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Can we have a word with you?

Shrewsbury | | Published:

Becoming a published writer is a dream that many wish to achieve but never quite realise. But that doesn't mean it's impossible, as these authors are proving.

Weekend has found two wordsmiths who have found ways to share their work with the world; self-publishing their stories and poems.

Anita Williams is about to embark on a new career pursuing her childhood dream while Martin Shone is balancing his hobby with his job as a full-time cleaner.

They are both passionate and creative, and tell Kirsty Bosley how they achieved their publishing aspirations.

Anita Williams: Happy end to the story

Writer and Illustrator Anita Williams from Admaston

Writer Anita Williams has been in love with words since childhood. But it was only when she became unwell last year that she started to pursue her dream of being a

full-time author.

The 54-year-old mum of two was diagnosed with angina in March last year, and since then has compiled her life's written work into self-published books.

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She explains: "Life as a writer was born through me suddenly having time off work and rekindling my childhood dream.

Feathers resplendent in aquamarine

Proud and important, the Kingfisher's preen.

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He waits with a razor sharp eye for his prey

And dives through the fortress of rapids and spray.

His catch is abundant; not one fish, but two

On his perch his magnificence radiates blue.

Nature's finest precision at work as he fishes

A lightning bolt of turquoise,

then wriggles and squishes.

Out of the water as fast as he came

Safe harvest on riverbank, then off for the same.

"In March I fell ill, and what I thought would be a few days off turned into a year. I collapsed and they thought I'd had a heart attack.

"Angina is when you have blocked arteries, but I had Prinzmetal Angina, which is where my arteries are as clean as a whistle, but they spasm. It felt like I was having a heart attack every day. A series of great doctors, nurses and cardiologists diagnosed the condition and gave me medication. Now I feel better than I ever did before. I can be the normal me; I've found Anita again."

Anita worked in the housebuilding industry as a director before falling ill.

"I was a career woman. My working life started in banking, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but took a career break when I had the children Amy, now 29, and 27-year-old Daniel. After that, I worked selling houses and progressed into management. For 17 years I was a sales and marketing director. It was a hectic life, but very rewarding. My passion for writing and art was put on the shelf.

"I loved my job, but there was always a part missing. I wanted to stay productive when I was off work, so spent much of 2014 reading through old snippets of writing I had accumulated over the years; beginnings of novels, poems, short stories and illustrations. They all charmed me into appreciating that my real ambition to be an author and illustrator could happen if I set my mind to it."

Looking on the bright side of things is one of Anita's great qualities. She says: "Without it sounding too much, I'm just a very positive person. I love my family and the outdoors and living life and experiencing what it's for. I love walking up to Carding Mill Valley, up away from the crowds with my husband Simon. We've been very happily married since 2003."

Originally from Yorkshire and now living in Admaston, Anita considers herself a Shropshire lass, having moved to the area at an early age. Pulling together her written work, along with finding inspiration in her local area, led to her first book.

Drawing on experience – Anita also illustrates her books

She says: "My heart is in Shropshire. I was walking with my husband when I saw a lonesome crow up on a hill. It landed atop a tree like the king of the castle! So I wrote This Is My Tree. I can be shopping or people watching and find inspiration."

Once Anita had chosen the poems she wanted to share with the world, she compiled Knickerbocker Glory, her first book.

"I knew that I wanted to do this unencumbered, so I had to find out how to do it myself. I used Amazon's Create Space to self-publish and had to look at things like copyright to keep my work safe. A friend, artist Emma Wellings, did a wonderful job of creating the cover of Knickerbocker Glory, so entitled because of mix of ingredients provided me with the inspiration for the poems within it. Being a businesswoman taught me that if you're going to do something, you have to do it right. You can't cut corners.

"After much editing and revisiting I finally pressed the go button and went to print for the first time mid 2014. This was very exciting and the best buzz of all came when a complete stranger gave me a five-star review! A golden moment for me, which inspired me to do more. Furthermore, my wonderful family and my husband, Simon, really spurred me on, encouraging me to go for it and pursue my dreams."

Anita wanted to share the success. Her short story Apricots Gold was published and released exclusively for Kindle, and she wanted to follow on its success by giving back to her community via charity work.

One of Anita's illustrations from Annie's Buttons

"The thought of sharing my profits with a worthwhile cause really got me motivated, and after deciding on Midlands Air Ambulance Charity as my first fundraising project, I visited their base at RAF Cosford where I was blown away by the awesome work these people do. The book Poetry Giving was born. As well as being found by my usual selling channels, Poetry Giving is also available on the online shop at www.midlandsairambulance.com. The visit inspired a poem, Heroes of the Golden Hour, which features in the book."

