Just sitting here listening to some jazz and thinking that it's hard to update the site because I go on writing my Saturday advice column for the Daily Mail (which I love) as well as contributing comment and book reviews to the paper. What else to write about?
Small Dogs Can Save Your Life is now in paperback with a slightly tweaked title: A Small Dog Saved My Life. The publishers thought it made it more personal – and I agreed, even though the whole point of the book was to try to be universal...
Walker publishes the six Bonnie titles and you can still get all my other titles through Amazon etc. Thank goodness for the Internet.
I'm wrestling with an idea for a new non-fiction book, but also leaning towards a new novel, and just can't make up my mind – even though, after publication of The Invasion of Sand I said I would never write fiction for adults again. It's just too gruelling and thankless – although, of course, that is a nonsensical thing to say if you have a book inside you, which has to come out. Anyway, watch this space...although don't hold your breath. Journalism turns you into a consummate sprinter, and makes the idea of the cross-country run very exhausting and daunting.
This will be a very exciting year for me, as I shall be transformed into a grandmother for the first time. I'm already looking forward to games and to story time - and suspect the experiences might drive me back in the direction of writing for children, which is another thing I said I had given up. One thing I have learnt – you should NEVER say never. Which is one of the many themes of A Small Dog Saved My Life.
I have joined CPRE and Avon Wildlife Trust and have been watching this government's planning proposals with mounting alarm. Give developers an inch and they will take several miles. They are not to be trusted – no more than politicians. Isn't it awful how cynical one can become, getting older? But it can't be helped, since the wisdom of age tells me not to be trustful any more. Or, if you like, to think that trust, like democracy, is sometimes over-rated.
Sometimes I want to put a ten-foot high fence around our home and land to keep the family (and wildlife) in, the world out.
I'll leave you with a positive thought from an anonymous 3rd century Latin poem:
Loveless hearts shall love tomorrow; hearts that have loved shall love anew;
Spring is young now, spring is singing, in the spring the world first grew.
Another year! This should hardly be called 'News', should it? My Saturday column continues in the Mail and I also write comment and book reviews for the paper. I occasionally pop up in a magazine, on Sky books programme, on Woman's hour....you know how it is. Life is so full – and made even fuller by the fact that I am now on Facebook. Which is quite addictive, I find. Once I sounded off about Facebook in the Mail and then found myself setting up my own Facebook page and another for my dog Bonnie.
Well – how strange! This is how it happened.
My memoir Small Dogs Can Save Your Life was published at the end of April 2010 and the publishers and I were pleased and proud. But then came the surprise. After forty years in journalism, 6 novels, 25 children's books, and miscellaneous other books -not to mention a 'side' career making programmes for radio and TV – I've grown used to attention in the form of reviews and publicity. That's just how it is.
But not this time. Zilch. Nada. Zero. A great big silence – apart from radio, of course. The Times squeezed a small mention and so did the Mail, even after the book was serialised there. And we discovered what the problem is. You see, I had no idea that my being one of the Mail's 'star' columnists would mean that other papers would treat me and my book like some sort of pariah. After all, I have written an entirely serious memoir. It's about betrayal and loss and recovery and books and paintings and divorce and dogs and rebuilding and forgiveness and God and...so many things. I wrote it (a) because I wanted to, and (b) because I thought people would find it useful.
[quote: 'Most of us have endured, or will endure, pain in our lives. If this book has any message it is that recovery and salvation can come from the most unexpected sources......I offer this an act of mediation. If it happened to you, this might help you to survive. This might well stand between you and your nightmare.']
But no. No reviews except those two. The Collins publicist met the reluctant whisper, 'Oh, but she's now associated with the Mail.' As if I was some sort of creature – instead of a freelance writer who can do as I damn well please.
I was downcast.
Hated that narrow world of literary pages.
Then I thought - f**k them! Kick ass right back! I'll set up a FB page for me and another for my dog (that one a public page so anyone can look) and do a little marketing myself. And so I did. I know it has helped. But you know, once your book is out there there is little you can do – except be glad that it is.
But anyway - I didn't bargain for the fact that FB becomes addictive anyway, and I would enjoy people's links, and so on. So that's where I am, checking updates like a teenager. Oh, what the hell – it's fun!
Anyway, back to the book. It's the best thing I have ever written (oh yes – I can say that!) and the paperback will be published in July, with a subtle change of title. It will be called A Small Dog Saved My Life. More personal, you see? I did want the story to have as general an application as possible and put my heart and soul into it. But the fact remains that it is my personal story – and so the change is just fine with me.
The response I have been getting from readers is amazing. On the paperback will be plaudits from lovely 'name' people who love the book, but what matters to be is the responses rolling in from real people who have been helped by my story. I thought I would share some of them here:
Here we go:
Reader appreciation for Small Dogs Can Save Your LIfe
Your wonderful book has helped me so much – and still does. My husband left me after 27 years and your words of encouragement and wisdom give hope and comfort.
What an emotional journey you take us on! I've read your journalism for years, and also your novels, but nothing has been as good as this terrific, moving, powerful book, which has taught me things I never realised I needed to learn!
