Essex Book Festival (Come and meet me at Debden Library,13th March 2012, 7pm)


Oi! Pay attention!
This post has been ‘archived’  because things have moved on quite a bit since I wrote it.

To read something a tad more current, click here 

It’s that time of year again – the run up to the annual Essex Book Festival; a month and a bit chock full of book related events featuring authors from all over the country at numerous venues in and around the county.

I’ve been to a number of events over the years, last year I went to see Sara Paretsky, and David Baddiel – both excellent – but this year will be especially interesting because at one event,n Tuesday the 13th March, I won’t be amongst the audience – I’ll be the one at the front!

Yes, you heard it here first, I’m one of the authors in this years festival talking about How To Do Everything and Be Happy. What better way to celebrate over 5,000 sales?

I’ll be honest with you, this feels a little weird. I’m still shocked when someone emails me to tell me they’ve read the book, or when I discover another review on amazon. A part of me is utterly convinced that the only people at Debden Libray on the 13th of March will be me, the head librarian, and some poor soul who’s been coerced into doing the refreshments. This being the case I’d like to extend a warm and very genuine (some might say slightly desperate) invitation to come along – it really would be absolutely lovely to see you. And your friend. If you can’t do it for me, do it for the tea lady.

The way these things normally work is the author chats for a bit, then answers questions. This being the case let me just say that I’d be happy to answer anything – whether that be about the ideas in the book, writing & publishing, or my love of flapjacks. If you’ve read the book bring it along and I’ll scribble in the front for you. If you haven’t read the book, come anyway, there’ll be copies to buy on the night and did I mention there would be refreshments?

Title: Peter Jones talks about his book How to do Everything and Be Happy
Part of:
Essex Book Festival
When: 7pm, Tues 13th March 2012
Venue: Debden Library, c/o Epping Forest College, Borders Lane, Loughton, IG10 3SA
(click here for a map)
Tickets: £4, or £3 for concessions (under 18s, full-time students, registered unemployed and older people in receipt of state benefits)


Bookings can be made through the Mercury Theatre Box Office on 01206 573948 which is open Monday to Saturday 10am -8pm.

There are no booking charges made by the Mercury although there will be a charge for postage of £1 unless tickets are collected from the Mercury Theatre.

Please advise the Box Office if you have any access requirements when making a booking. Visitors with a disability are offered a free ticket for a companion. If you require a BLS interpreter, please advise the Box Office.
Refunds – The Festival cannot refund money or exchange tickets except if an event is cancelled, in which case return your tickets to the Box Office within 30 days for a full refund.

If you have a query about access or a general enquiry about the event please email or ring 01245 347456.

Poem for you (whilst I test something technical)

dramatic sneezeRight then, the beady eyed amongst you will have noticed that there, over on the right, I’ve introduced a SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG widget. Does it work? I have absolutely no idea! So I’m going to test it, and unfortunately there’s no way of doing this without actually writing a blog post. So here’s a little ditty I wrote back in 2009.

Poem for you

why do you put up with me?

When I cough
and I sneeze
and I yawn
and I wheeze
and I offer you tea
when you’ve already
had three?

Is it because

we touch,
and we kiss,
and each other,
we miss,
when we are apart.
Have I captured
your heart?

interesting sneeze

Almost Done

Almost-DoneSix and a half years after starting my novel, the end finally in sight.

I have almost finished my novel.

Let me put that into perspective: the book that I started writing on or around the 10th of October 2004 is almost complete. So why has it taken me so long? What – you may ask – have I been doing for the last six and half years?

Let’s back up a bit. First you need to know that I never intended to write a novel. Originally it was just a short story that amused my wife. And that was fatal, because having made her laugh she then suggested that I ought to continue the story, and turn it into a book.

Easy for her to say! This was the woman who would read a novel a week, sometimes two! This was the woman who would pack at least half a dozen books in our joint luggage, and supplement those with two or three tomes that she’d purchase at the airport. As far as my wife was concerned telling me to write a novel was akin to suggesting I put the kettle on and make a brew – whereas from my perspective she may as well have asked me to walk to India to pick the tea-leaves, and fetch the water from the frozen glaciers of Tibet on my way home.

But then, curiosity got the better of me. Maybe I could write a book. And maybe the way to tackle the task at hand was to treat it as a series of linking short stories? Write a chapter, and when I was satisfied that it was the absolute best it could be, move onto the next chapter?