Anita has also completed another fundraising poetry book, this time for the Severn Hospice.

She says: "I have recently had the privilege of visiting staff and volunteers at the Shrewsbury site, and I was overcome with an emotional surge of needing to raise funds for them. Severn Hospice is a happy place and nurses were talking to me about the many diverse things they do to make people happy. My book for Severn Hospice will be entitled Severn Thoughts and is due to be launched in June."

With more stories, books and artwork on the horizon, Anita is looking forward to a happy and healthy future.

"I'm living the dream, and I'm so thrilled to be able to say that. At the end of this month I will end my career in housebuilding to pursue my career as an author and illustrator. I dearly love being able to do so, and I'm clinging on to the hope that readers will engage with m work as it becomes more widespread and more people see it."

* To find out more about Anita's work, visit www.writtenwithasmile.com

Martin Shone: He’s got the write stuff

Martin Shone

Martin Shone has two very different sides. In the evening he's a writer, sharing his poetry and stories with the world. But during the day he's more likely to be seen with a mop in his hand than a pen.

The 54-year-old is a full time cleaner at Tettenhall School in Wolverhampton, and has been scrubbing toilets and cleaning floors for 13 years.

Martin Shone at work

But when he gets home and washes away the day, he gets to work self-publishing his written work. We catch him after a shift at the school, and find out how he became a writer.

"I've been writing since 2011. I just wanted to get my work out there so I created a blog and shared my work there. It's a release, somewhere that I can share my feelings and emotions and write about nature, spirit, soul, romance and passion.

"My first book, Silence Happens, I published myself through the website Lulu in 2013. There are about 50 little phrases in the book, I've got about 500 of the things at home! I compiled them and tried to get it published but it's so difficult. That's why I started self-publishing. Now it's available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and my second is ready to be published.

"I write short stories too, and I've been working on a novel about bullying. It's a young adult novel which has had good reviews, particularly from some of the Tettenhall College students who read it. I wrote it back in 1999. Work's work, but I have written a poem about cleaning too.

"It's nice because a lot of my poetry has gone up a level over the last year or so. I've got better at it, and the comments I've received are always really good."

His own love of words didn't begin at an early age like it does with many, and Martin explains that he didn't own his first book until he was an adult serving in the army.

"We never had books when we were kids – I didn't get my first book until I was about 20 serving in the Staffordshire Regiment. It was Shogun by James Clavell.

"I have three lovely grown-up children, two boys and a girl and one 18-month-old beautiful granddaughter. I would read to my children when they were small and they would do the voices."

Now he creates his own tales, and they're going down a storm.

"I like prose poetry, and I enjoy the work of Billy Collins and Sarah Whiteley and Pam Ayres. I'm nothing like them, but I'm nothing like anyone else either."

Sarah Whiteley reviewed his book, Silence Happens, on Amazon, saying: "This is a beautifully meditative little book – one worthy of carrying around with you for those moments when you find yourself in need of reminder of why life is a gorgeous thing."

A brilliant review, and Martin is taking it all in his stride. He says: "I write at cafe's Baked, The Lime Tree and Cupcake Lane.

"I like to go out and have a walk along the canal and I take photographs too. I'm always trying to photograph a heron; they're my favourite birds. I'd say I was quite the outdoorsy type.

"I don't watch television and haven't watched it for about three years now, I rarely buy the papers and don't own a radio. I enjoy watching films, opera and I have lots of books – mostly non fiction. I also collect Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I've written two short Sherlock Holmes stories and had one published."

Martin's poems are very explanatory, and he doesn't enjoy the kind of verse that wraps itself up in complex mysteries.

"I can't read other people's poems if they're ambiguous. I don't go too in-depth or confusing, I just say it like it is," he says

"I like freeverse and writing poetry when I can feel the beat of it. I'm not into all this iambic pentameter and that kind of thing. I never plan a poem, I just sit there and let it come. I don't write to a form, I just get a feeling in my gut or a monster headache and so I'll have a glass of wine or rum and get it out. I'll go back and edit it, of course, but I don't write to a form, I just let it flow.

"I write in first person, so people can relate to it. It's almost like if I don't write, I'll explode. I do love it, so I'm always writing things down.

"I'll always work, but my dream I suppose is to get published.

"I've never thought myself a poet before, or a wordsmith or any of those kinds of stupid words. I'm not scared of failure, I think I'm more scared of success!"

* To find out more about Martin Shone's work, visitagapintheclouds.wordpress.com

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