Your book has truly been an inspiration. My 30 year marriage ended after my husband's infidelity. My world was shattered. So I can't begin to tell you how many times when I have been angry or down I have turned to the pages in your book to read the sentences or phrases that I have underlined to get me back on track. Yu have given me hope and encouragement.
I would just like to say how I enjoyed your book Small Dogs Can Save Your Life and really valued all your insights about love and loss - as well as all the fascinating information you give about dogs in literature and art.
I just wanted to tell you how much your book has comforted me, even more so because it's not exactly about the specific grief that I am experiencing - that bereavement is just too intense. But I feel as though I know part of you through your book. You have such a wise head and have coped so well and that does give the reader a glimpse of hope.
I have to tell you how much I've enjoyed reading this book, so much so that having read it at a gallop I immediately started at the beginning and read it once more, this time more slowly. I believe all ladies of a certain age – and men too – should read 'Small Dogs...', because the book can save lives. Thankyou for writing it.
As the owner of three small dogs, the title of your book caught my imagination. I was really moved by the laughter, the tears and by your love for your little friend Bonnie and the lessons we can learn from dogs' unconditional love for us, even with all our faults and shortcomings. They teach us how to forgive and live life to the full – and so do you, in this book.
I have recently read your book 'Small Dogs can Save your Life' and gained so much from it so thank you for sharing everything with us - for giving us the gift of your knowledge gained from years of life experience': of wonderful times and very harrowing, painful and sad times too.
We've have just finished reading your book and both found a great deal of comfort in it. Fortunately we haven't experienced the ending of a marriage, but we lost a much longed for first baby through miscarriage. The book is helpful on such matters too. We're glad you wrote this book and believe Bonnie was sent to you for a purpose.
Glenys and Peter
Just finished, know that I cannot expect a reply, but just to say I have so many similar experiences and think this it is the best book I have ever read!
I'm not in the habit of writing to people about their work. But I have just this morning finished reading your book about Bonnie and how she saved you at a dark time – and want to tell you that and your book is so courageous and honest. I admire you for allowing others an insight into your life – to help them with their own. Thank you for a lovely book.
The book was quite different to what I had expected. In it you reveal your deepest soul. It is deeply personal. You share a glimpse of the enormous pain you endured when your cherished husband left but your book is so unlike the egotistical, selfish celebrities who spin an image that they want to project. Instead you are concerned only in revealing the truth about the journey of life, about pain, forgiveness and what the consequences of feeling true love may be. As I read your book I felt a great privilege that you had shared your heart with us readers.
Your book is fantastic. You could be writing about my two bichons when you write about your Bonnie, and I loved all your insights into dogs, people and life. Thank you for writing such a helpful, uplifting and excellent book.
I thoroughly enjoyed your autobiography – because of your special gift for writing, your wisdom, and the way you deal with the pain of loss. Sometimes I was in floods of tears, but then you would always cheer me up again with a witty comment or some amazing anecdote about dogs and people. You're obviously a lovely lady!
I feel compelled to write to you, to congratulate you on writing your magnificent book about survival. I loved the writing, I loved the content and you wrote so well about reaching 60 - and so much more.
THANK YOU EVERYBODY!
After a long silence, here I am again at last. Of course, because my column
appears every Saturday in the Daily
Mail I know that people keep up with me
anyway – especially through the 'And Finally' slot on the page. So that
makes me feel less bad about being so lazy about updating the website. Briefly
I thought of putting a blog on the site then realised how mad that was – because
if I don’t update this part, what on earth was making me think I'd be
punctilious about blogging? Actually, life's too short. We have a garden which
needs attention and that wise man Voltaire famously advised cultivation of
the garden. It's not an escape but an aid to contemplation. Which the splurge
of blogging (let alone pointless twittering or tweeting or whatever it's called)
would not be!
Anyway, the most exciting news is – publication of my memoir 'Small
Dogs Can Save Your Life.' This is a book about life and loss and love and dogs.
Oh, and about change, and pain and recovery and acceptance and forgiveness....and
so many other things too. When people ask me why I decided to share the deeply
personal parts of the story (about the marriage which ended in 2003) I can
do no better than quote that interesting nineteenth century French writer George
Sand. She wrote: 'I would be willing to tell or publish all the facts of my
life if I thought they would be useful to others.' As I know from years of
journalism, sharing stories can be hugely consoling. That must be why the tradition
of 'confessional' literature goes back centuries.
The book works on three levels:
- A slice of my life story from summer 2003 up until summer 2009.
- An extended meditation on dogs, their qualities
and what we can learn from them. There are so
many lovely stories in this strand!
- Life lessons from both the above.
I am sure I would never have embarked on this very personal book had
it not been for my role as advice columnist, first on the Times (2005-7)
and afterwards on the Mail. That's because it was reading the endless problems people face in their
relationships and marriages which set me on a journey of thinking how
people can survive the negative things which happen, without becoming
bitter or clutching their losses so tightly they become permanent millstones
around the neck. I believe the term is 'post-traumatic growth' – which
is to say, the 'processing' of life-changing events so that they help
you to grow. And indeed, one of the chapters in 'Small Dogs Can Save
Your Life' is called 'Growing.'
Here is the quote from the flyleaf: 'Most of us have endured, or will endure,
pain in our lives. If this book has any message it is that recovery and salvation
can come from the most unexpected sources....I offer this as an act of mediation.