And that was my first mistake. After three long years I’d written half a dozen chapters of utter rubbish. They were indeed ‘the best that I could do’, but the truth of the matter is, ‘my best’ just wasn’t very good.

Fortunately, around this time Apple invented the iPod. And soon after someone invented the podcast. And as a direct consequence Mur Laffety became a regular part of my car journeys. It was she who gave me (and the other listeners of her excellent podcast ‘I should be writing‘) the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever had: when writing a novel, write the WHOLE book – start to finish – BEFORE going back to edit. And in the absence of anything that was working, that is exactly what I did. A year and a bit later (29th of March 2009 to be precise), I’d finished the FIRST draft.

Several other things had happened too. I’d joined a writer’s group. I was reading and listening to every bit of writing advice I could lay my hands and ears on. And most important of all, I was a much better writer.

This, it turns out, was the power of Mur’s advice. There’s something about putting one word in front of another that makes you better at writing, just as putting one foot in front of another makes you better at walking, or running. Have you ever watched a toddler learning to walk? Right after they’ve fallen flat on their face, they pick themselves up and try again. They don’t analyse the last few steps, or wait for feedback from their peers, they keep moving forward. It’s how they get better at walking. And it’s how I got, and continue to get, better at writing. Just a year or so after I churned out diabolical chapter number six, I was two hundred thousand words better equipped to fix it. That, and the other forty four chapters.

The last two and a bit years have been spent editing. Yes I know what you’re thinking. Two and a bit years!! Only now am I getting to a point where I think I might have a handle on what proper editing involves – that however, will have to be the topic of a future post. What I’m keen to know is if this tale rings any bells. How long did it take you to finish your first novel? Why was that? And what lessons did you learn along the way? Post your comments below – I look forward to reading them. In the meantime, I’ve got a book to finish.

Originally written for


raspberry-jam-03How to prevent your brain turning to jam

I’ve never been one of those folks who can write in short bursts of five or ten minutes. Some people I know – let’s call them “women” – have this ability to juggle ten things at once, and whilst they make a phone call, surf the web, feed the gold fish, put another load of washing on, and gently remove the kitchen knife that little Johnny decided might be fun to play with, they manage to bash out another scene. If only my brain worked like that. Instead, the lump of grey matter inside my skull prefers to work on one thing at a time, and takes a while to warm up. I’m not suggesting this a male thing, but it’s definitely how I’m wired.

And that’s fine. Aside from the days when my assistant’s here, the only person who requires my attention is CJ. And given that there’s a garden full of birds to amuse her during the day, and mice to hunt during the evening, I’m largely left alone to immerse myself in “my craft”.

Which would be lovely. If only I could keep going.

Two hours in however and my brain is mush. It doesn’t feel like two hours, it feels like two days. I’m ready to throw in the towel, and congratulate myself on a productive, er.. time… if it wasn’t for the fact I’ve barely filled half a screen with words. I end up taking breaks. Tea breaks. Lunch Breaks. Just-check-my-email-breaks. Talk-to-my-assistant breaks. Phone someone-anyone breaks. Anything-other-than-continue-to-climb-the-damn-mountain-that-is-my-novel break.

And that’s a problem. Breaks do just that. They break something. In this case, my flow. I’d return to the writing, and I’d have to warm up my brain. Again.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

A year ago, through a set of circumstances that I won’t bore you with now (partly because I need something to blog about next month) I found myself writing a self-help book (How to Do Everything And Be Happy – available now – all good ebook stores- yada yada yada). Non-fiction writing is something that, like you, I’m so familiar with I don’t really consider it writing at all. In a world where so much communication has gone back to the written word (texts, emails, tweets, blog posts…) writing a self-help book just feels a LOT easier than writing a novel. It’s almost as if it uses less of your brain. Or maybe a different part. I’m sure some smart person will post a comment saying exactly that.

The really interesting thing though is what happened to my “Writing Days”. Rather than “taking a break” (to check my emails, make another cup of tea, etc etc.), I’d simply flip from the novel, to the self-help book – from fiction, to non-fiction – and when my brain felt less jam-like, I’d flip back. In my head at lest, this didn’t seem to register as a break – I’d feel rested yes, but my flow hadn’t been broken. I’d remained in writing mode the whole time so there was no need to warm up – and suddenly I was writing two books far faster than if I’d been writing just one.

I’m keen to know if this is just me. And if it’s the combination of fiction and non-fiction or whether working on two pieces of fiction at the same time would work just as well. Post your comments below.

In the meantime I’m flipping back to the novel.

Originally written for and posted on