She is the senior manager of a management consultancy firm, wife, and mother of three children under five. She is thorough, determined and when it comes to human suffering whether it’s anger, deceit, violence or love she is utterly fearless and relentlessly curious. She comes alive between midnight and four in the morning new worlds are created. This was Catrin Collier in the nineteen eighties.

‘The management job was more than a nine to five and so was the family of course, but I had to write.’ She states simply.

After seventeen unpublished books, a number of short stories, articles and plays; three of them which were professionally performed, Catrin finally had a book published in 1989. It was a crime novel. Killing the hero in the first chapter she brought on police officers that were too fat, too thin, too non PC – the title was Without Trace and written under the name Katherine John (the name of her Welsh grand mother).‘I’d received advice from Alex Cordell, I changed the way I wrote and everyone wanted more.’ She recalls.

Catrin went on to write and has published one crime and one historical novel a year.

It was her dream to become a full-time writer and live these stories in her head. But while her husband was one hundred percent supportive and even re-mortgaged the house to buy her first computer, the children now fourteen, thirteen and nine were less sympathetic to Catrin’s need to write.

‘My children knew exactly how and when to wind me up during those years. They’d come in when I was in the middle of a chapter and ask for pocket-money or tell me I cared more for my books than them.’ She laughs.

‘I noticed though, they didn’t mind ‘helping’ with my research whenever I visited fairgrounds and theatres or toured the Rhondda Valleys.’ She adds.

The need to write started at a young age, in fact as soon as she could form words on paper and it has never left Catrin since. Even while in the last two years coping with her fathers Alzheimer’s and mothers Vascular Dementia she ghosted two books and a novelization of a new horror film. ‘I can’t imagine a day without writing – but then I’ve never had one. Perhaps my husband is right, it really is a disease.’

Back again, she is … writing! She’s sitting in the study she calls her ‘cupboard’ with a strong black coffee, spilling the contents of her dreams onto paper as fast as she can. Characters are coming alive on the page as she enters their world completely. ‘The characters are walking around, they are real to me.’ She admits.

The advice Alex Cordell gave her so many years ago was to write what you know. It turned Catrin into a successful author with books translated into Czech, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish and Spanish.

I ask her how her stories relate to her real life.

‘The most personal pieces I have ever written are probably in my books.’ She replies and goes on to admit relationships can be difficult to write about. ‘ If someone really annoyed me I might kill them off in a book and that will be the end of it.’ She adds playfully.

Catrin Colliers favorite reads: H H Munro -Saki, Isabel Allende -House of the Spirits and The Sum of our Days, Cruz Smith -Gorki Park, Kellerman -The Butchers Theatre

Catrin Collier can be found on: catrincollier.co.uk 

And here is a list of her books.

As Catrin Collier 21 books: (Historical sagas set in Wales)
A Silver Lining (Orion, 1996)
All that Glitters (Arrow Books, 1996)
Past Remembering (Arrow Books, 1997)
Such Sweet Sorrow (Arrow Books, 1997)
Broken Rainbows (Arrow Books,1998)
Spoils of War (Orion, 2000)
One Blue Moon (Arrow Books, 2001)
Swansea Girls (Orion, 2002)
A Swansea Summer (Orion, 2002)
Hearts of Gold (Arrow Books, 2003)
Homecoming (Orion, 2003)
Beggars & Choosers (Orion, 2004)
Winners & Losers (Orion, 2004)
Sinners & Shadows (Orion, 2004)
Finders & Keepers (Orion, 2005) 
Tiger Bay Blues (Orion, 2006)
Tiger Ragtime (Orion, 2006)
One Last Summer (Orion, 2007)
Magda’s Daughter (Orion, 2008)
Black-Eyed Devils (Quick Reads) (Accent, 2009)
Bobby’s Girl (Allison & Busby, 2011)

As Katherine John 10 Books: (Crime novels)
Without Trace (1990)
Murder of a Dead Man (1992)
By Any Other Name (1996)
The Corpse’s Tale (Accent Press, 2006)
By Any Name (Accent Press, 2006)
Midnight Murders (Accent Press, 2006)
Amber Knight (Accent Press, 2007)
The Black Daffodil(Accent Press,

2007)
A Well-Deserved Murder (Accent Press, 2008)
The Destruction of Evidence (Accent Press, 2009)

As Caro French 1 Book: (Modern fiction)
The Farcreek Trilogy (Simon & Schuster, 1995)

As Katherine Hardy 2 Books: (Novelisation of TV productions)
The Grand (Simon & Schuster, 1997)
The Grand II (Simon & Schuster, 1998)

As K A John with James Patterson 1 Book: Bloody Valentine (Arrow Books 2011)

Forty years of life on the street – Coronation Street the epic novel (Granada Ventures Ltd 2003)

*All books are available from the store below.

