was a great opportunity to catch-up with authors I’d met before, those who I’ve known for a couple of years via Facebook and also some of the newest whose addition to Team Boldwood was only announced that morning!
The three hours passed too soon and it was time to say goodbye. There were so many other people I’d have loved to speak to so hopefully next time. There were lots of authors who couldn’t make it due to holidays, distance or illness so I’m looking forward to meeting them at another point too.
A huge thank you to Amanda Ridout, our CEO, and the rest of Team Boldwood for hosting such a lovely, warm, welcoming event. I’m already looking forward to the next one.
I accosted a security guard and asked if he could take a photo of a group of us leaving. It was very tempting to jump into the fountain and recreate a Friends moment. We managed to restrain ourselves!
We received a gorgeous notebook on the way out, celebrating Boldwood’s recent amazing award, and a pen, earphones, bag and thank you card from Ulverscroft. Love a bit of stationery and a goodie bag!
My journey home on Tuesday was a little challenging. I received an email before I boarded my train in Kings Cross to say the train for the York to Scarborough stretch had been cancelled. The trains only run hourly so my hubby checked online that it was definitely cancelled (it was) and offered to come through and pick me up. I got off the train at York, checked the departures board, and it turned out my connection wasn’t cancelled after all! We then got massively held up on the way home to detour round an accident on the A64 which had closed the road so I didn’t get home much before I would have done if I’d stayed at York and waited for the next train (not that I’d have needed to wait when my original one ran after all!)
Hedgehog Hollow 6 had a deadline of Tuesday night so the lost time was a bit stressful and I ended up working a really late one trying to finish the book. I didn’t quite make it – ran out of brain power – so I submitted it without the last chapter complete then rose at 6am to finish the rest. Edits will be back to me for next week. I can’t quite believe I’ve finished the series although I don’t think it will feel like I’ve properly finished it until I’ve completed the edits phase. It’ll definitely hit me then!
Did you know it’s notebook day today – 20th May 2021? Nope, me neither, but a lovely reader/reviewer, Sue, posted on social media about it. Thanks, Sue.
Like so many authors, I’m a bit stationery obsessed. Let’s face it, you don’t need to be an author to have that obsession at all and I’ve been a huge fan of all things stationery-related from a very young age. I get excited looking at a packet of felt-tip pens/highlighters/Sharpies/Stabilo fine points laid out in in a stunning colour transition format. Oh my goodness, I’ve gone to my happy place just thinking about it!
My absolute favourite of favourites is notebooks so I’m thrilled to discover there is a day to celebrate them. Apparently this year is the sixth annual special day. How have I missed this?
So, in celebration of notebook day 2021, I thought I’d share some photos of my collection. It is a hideously dark day and bucketing it down where I am so I apologise if the photos are a little more dull than I might have liked. Hope the fabulousness is still clear.
I’ve written a few bits to bring the collection to life but I completely understand if you just want to scroll through the pics and gaze at their loveliness!
Let’s start by seeing the collection… or the largest part of it. I used to have these on my bookshelves but they were taking up such a huge amount of space that I put them in a crate. The ones leaning at the front all live in the crate but I needed to take them out to get the full effect. If I’ve counted correctly, there are 45 living there!
I use a notebook for each book I’m working on. I develop mind maps for each of my characters which capture details about their appearance, job, family, age, motivations and so on. I add in information about the timeline/critical dates, work through problems, and scribble down research.
They’re mainly A5 sized as that sits nicely in a plastic wallet for each book along various other documents I create as part of my process and I don’t need more space than that for the information I include.
Many have been gifts but most have been ones I’ve bought for myself because there’s something on the front cover which is relevant for a future project or simply because they were gorgeous. And, of course, there are bargains I have picked up in a sale and couldn’t resist at the reduced rate!
I absolutely adore hand-stitched journals. Paperchase carry a stunning range of these and they’re gorgeous for gifts (to myself!!!) Aren’t these just stunning? There isn’t a Paperchase in Scarborough so I have to wait until I visit York to explore. I can, of course, order them online, but I do like to stroke the books with texture.
I’ve been attracted to other notebooks simply because they’re beautiful. I am not a huge fan of ‘boring insides’ i.e. pages that are just white lined or plain paper. I like colour and/or an image. So much more inspiring. The ones in my crate that do have a ‘boring’ inside tend to be the ones I keep rejecting (sorry notebooks).
