We've Nearly Made It

Hello and Welcome!

Here is everything you need to know about the progress of A Blonde Bengali Wife, the travel book I've written about my love-affair with the fabulous country of Bangladesh.

Publication: Friday 15th October 2010

Launch: Monday 15th November 2010

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Cool For Summer

Since this is the first summer in five years that I've not had a PhD to write, I've taken to reading on the various planes, trains and automobiles across America - and the Kindle has finally come into its own. 

I've been editing and proof-reading some more very good novels-in-progress (watch this space) and one that's out and about right now is Victoria Murray's debut 'Live Hate Die'.  Vicky has chosen to go the self-published e-book route in order to get the finished novel out there as soon as possible.  Take a look at the link:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Live-Hate-Die-Victoria-Murray-ebook

Vicky's book has challenged a lot of my preconceptions about certain genres!  It's the story of Jake Devlin, lead singer in an up-and-coming heavy metal band.  He just happens to be haunted by a ghost (a real one, not a metaphorical one) from his troubled past and when paranormal investigator, Tayla MacRae, sets out to help him, things get complicated...  Essentially, Live Hate Die (the name of Jake's group) is a horror novel, and I know lots of people like me, who would simply say they don't read horror.  Well, I did read it.  And I'm glad I did. Good plot, good characterisation, good writing.  And I'm sure Vicky won't mind if you read the end through half-closed eyes...!

Also highly recommended, is Marianne Wheeleghan's second crime novel.   In 'The Shoeshine Killer', DS Louisa Townsend has moved from Edinburgh to work for the Kiribati Police Service on Tarawa, a remote coral island in the Pacific Ocean.  Locally, she is known as the Scottish Detective Lady....  Marianne owns the hugely successful Writing School www.writingclasses.co.uk and still has time to write!  More at: http://www.mariannewheelaghan.co.uk/ 
Finally, remaining in crime mode, take a look at SJI Holliday's 'Black Wood'.  Wonderfully reviewed by fellow writer, Kendra Olson, in Lothian Life (www.lothianlife.co.uk) it's set in a fictional location that locals amongst you might recognise as Haddington.  It's Susie's debut and it is gripping. Visit: https://www.sjiholliday.com 
When I've managed to put these novels down, I've been tweeting.  Sort of.  The chance to pitch my own novel to Curtis Brown Creative (leading literary agents) at #PitchCB gave me the impetus to activate my Twitter account only four years after I set it up... and it diverted me from that mode of torture that all fiction-writers face at some point: The Synopsis.  Yes, folks, to all of you whose synopses I have pulled apart, cluttered with DYN?s and grudgingly 'approved', it's payback time.  It's hard.  It's really hard. Really, really hard. 
Maybe I should post mine up here and let you all at it with a red pen...
I hope August brings you all a beautiful month of summer
Anne x

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

It's Bhola Time

Photo time

Play time

Time to laugh

Girl time

Time to phone home

Boy time

More time to play

Bed time

Anne x


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

One Hundred Not Out!

I began this blog in the summer of 2010, a lead-up to the publication of A Blonde Bengali Wife (and, as it happens, the birth of my little boy, Simon).  'Time flies' is a cliché and feels so wrong during those more challenging days/weeks/months - when it all but stands still - but looking back over the last five years, I am certainly joining that middle-aged (no...never...help!) chorus of wondering where the years have gone?

We're often poor at concentrating more on what we haven't done rather than what we have. During my Family Group Conference work (a whole other story) I learned and taught that listing the positives in a situation is not only vital to present well-being and future planning, but that's it often very surprising - and affirming.  Do it, and it's likely you've achieved far more than you thought, and okay, they might be small things (getting the baby bathed before you and he fall asleep, writing a regular, brief, blog post) or ones that don't feel very central to your main goal of  world domination, but hey - you've still achieved them: reflect and celebrate!

So - timely in this the 100th blog post - what have I actually done over the last five years?  I have a beautiful, spirited, adorable and maddening son... and we still, on average, laugh more than we cry. I've seen A Blonde Bengali Wife published, and selling. I've finished and submitted my PhD ( yes, really - for those of you snorting in disbelief ). I'm a Trustee of a very special charity in Bhola's Children, and have had the privilege of several visits back to Bangladesh (and some other great countries) I've met some talented and fascinating writers who have allowed me to work on their novels with them, and am subsequently watching their many successes.  I've taken on the editorship of local on-line magazine, Lothian Life...

I'm stopping there.  It's turning equally into a living obituary and the type of acknowledgements page where the author thanks everyone from their dog to their chosen deity and still misses someone out.  And it also means that at least six more people are going to ask me, 'What Next?' to which the answer is, for the present, 'more of the same'.  Why change what I love... until something else I'll love comes along!

One thing I would like to say, though, is a huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has helped me (and Simon) get this far.  I'm a writer without the words to describe the importance of family and friends but hopefully you know who you are and what you mean to us (even when we drive you mad).  And, when I make it rich and famous, I'll remember you, okay?  Hmm, maybe that's the next five year plan...

Anne x

PS Go on, write your own list of achievements big and small.  I dare you...


