Friday 28 March 2014

Bettina von Cossel - Abseiling for Literature!

How long have you been a Greenacre Writer?

I joined Greenacre Writers' 'Finish That Novel' group in August 2010 and never looked back. Usually I write in German, but the group gave me the confidence to write my first English novel which is currently in the publisher's slush pile, waiting to be discovered.

As well as a crime writing talk, what else are you doing for the 3rd ever Finchley Literary Festival?

I'll be doing something really scary in aid of this year's Finchley Literary Festival: a sponsored abseiling down Church Langley Water Tower, Harlow. That's the imposing water tower next to the M11 on the way towards Stansted Airport. I'm sure you've noticed it driving along the motorway because it's just HUGE!  I'm not really looking forward to my big day on May 4 because I've never abseiled before and I have this thing about heights. 

On the other hand, who would sponsor you if your task was easy?

Have you ever done anything like this before?

No, I never abseiled before but in aid of HAB (Homeless Action in Barnet) I spent a cold and spooky November night in the cemetery of St Mary's East Barnet, with a black bin bag shielding my borrowed sleeping bag from the wetness seeping up from the ground. Needless to say, I'm the only person in my family who peacefully rested on a graveyard and came back.

What has motivated you to do it?

A literary festival can't live from words alone. Helpers are needed, volunteers, organisers, professionals, goodwill, donations, you name it... My sponsored abseiling is just a small part but I hope the money raised will help the Finchley Literary Festival in any possible way.

How important do you think Literary Festivals are?

Nothing beats a literary festival. Not only do they bring literature into town but there are also workshops about writing, how to find a publisher, or how to make yourself known as an author. Visitors can mingle in a like-minded crowd and rub shoulders with authors, poets, and screen writers alike. Who knows? After all these helpful workshops, next year they might be the ones giving the autographs...

How can people sponsor you?

I'd be more than grateful for your help, and any amount will be much appreciated!  

You can donate via paypal and email the following details to

Full name,
Gift aid (yes / no)
Amount Sponsored

Alternatively just contact Greenacre Writers and let them know that you'd like to sponsor me: - Thank you so much!

Bettina von Cossel will be giving the following talk at The Finchley Literary Festival:

Crime Writing - How to Kill your Darlings?
Tuesday 27th May
Church End Library, N3 1TR 
Free of charge. 

Friday 21 March 2014

10 Tips for Blogging - by Emily Benet

I'm a big fan of blogging. With a blog you can build your own readership, establish yourself within the online writing community and increase your chances of publication. Publishers take notice of proactive writers because  writers who already have a following pose less risk! 

 If I hadn't begun my weekly blog about working in my Mum's shop, my book, Shop Girl Diaries, would never have been commissioned. Since then, my blog has continued to open doors.   

Of course,  the surest way to getting published is to write a masterpiece, but while you're working on that, why not dedicate an hour a week to building up that following? Here are 10 tips to start you off!

1. Decide on a clear concept for your blog -  just because you're a writer doesn't mean you have to write about writing!

2. Write what you want not what you should - what excites you? what are your passions? If you blog about what you should instead of what you want, you'll soon run out steam.

3. Consider how your blog might add value to your readers - is it entertaining? informative? insightful?

4.  Be consistent - both in your theme and your voice!

5. Post regularly - once a week is great, once every two weeks might be more manageable.

6. Keep an eye on blogs you like - what do you like about them? what are they doing so well?

7. Visual appeal - use multimedia, add relevant photographs, illustrations, videos.   

8. Integrate your online presence -  make sure your blog link is on all your social networks and your social networks can be reached through your blog.

9. Spread the word - add your blog link to your email signature, mention new posts in your facebook status, tweet your posts using bite sized headlines and don't forgot word of mouth.

10. Don't spam - tell people about your blog but don't use social media solely for self-promotion. It won't work and you'll get on everyone's nerves. Engage, engage, engage!

My next workshop is at the Finchley Literary Festival:

Develop your Online Author Profile: 
A Blog & Twitter Workshop
When: Saturday 31st May  
Time:   10.30am -12.30pm
Tickets: £15.00

Eventbrite - Develop Your Online Author Profile - Blogging & Twitter Workshop

My Blogging for Beginners ebook is available to download from Amazon. 

Saturday 8 March 2014

The Importance of Creative Play in Writing - Greenacre Guest Blog

Guest Blog from A.L. Michael

I’ve been running writing workshops for children for quite a few years now, and what I’ve realised from seeing them interact with the props, play the games, create superheroes and  monsters, is that we have forgotten how to play.