If it happened to you this might help you survive. This might well stand between
you and your nightmare.'
As well as 'Small Dogs' I have also just published the last in the 'Bonnie'
series of children's books for Walker Books. This is the full list:
- Big Dog Bonnie.
- Best Dog Bonnie.
- Bad Dog Bonnie.
- Brave Dog Bonnie.
- Busy Dog Bonnie.
- Bright Dog Bonnie.
You can see why I call my little dog my Muse! This is a writer so inspired
by one tiny dog that she bases a children's series on that dog AND writes an
entirely serious memoir about how the dog helped her recover from divorce.
I wonder if this is unique? The small dog in the Bonnie series makes everything
better for Harry and his family. The real Bonnie (and all her canine relatives)
possesses healing qualities I’d never have dreamt of – and makes
things better for me every day.
The set of children’s books are meant to be inspirational and comforting
in telling a story of survival and reconciliation after divorce. And ‘Small
Dogs Can Save Your Life’ is ( people tell me) an inspirational account
of love, loss, forgiveness and survival after divorce.
Isn't it strange the way our lives develop – along paths we never imagined?
So it is with me...and all these books. Also the fact that we have moved house.
I never thought that husband Robin and I would move back out to the country – because
I was perfect living in Bath. But I repeat – you never know what's
going to happen!
Now, three months after moving, I am still surrounded by boxes and waiting
for the wardrobes to be painted. But it is all entirely exciting and I feel
humble and blessed.
Here's a lovely picture of Bonnie and I.
If I had a new designer dress for the number of times I've apologised for not updating my site....well, I'd have the wardrobe of my dreams. And now there is the Twitter phenomenon. There I was, utterly bemused by the addiction to Facebook, and then something else comes along, which is even stranger. How do people like Stephen Fry have the time? Or perhaps the more pertinent question is – why do they have the time?
But I have a feeling that one member of my household is going to set up a Facebook page this Autumn. Bonnie the Maltese dog is looking interested.....
I mean it. Watch out for Bonnie on Facebook in October. I'd better announce
that now with my record for updating this! Naturally the reason for Bonnie's
page would be to spread the word about my Bonnie books. All six are now written – and
the story is completed. 'Busy Dog Bonnie' with appear in October and 'Bright
Dog Bonnie' (the sixth and last) next February/March – if the lovely ladies
at Walker Books can make the schedule. As I'm sure they will. Honestly, I love these
books. Somehow I feel that in the stories about Harry and Bonnie there is something
for every child – whether because of the love of dogs or because of family
breakup. You see, little Bonnie makes everything all right!
I'm starting to do wonderful Bonnie-themed events, where the dog makes an appearance. For example, we went to the Oundle Festival in March. About 220 children sat on the floor, behaved beautifully – and adored the moment when Bonnie made her entrance. Here is a photograph of me signing books in the Great Hall.
My dog is also playing Muse in a less obvious way. At the moment I am writing a non-fiction book (for Collins) called 'Small Dogs Can Save Your Life.' There has already been diary column speculation about this book, because it is a memoir. Somebody pointed out gleefully that I wrote an article which criticised the number of so-called 'misery memoirs' which have weighed down (in every sense) bookshop shelves in recent years. But why assume that because I am writing about a segment of my life during which my long marriage ended, that I am going to write a 'gut-wrenching' in the words of one crass publisher (who shall remain nameless) account of the pain? Let it be heard here first – this is not a misery memoir, it is a happiness memoir.
'Small Dogs Can Save Your Life' works on many different levels. It begins
when Bonnie comes into my life from the rescue home, and ends (as it happens)
at the Oundle Festival. In between Bonnie and I take you on a walk with us,
and with many other owners of small dogs (from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to
Mickey Rourke) and arrive at an entirely unexpected destination. Moving – yes.
Miserable – no.
I don’t think I would ever have thought of writing a book like this
had I not become an advice columnist. As you will know, I did this job on the
Times from 2005- 2007, then moved to the great Daily
Mail, where I have more
space and more letters – and (of course) millions more readers than before.
So many of my letters on both papers were about the pain experienced at the
end of long relationships. In a sense, my book is inspired by all those letters
and talks directly to anyone affected by love and loss. Which is a lot of people – yes?
The Daily Mail archive is available on www.dailymail.co.uk. Put my name in
the search box and there you are. The column appears every Saturday and if
anyone reading this hasn't seen it then I urge you to give it a try. Quite
apart from the fact that the Saturday paper is choc-full of good reads, you
will find that my advice column is unlike any other. For one thing, I have
a side column called 'And Finally' which is about anything at all – and
readers write to tell me they love the unexpectedness of that.
Talking of the Daily
Mail, from the end of May my daughter Kitty
Dimbleby and I will be writing a joint column in Femail. Kitty is getting married on
October 17th and this column will be about all the practical preparations for
a weeding along with all the little conflicts, misunderstandings, worries and
so on – which afflict every single mother and daughter anywhere in the
world where a Big Fat Wedding is being planned. The reason for us wanting to
write this column is that – (in truth) I don’t like white weddings
at all. Oh dear....But a mother must always do her best. So watch out for our
column – which will end as soon as she's flown off into the sunset with
her handsome Captain.