Thanks for reading this, I hope you enjoyed. Please be my guest and make a comment or ask a question. If you have a story to tell, let me know. I would love to hear from you.

Maggi

maggisummerhill@gmail.com

P.S. Extra bonus material for writers – ‘Catrin Collier on writing’. It’s very short but if you like to have it, simply e-mail me. It’s free 😉

Lars Olrik

                                                                                                                                            

Birkerod, Denmark.
When Lars Olrik started life 47 years ago, he had very little idea of what he wanted to do.
Twenty years later he wasn’t much the wiser, but he had noticed in himself a flair with words.
It was that flair that landed him his first job, writing freelance for a music magazine and later an apprenticeship with the direct marketing giant Wunderman to learn the trade of copy-writing. ‘ It was hard work and a bit boring but it was well paid and I had 84 rejections before Wunderman so I decided to live with it.’ He muses.

For a bit of fun Lars entered competitions in his spare time; winning prizes on his poetry, slogans and songs. One day he was grabbed by a member of one of the most popular Danish bands at the time ‘Laban’ and asked if he would write them some lyrics.
Having just won an award for campaign work at Wunderman, Lars flushed with success didn’t waste a minute to accept this opportunity to give up his day job to become a freelance songwriter. ‘I thought I could walk on water.’ He chuckles.
An early recession in the advertising industry made freelance copy-writing jobs hard to get by and the songwriting didn’t pay much. ‘It wasn’t long before, my ex and I were sucking stones.’ He remembers.
In the spirit of  a true Viking; Lars battled on and during this time  he wrote and had published four novels and an alternative dictionary. ‘I dug out old words and made up new meanings for them. It was quite popular amongst my friends actually.’ Lars smirks.

By now the recession was not just personal to Lars, but global and surprising everyone by it’s ferocity; in particular the Danes who had become quite used to being held up as an example of economical and social success. ‘It was doom and gloom galore everywhere, the press in particular.’ Lars admits.

Lying on the sofa one day, having no particular reason to get up, Lars surveyed the room and decided it might be about time he had a bit of a clean up. ‘I hate domestic chores.’ He admits. ‘The place was pretty messy, even by my standards.’

Lars got to work with a Hoover and a bottle of detergent and slowly worked his way to the kitchen where he came across an amateur painters kit he had bought on a whim years earlier. ‘I was literally standing over the trash bin, ready to throw it out.’

Instead Lars brought it back into the living room, unpacked it, and dipped one of the knives into some of the paint that hadn’t dried out. – When he next looked up six hours had passed. ‘I was hooked.’ Lars admits.

Over the next months Lars would paint furiously. ‘Some of it was pretty bad, but I enjoyed it and I did seem to get better.’ Learning through his mistakes and by studying other painters on the Internet; Lars finally felt he was ready to let the world have a look and posted his first painting on his Facebook page. ‘Within half an hour, I had three offers – people wanted to buy it!.’ Lars recalls.

Three years and 87 paintings later Lars admits his success. He is now fully booked with exhibitions four months in advance and has offers from three galleries.‘If twenty-seven years ago you had told me that I would become a successful painter I would have thought you were crazy.’ Lars Laughs.

Dimensions By Lars Olrik

Author and Artist Lars Olrik’s favorite reads:

* “The Shining” – Stephen King.* “Når snerlen blomstrer” – Bjarne Reuter* “My life as a dog” – Reidar Jönsson* “Animal farm” – George Orwell* “The hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” – Douglas Adams

You can view Lars Olrik’s new paintings via:https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.192100496547.137836.592381547&type=3

Books by Lars Olrik

* “Ridderen af den runde bold”/”The knight of the round ball” – 2001.* “Fra sans og samling”/”Out of one’s mind” – 2001″ “Haikus” – 2005* “Melankolatter”/”Melancholaughter” – 2008* “Løgnagtigt leksikon”/”Encyclopedia of lies” – 2011

Thanks for reading this, I hope you enjoyed. Please be my guest and make a comment or ask a question. If you have a story to tell, let me know. I would love to hear from you. Maggi ( maggisummerhill@gmail.com)

Karen Griffard Putz; mother of three deaf teenagers, competitive barefoot water skier, journalist, founder of a non-profit, early intervention provider, greeting card company distributor and prolific blogger…… and, she is deaf.

