Poem for a toddler

Have you ever noticed how a toddler will react to a tiny thing like it's the end of the world? Yes. Of course you have, these small tyrants and their reactions reach impressive decibels.

I was listening to a young boy, who is actually a beautiful and very happy child 90% of the time, have a minor meltdown. He sounded truly heartbroken (over what I later discovered was over a shoe issue), so I wrote the following:


Kalladi, Sri Lanka                                              

For Zia (aged 20 months)


I am not crying.


I am not crying because you packed away my crayons.

You misunderstand me mother.

I am lamenting the loss of beauty in this bleak, uncaring world.

I am not crying because I smashed a glass, or because you reprimanded me.

You misunderstand me mother.

I am realising the fragility of life. Things will smash and I can change nothing.

I am not crying because you put me to bed.

You misunderstand me mother.

I am mourning the death of another day and the transience of time.

I am not crying mother,

You misunderstand me.

I am not crying.



Which Dinosaur are you?

When you have a hit it always takes a while to build up the confidence to follow it up. Sequels eh? But now the wait is over! After my smash hit, soul defining quiz 'Which bird are you?' you can now, finally, find out which dinosaur you truly are...


1. You hear the roar of an approaching predator what do you do?

A. Run away. THEN Ring the army. THEN Watch from a safe distance.

B. Head out to meet it. Predators are often misunderstood. Maybe it just wants to be friends?

C. Become one with your surroundings. How can it find you if you were never here...?

D. Blind it with a flash from your compact mirror and make good your escape.

E. Take it out! Who's got a rocket launcher I can borrow?


2. You are stuck on a small island inhabited by other dinosaurs, anarchic scientists and the occasional tourist. What three items would you bring?

A. Well probably a map, a torch and Bear Grylls.

B. No, I think I’ll stay at home. 

C. A plastic sheet. It's all you really need to survive in the wild.

D. My straighteners, my tweezers and I do have a pair of trainers, they’re sparkly.  

E. A knife, fork and spoon. And napkin. I'm going to have four things.


3. What colour Power Ranger would you be?

A. Blue

B. Orange

C. Red

D. Pink

E. Green


4. What's your favourite cultural depiction of dinosaurs?

A. I was a big fan of Dippy at the Natural History museum. We miss you Dippy!

B. The purple one, Barney.

C. Jurassic Park. 'Clever girl'.

D. Nessie, she’s got style.

E. Godzilla. Or Crocosaurus. Has there been a crossover movie yet?


5. What do you fancy doing this weekend? I'm paying...

A. An escape the room please.

B. Go to a debate at the House of Commons? Jokes! Can we go play on the swings?

C. Obstacle course! With running! And monkey bars! And ropes! And mud!

D. Spa day!!!

E. All you can eat challenges. All of them.


6. Which are your favourite pair of shoes?

A. My Doc Martens, really they're worth the price and you can wear them for everything. 

B. My red ones.

C. My Fivefinger running shoes- you know, the ones that look like gloves for your feet? 

D. My Manolo Blahniks.

E. I am not going to pick. I love all my shoes equally and I have many.


7. What would you like for Christmas?

A. A big fluffy dressing gown.

B. Cheese.

C. 1. Nun chucks. 2. Nun chuck training.

D. Spa Day!!!

E. Home gym equipment and protein shakes.


And the results:


Mostly As

Congratulations you are a Brachiosaurus. You are a Sauropod, just like Dippy! You like leaves which is fair, dislike hills which is sensible and have a very long neck which is just great.

Mostly Bs


Who’s got two thumbs and a face that looks like a duck? This guy! Yep, you're an Ouranosaurus! You were one of the slowest moving dinos and you keep your teeth in your cheek. That’s okay though because you’re also a land dwelling animal who has a sail! LOL! Keep on keeping on Ouranosaurus!

Mostly Cs


Yes you’re a Borealopelta. You look a little bit like a hippo that someone has decorated, WITH ARMOUR! No one has ever managed to get a photo of you, probably because you can also CAMOUFLAGE YOURSELF?! How can they take your picture if you were never here...?