And Finally.....here are four photographs of me out and about, which you might like.
Bel and Bonnie on the way to the Wigtown Book Festival at Caerlaverock Castle, Scotland
Bel (aka Mother Christmas) with Bonnie on Lansdown, Bath in January.
Bel and Lavender Patten at the National Portrait Gallery Portrait Gala in aid
of their education programme. March 2009
Bel and Bath's MP, Lib Dem front bencher Don Foster at a London fundraiser for the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) Appeal - of which Bel is President
I'm pleased to be able to offer something new on the site this time. If you
look at the menu you'll see a new navigation button, leading you to Short Stories,
Most of the stories you will find listed on the Introductory page were published
in magazines like Country Life, The Reader, Woman and Home, New Woman and in
themed collections of short stories. Some are unpublished. There was going
to be a book but…hey, short stories famously don't sell, so the book
project fizzled out. No matter - I thought I would 'publish' the volume here
People often ask me if I'm going to write any more fiction, and the answer
is, 'I doubt it.' The six novels I have written were a source of pleasure and
pride, but much pain too - and now that I have judged the Orange Prize and
see how many novels are produced….well, I think I'll leave it! One of
the wonderful things about the internet is the availability of out of print
books, so it means your work is still available. The library borrowings go
on in a most flattering way, and that's a great feeling. As I said in my last
letter if you would like to receive any book of mine, for adults or children,
with a personalised inscription, just email me at my paper email@example.com
and we will take it from there. I can offer special prices!
On the subject of fiction, though, the Bonnie series, published by Walker
Books, goes on. The newest title is number three - Bad Dog Bonnie, and Brave
Dog Bonnie will follow. And after that? Well, I do have plans for the Bonnie
'brand', and my little dog has her own business card now. No kidding. I shall
be appearing at the Wigtown Literary Festival in Scotland (September 4th) to
talk about these books. And the real Bonnie will probably make an appearance...so
do come. (www.wigtown-booktown.co.uk).
Next year we hope to make appearances at other literary festivals, and will
keep you informed. You might also like to know that all the royalties from
The Voices of Silence (Walker Books) go to Amnesty International, so that's
an excellent reason to buy a novel for older children (11-13) - quite apart
from the fact that it's an exciting read.
What else is new? Well, my Daily Mail advice column is new - every single
week. It's been a year now and I really love the readers, who respond in such
a marvellous, positive way to my pages. I read every single letter and email
which arrives, so please keep them coming. I only wish I could write a detailed
reply to every single letter, but it would mean I’d have to work 24/7.
If you want to look at the archive visit www.dailymail.co.uk/belmooney - and
of course, please keep up with the new problems every single Saturday. I've
been a journalist for 38 years now, and written for nearly every national newspaper
(not to mention many magazines) but I can honestly tell you that I regard my
column in the Daily Mail as the most significant thing I have ever done. Just
don't call me an 'Agony Aunt' - please!
I've told you before that my husband Robin and I co-own a ski chalet with
two business partners. It's a lovely place and bookings for the next season
are already going very well, so don't leave it too long. Chalet Broski is in
a hamlet near St Martin de Belleville and is stylish and comfortable. Best
for me is the sweet, cosy library - perfect for non-skiers (yes, me) or for
those who fancy a day off the slopes. You can sit in 'my' chair and read my
books! Add a sauna, X-box, home cinema, games, DVD collection, transport to
the lifts and great food, and you'll have a perfect holiday. For more information
and bookings visit: www.broski.co.uk.
That's all for now. Have a lovely summer - if it arrives!
The new green leaves remind me how out of date my website is - sorry everyone!
I simply don't understand how writers as busy being brilliant as Jeanette Winterson (to give just one example) carve out the time to keep their all-singing, all-dancing websites up to date., What's my excuse? Oh, gardening with the husband, playing with the dog, answering SO many problem letters written to me at the Daily Mail...For starters.
Of course, me being one of the judges of the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction also got in the way since I last wrote here. Anyone who loves reading as much as I do might rejoice at the prospect of great boxes of free books arriving. Oh, but you become overwhelmed - chiefly by the need to be fair to all those writers, I've written novels and know the sheer slogging pain of the whole damn business. Anyway, if you are interested in the Orange Prize - which is a complete force for good in the way it engenders enthusiasm for reading, and forget all that 'women-only-unfair-blah' stuff - visit the website: www.orangeprize.co.uk
As I said, my Saturday column on the Daily Mail goes from strength to strength. I have never once regretted leaving the Times, and all of my worries about switching newspapers have proved unfounded. Fan of the equivalent column on the Times sometimes come up to me (in Waitrose, often!) and say they miss it. I tell them to read the Saturday Mail - and see that I am writing in exactly the same way, but have far more space. As a writer I should also add that the 'reach' of the Mail in terms of age, class and all such things, is very exhilarating, as is knowing the readership hits the 6 million mark.
My first anniversary with the Mail is June 16th. It's gone very quickly. Write to me at the Daily Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have also decided to offer signed books for sale to anyone interested. So if you would like to purchase any books mentioned on this site, and have it signed to any name with a nice personal message, email me at the Mail and we will take it from there. This is an experiment. I may also be in a position to offer a back catalogue of Radio interviews (luminaries as various as Seamus Heaney, Philip Pullman etc) at some stage soon, so if you are interested let me know.