Sunday, 17 May 2015

News From Bhola

I'm late writing this month... for many reasons but the most important one being, I wanted to be able to pass on accurate and honest news from Bhola.  Things have been difficult; they are emerging into a new chapter of strength and positivity - and most importantly the children are thriving!  I'm posting Dinah, our Chief Trustee's, letter in full; it's long, it's shocking, but please read to the end... and hopefully, stay with Bhola's Children...


Dear friends,

I know many of you have wondered at the lack of any report following my visit with Freda in February.   Now, after a worrying time, I can send you our official report on the situation in Bhola. 
We are immensely proud of how much we have achieved with your help for the children of Bhola, an island of two million people where poverty and lack of proper hospital facilities led to high rates of disability which brings stigma to the whole family. Eight years ago, Ali, the Director of the home and school, was going round the villages on his bicycle searching for disabled children and then with difficulty persuading the family to let him help. Now we have the land, buildings, facilities and staff to cater for up to 100 children. Most importantly, we have built up local support for the project so that families, the authorities and other charities bring children to us. From the District Commissioner down the authorities welcome us and we have well-respected locals on the managing committee there who have the management skills to ensure the funds we provide are well spent in the interests of the children and the influence to promote the project’s aims.
At the start Ali was in charge of everything but as the project grew and he grew older it was clear we had to reduce the burden on him and plan for his succession. It has taken some time to find suitable candidates but over the last year we have appointed a new Director and Deputy Director whom we are confident can take the project forward.
It is, therefore, with great sadness that we have to announce the termination of Ali’s involvement with the project when we had been hoping that the project would continue to benefit from the knowledge and skills he had acquired over a lifetime of work with disabled children. Unfortunately Ali was recently charged with inappropriate behaviour with a vulnerable adult.  We immediately suspended him and barred him from the premises. Then, after exhaustive investigations by ourselves and the police, we felt we had no option but to terminate his involvement. [The police are not considering charging Ali with offences against any child or other adult.]
We reported the situation in detail to the UK Charity Commission and yesterday, to our great relief, they reported themselves satisfied with the actions taken in response to the incident.
As we say, this is a sad day but every such day has a silver lining. Ali was always reluctant to cede control and we can now move forward faster with necessary changes that will make the project permanently sustainable and no longer dependent on one very gifted but, as we now see, flawed individual.   As I mentioned in earlier emails, we were fortunate that Zakirul Haque, whom I met some five years ago and tried to persuade to join us, was between jobs and agreed to be an interim director until we found a replacement for Ali.  He has now agreed to a permanent position, which is a cause for great celebration. We continue to have the full support of the local community,   and we are happy to confirm that new children are still arriving at the same rate as before the story broke.   Five new children have recently arrived, including the youngest of three deaf brothers whose photograph is attached. Ahsanullah and Supian have been with us for many years, and I look forward to meeting little Saiful on my next visit.
I am therefore able to write to you confident that we can move ahead under an excellent new Director, supported by the community and managed by a local Committee whom we trust, and who have the children’s interests at heart.
We are grateful for your help to date and we very much hope you will continue to support us for the future.
Very Best Wishes and thanks from us all

Next time - photos and news of the new students and forthcoming plans.  Meantime,  your comments and responses (whatever they are) are all very welcome.

Anne x

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Independence Day

Where The Mind Is Without Fear
by Rabindranath Tagore
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high 
Where knowledge is free 
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls 
Where words come out from the depth of truth 
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection 
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way 
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit 
Where the mind is led forward by thee 
Into ever-widening thought and action 
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake
Bangladesh Flag
Independence Day in the People's Republic of Bangladesh commemorates the country's declaration of independence, achieved on 26th March, 1971.  Formerly East Pakistan, the Bangladesh War of Liberation lasted nine months in which thousands of civilians died (the Bangladeshi Authorities say it was 3 million), there was an exodus of 10 million refugees into this new country, and 30 million others were left displaced.  Somewhere in the middle, a category 3 cyclone raged too.

National Monument, Savar.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941): poet, novelist, song-writer - author of the national anthems of both Bangladesh and India - is a Bangladeshi cultural icon and his words and music claimed as the emblem of the separatist movement.  For many, he was not only the soundtrack of the revolution, rather the revolution centred on him.

These days, Independence Day remains a celebration of freedom, a time to remember, and is a national holiday.  There is nothing Bhola's Children enjoy more  than a picnic and a parade - and here they are (rain-soaked!) waiting for both to start:

No rain on Bhola's Children's parade!

Anne x


Monday, 9 March 2015

Definitely Not Fifty Shades of Grey

At this time of year I'm longing to see a bit more colour, a lot more light; daffodils, crocuses, the sun rising just that bit earlier and setting later.

It extends to my reading too.  Most of this is still either (a) related to my (now in the fast lane for a quick finish) PhD or (b) by Julia Donaldson, Mick Inkpen or Roald Dahl.  So, when I can chose something for an hour's blissful and inspiring entertainment, I don't want any shade of grey within a hundred miles of me.  I want a colourful explosion of well-written stories!