Karen Griffard Putz with passion!

Karen is one of my first cyber friends. I met her a few days after joining Twitter.

If you ever have the pleasure to meet her in person, the first thing you notice is a radiant smile that reaches all the way up to her big brown eyes and that terrific energy! An energy fuelled by an extraordinary passion for life and a genuine belief that she can do anything – She is POSITIVE!

‘It has been a long process’ she confides: ‘I didn’t arrive in this place overnight’.

Karen’s journey has indeed been long; she lost some of her hearing at the age of seven following an illness with a high fever. Despite her young age, she became self-conscious and was determined to cover up her compromised hearing.

Through her childhood and teenage years she used a mixture of bluff and an ingenious system to guess what was said to appear ‘normal’. It was emotionally and physically draining and she was constantly comparing herself to hearing people. ’ I felt I didn’t measure up in certain areas and group conversations were a nightmare. I was crying a lot,’ she recalls.

Life had a new and bigger challenge in store for her:

‘When I climbed into the boat, I couldn’t hear.’

At nineteen, Karen took up barefoot waterskiing and spent the summer zipping around Christie Lake, finally something she was really good at and could enjoy without paying too much attention to her hearing. But one day she turned to cross a wake, caught a toe and slammed into the water sideways. After the crash, she  thought she had water in her ears, the truth was hard to bear; she had become profoundly deaf.

As the summer holidays finished she hardly had time to digest her new situation before she found herself at a university that had a deaf program, amongst students whose first language was American Sign Language.  American sign language (ASL) like British sign language (BSL) is a sign language with grammar and structure, the signing was rapid and in Karen’s eyes complex. She was truly a foreigner in a strange land.  Karen found it impossible to lip read her instructors in the classroom.

At night the silence of her world became overwhelming and the frustration she had experienced during the day gave way to raw grief for her lost hearing. ‘I spent my nights crying.’ she confesses. One morning after yet another night of tears and frustration, she decided to take on the challenge instead of fighting against it – ‘I finally acknowledged I was deaf and decided to become the best deaf person I could possibly be.’ She says.

Karen set about the painstaking task of taking control of her life again; she learned ASL and keeping the promise she made herself, became so proficient that she ended up subbing her teachers in college.

ASL opened up the world for her and gave her access to education – something she had just been getting in bits and pieces over the years and now she could follow conversations with an interpreter.

Letting go of her old belief and survival systems took time and determination, but as her confidence grew, the occasions where she would fake understanding what was said became less frequent and she found a depth of friendship and human empathy that she didn’t realize she had missed since the age of seven.

‘My bluffing had made me lose out on a lot.’ She admits and adds: ‘If I had known the quote’ “why are you trying to fit in, when you are born to stand out?” then, instead of years later; it might have been another story.’

Karen wanted to become a labor and delivery nurse, but the lack of role models and a counselor’s comment:’ It will be too hard to overcome the communication challenges.’ Convinced her it was a bridge too far. Instead she took a degree in counseling, discovering much later that there are many deaf and hard of hearing professionals in all fields; deaf doctors, dentists, nurses and even politicians: lawyer Adam Kosa Mep who is also an MEP for Europe and New Zealands MP Mojo Mathers. ‘I’ve learnt an important lesson.‘ Karen says ‘limited possibilities comes from limited minds.’

Four years she worked as a councilor, but it was in the fifteen years after that she really learned the power of a positive attitude and the value of having a mentor as she started to explore new paths and new skills.