What else is new? 'Big Dog Bonnie' (Walker Books) has been joined by 'Best Dog Bonnie' - and I have finished 'Bad Dog Bonnie' (August 08) and 'Brave Dog Bonnie' (Feb 09). The books should really be read in order because it is one long story. There the series will probably end. Unless people can suggest single syllable adjectives beginning with B which might describe a little dog! I shall be appearing at the Wigtown Literary Festival in Scotland (September 4th) to talk about these books. And the real Bonnie will probably make an appearance...so do come. (www.wigtown-booktown.co.uk)
This year is the 70th anniversary of Relate - the charity which helps people sort out their relationship problems. I have agreed to be an official Ambassador for Relate because I know, through my work at the Mail, how useful it is. To find out more visit www.relate.org.uk/aboutus/ourambassadorandsupporters.
That's all for the moment. I will try not to leave it for months and months before I update again. Have a wonderful summer.
My most important piece of news is that I just married again. On September 8th Robin and I walked down the aisle of Charlcombe church on the edge of Bath, and the sun shone. It was a beautiful ceremony, with wonderful words and music. A happy day.
A lot of people have asked about my dress (there was a picture in Hello and
the Mail on Sunday,if you want to know...) so for those who like such information
- it was a design cooked up to my instructions by the lovely people at Beatrice
von Tresckow in Portobello Road, Notting Hill (www.beatricevontresckow.com)
and made specially for me, with a feathery head-dress to match. And because
fashion isn't a gender thing, men might like to know that the groom wore Paul
I thought you'd like to see a photograph.
So now that's done, it's business as usual here. The advice column in the
Daily Mail is going very well: I have lovely readers of all ages and love hearing
from them, even if the letters are often very sad. The "youngest" letter
I have run on the page was from a nine year old, and the oldest from a lady
in her eighties. That's what I call a reach! Since over 6 million people read
the Saturday Mail it is inevitable that I would receive more letters than I
did at the Times - much as I loved writing the column there. If you haven't
caught up with the Saturday column have a look at www.dailymail.co.uk.
The first of the new series of Bonnie books has just been published by Walker Books, and Big Dog Bonnie will be followed by Best Dog Bonnie (January) and then, six months later, Bad Dog Bonnie. The fourth, Brave Dog Bonnie will appear in 2009.
After that, who knows?
Walker Books have also just republished "The
Voices of Silence", my novel
for readers of around 11, which is set in Romania at an exciting, and terrifying
time of revolution. All proceeds from the sale of this book go to Amnesty International,
so please order it from Amazon -
not for me but for Amnesty, whose work is needed more than ever in this troubled
world of ours. Events in Burma, for example, are entirely relevant to the story:
brave, ordinary people standig up to tyrants and saying "No" - even in
front of guns.
If you click on the biography tab and scroll down you will find links to Robin's
website and also to the ski chalet which we co-own with two business partners.
Come and stay!
Those of you who have been reading me every Wednesday in the Times will probably be disappointed to read that my last column appeared on May 30th. I have been writing the advice column (and many other features besides) for the Times since May 2005, and have enjoyed every minute learning much from this new role in life. Thank you to everybody who wrote, and I sincerely hope you found the column helpful, as well as a good read.
What qualifications did I have for becoming what is popularly called (a phrase I hate!) ‘an agony aunt?’ Well, I suppose you could count 27 years as a journalist, during which I covered poverty, strikes, bereavement, women’s issues, books, people, aging, love, marriage, art…..you name it. Over the years I’ve met so many people, and (I hope) brought the knowledge gained to six one-to-one interview series for television, and 12 for BBC Radio 4. I discovered that (quite simply) I loved listening to people talk and asking quiet questions to make them say more. My children’s books arose from real family life with all its sad and funny moments, and my novels for adults arose from a need to explore some of the more painful aspects of human relationships, whether the love between mother and child (‘Lost Footsteps’) or the ways secrets can afflict our lives (‘The Invasion of Sand’). I should also say that everything I have every written has been informed by all the great novels, poems and works of philosophy I have ever read. Add to all that several dollops of personal pain and… yes…I do believe this totals a ‘qualification’ to give advice to those who ask.
So now to the news. I am moving to the Daily Mail and will be writing a column exactly like my Times one, in the Mail every Saturday. I do hope that some of my Times readers will take a look at the Saturday Mail; it’s a big fat paper but I won’t be lost! There will be many more readers, of course, but I expect the same problems which means all the varieties of human relationships, from marriage to bereavement. If anyone wants to get in touch with me you can email email@example.com or write to Bel Mooney, The Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS.
What else is happening? I shall be writing other features for the Daily Mail, outside the column, and hopefully will continue to review books and write travel pieces for The Times (I really love the Times and can’t begin my day without it), as well as other travel pieces for The Mail on Sunday.
