Welcome to my first book review on the topic of writing this year – Write It All Down How to put your life on the page by Cathy Rentzenbrink. I’ve never considered writing a memoir but the blurb of this book caught my eye and I wanted to know more.
Book Review: Write It All Down by Cathy Rentzenbrink
Title: Write it all down How to put your life on the page
Author: Cathy Rentzenbrink
Publisher: bluebird books for life
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir writing
Release Date: 6th Jan 2022
Why do we want to write and what stops us? How does the urge to express ourselves fight with the worry that no-one will care or that we will get in trouble? How do we identify and overcome everything that gets in our way so we can start making work?
Sunday Times bestselling author Cathy Rentzenbrink shows you how to tackle all this and more in Write It All Down, a guide to putting your life on the page. This is a kind, encouraging and stimulating book that explores the nature of memoir writing and offers helpful guidance on how to write your life on paper. Rentzenbrink will help you to discover the pleasure and solace to be found in writing; the profound satisfaction of wrestling a story onto a page and seeing the events of your life transformed through the experience of writing the self.
Perfect for both seasoned writers as well as writing amateurs and everyone in between, this helpful handbook will steer you through the philosophical and practical challenges of writing the self. Intertwined with reflections, anecdotes and exercises from successful writers such as Dolly Alderton, Matt Haig, Kit de Waal, Sathnam Sanghera and Maggie O’Farrell, Write It All Down is at once an intimate and enjoyable narrative and an invitation to share your story.
Talking points and feature ideas:
• ‘How writing changed my life’ – Cathy’s personal story
• Top 5 tips on how to write your own story
• How to use this book for your own wellbeing
• Writing in a digital world: the importance of storytelling
• New Year’s Resolutions – why you shouldn’t diet, but learn something new instead
• Therapy – both Cathy’s personal experiences, and how to use writing as therapy
The introduction begins with the words – Dear Writer, I am so pleased to meet you. Welcome. – and that is how I felt the instant I began reading. I felt as if Cathy had welcomed me into her writing world and she was giving me a personal lesson in writing. Write It All Down is a highly accessible read and can be read from the beginning to the end like I did or dipped into.
I’ve read a several how to write books now and attended tutorials and conferences on the subject but this book contained fresh hints and viewpoints on the subject. The idea of writing about my life is slightly horrifying but this book isn’t just about writing to be published it’s about exploring yourself and tapping into your life and being creative.
It covers many aspects that are relevant to all types of writing including tackling first drafts, mindset, edits in all their forms and what happens when the words don’t flow. I came away from reading this uplifted, inspired and less daunted on writing my current project. I also have pages of thoughts on my own life that I know I can explore in the future.
Would I recommend?
Yes. I’d recommend this not just for those who are considering writing a memoir but for all writers at the beginning of their journey or stuck in a rut. The friendly tone, simple exercises, and explanations provide a safe space to explore ideas, and inspire creativity. It gives a nudge towards facing the fear that can block writing.
Write It All Down is a welcome addition to my forever reference shelf and will reread parts in the future when I need a positive reminder that I can write and the reasons behind my motivation to do so.
Cathy Rentzenbrink is the author of the Sunday Times best-seller The Last Act of Love and of A Manual for Heartache, Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books and Everyone is Still Alive. It took her twenty years to wrestle her own life story on the page and she loves to use what she has learnt about the profound nature of writing the self in the service of others. Cathy has taught for Arvon, Curtis Brown Creative, at Falmouth University and at festivals and in prisons, and welcomes anyone, no matter what their experience, education, background or story. She believes that everyone’s life would be improved by picking up a pen and is at her happiest when encouraging her students to have the courage to delve into themselves and see the magic that will start to happen on the page.
Hello, December! I’m delighted to share my first review of this month with this unusual and delightful book The Moon Almanac by Judith Hurrell.
Book Review: Moon Almanac by Judith Hurrell
Title: The Moon Almanac
Author: Judith Hurrell
Genre: Non-fiction, nature, lunar
Release Date: 23rd August 2021
When can you spot the Hunter’s Moon, a Smiling Moon or a Pink Moon? How can the phases of the moon help your garden grow? What influence does the full moon have on hamsters, coral and skylarks?