During this time she had three children, each were born with normal hearing but one by one they all became deaf. ‘I took complete joy in being able to spend time with my kids and teach them about life and how to communicate and advocate for themselves.’ She says. Karen also became very active in her community and started writing for Disaboom.com (a resource for those living with a disability, containing articles about living and thriving with a disability), Parentingsquad.com (tips, hacks and news for parents and their families) and the Chicago Moms blog and in 2003 she became a Deaf Mentor in the Illinois Early Intervention program, mentoring families raising deaf and hard of hearing children. ‘I wanted those families to know that there were unlimited possibilities for their children.’ She insists and quotes Kevin Hall: ”Talents and gifts do not reduce or diminish when shared, they expand and increase like the widening ripples form a pebble dropped in still water.”

As Karen’s children have grown and become more independent, she has herself learnt how valuable it is to have a mentor in your life: when sixty-six year old Judy Myers was featured on Today show waterskiing on her bare feet, Karen’s old passion was unleashed again and she connected up with the World Champion Keith St. Onge who not only mentored her to barefoot competitively but also helped her lose the extra pounds she had put on over the years.

Karen Griffard Putz can be found at the lake in bare feet, when she is not acting as a board member of Hands & Voices a non-profit organization or writing for Chicago Tribune, TribLocal and Chicago Now.

Karen with two of her mentors; Judy and Keith

Karen’s favorite reads: Aspire by Kevin Hall and Passion Test by Janet Attwood.  ‘These are two books that I consistently recommend to everyone.  The Passion Test will help identify what fires you up and Aspire will give you eleven words to live your life in a whole new way.’ (Available through the link below)

Thanks for reading this; I hope you enjoyed. Please be my guest and make a comment or ask a question or you have a story to tell, let me know. I would love hearing from you.

Maggi

http://astore.amazon.co.uk/lifelessordinary-21


Juliet Greenwood a woman of substance

Written by Maggi Summerhill

Juliet is a woman of immense strength and determination, who has fought a battle against the physical pain and mental anguish of ME for over ten years and come out a winner.

I first met her in New York a few weeks back and today we are sitting on the side of a mountain in Wales, she in the north and I in the south. Wearing wooly socks and clutching a steaming hot mug of coffee we ignore the wet and windy weather outside and settle down for a good chat.

Juliet is originally from Worcestershire where she grew up with her brother and teacher parents.

’I had an alternative education’ she reveals. I went to the Rudolf Steiner School and in the summer my parents who were teachers took my brother and I touring Europe in an old camper van. This was in the 1960’s, a time where you, if you stopped in a forest somewhere you were liable to be woken in the middle of the night by men holding guns. ‘

The unusual upbringing exposed her to other cultures and stirred an interest in the differing lives people live and resulted in an early fascination with history. But it also meant she felt slightly like an outsider and books became her mentors and friends.

‘They taught me about myself and shared human experience.’ She acknowledges. ‘That’s how writing became my passion.’

But Juliet believed becoming a writer was an ambition to far.

‘I was brought up to view writers and artists as a different species; not like us. To be worshipped from afar.’ She muses.

She became a teacher and pursued her other dream; to own a house. But just as she was about to enjoy the fruits of he labor, a little cottage with a huge garden right on the edge of a village in Snowdonia, she became ill with glandular fever which led to ME also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. She was in her mid 30ies and went from healthy and fit to suffering painful aching limbs and unconsciousness.

‘I could only concentrate a few minutes at the time, the rest I was asleep or in a foggy haze – it was scary.’ She admits.

But this was in the 1990’s before ME was properly recognized, the doctor soon refused to sign sick notes and Juliet was left in a terrible state with no income, neighbors she hardly knew and few friends.

Juliet believes ME have been the worst and the best thing that have ever happened to her. She was destroyed, brought down to a level where she had nothing left but a determination to stay alive. That determination led her to write, a few words every day just enough to stay awake at first and it worked. Having rediscovered her passion for writing she soon was staying awake longer, she was dealing with the pain and started to feel connected. Writing her way through her trauma and feeling of loss, she managed to build enough physical and emotional strength to get involved with a charity working with local kids one hour a week. The work was story telling and puppet plays.

‘It got my brain back in gear.’ She says.

But it would be another four years before she was back to health and during these years she confirmed her writing to be the greatest therapy and losing her wariness she started building on this, entering short story competition and later as she gained confidence, wrote novelettes and stories for magazines.

Juliet’s energy returning, she used her creativity and a hitherto undiscovered talent for raising money through grants, to set up a small award-winning charity taking storytelling and performance projects into the local community (www.storipen.co.uk Read the rest of this entry »