I'm lucky enough to have a very talented group of friends and colleagues whose first novels have been published in the last few days and weeks, and it's these I'd like to share with you now.  Some are available only as ebooks, which is a choice more and more small publishers are making, others in hard copy too.  Either way, do take a few minutes to 'browse' and brighten your day.

By Clara Challoner Walker

Old friends, Gabriel and Shylah, find their lives thrown into turmoil when Gabriel returns from working in Saudi Arabia, where she has been party to a huge miscarriage of justice.  Their actions will have repercussions far beyond the small town of Market Hamilton where they both grew up... (ebook / paperback)

For more information: www.clarachallonerwalker.com 
To hear Clara speaking about the book, click on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02j6h8n (only available for the next few days!) 

By R.F Hunt

Rachel is a young woman who is trying to make a new life for herself after a horrible accident that has left her paraplegic, and subject to a bullying community.  A talented artist, she joins a local art group and starts to make friends, but ultimately learns that to move forward she must confront her past... (ebook / paperback)

For more information: http://www.rhunt4.com

by Kendra Olson

Ingrid is 16 years old, the daughter of poor farming folk in nineteenth century Sweden.  When she inadvertently falls foul of the Church, she decides to leave home - and there starts an epic journey for Ingrid culminating in the desire for a new life in America. (ebook)

For more information: https://kendraolson.wordpress.com/

by Katrina Hart

Alex chases his little sister's escaped pony into a strange forest, drinks a potion from an old gypsy woman - and finds himself transported to the year 2038 where he is already a husband and father.  Owls fight with humans to rule the world, and Alex must use the power of story-telling to save his family and perhaps the world... (ebook)

For more information: https://katrinamarie25.wordpress.com/

by Lucy James

Grace's heart is broken in Edinburgh, so she runs as far away as she can - to Seoul, South Korea - to teach English.  Here, she meets high-flying US diplomat, Xander West and so begins a whirlwind romance.  It soon becomes obvious that Xander has a past -  but then so does Grace... (ebook)

by Wendy Clarke

Actually a lovely collection of short stories based on family and friendship, which follows Wendy's first anthology, Room In Your Heart.  Written with humour, insight and sensitivity, they are a great read when you only have a few minutes at a time...  (ebooks)

For more information: http://wendyswritingnow.blogspot.co.uk/

All books available from Amazon UK (and other outlets/formats etc as mentioned on individual websites)

Happy reading!  Please do leave a comment if there's something you particularly enjoyed.

Anne x


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A Letter For Bhola

Dinah, the Chief Trustee, of Bhola's Children, is off on her travels again.  She and Freda, fellow member of the Board are in Dhaka as I write, awaiting the evening launch to the island.  As supporters will know, Ali, founder, and mainstay of the home for so many years, has been out of action recently. We've been working hard to find a replacement director who will maintain and develop Ali's - and our - dreams whilst leaving Ali himself in more of an advisory and consultancy role.  Zakir is currently doing a wonderful job and we all hope he will stay long term.

Below, I'm publishing intact Dinah's letter to donors.  Yes, it is unashamedly a begging letter! But more than that - we're well aware that finances are tight the world over - it's a request for ideas, for advice, for unique suggestions about new ways of fundraising.  Whether you personally can offer to do anything, know someone who can or you simply come up with something we've not thought of, please comment here!  I'm happy to go with the whole range of the sublime and the ridiculous... 

Anne x

Zakir's youngest daughter, Nora, (with her big sister) celebrating her birthday
with the children in Bhola

Dear friends,
Freda and I are off to Bhola again, taking the overnight launch from Dhaka on Saturday.  Ali feels well enough to come with us, which is excellent news and I know the children will be thrilled to see him again.   He will be working in an advisory capacity, although I know he will want to resume such classes as the very noisy and extremely successful lip reading lessons.
The agenda for our committee meeting includes the item ‘appointment of new director’, which is reassuring.   We know Zakir is doing a very good job and we are very happy with the new procedures he has put into place.  We expect to find a good relationship between him and the staff and the children, whom he obviously adores.   I first met Zakir some five years ago and knew he would be an ideal successor to Ali – who himself wanted him to take over – but at the time he wasn’t prepared to take on the role.   It is wonderful that he feels the time is now right.
Zakir's permanent appointment, much as it is welcomed, does give us a financial problem.  His salary is 50,000 taka  a month – which is what we had always expected to pay a good director so we anticipated this extra expense in due course.   Unfortunately, though, the taka is now very strong so this equates to nearly £450 a month, as opposed to £400 when the taka stood at 125/£
In addition, of course, we continue to pay Ali and will need to rent accommodation for him outside the boundary.  
As you can see if you have read this far,  this is becoming a begging email.   Our running costs have increased from £25,000 to over £30,000 a year.  So if anyone can increase their standing order or put one into place, we would be extremely grateful.  I know times are tough for us all, but every little helps and you can be assured that every penny you donate will go to the maintenance of our children.
And if anyone has any bright ideas for fundraising this year, we’ d love to hear from you.
Meanwhile Ali, Zakir and all the staff thank you for your generosity towards our lovely children, as do we trustees.
Best wishes,