I was lucky enough to attend the book launch for ‘Exploring Nottinghamshire Writers’ written by Rowena Edlin-White, back in December. The book is 300 pages long and a real labour of love, having taken ten years from conception to publication. Five Leaves Publications have done a wonderful job and Gillian Ellias’s cover, showing a gilt embossed oak tree against a forest green background, is a pleasingly traditional design.
During her talk, Rowena explained that Exploring Nottinghamshire Writers should be used as a guide book and she encouraged us to scribble notes in the margins as users of guide books did in the past. I like the idea of adding comments and personalizing the notes, especially if the reader is keen enough to visit the places mentioned in each of the short biographies.
The county of Nottinghamshire has an incredible legacy of writers including Lord Byron, DH Lawrence, Dorothy Whipple and Alan Sillitoe. More current names include Nicola Monaghan, Miranda Seymour, Nick Wood and Julie Myerson. No wonder Nottingham’s the UNESCO City of Literature. Some of my favourite children’s writers are also either from the county or based here, including Jonathan Emmett and Gwen Grant.
You’ll find me in the book, too *sweeps back head in a majestic manner*. Although I was born in Sweden and raised in Yorkshire, Edlin-White included writers with links to Nottinghamshire as well as those born and bred. I’ve lived in the region since 1985 and began my writing career in the region so I guess I earned my place on that basis. You’ll find me on p 196 between Geoffrey Palmer (1912-2005) and Samuel Plumb (1793-1858).
At the end of each section there’s a list of suggested places to visit. Gedling Churchyard is the place to go to find Samuel Plumb’s grave, for instance.
My section doesn’t have any suggested places to visit – possibly because I’m not dead yet – but here are a few local settings linked to my books. You’ll probably need two days to get round them all so pack a flask and a woolly:
Itinerary: Start in Besthorpe in Nottinghamshire, a small village 8 miles from Newark and the setting for ‘There’s Only One Danny Ogle’ and ‘Jade’s Story.’ The school Danny ‘attends’ – Westhorpe Primary’ – has since closed and is now a private property. It still looks like a school, though, so you can’t miss it. Down the lane is Church Cottage, which overlooks the graveyard of Holy Trinity Church. This cottage is the very same cottage Jade stays in during her summer in ‘Fleetby-on-the-Hill’ where she meets witnesses Miss Whitehead behaving strangely and spitting on one of the graves…
I’m not the first writer to use Besthorpe as a setting. Tom Miller’s character Gideon Giles stays at the ‘inn’ there (since demolished) in Miller’s tale Gideon Giles the Roper published in 1841. By strange coincidence I have an original copy of Gideon Giles the Roper, pre-owned, I was told by the seller, by Lincolnshire folklorist Ethel Rudkin. So there.
Head for lunch into Newark, the backdrop for my YA novel ‘Accidental Friends’. Newark College is where Emma, Leon, James and Grace meet. Check out Porter’s butcher’s on the corner of Bridge Street while you’re there. It used to be Ridge’s the Printer’s and is where Byron has his first poems published. Then you need to go to Stanley Street in Newark, the setting of ‘Stinky Street’ – one of my early readers. Stanley Street doesn’t actually stink, by the way. It is a Victorian row of terraced houses that was spared when the Germans bombed the nearby Ransome and Marles factory during World War Two.
Leave Nottinghamshire (via Sherwood Forest, of course) and head for Gleadless Valley in Sheffield where Suzanne Fish in ‘Saturday Girl’ fought her demons. Stay in ‘God’s Own County’ of Yorkshire and go on to Wakefield, where the after school club in the ‘Clubbing Together’ series is set. Pop in to the Hepworth Art Gallery while you’re there – the cafe overlooks a fast-flowing river and does good sandwiches (oh, and see the art, of course…).
Day 2 should be spent in Mablethorpe (‘Wathsea’) where you can pay homage to Louisa May in ‘Vicious Circle’. Finally, for Girls FC you could visit the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster like Megan does or rock up for training with the Lincoln Griffins U11s.
So I’d start planning a tour of Pielichaty settings right now, if I were you. Apologies if you live in the north of Scotland or the depths of Cornwall as it’ll be a bit of a trek but I can guarantee it will be worth it. Don’t forget to order your ‘Exploring Nottinghamshire Writers’ first, though.