Navigate the rhythms of the night sky with this evocative collection of poetry, prose and precious wisdom. Illuminating the moon’s influence on the natural world and its depiction in folklore and the arts, The Moon Almanac will open your eyes to the wonders of our brightest celestial neighbour. Includes information on:
History and folklore – learn about wolves howling at the moon and the stories behind the names such as holiday moon, the old moon etc. Trivia – includes details of the Apollo missions, the first man on the moon, astronomy discoveries, the tides, daylight moons, harvest moons and more. The moon in religion and mythology – gods and goddesses of the moon, religious beliefs about the moon. The moon and biological rhythms – find out how you can align your body and your sleeping patterns with the moon, and how important the moon is to your circadian rhythm. Words of wisdom and lunar quotes.
First off, this book is beautiful and with its midnight blue cover and simple silver design, it begs to be held and read. Inside it is just as stunning with intricate illustrations using the same colour way. It feels as special as it reads.
Each section is divided into months of the year and includes information about the upcoming moon cycles, poems, folklore from all areas of the globe and snippets of literature related to the month’s moon. It is full of facts that range from scientific facts to the meanings behind moon related phrases. Who knew the phrase “over the moon” is over 500 years old. It’s one of those books that has to be seen in reality to see its true delight.
Would I recommend?
Yes, I adore this book and is a joy to read. It will be one I will refer to on a regular basis as the year progresses. I feel privileged to have this treasure on my bookcase and know it will also be popular and well loved by those visiting The Enchanted Emporium Bookshelf. It would make a wonderful Christmas or Yule gift for anyone who loves nature or the moon.
Judith Hurrell is a freelance writer who lives in Buckinghamshire. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in nature, going on about the sky, the sea, the earth and the trees to her family and dogs. She was inspired to write this book after joining a women’s circle, which meets every month to mark and celebrate the 12 phases of the lunar cycle.
Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.
As you are aware September is dystonia awareness month which makes having my next author to meet on my blog more exciting. Karl Kiddy is a writer and dystonia advocate who published Warriors of Dystonia which I’m proud to have my story so far in.
Meet The Author: Karl Kiddy
A huge welcome, Karl. Please tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Karl and I am a Welshman living in Belfast, with my two amazing daughters, my wife and a cat named Willow. I have been an artist since I was a teenager and have dabbled in everything from Pyrography (burning pictures into pieces of wood), to photography, blogging, video editing and production, to writing, and dipping in and out of podcasting. I’m a heavy metal music fan, as well as having a passion for horror movies and pretty much anything in that genre when it comes to comics and books too. In my spare time, I as the whole reading and project thing, I am a gamer, and would play a lot of Xbox, I also love cooking and would do just about all of the cooking for myself and my ladies. I have self-published five books, with Warriors of Dystonia being my most recent book and project. Only one of my other books have been written under my name, with the rest of them, as well as many of my other projects, being done under a pseudonym due to the shamefully juvenile humour that I use throughout. About 14 years ago my journey with Dystonia began.
Q. The book released is a compilation of the stories of people with dystonia, what made you decide to raise awareness to this little known condition?
It’s difficult to really narrow this down as I believe that Warriors of Dystonia had been bubbling under the surface for a long time. Having dystonia myself and knowing that due to very little being known or understood about the disorder I had been plunged into a few scenarios where I struggled and I was left feeling humiliated. A combination of this and having to say that I had Parkinson’s for people to consider my limitations made me think, “enough is enough.” I want to be able to live in a world where we can say, “I have dystonia,” and for people outside of our community to have some sort of an idea of what it is that we are talking about. I knew that there was no way I would be alone with wanting this and so I thought about using one of my favourite mediums, writing!
So, my goal was to make a book where fellow people who have dystonia can see they are not alone and that they can handover to a person and say, “this is my world!”
Q How easy was it to get people together to share their experiences and bring it all together.