Adults need creative play just as much as children do, but we tend to settle for passive imagination, watching movies, reading books. Being shown something, instead of creating it ourselves. Children become their stories, they act them out, change the rules, get excited. Writing is our chance to do that, to recreate and remember how to play.

It doesn’t mean you have to suddenly write a science fiction story if that’s not what you’re about, but consider how you like to make up stories. Perhaps there are things in your life you’d rewrite? Perhaps those daydreams of what you’d do if you won the lottery could be the start of an epic tale of luxury and drama? What superpower would you have if you could choose?

Stories originate in daydreams, in fantasy, and as adults we have shunned those fantasies for the real world, convinced they have no value, but they do! Children know this, they know that their fantasies can provide hours of fun, that they can draw other people into their worlds with the stories they create.

Take a moment to learn from your children, and whenever you get the chance to play, to be creative and silly and surprising, do so!

For more info on the importance of creative play, writing and wellbeing, click HERE
A.L. Michael will be running a Creative Writing for Children Workshop as part of TheFinchley Literary Festival, at Friern Barnet Community Library.

Wednesday 28th May
'Write Here, Write Now'
Creative Writing Lesson for Kids


Create some stories this half term with writer A.L.Michael! Come along and race against time to create a story with The Sixty Second Scribble. Create the scariest villain or most brilliant superhero with The Prop Detective! Then roll The Story Dice to find your setting and get ready to write! Two 45 min sessions of writing games and activities to get young minds imagining! 

Ages 6+ No need to book, just drop in!
(Limit of 20 kids per session)

Saturday 1 March 2014

Baby Farmers - Greenacre Guest Blog

Guest Blog from Caitlin Davies

It’s a warm Sunday morning and I’m standing a little uncertainly on a street of handsome Edwardian houses in East Finchley. The sun seeps out between the clouds, delicate pink blossom falls from roadside trees; it’s a scene of quiet suburban respectability. Yet 100 years ago one of these houses was a lying in home for unmarried pregnant women, and the centre of an infamous murder case that captivated and repulsed the nation.

I’ve come here to meet 32-year-old Penninah Asher; a year ago we’d never heard of each other, now we’re united by a strange case of family history and a century old crime.

Like millions of others in the UK, Penninah is fascinated by genealogy and ten years ago she decided to study her paternal line, “I come from a fractured family on my father’s side; I’m estranged from my dad, I haven’t seen him since I was 16, and I’d never met my grandparents; I didn’t even know their first names. I knew nothing about the family at all.”

Nearly a third of Britons have researched their ancestors online, and in the process one in six have found an illegitimate child or a secret adoption. But Penninah was to find out something far more shocking.

One day she got an email from a man who’d seen her family tree. He asked if she was aware that she was related to a woman convicted for mass murder, “And I thought, oh my god, I went straight back to the tree and I went over and over and checked and double-checked, and he was right.”

Several years after Penninah’s discovery, I came across her forebear as well. In 2007 I moved into a new home in Holloway, a small terraced house built in the 1890s. I became interested in the history of the area, trawling the archives at a local history centre, immersing myself in workhouse records and spending hours Googling leads on the Internet.

Then one day I stumbled across an Edwardian crime that had happened nearby; the case of two notorious baby farmers, Amelia Sach and Annie Walters, the first women to be hanged at Holloway Prison, in 1903.

My first thought was, what was a baby farmer? And so began a year of research which I then turned into a novel, The Ghost of Lily Painter.

Amelia Sach

By the time the novel was finished, Penninah had got in touch to tell me her great grandmother was none other than Amelia Sach’s sister. It was then that we decided to meet up in East Finchley to try and find her forebear’s lying in home.

Sach and Walters in the dock

If you’re interested in hearing more about the Finchley baby farmers – what exactly was their crime and were they guilty? – come to The Finchley Literary Festival on May 31st at Stephens House and Gardens (formely Avenue House) where I’ll be explaining how I researched the Ghost of Lily Painter and whether we managed to locate the lying in home.

The Ghost of Lily Painter is published by Windmill, as is Caitlin’s latest novel Family Likeness. She is also the author of several non-fiction books, including Taking the Waters: a swim around Hampstead Heath and Camden Lock and the Market, both published by Frances Lincoln.

To find out more about Caitlin’s work visit or follow her on twitter @CaitlinDavies2