Mostly Ds


Well look at you! You’re a Mauisaurus! You also have a long neck but the low level lighting in the middle of the ocean is super flattering. If we're going to get "technical" you're not "technically" and "dinosaur", you're a Plesiosaur, but you've got so many teeth you can be whatever you want to be! And you were named after the legendary Maui! You’re welcome!

Mostly Es


Thought you were going to be a T-Rex didn’t you? Well you’re not. You’re a Spinosaurus and that’s EVEN BIGGER! You outweigh the T-Rex by a ton and a half. Your face looks like a crocodile and you have a sail, even though you live on land, which is AWESOME!


LOCAL AUTHOR Helen Comerford has fallen foul of the PMS (Pro Mustard Society). Protesters massed in front of her north London flat today to demonstrate against Comerford's novel Afterlife which the group believes to have anti-mustard-rhetoric.

'This novel has anti-mustard-rhetoric' Ms K. Hup (48) explained. 'There are too many works of so called art in today's culture which use mustard as a scapegoat. It's an easy target. It's the 21st century's punching bag. And we of PMS believe it must be protected.'

Chants of:

'Mustard good, Prejudice bad'

'Don't Stomach Hate!'


'The Truth about mustard is ingrain(ed)'

have echoed down the leafy street since the early hours, whilst a forest of placards decorated in pro-mustard slogans have trapped the author in her home.

Earlier today, in an exclusive telephone interview, Comerford had this to say-

'They're protesting what? Why? And this is a real thing?'

A very revealing comment from the besieged writer.

We, at the Hornsey Herald, do not know how long this protest will continue or who will triumph in this clash of ideologies, but you can follow the story as we live tweet under #PMS.

Which bird are you?

There's nothing more important in daily life than birds, so I've developed this handy quiz to figure out exactly which bird you are.

1. You're on the London tube, what do you do to keep yourself entertained?

A. Not hold on and try to surf
B. Lose yourself in a good book and try not to think about mice
C. Listen to your phone's music on loud
D. Eat the chicken you found on the floor
E. Look at yourself in the windows

2. What's your favourite sport?

A. Running really fast in a straight line
B. Spectating
C. Snatching someone's iphone and running away
D. American Football
E. Rhythmic gymnastics

3. There's a riot on the high street near your home, do you-

A. Hide under your duvet
B. Sleep through it
C. Smash up Sports Direct
D. Oh I should - wait no, I'll - oh if I - no- um
E. Go the next morning to look at the pretty glass all over the floor. Isn't it strange how you can find beauty everywhere? Isn't life funny?

4. You're planning your next holiday, where are you going?

A. Safari trip!
B. Country retreat
D. All the London sites! Especially Trafalgar Square, don't you just love Trafalgar Square?!
E. Dubai, Dubai looks pretty and shiny!

5. What's your favourite food?

A. A nice lean curry
B. I quite like fast food actually
C. Chips and ice cream
D. I don't really have a favourite, I will literally eat anything
E. Canapes on silver platter please

And the results! 

(Brace yourself for a look into your actual soul)

Mostly A's - You're an Ostrich, you leggy beauty! You like moving fast and sticking your head in the sand.

Mostly B's - You're an Owl, oh wise one. You like killing tiny furry things and are friends with Pooh Bear.

Mostly C's - Congratulations you're a Seagull, you mouthy dickhead. You can surf air currents though, so that's something I guess...

Mostly D's - Yep you're a Pigeon. But unless your answer to question one was 'chicken', you are a Wood Pigeon, nobly plump, noisy and very tasty... 

Mostly E's - You're a magpie. You find beauty in all things which is admirable, you're also a kleptomaniac.

Writing poetry is weightlifting for writers

Writing poetry is weightlifting for writers. A quote accredited to a few writers across twitter but one I couldn’t agree with more…

(Go on Zoe!)

(Go on Zoe!)

Do let me clarify-  I am NOT a poet. Not at all. Not even a little bit. I’ve seen performance poets in action- Tom Mansfield- a London based performer for example, who spins an intricate rhythmical spiral of words that captures you up and in that moment, takes you wherever he wants you to go- he’s a poet. The people who stand up at Spoken Word London and pour out their hearts in stanzas, they’re poets. Carol Ann Duffy, she’s a poet.

All poets are writers but not all writers are poets.