The ‘Agenda’ one was a Sainsbury’s one. From time to time, they carry lovely ranges of stationery. Not sure about the middle one – maybe Paperchase – and the flowery one is Cath Kidston and the pages are coloured and flowery. Gorgeous.
The one below is a bit bigger than my usual size but isn’t it so pretty? I know it’s only stripes but there’s something about that colour combination that is so beautiful. I bought it in TK Maxx. I’ll be honest. Not my favourite shop for clothes – I don’t have the patience to rummage – but I love the home section and particularly love their stationery. Every so often, I’ll find something gorgeous.
I love the journal-style notebooks. I think these may all have been gifts. The central one definitely was; a gorgeous gift from the hubby. I love the old-fashioned feel from he soft leather and the strap. Mmmm.
Some of my notepads are bought for the cute factor. These ones, for example, are for stroking. I bought the bear for myself and the other two were for my daughter but she never used them and put them on a clear-out pile … so I snaffled them! The fluffy ears may not be the most practical when it comes to writing on the left-sided page but awwww, soooo cute!
I think the ones with ears might have been Clintons and the panda is Paperchase.
I have an eclectic mix of other cute ones. The bottom left two in the picture below were also snaffled from the daughter’s clear-out pile (I think I might have been guilty in attempting to pass on my notebook obsession over Christmases past!)
I don’t know where the top left one is from but it’s a Hallmark one so I’m thinking maybe Clintons too, and Boofle is a Clinton’s bundle of loveliness. Hadn’t realised quite how much Clintons stationery I have! I salute you, Clintons!
The top right one is a range from a Dutch company called Paperclip International which I used to stock when I had my teddy bear shop in 2003-05. I stocked a good range of Paperclip cards, love and friendship postcards (used to sell a stack of those), keyrings and stationery items, and they were really popular. The main characters were the bear and his friend a giraffe although the greetings cards and postcards included a range of other animals such as sheep and pigs. I’ve just looked on their website as I can’t remember what the little bear was called, but they don’t make the range anymore and I got bored after ten minutes of Googling and finding pictures of paperclips instead of the company.
The bottom right is another Clintons one from a collection called Herbie and Friends they had in a few years back. I loved that collection so much but I’m not sure it really took off as I managed to pick up a lot of items on sale the following year, including a soft polar bear (and a bear in the same range for the munchkin), a bag, and several stationery items.
Some notebooks were chosen for nostalgic reasons. I have a feeling the Mickey Mouse and Moomin ones were Sainsbury’s. Holly Hobbie was Clintons. I’m not such a fan of the Mickey Mouse one (sorry Mickey) as, up close, the image looks a tiny bit blurred and that messes with my eyes! I think I might have had an impulsive sale purchase there but I love the other two.
I adore Winnie the Pooh. As a child, I really wasn’t familiar with the work of A A Milne but I fell in love with the characters as an older teen and adult. I stocked traditional characters in my shop and a big range of traditional and colourful Pooh stationery. The notebooks below were not from my shop, though.
I absolutely love Eeyore’s smile on the bottom right one and the phrase: “Some days just don’t let you stay grumpy”. Awww. I have a feeling the top two were Sainsbury’s.
I was a Brown Owl for 7.5 years between 2010-2017 and absolutely loved running a Brownie Pack. Owls were therefore an obvious theme for notepads. A couple were gifts from the Brownies but most were gifts from me to me. I absolutely love the special middle one which was given to me when I stepped down from my perch from a pair of lovely sisters who came to my pack. Isn’t that the most adorable?
The top right one is a Lucy Pittaway design. If anyone has read the acknowledgements in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café, you’ll know that Lucy’s amazing artwork inspired part of that story.
Hedgehogs, of course, do feature. The bottom right one is another gorgeous Lucy Pittaway from a friend of mine, the top right is from my mum from The Works which she sent me during the first lockdown and felt particularly appropriate.
The big one is my work in progress notebook for the Hedgehog Hollow series. It’s from the Wrendale Designs range which I adore. I started writing Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow using an A5 notebook from the same range but, when I realised I had my series on my hands, I super-sized with an A4 one.