August will see the publication by Walker Books of my new series of children’s books, these inspired by my precious Maltese dog Bonnie just as, all those years ago the Kitty books were inspired by my real life daughter, Kitty Dimbleby. She grew up and became a journalist, so I looked around for a new heroine and found her in the tiny dog bed under my desk. If you want to see pictures of Bonnie you can search this site (a clue look in the ‘Kitty and Friends’ section and go to the Questions). ‘Big Dog Bonnie’ and ‘Best Dog Bonnie’ are illustrated by Sarah McMemeny, and will be followed by ‘Bad Dog Bonnie’ and ‘Brave Dog Bonnie’ next year. So keep an eye out for those in August.
This summer Walker will also reissue ‘The Voices of Silence’ (see in The Next stage) with all proceeds going to Amnesty International. More of that next time.
In Bath, where I live, I am now President of a £4 million appeal to build a brand new, sustainable Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Royal United Hospital. The current one is far too cramped for modern equipment; those tiny babies and their parents deserve much, much better. So if any one who cares about babies wants to send us £25 or £1million (oh go on, you know you want to!) then write to Bel Mooney, Forever Friends NICU Appeal, The Royal United Hospital, Bath BA1 3NG (www.foreverfriendsappeal.co.uk)
What else is new? Oh yes, I’m getting married again……but that’s another story.
As usual I've failed dismally to update my website. I'm actually planning on a complete redesign this year - the only trouble being that I never seem to have to time to set that in motion? How do people find the space in which to write their blogs? It's hard enough keeping up with a private daily journal.
The last time I wrote it was to talk about my novel ‘The Invasion of Sand,' which is still out there, for those of you who want to order it from Amazon. Don't you think that being able to buy even out of print books by authors you admire is one of the best things about the internet. And while I wholeheartedly support independent local booksellers there is still something magnificent about the service offered by Amazon.
My famous ‘Kitty’ book for children will gradually go out of print, after over 20 years, but they will still be obtainable on the Internet. Ebay is good for this too. Hard to know how we lived without it.......
But now to the NEW. This year (August) sees my move to Walker books with two new titles: ‘Big Dog Bonnie’ and ‘Best Dog Bonnie.’
I'm very excited about them as they are inspired by my beloved Maltese dog - Bonnie by name and bonny by nature. They tell the story of a little boy called Harry and his Mum, and what happens when Harry's dream comes true. He has always wanted a dog, but not a tiny white fluffy dog.....
You see, Kitty grew up so the stories about her ran out, whereas Bonnie is on my lap as I write this. I thought I would give up writing for children but it's pleasing that the inspiration has come back.
Needless to say, my Wednesday column ‘Life and Other Issues’ in the Times goes from strength to strength. Of all the jobs I have had (think Nova Magazine, contract with the Telegraph Magazine, columns in the Daily Mirror, Listener and Sunday Times - you name it) this is the one I love the most. You know why? Because I know - without a doubt - that it's useful. People write me such lovely letters telling me that have been helped, and that means more to me than I can possible say. It's also encouraging to have readers in the United States, France, Australia and Holland, to name but four. Of course, you can't always identify with email, so there may be more countries. Anyway, I love writing the page - as well as other features for the Times - so keep the letters and emails coming. If you want to read past columns visit www.timesonline.co.uk and enter my name in the search.
I have now been writing my problem column (Please don’t use the term ‘Agony Aunt’ as it sets my teeth on edge!) in the wonderful Times (times2) for six months - and want to thank all those who contact me, both those who send problems and all the other kind people who send all the fan mail, as well as intelligent comment. I really do appreciate it. At first I used to feel quite miserable as I read some of the letters, but now - well, it isn’t that I have grown used to it, I just understand more that people find it hard to find a way through the problems in their lives. And, as one lady wrote when thanking me for the published advice, it sometimes takes an outsider to suggest a way to unpick the problem. And that’s all we can do.....whether qualified counsellors or not. After all, the page is called ‘Life and Other Issues’, and I’ve been dealing with all that as a journalist for over thirty years now.
Anyway, don’t forget, the page appears every Wednesday, and the email address for me there is firstname.lastname@example.org. Those of you who don’t live in England should check out www.timesonline.co.uk/women - although I must emphasise that my page is not just for women, not at all. I receive and publish a lot of letters from men. The only problem I have with the whole thing is not being able to send individual replies, or have the space to cover the range of letters - truly the page could appear twice a week quite easily. But anyway, I love writing it, so keep those problems coming, and don’t forget, I’m interested in all aspects of human relationships, including bereavement.
So what’s new? My first novel for 8 years is published this month. ‘The Invasion of Sand’ is a gritty, very moving story of love and redemption, set in the Australian Outback in the early eighties. The heroine is a feisty Irish barmaid called Bernie Molloy, who carries a secret around with her which has all but destroyed her life. Then into that life come two very different men: the English pilot John Roper and the young Australian drifter called Eddie Carpenter. A fourth key character lives in Liverpool - John Roper’s grandmother Lily Roper, who hold the key to one mystery. This is a world of broken dreams, family secrets...and unlikely love. The ending will have you......Oh, but I won’t give anything away. This novel was praised for its writing but turned down as too ‘dark’ by certain large publishing houses I don’t choose to name. No matter - their loss. I’m very proud of the book - and it may interest you to know that it was inspired by a real life incident which occurred in Alice Springs at the end of the seventies.