As a whole, it was hard work. I wanted the book to feel like you were having a conversation with the person or perhaps you were sitting in on a chat that they were having. No matter what anyone tells you, we are a nosy bunch us humans, and we are naturally very interested in the ins and outs of the lives of others. I’d originally been thinking of ways of directing the content that was share with me, but I am glad I gave everyone free reign now! Getting people to share their stories was the easy part. I won’t go into too much, as I will probably use the same methods again, but it snowballed to a point where I had to close the original submission date three months earlier than I planned. At that point, I had so many and at that point the book was four hundred pages! The hard part was the admin behind the scenes. I needed to set up a form which logged the names and details of everyone who contacted me either sharing their story or offering to share a story. The editing of the book was difficult. I had a file which was a mass of various length stories, terms, medications and treatments that I had never heard of and I then had to work out how I was going to compile it. This was before I even started to then format the thing!
Q. You are an active campaigner to raise awareness of dystonia, how do you fit it in with other aspects of your life?
Anyone who knows me will know that when I have my heart set on something I will do it. Whether it is work related or a new artistic venture I want to try, if I want to give it a go then nothing will stop me. Then, once I have set my mind on it, I will invest everything in it. For as long as I can remember, I have never really slept for long and so I work on Warriors of Dystonia in the early hours of the morning. It would also be these early hours that I would squeeze in some of my other passions too. By the time my girls get up for school I have probably already got a few hours of my actually job done, an hour on the Warriors of Dystonia or perhaps I have been out and taken photographs of the lovely sunrise. As I start my job so early, I often have a bit of time in the afternoons to work on my projects too. Then there’s the weekends, where I will still be getting up and out of bed at some ungodly hour of the morning!
Q. Lots of stories must have been overwhelming to hear, do you have a support network around you?
Yes, absolutely. I have to be honest, when I knuckled down and began to really read the stories back-to-back I was struggling at times. Reading the book is different and there’s a bit of a barrier or distance between the reader and the storyteller. I was interacting directly with every single person in the book. Many of which we were in back-and-forth correspondence. Going through the story and knowing that person and talking with them was a very different experience. However, with that being said, it also made me so proud to be able to do this. There were a few people who I spoke with who have dystonia so bad that this book was their first opportunity to tell the world what it was that they were battling and dealing with every single day. The sheer determination was inspiring.
I’ve always been very open with my feelings, so have no problems of just saying, “I am having a crappy day.” You know, that feeling when you wake in the morning and you think to yourself, “I don’t know why, but it’s going to be one of those days.” I just warn everyone. That way, it isn’t a great shock to anyone if I am not my self.
I have a great support network in my wife and daughters. Just having a cuddle from them or listening to their stories about their little lives is priceless. I love going for walks, so I would often go for a long walk with my wife and talk at her about whatever it is that is going around in my head at that point.
Q. Have you found this project has impacted your life more than you expected?
Yes, definitely. I have made so many new friends and my faith in humanity has been restored thanks to the dystonia community being full to the brim with some of the most lovely and sincere people I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with. Absolute warriors and so inspirational! From the very start of working on the book, I was exposed to a whole world of forms of dystonia that I had not only not heard of, but wouldn’t have ever stumbled across if it hadn’t been for the work I was doing. It showed me that dystonia awareness is not only vitally important outside of the dystonia community, but within it too. Finally, I guess what I almost selfishly planned to be a one-and-done in regard to this project has lead to me wanting to champion and awareness as much as I can whenever I can. Warriors of Dystonia continues to grow, and I am proud to have started it.
Q. You are also a self-published author, can you say a bit about this or is it top secret?
Being a complete control freak means that the self-publish route suits me just perfectly. Whenever I have written a book, the formatting, layout, cover art and pretty much every other aesthetic as well as the writing must look exactly how I want. There’s a method and plan behind my madness! The downside is that you discover that writing a book is easy, it’s the getting it out there into the public eye that is difficult. Although it would be fantastic to see Warriors of Dystonia in books shops, the word Dystonia isn’t something that you just stumble across, so I would expect that most people who are looking for a book about dystonia will stumble across my book when scouring the internet.