I’m also drawn to notebooks with phrases or sayings on them. I have some lovely ones from TK Maxx saying things like “if you want to write…write” but they’re in small lettering on the cover and it didn’t come out very well on camera.
I love the phrase on the pink one (another TK Maxx one). It felt so applicable to my journey to becoming an author. Ask a group of authors what phrase they often hear when they tell someone they’re an author and I can guarantee most will say this: I’d love to write a book… if only I had the time! None of us had time. Not one iota. But we were the girl (or boy) who decided to go for it. We had a dream and it would never come true if we didn’t do something about it so we created time and went for it.
The purple notepad is one of my absolute favourites for three reasons:
The quote – it’s amazing
What the notepad represents
In 2002-03, I made a major change to my life. I’d ended a bad relationship in 2002 and our house was on the market. A friend gave me a gift voucher for a telephone clairvoyant. Not my thing really but I was at a career crossroads, wondering whether to leave a well-paid job to move back to the north and open a teddy bear shop or to stay put and buy a house on my own in Reading. So I made the call which changed my life. The clairvoyant told me I was going to move home and set up the shop and, not long after doing that, I’d meet the man of my dreams who’d be called Steven.
Is this sounding a little bit familiar? If you’ve read New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, you’ll recognise this as the premise for the story. I didn’t find Steven when I set up the shop but, from that clairvoyant call, I did find the premise for my debut novel. When I opened Bear’s Pad in 2003, that’s when I started to write. Having the shop also provided the inspiration for All You Need is Love which is partially set in a specialist teddy bear shop.
In New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms,the main character Sarah comes across lots of different Stevens when she takes over her auntie’s florist’s and that was all inspired by my real life experiences when opening Bear’s Pad. You know that red notebook with the little yellow bear from earlier? The rep for Paperclip was called Stephen. I’d made enquiries with the company to stock their products and someone rang me to say a rep was in the area and did I want him to call round. I had such a shock when she gave me his name! Cue me rushing around in a panic because I had no make-up on, my hair was a mess and I was in casual clothes as I’d been cleaning and painting!
Anyway, I said the purple notebook was particularly special for what it represents. When I was getting ready to leave Reading and move home, a good friend of mine came to stay with me and she presented me with the notebook with best wishes for the new chapter of my life. She knew my premise for my debut book and the quote (which I’ve put in a bigger picture below) couldn’t be more appropriate. And I did become what I imagined!
I have a drawer full of small A6-sized notebooks and another drawer full of even smaller ones (not shown) and usually pop one of those in my handbag when I’m out and about as you never know when inspiration might hit. Yes, I know I can use the Notes app on my phone but a phone isn’t stationery and doesn’t get me excited!
And I have another drawer of A4 notebooks. I have future plans for a series set on a farm so I bought the highland cow in anticipation of that. It’s from the same series as the hedgehog one – Wrendale Designs – and I love it lots.
I’ve a bit of an obsession with desk jotters too. Spot the Herbie and Friends one, picked up in the sale…
And, finally, I have a drawer full of unicorn ones as I have a plan for a future project involving them but goodness knows whether I’ll ever find the time to write it. Still, the stationery is ready for if and when I do!
So on notebook day, I think we can safely say I have a notebook obsession! I’m trying to be good. When I’m writing a new book, I do try to select one from the collection rather then buy a new one but it’s hard when they’re not quite right! Some of the ones in the collection have specifically been bought for future projects although I did recently purchase one for a future project, went to put it in the crate, and realised I already had two with that particular theme on them. Oops!
Are you a notebook fan? Do you have a crazy large collection like me? What draws you to them? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
It was my birthday at the start of this month and my husband actually excelled himself with his gifts. My main gift was to go to the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Conference in July so he just needed to get me a few small bits and bobs from him and our 7-year-old daughter. He apologised after I’d opened them for them being “not very exciting.” My instant response was, “You may find these boring but, to a writer, these are incredible gifts.” You see, he’d actually put some thought into it and searched online for gift ideas for writers and, as a result, had bought me:
A biro with the engraving, “write bestseller with” on it (I know that’s not grammatically correct but “with which to write my bestseller” would have taken up far too much space 😉 ) And it’s my favourite colour; purple
A book called “642 Things to Write About” by The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto which has, surprise, surprise, 642 ideas to get your creative juices flowing. It’s brilliant. Any one of those ideas could prompt a character, a scene or even a whole novel!