I can make things rhyme. I recently helped to adapt Traum Theatre’s 'Penguinpig', creating a rhyming narrative for their puppets to follow, but I’m classing that as playwriting. For me, poetry is an exercise in creativity. A chance for me, in a short space of time, to create something lively, irreverent and fun... Maybe writing is less like weightlifting for me and more like a quickie…

Maybe poetry is more like archery for writers?

It’s all about precision. You can’t have too many words in a poem, you have to pick carefully, the word has to fit with the rhythm and convey everything you need it to in a few syllables… It’s not like a blog where you can ramble on and on and on…

Actually maybe poetry is more like scrabble for writers?

Because whilst you’re looking for that perfect word you run through every synonym. The words I learnt whilst I was looking for something to rhyme with purple!

Or poetry is like skydiving for writers?

It’s freeing. You write about whatever you want, because a poem is as long as it is. You’re not aiming for the 68,000 word mark of a novel. If I want to write a poem about an avocado I can absolutely write a poem about an avocado and know that after the sixth line I can put a stop to the madness…

Poetry is mental gymnastics- but the good kind, the one with more flips and kicks and less ribbons on sticks.

Anyway, writers, poets, people, I encourage you to go out and write whatever you want. Everything you write makes you a better writer be it poetry or a wordy blog about not being a poet.

So, just for fun, here is a couple of fruits my weightlifting.

VDAY – February 2015

You can forget your roses

& marked up fancy meals

& stilted conversation

& theatre, hotel deals.

Tonight I've got a real treat,

My date's too cool to care

Have stuck 'em in the freezer

& found slippers to wear.

Yep, tonight I'm gonna raise a glass

Then chow down and be merry,

This year I have two Valentines-

The gorgeous Ben and Jerry



And my favourite-



I am the kamikaze pigeon,

No wandering for me,

No pecking at vague vomit,

I'm in the air, I'm free.

I am the kamikaze pigeon,

Look at me, I soar.

See me blur towards you

You should probably hit the floor.

I am the kamikaze pigeon,

And you are in my place.

Where your head was is where I am,

This is my air space.

I am the kamikaze pigeon,

I am London through and through,

Shoppers and tourists cower

And really so should you.

I am the kamikaze pigeon

And this is mine, my day.

Life's intense or what's the point?

So fuck off out the way. 

What is #Bookbusking?

I am a #Bookbusker. I’ve released my book for free hoping that if you finish it, if you like it, if you LOVE it, you’ll put some money in the hat…


All fledgling authors will tell you it’s hard to get exposure for their work. People don’t like buying the work of unknown authors. Who can blame them? With so many books to choose from, why pay if you can’t be guaranteed a great read?

BUT as soon as an ebook starts being given away for free the number of downloads skyrockets. When ‘Afterlife’, my Young Adult thriller set in a sinister future Britain, was free for a few days in May it took up residency near the top of the YA Dystopia Charts on Amazon. 


It works for comedy, theatre and music…

Just take the Edinburgh Free Fringe. Every year comedians put on their work in free venues and then pass the hat around at the end, lots of acts make enough money to keep going back year after year. A comedian friend earned himself a load of awards, an agent and a loyal following by bringing his dark and twisted comedy to the free Fringe each year. (Check out Richard Gadd if you’re in Edinburgh this August). People will take a chance on something that’s free and most people will acknowledge the artists hard work at the end.

Will it work if I'm not physically standing next to readers with a hat (or bucket) when they finish the book...? Time will tell.


One of the best examples of pay what you like working was Radiohead’s 2007 album ‘In Rainbows’. They set up an ‘honesty box’ on their website where fans could pay what they liked and ‘in terms of digital income (they) made more money out of this record than out of all the other Radiohead albums put together, forever’ according to Thom Yorke.


You can download Afterlife (epub) for free by filling out the form below. Then a link at the end of the book will bring you back to the site where you’ll be able to donate. Happy reading!

Name *

The best day job for writers?

Writing is your passion, but unless you're very lucky you probably can't afford to stop working to become a full time writer. The average wage of a writer in Britain is less than £11k a year, some will make more, some will make way, way less (trust me on this). With all the jobs out there what's the best thing to spend your day doing so you can come home and create at the end of a long day?