This is what the Times review said: ‘..a very ambitious work...This is a moving love story and Mooney writes with insight about learning to be loved again. John’s story is delicately crafted too - we read heartbreaking letters to and from his dying grandmother in Liverpool, as each pretends they are all right.....But the best thing about this Tardis-like novel is the way that Mooney writes about Australianism.....With sparkling humour and experience of travelling in her beloved Australia, Mooney gathers together many elements of what it means to live in a vast, dangerous desert where ancient and modern and constantly locked in a battle of ownership.
(This) is an impressive return to fiction. The ease with which is holds both big ideas and smaller intimacies makes you hope that she won’t leave it so long next time.’
The Invasion of Sand (ISBN 0 7278 6318 5) is available in hardback @ £18.99 from Severn House Publishers Ltd. Copies can be ordered on a firm sale basis at any bookshop, via Amazon.co.uk or direct from the warehouse: Grantham Book Services Ltd. Tel: 01476 541080. I hope all those who like my writing and have been kind enough to say so over the years will maybe order a copy so I can thumb my nose at those publishers!
Next year of course the trade paperback will be in the bookshops - probably in the Spring.
Just before March 2006 (think Mothering Sunday) Kingfisher Books will publish a terrific collection of stories I have edited called ‘Like Mother, Like Daughter.’ This is aimed at girls over ten - and I know their mothers will love it too. A varied collection (funny stories, sad stories, reflective stories, surprising stories) by great English and American writers, all on the theme of the mother-daughter relationship. In the States it will be published as ‘You Never Did Learn to Knock’. One of the stories is by me - and in it I manage to link my love of America and my passion for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Clever or what?
Advance notice for people in the Bath area - my daughter Kitty Dimbleby (the ‘real’ Kitty, who is now a journalist on the Daily Mail) and I will be making an appearance to discuss this book at the Bath Literature Festival on March 11th 2006. So I hope lots of daughters will turn up, with their mums!
SUMMER 2006 will see publication of my new Blue Banana book, ‘Who Loves Mr Tubs’ - which is lovely! But of course, I’ll be giving more details nearer the time. Younger fans ask me if there will be any more proper Kitty books, since the last one was ‘Kitty and Friends’, in 2003. The answer is - I don’t know. But my next project is to write my first book for Walker Books, which will have a brand new heroine......
Keep writing and reading, no matter what age you are!
Here I am again, out of date! I was talking to Jenni Murray of Womans Hour the other day and she does her WH newsletter every single week. Theres shame for you. But I get so busy and forget, and how often do I have to go on apologising?
So whats new? So many things. Readers of The Times will have noticed that I am now that newspapers first weekly Advice Columnist, with a page called LIFE AND OTHER ISSUES each Wednesday in T2. I reject the name Agony Aunt by the way because I think it is a patronising cliche. It diminishes the real pain of those who write in, as well as what I see as the importance of helping people.
I am really loving the job; it feels like it is a perfect fit. And in a way the huge changes in my own life in the last couple of years have led to it. So - read The Times on a Wednesday and e mail me at bel.mooney@thetimes .co.uk if you want to share a problem (short or long, and about matters as diverse as love, family problems and loss...) with me. Id love to hear from you.
We are in production for a new series of Devout Sceptics on Radio 4, starting at 9am on Thursday 21st July, and running in that slot for six weeks. Tune in and hear what Midge Ure, Babe author Dick King-Smith, Eden Project mogul Tim Smit, wonderful journalist Justine Picardie and two others have to say on the fascinating question of whether or not there is a God. After all, it besets us all, from time to time.
My collection of highlights from previous series is still in print: Devout Sceptics - Conversations on Faith and Doubt is published by Hodder& Stoughton at £10.99
Next year will see a new Mr Tubs title, since Mr Tubs is Lost! has done so well in Blue Bananas (Egmont). The new one will be called Who Loves Mr Tubs? and will tell the story of what happens when naughty Kitts beloved teddy bear has a rival....
This November my new novel The Invasion of Sand will be published by Severn House. This is the story of three lost people who come together by accident under the hot desert sky of central Australia, and whose lives are fated to entwine in the most dramatic of ways. Love, death and redemption.....Wait and see.
Somebody asked me the other day why I dont update my website more often. When it began I had ambitious plans, but they got overtaken by life. Isnt that true for all of us? Most of the time I forget its there, and then I get lovely messages from children and it reminds me that the website is a brilliant means of reaching-out.
But what with getting over a winter of asthma and chest infections, sadly parting from my brilliant and wonderful husband after thirty five years, moving house and picking up my career again......Well, I guess Ive been a bit busy.
Now Im back to writing and broadcasting again - and the new series of Devout Sceptics is here. Producer Malcolm Love and I made four programmes for January and now heres the rest. All the conversations on faith and doubt are broadcast at 9am on Thursday with the repeat at 9.30 pm the same night for those who are unable to listen on the way to work.
This is how they go:
July 1st - Celebrity gardener and organic enthusiast Monty Don
July 8th - Award winning childrens author David Almond - most fanous for Skellig
July 15th - Historian, critic, writer, broadcaster and polymath Professor Lisa Jardine
July 22nd - Politician and tireless human rights campaigner Emma Nicholson MEP
The doyenne of radio critics Gillian Reynolds calls Devout Sceptics always thoughtful - which is what I intend. So I hope you can catch the programmes.