Anyone going down the self published-route needs to be prepared to have a plan of how they will release their masterpiece onto the world, and this needs to begin before the date you plan of unleashing it. You need to drum up interest, use all of the tools the internet gives you, put yourself out there so that people get to know you and then talk to your audience. Warriors of Dystonia the book didn’t exist in January 2020, but by the time it was released, everyone who had been following the project knew exactly what it was that I was putting together, when it was coming out and knew a lot about me. Once the book is released, you must keep up that momentum. This is where I struggle, because I keep thinking that any time that I am investing in marketing could be time spent writing or working on a new project!
Q. What is your next project?
I have been writing under a pseudonym for many years and my plan is to continue something I started many years ago under that alias. When it comes to writing, my passion is in surreal, off-the-wall comedy and horror. As well as that, I have drafted a plan for a podcast that I will be hopefully starting this year, it will be another one-man-show, and will be a mix of reviews, random stories of the week and probably a lot of swearing.
These are regular questions I ask everyone, but you may want to skip some if you don’t want to discuss your other books.
Q. What is your favourite book?
The Pilo Family Circus and the Skulduggery Pleasant Series. Pilo Family Circus is one of the most unique horror stories I have ever read.
Q. Who is your favourite author?
Derek Landy, bit that’s because I absolutely love the Skulduggery books.
Q. Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?
I would say not really. My writing is a messy amalgamation of influence from films, comics, music, with a splash of books. One of my biggest influences is life and the characters I meet along the way.
Q. Where is your favourite place to read or write?
I enjoy reading in my living room with movie soundtracks or instrumental music playing in the background. If I have music on that has lyrics my brain tends to start drawing me to the music.
Q. When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?
I have been writing ever since I was a young teen, but I really got into it after I wrote a controversial short story about my secondary school, a killer bear and the carnage that ensued when that bear got to the school. It was over-the-top, completely inappropriate comedy mixed with horror; a printout of the story started to circulate around my school and I became a legend! I absolutely loved hearing about how funny people found the story. Years later, at university, I wrote a series of stories about my life and once again I found it fantastic to see people reading my work in the workshops and laughing. In 2006 I completed Nanowrimo and at the end of it I put the transcript into a book. Seeing an actual physical copy of the story in this way made me want to put more out! I then created my first writing alter ego and haven’t looked back.
Q. If you have a genre you write, how did you begin writing in this style?
I love writing comedy that is mixed with horror, occult and it always tends to be quite surreal and totally unpredictable. Some of my inspirations would be the unpredictable comedy of Reeves and Mortimer, the surrealness of Monty Python and the crude, horror-tinged shock tactics of League of Gentlemen. I also love to listen to paranormal and conspiracy podcasts too as they offer a writer such a diverse pallet of characters and stories!
Thank you so much for joining me for a natter and all you do for the dystonia community. More information on Karl’s book follows.
Warriors of Dystonia by Karl Kiddy
“Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder behind essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease, yet hardly anyone has heard of it. Little is known about the condition or what causes it, but what is certain is that it can affect anyone at any age, at any time, any part of the body and has no cure. Whether directly having dystonia or caring for someone who has it, Warriors of Dystonia shares the candid, emotional journeys and experiences of people from all over the world whose lives are affected by this chronic neurological condition.”
Thank you again Karl for joining me and good luck in your next project.
An update on my challenge for Dystonia Around the World, migraines and dystonia attacks have meant I’m slower than normal but I’m now on book 5 of my readathon to raise awareness and fundraise for dystonia UK. I will be updating my page here
This beautiful book popped up on my NetGalley dashboard and with my recent interest in herb growing and research for The Journals I was excited to receive a digital copy from Storey Publishing to give an unbiased, honest review.