Four writers give an insight into their working life.

Freelance Journalist

Author: Lochlan Bloom

Genre: Contemporary/ Literary Fiction

 Where did you work?

While I wrote The Wave I was also working freelance as a writer for different news journals. The main part was written while I was living in Stoke Newington in North London. My flat was tiny so I worked and wrote a lot in cafes along Church St.

Briefly what did your job entail?

Most of the freelance contracts I was working on were articles for online news sites and journals. This involved reading far too many badly-written press releases and juggling a lot of deadlines.

What are the pros of doing this job alongside writing?

Having to write every day and meet deadlines is definitely a pro

What are the cons?

But having multiples deadlines and no fixed hours can make it hard to separate time dedicated to writing fiction.

What training do you need to do it?

Black belt in martial arts

Find out more about Lochlan: www.lochlanbloom.com


The Wave

Trade and The Open Cage 

Theatre Stage Manager

Author: Me!!! (Helen Comerford)

Genre: Young Adult/ Dystopia

Where did you work?

At present I’m a Stage Manager at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, but I have done all sorts- touring, musicals, pantos and even ‘An Evening with the Hoff’ at the O2.

Briefly what did your job entail?

Stage Management look after the running of the show. The Assistant Stage Manager looks after props and helps run backstage, which is what I do on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

What are the pros of doing this job alongside writing?

Show call. When the show is up and running, we only come in a few hours before, often my day can start as late as 4pm which means I have time to get some writing done before work.

I’ve been to a lot of interesting places for work (Wales, Channel Islands, Edinburgh Festival, Wales) and met a lot of interesting people, because, like most Stage Managers I’m a freelancer and go from contract to contract. Also it’s just a great job, people who work in theatre love theatre and so are generally really happy to be at work. Calling a show (telling lights, sound, flys etc when to GO) or running backstage can be challenging, exciting and hilarious in equal measure.

What are the cons?

At frequent intervals Stage Management completely takes over your life, you can be working twelve hour days for a few weeks or more. When this happens I give everything to the show and absolutely cannot write. But weighed against show call the rest of the time it’s not too bad.

Also, generally, you’re hired for your efficiency, not your creativity. You have to learn when to keep ideas to yourself, if you’re the Stage Manager in the rehearsal room the writer and the director probably won’t be looking your way for script suggestions…

Ah also a big pro is also a major con, being a freelancer means you’re always thinking about your next job and spend a lot of time applying for shows and chasing down leads.

What training do you need to do it?

I did a postgraduate in Stage Management at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. But, if you’re looking to work in Theatre without going back to university you can get a job backstage as Stage Crew and work your way up.

Find out more about Afterlife

Microsoft Technology Specialist/ IT Consultant

Author: Jessica Meats

Genre: Science Fiction/ Adventure

Where did you work?

All the time I've been a published author, I've been a Microsoft technology specialist or IT consultant in some way.

Briefly what did your job entail?

The job varied over the years, but large parts of it involved knowing the Microsoft technology, keeping up to date with new releases, presenting about it, teaching people about it, explaining how it might solve a business' problems, things like that.

What are the pros of doing this job alongside writing?

The main pro is that my technology jobs have had pretty good pay. This means I can spend energy on writing instead of worrying how I'm going to pay the bills and write the things I enjoy without fretting too much about how much money it will make. It also means that when I decided to self-publish my novella series, I was able to pay for professional editing, proof-reading, cover design, etc.

With my job, I also have occasional trips around the country to do meetings and workshops with customers. I find those a really good opportunity for writing. When I'm stuck in a hotel room in the evening without much to do, I can get a lot of writing done.

The combination of my writing credentials and technical knowledge also got me an invite to write a technical book. I nearly put this in the con section because writing the technical manual was tedious, but the fact is that the technical book has had better sales than any of my fiction works. Having collected a large number of rejection letters before finding a publisher for my first novel, it was thrilling to have a publisher approach me and ask me to write a book for them.

What are the cons?

The main con is the same as any full time job - time. I officially work 9-5:30 five days a week, but it sometimes spills over into evenings. The time I'm in the office or travelling around to meetings, I can't spend writing.