What else is new? The book of 'Devout Sceptics' is out in paperback, published by Hodder & Stoughton. I had the difficult job of selecting 20 out of the 35 interviews I have done over the years in this popular series, where I talk to guests about faith and doubt. After all, most of us ask ourselves at some time, 'Is there a God' and even if the answer comes back 'No', we acknowledge (perhaps) a longing for something else, and a sense that there is more to human life than getting and spending. So the new book contains twenty fabulous interviews that will interest and inspire you.
Apart from that there is a new Kitty book out as well. This one is called 'Kitty's Friends' (Egmont) - the first time I have used a title that isn't an exclamation, like 'It's Not Fair!' and 'I Know!' This is a book where Kitty moves off the centre stage and allows us to find out a bit more about cousin Melissa, Rosie, Anita, William and Tim. I love this book, because it's about getting a bit older and realising that life is quite complicated, and so are we.
This year will see publication of a book for younger readers, with speech bubbles - in which Kitty loses (on no!) her favourite teddy bear, Mr Tubs. This Blue Banana (Egmont) is called 'Mr Tubs is lost', with vibrant colour illustrations by Margaret Chamberlain. It will make a set with I DonT Want to Say Yes and You Promise You Wont Be Cross!
At the moment I am about to start a sort of travel book about journeys in the USA, but actually it will be like an autobiography as well. Something very different for me. I shall also be writing a new Kitty book, because the fans protest whenever I say I am going to stop. And Id like to say thankyou to all those who keep borrowing my books from libraries, because it is wonderful to receive such a helfty Public Lending Right!
The other news is that I am Chair of a very important appeal in Bath - called the egg. We are raising money for a new Youth Theatre, which will be (we believe but were biased!) the very best in the country and allow so many young people in and around the Bath area to have the fun and satisfaction of taking part in performances. The Appeal target is £2.25 million, and we have raised almost half so far. You can find out more about The egg by visiting www.thetheatreroyal.co.uk/the egg. Please get in touch if you think you can help. Or feel free to send thousands of pounds......
Here is a puzzle for you: why is it that we all get busier and more frazzled as we get older? That e-mails which are supposed to be a convenience end up like a millstone around your neck? I know Im not the only one to be overwhelmed by spam stuff - most of it revolting. Dont you think its an infringement on our liberties to have the bloody porn merchants infect and invade our cyberspace? Me- Id make it illegal, and they can go to hell bleating about freedom of expression.
Er...sorry about that.
I only update this about three times a year, so here goes.
Those who have enjoyed Devout Sceptics, also on Radio 4, may be pleased to know that the book of the series will be published by Hodder at the end of August. Sadly I couldnt include the 35 interviews weve done to date, but had to pick 20 - and edit them as well. BUT there are some wonderful nuggets in the paperback, so all those who wanted tapes and transcripts (always -yes to the former, no to the latter!) can have the essence of the returning series in a permanent form. As I told you in the last newsletter, Malcolm Love and I will be making a new series at the end of this year.
Also published this summer will be Kitty and Friends (Egmont) - the thirteenth volume in the Kitty series. Im so pleased with it - my favourite so far, because it is actually rather different. Kittys Big Ideas - the activity book - is still selling well, and there is a free badge on it. (I love free things). Ive just finished writing Mr Tubs is Lost which will be published as a Blue Banana next year, for first readers. Ive got great plans for taking the Kitty character (inspired by my daughter, in case you didnt know) onwards and upwards. I wont say any more.........
Its such a long time since I updated this, so I do apologise. I get overwhelmed by all the things I take on, and simply forget. So here we are in a new year, and it seems we may be on the brink of war. Its a dark time - and ones own life seems trivial in comparison to the wider world.
Nevertheless, article and books go on being written and people make television and radio programmes - and also get up in the morning and take the bus to work, as usual. Because things have to go on as usual, or else wed all go mad.
Enough of that. What have I got coming up this year. At the moment I am putting the finishing touches to the book Devout Sceptics based on my returning Radio 4 series. Its a sort of anthology of the five series to date, containing much to think about. I will publish publication date here, when I know what it is. The book will be published by Hodder &Stoughton.
In the summer Egmont will publish the next in the Kitty series- this one called Kittys Friends. I am really pleased with it and know all the fans wont be disappointed. Now I am trying to dream up a story about Mr Tubs the Teddy - since he is Kittys very best friend and doesnt have his own storybook.
My passion for Harley-Davidson motorcycles continues, and now, in this the centenary year of H-D, I shall be making a special thirty minute feature for BBC Radio 4 on the myth and the magic of the dream machine. Well be going to Daytona for Bike Week to record people, and also to Milwaukee, and will communicate the joys of biking in general, and H-D in particular. Ill make sure to post the date and time of the feature in good time; it will be broadcast in July.
On the subject of Radio 4, we shall be making the sixth series of Devout Sceptics for the new year, 2004 - to begin just after Christmas. It seems along way off, but my years always disappear into a sort of black hole, like the money I take out from the cashpoint. Anyway, more news on that in time.