A “Books to Check Out” journal where you note down books you want to read, books you’ve enjoyed and books you’ve borrowed or loaned to others. Fabulous
On top of that, he got me a book, CD and DVD. What a brilliant set of wonderfully imaginative presents! He may have thought them boring but, to me, these are the things that writers love!
Writers themselves are brilliant buyers of gifts. My wonderful Write Romantic pal, Jo, sent me a gift that included a notebook, pen and a gorgeous paperweight with the word “Dream” in it. How very appropriate.
I have another writing friend, Sarah, who isn’t in The Write Romantics as she writes children’s books. We met about four years ago. We don’t see each other very often but we have always bought each other a birthday gift and I think we deliberately keep this up because we know that we will buy each other a fabulous writing gift; the sort that we’d like to buy ourselves but can’t justify spending the money on. Over the years, she’s bought me some wonderful items. This year it was a set of Emma Bridgewater stationery, which I love, but one of my favourite gifts ever was this gorgeous planner. I can’t wait to get my own writing space so I can put this on my wall and use it properly.
I’ve always loved stationery, even before I had any thoughts about being a writer. I have three weaknesses: coloured pens, notebooks and pencil cases. I’ve got about eight pencil cases which is a bit ridiculous for someone who doesn’t go to school! I daren’t count how many notepads. I’ve asked hubby to take some pictures of them but, sshhh, don’t tell him that this doesn’t reflect the full collection! I buy them mainly when they’re on offer or because they’re simply too beautiful to resist. I like to use a pad to out each novel my they have to be right for novel. When I came up with the idea for book 1, I soon realised it was going to be a trilogy and I scoured bookshops, stationers and supermarkets trying to find three notepads that were part of a set yet different. I finally got a set that had different colour flowers on them and then I discovered some Paperblanks in WH Smith. One of them would set me back nearly double what the original three had cost but they were just so gorgeous. If you’re a Paperblank fan, you’ll know exactly what I mean. They are hardback, have quality paper, a little envelope in the back and a flap that closes over onto the front with a really satisfying thunk. How many times must I have visited WH Smith over a two-three week period telling myself I couldn’t afford them. I must have lost the battle because here they are and I’ve used one per book and not regretted the investment at all.
Book 4, however, has moved completely away from the Paperblanks as, although it’s set in the same place, it has a new cast of characters and I wanted to start completely afresh. Boots were selling these over Christmas. Aren’t they gorgeous? In fact, cute or what? as they say on the front! The pages inside are pale pink with the owl motif on one side of the page and the bird on the other.
Of course, something so beautiful needs a beautiful set of pens. Hello Stabilos. Look at all of those beautiful colours *Pauses to gaze at them dreamily* I’ve got four main characters in book 4 so I’ve been using a different colour to map out each one. Little things like that excite me. Is that sad? The Stabilo Boys also serve as great editing pens as I always have to print off a paper copy when I’m on my final edit as it’s the only way I can spot all the typos and consistency flaws. I’ve tried it on the screen and I can’t spot them although I do try to save the environment a bit by printing four pages per A4 page (I have good eyesight!)
So, I have my notepad and my lovely pens. There’s just one more tool I need to help me with my planning process; my planner. I used a diary when planning book 1 but then spotted one of these in the RSPB Reserve Shop at Bempton Cliffs of all places and I knew it was the tool I needed. As I plan out each chapter in my notebook, I write bullet points of the key events on the weekly planner and this helps me keep a track of days, dates and seasons.
Then it’s onto the computer and away I go.
I can’t finish this blog without a nod to some of my other favourite items of stationery so here’s a final selection of beautiful and practical things.
What about you? Are you stationery-mad? Please let me know what your must-have items are, the greatest stationery indulgence you’ve had or that one item you would love to have but simply can’t justify buying … yet!
Thanks for reading. And thanks to hubby for the wonderful photos, even if he did get stressed cos I gave him virtually no notice and he kept complaining the light wasn’t right so they weren’t his best work. They’re brilliant and better than anything I’d manage!