What training do you need to do it?

I have a masters degree in maths and computer science, but more importantly I have to spend a lot of time keeping up with rapid changes in technology. New updates and products are released just about every week, so I have to regularly take part in online training, go on courses, and follow updates just to stay ahead of the changes.

 Find out more about Jessica: http://plot-twister.co.uk


Child of the Hive

Omega Rising 

Shadows of Tomorrow 


Author: Me again!

Where did you work?

As a student and for a while after I worked as a Customer Service Representative at Blockbuster. For anyone born after the 90s, Blockbuster was a magical place where you went to rent DVDs. For anyone born after the noughties- DVDs were round silver discs you got movies on, like a download you can hold.

 Briefly what did your job entail?

Serving customers, filing films, keeping the store tidy, recommending films.

What are the pros of doing this job alongside writing?

This was arguably the greatest student job of all time as it included many free films. I also got to stand around and chat about randomness for a lot of my shift (timetravel, how we'd survive a zombie attack, who fancied who) all great fodder for writing. Then at the end of my shift I’d clock off and leave any work worries on the shopfloor, generally with enough energy to get some writing done.

 What are the cons?

Customer service can be horrible, sometimes people were just really rude. Also Blockbuster doesn’t massively exist any more so that’s probably a pretty big con…

 What training do you need to do it?

Generally just work experience.

Events Project Coordinator

Playwright and Poet: Philippa Mannion

Where did you work?

I have had many different jobs in the last five years - from being a barista to working in a box office, being a front of house duty manager and also being the project coordinator of a mid-scale outdoor arts company.

Briefly what did your job entail?

At Nutkhut, we created and produced outdoor events for festivals and local authorities - it was a good mix of production management, event logistics, marketing and design work and production support. It was always good to see the end result and the delight on people’s faces when they engaged with performers, seeing them smile and knowing you can bring joy into someone’s life. 

What are the pros of doing this job alongside writing?

A big plus is you know where your rent is coming from each. I also found that working in theatre or an arts organisation alongside your own writing can help you understand the process that others go through to create work and that can help you to define your work ethic and how you create.

What are the cons?

It can be frustrating when a job starts dominating your life, relaxing after you’ve finished work can be a challenge. If I’ve had a rough day at work, I do find it difficult to think creatively or return to the desk and write.

 What training do you need to do it?

I have a degree in Theatre Studies and experience in a variety of roles in the Theatre including Front of House, duty managing, and producing.

Find out more about Philippa: https://mannionaise.com/words/

Check out her current project Trench at the Pleasance Theatre HERE

Other day jobs...

Just for fun, here's some day jobs of some of our best known writers:

Franz Kafka worked as an Insurance Lawyer

Malorie Blackman worked as a Database Manager

Philip Larkin worked as a Librarian

Terry Pratchett worked as a Press Officer

Christine Brooke Rose worked as a Code Breaker at Bletchley Park!

Agatha Christie worked as an Apothecarie's Assistant

George Orwell worked as a Policeman in Burma

Booker Prize winner Magnus Mills worked as a Bus Driver


Madeira is Paradise (apparently)

In April I released my first young adult novel, a dystopian thriller which throws a teenage cast of characters into the different landscapes of the afterlife. In June I visited Madeira for the first time and realised that when I wrote the ‘heaven’ parts of my novel I had basically plagiarised an entire island…


Part of my concept was that lots of wonderful places, that don’t normally coexist, would be placed side by side to create the paradise that Eve and her friends find themselves in. So I thought of all the best things nature could offer. The forest that Eve and Gabby explore. The golden beach where Gabby feels most at home. The white beach where Hannah has her beach hut. The mountains where Joe climbs and the waterfall he falls over in book 2 (spoilers!).

Then I went to Madeira and there they all were- I even had a canine companion for my walk through the mountains, just like Joe and his dog Daisy!

I did consider the possibility that I’d died and somehow ended up in my own surreal version of the afterlife- in fact when I got back to London late on a Friday night and stepped in vomit on my way through Oxford Circus Underground, I did think I might have ended up in a hell sector (Oxford Circus does make a special guest appearance as a hell in book 2 – more spoilers!!!) But since I’m now at home and have done reassuringly mundane tasks like make my bed and cook some pasta, I’m relatively certain that I am still alive…


‘We are sitting at the edge of a stream that trickles alongside the forest path, allowing ourselves a break before we keep going. The clear water flows over smooth stones which shine brown and pink and grey.’

