by Lynda Shepherd
My love of words started in a similar way to many; with my parents reading to me at bedtime. My imagination sparked, I would go on adventures with the Mr Men, Sooty and Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch all without leaving my duvet. I’d been so proud when I received a gold star in primary school for a story about a dragon called ‘Droom‘ and vaguely remember recording it onto cassette tape … yes I am that old!
As I moved to secondary school, the words ‘your school days are best days of your life’; did not ring entirely true for me as I was taunted by bullies. The written word became my escape, and my love of books meant I was able to read above my expected reading age pretty much throughout my school days cementing my appreciation of a stories’ ability both to entertain and transport me.
My teachers had always been encouraging and from my teens onwards I wrote short stories on and off, but it was in my twenties that I began to take my desire to write more seriously. I went to local evening classes in my native Upminster to develop my skills and made a friend who later encouraged me to attend local writing group Havering Writers’ Circle.
Throughout my thirties I made more friends with fellow writers and regularly read out my current work in progress to encouraging feedback. Advice was also available between meetings by email and online chat which was invaluable; giving me the confidence to start submitting my work both to magazines and competitions – thank you Chris Sutton, Claire Buckle, Paul Offer-Kemp and Ian Cole for your continued support!
My first publishing success came in late 2013 following a backstage tour of my local theatre ‘Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch‘ The Queens’ was about to celebrate its diamond anniversary, sixty years young. A big community serving achievement in creative and performance arts in anyone’s eyes. I began to play around with the idea of writing a non-fiction article to celebrate this special anniversary. Acting on advice I had previously received, I emailed out for guidelines to various publications and included a sentence of two about the article I was hoping to write. Only one editor responded, Essex Life’s Julian Read who remains at its helm at time of writing. Julian was kind enough to give a clear idea of their requirements and expressed an interest in seeing the finished piece. I was delighted, this was beyond expectations. I wrote the piece aided by research, advice as well as numerous discussions with the Queens’ generous staff, Havering’s local studies library and of course my friends at Havering Writers’. To my absolute amazement my finished article was published in the September 2013 issue of Essex Life.
A month later I placed in a local short story writing competition with a piece inspired again by my tour of the Queens’ Theatre. At the awards evening I was delighted to have my entry read out by actor Ali Watt. It was like the story had come alive and I felt honoured by the magic he gave my words in his delivery.
I began attending Brentwood Writers’ Circle becoming a full member in late 2017. My confidence grew and although I had some fallow times when life’s events meant that my confidence wobbled or my energy levels were low I continued to write and hone my skills. At Brentwood I met Patrick Forsyth who writes and has written columns/articles for magazines, books on travel and time management as well as fiction. Patrick decided he wanted to find a way of raising money for the Essex based Farleigh Hospice who had looked after his wife. Patrick had the idea of putting together a charity anthology of pieces of prose all linked in some way to the county. He then spread the news that he was looking for contributors’. In 2017 A Great Little Gallimaufry was published by Stanhope Books including my contribution alongside other local and more widely known writers such as Sylvia Kent, Sue Moorcroft, Karen Bowman and Claire Buckle. The book has now raised a couple of thousand pounds and is still on sale.
In late 2018, spurred on by my line manager at work, I pitched an idea for an article to the editor of a magazine produced by Havering council for its residents ‘Living In Havering’. This was published in their February 2019 issue. I’ve now just had my third article published with Living, had a children’s short story in the recently released Halloween special of Ireland’s Own and joined the Pen to Print team behind Write On! magazine.
I feel incredibly blessed by the support of my family, friends, colleagues and fellow writers. My writing journey continues. I like to think of myself as an entertainer and also an escape artist because I feel my fear, learn how to overcome it and continue to write my way.
Lynda is one of our Pen to Print Write On! magazine contributors.
I like to think of myself as an entertainer and also an escape artist because I feel my fear, learn how to overcome it and continue to write my way.