The Illustrated Herbiary by Maia Toll
Title: The Illustrated Herbiary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Bewitching Botanicals
Author: Maia Toll
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Release Date: 7th August 2018
Genre: Non-fiction, botanical, spirituality
Rosemary is for remembrance; sage is for wisdom. The symbolism of plants — whether in the ancient Greek doctrine of signatures or the Victorian secret language of flowers — has fascinated us for centuries. Contemporary herbalist Maia Toll adds her distinctive spin to this tradition with profiles of the mysterious personalities of 36 herbs, fruits, and flowers. Combining a passion for plants with imagery reminiscent of tarot, enticing text offers reflections and rituals to tap into each plant’s power for healing, self-reflection, and everyday guidance. Smaller versions of the illustrations are featured on 36 cards to help guide your thoughts and meditations
This book was different to what I was expecting in the best possible way. Rather than an encyclopedia of herbs I thought it would be, it is a reflective look at a selection of plants and their meanings and uses with the view to guide the reader in meditation and life. The illustrations are beautifully vibrant, bold with the distinctive look of tarot cards which complement the easy-to-read text well. I loved the insight into the meanings of the plants, inspiring quotes, snippets of information and the simple rituals you can slip into your daily routine. It was a pleasure to read as a book but with the additional cards included with the physical copy I am certain the oracle potential will come into its own. I keep returning to my copy; the more I do, the more I see, and the more magical and grounding it is. I feel lucky, Maia Toll has shared some of the knowledge she learnt from her year stay in Ireland with a healer and herbalist. As I look at the plants in my garden and in the Yorkshire countryside I have a greater appreciation and connection to them. Sometimes you read a book and hear the author’s voice in your head urging you to discover more; this is one of them. I was happy to discover her blog so I can do that.
My favourite flower and the one that calls to me has to be one I have never heard of, Trillium. With it’s simple flower nestled in the forest floor, it helps the birth of ideas and nurtures them; just what I need in my creativity. And I will always remember Valerian and her permission to have guilt free afternoon naps.
Would I recommend?
It may not be the in-depth book I was expecting but I long to have a physical copy of this magical, insightful book and the accompanying cards on my bookshelf to delve into for guidance and inspiration. I need this book so they are high on my Christmas wish list, if I can wait that long.
Thank you NetGalley and Storey Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.
I love books. I adore book shops and one of my top things to do on my bucket list was to visit Hay-on-Wye in Wales. That was until I read Book Towns: forty-five paradises of the printed word by Alex Johnson.
Book Towns: forty-five paradises of the printed word
Title: Book Towns: forty-five paradises of the printed word
Author: Alex Johnson
Genre: Travel, literature
Publisher: Quarto Publishing Group
Release Date: 22nd March 2018
The so-called “Book Towns” of the world are dedicated havens of literature, and the ultimate dream of book lovers everywhere. Book Towns takes readers on a richly illustrated tour of the 40 semi-officially recognized literary towns around the world and outlines the history and development of each community, and offers practical travel advice.
Many Book Towns have emerged in areas of marked attraction, such as Ureña in Spain or Fjaerland in Norway, where bookshops have been set up in buildings including former ferry waiting rooms and banks. While the UK has the best-known examples at Hay, Wigtown and Sedbergh, the book has a broad international appeal, featuring locations such as Jimbochu in Japan, College Street in Calcutta, and major unofficial “book cities” such as Buenos Aires.
Despite its unassuming and slightly uninspiring cover, this is a wonderful coffee table book. It showcases Book Towns around the world to explore, drool and fantasize over so is perfect to look at while you or visitors are having a cup of tea or coffee. If like me, you don’t know what book towns are they are towns dedicated to literature with book shops, festivals and history. They are bibliophiles’ dream locations. This non-fiction book covers over 40 of them and inspires with it’s stunning photographs, simple format and descriptions. It made me want to be there to experience the shops, smell the books and browse the endless bookshelves for the perfect book or two or three. I would love to visit them all especially Hay-on-Wye, Sedbergh and Wigtown as they are in the UK but I long to travel to Fjaerland in Norway. If I won the lottery I would go on a worldwide tour ticking them off one by one. It would take me to:
Would I recommend?
It is an ideal addition to a bookcase and would make a lovely gift for book lovers and travellers. I long for a physical copy to treasure and dream over.
Now where is my passport?
Thank you NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln for an advanced copy to review in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. You have made this book dragon very happy.
Have you been to a book town? I would love to hear your experiences.