Did you know that Madeira is THE MOST exciting place in the world to be water? It flows through the mountains in small man made channels called Levadas that you can walk beside. It races down hills in pipes towards the rumbling Atlantic. It has the option (should the urge take it) to surge through big river beds, built through the major towns, which are currently completely overgrown with grass and trees. It also flows in streams alongside forest paths past endless trees.


‘To the south of the town is another beach, there the waves crash against golden sand.’

Madeira is not really known for its beaches. There are mostly rocky beaches which have black sand, which sounds romantic but looks  like mud, hiding under the stones. They are still lovely to visit, you can always find somewhere to settle in and look out over the clear water. But  I did visit one beach with golden sand in the town of Machico. The soft golden grains have been imported from Morocco.  None the less it definitely counts.


‘Hannah looked around her beach hut. Decorated with the curtains from home her mum had picked out and her antique jewellery box, it had been like this when they’d shown her to it. It was as close to her room as it could be, whilst still being a luxury hut on a pure white beach.’

I am cheating a little here because I didn’t actually visit Porto Santos and technically it’s not in Madeira, it’s the island next to Madeira- but it’s really really close! Madeira tourism sites call it 'The paradise in paradise' (which would make it paradise squared?) That’s the trip to go on if you want an unspoilt white beach like the one Hannah finds herself on.


‘They’d been following the trails through the mountains for a few days now, getting gradually higher. Joe didn’t know where they were going but figured it didn’t really matter. He was on an adventure with Daisy, if he had been able to choose his heaven this is what he would have picked. He pulled on his pack.’

My second day in Madeira a lovely lady called Christina, who I’d met in a bar on the first night, came out to greet me as I started a Levada walk. A small dog, named Babalu, who Christina had adopted but who retained his street dog independence, also came out and decided that he’d do the entire Levada walk with me. That’s a four hour trek through the mountains and Babalu is a small dog, but we had a great time! And yes, there were waterfalls.

For the even more energetic you can hike up the tallest peak, Pico Riuvo 1800m+, and walk among the flowers above the clouds. Have I mentioned the flowers yet? They are EVERYWHERE. Imagine the most beautiful garden you've been to, now make it a hundred times better and spread it across the mountains, next to the roads, up the sides of cliffs...  If I could bottle the scent of Madeira and sell it to Londoners I'd make a fortune. 


‘The town stretches out in front of me; I can see our street, the hall and a simple church surrounded by trees blossoming pink… if I were visiting I would say it would take around half a day to take it all in, but I’m not visiting so I guess I’ll try to stretch it out.’

I stayed in Porto Da Cruz, my new favourite place. It was tiny and dominated by a white church that nosily marked the passing of each hour and broadcasted its service on Sundays whether you wanted to listen or not. It was at a crossroads between Levada walks, cliff walks, mountain walks and a beach where you could learn to surf. And if you didn’t want to do anything active there was always somewhere nice to sit and read and drink a cheeky poncha (see below).


‘People keep themselves to themselves here.’

This is where my version of the afterlife and Madeira part ways. In the ‘Paradise’ where Eve and Gabby end up, people are quiet and reserved and there is an undercurrent of fear…

Thankfully there’s nothing of the sort in Madeira! Everyone who lives there is lovely, possibly because they can surf or hike whenever they like, the food is incredible and the national drink is poncha (locally distilled rum mixed with honey and fresh fruit juice YUM!)


Just to confirm, Madeira is lovely, it is beautiful, I almost stayed there forever. My novel is less lovely, quite a lot less lovely, a reviewer called it ‘inventively nasty’ which is probably fair. But if you need something to read on your flight to Madeira it’ll keep you entertained…

Shout outs to:

Madeira Surf Camp where I stayed and learnt to surf.

Calhau Surf School who also helped me not to drown

And Vila Bela where I went for food everyday and still would if I could afford the airfare…


Check out Afterlife the novel or Afterlife the audiobook ...