Who’s In The Garden on Saturday?

It’s the second Saturday in August! Hundreds of writers are converging on a small town in Derbyshire. It’s time for the annual Writers’ Summer School known familiarly as ‘Swanwick’. And once again, this year, I will be posting each day from The Hayes Conference Centre. But this year is going to be a bit different. For the past few years, in addition to the actual school, there has been an online gathering of Swanwickers who, for one reason or another, are unable to be there in person. So this year, I’m going to feature interviews with some of the writers taking part in Virtual Swanwick.

My first guest has never been to Swanwick, but has a very special connection with the school, as she will explain. So hello Maggie Kay and welcome. Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing

Brought up near Glasgow in Scotland, I moved to London at the age of 21 to train to be an ordained Buddhist minister. I’d just graduated in psychology and discovered the wonders of meditation.

In 2001, I moved to Totnes in Devon with my then seven year old son for a quieter, country life. There I met my soul mate Pat, resigned my ordination and founded Thrivecraft in 2003 – a coaching and meditation training academy. For the last nearly four years we’ve been living in a river countryside retreat near Saltash in Cornwall where Pat grew up, still loving and growing Thrivecraft.

Like most of us, I imagine, I’ve always loved writing. Mum tells me I wrote the word “mummy” as a three year old although I hadn’t been taught! (Someone must have!) Then there came enthusiastic stories written in school ‘jotters’ – as we called them is Scotland – and a book with illustrations I started writing age seven.

And my first ever published article was in Jackie magazine age 12. It was an appreciation of my big sister Katy, who had just married and left home. And I kept a journal from age 14 which I still do now, age 55.

By 16 I was the self appointed ‘school journalist’ with regular articles published in the local press. They also ran a feature on me saying I intended to be a journalist when I grew up. However, I chose to study social science first – primarily psychology, sociology and economics and never got around to journalism. University involved lots of essay and dissertation writing, of course.

And then the various businesses I worked in (whilst living in the Buddhist community in London) had me writing PR promos, grant bids, meeting minutes, project proposals. I loved that side of my work. Then came magazine articles, at first Buddhist, and then for positive living magazines in Devon and Cornwall including being a regular contributor for two of them.

From the early days of Thrivecraft, I had books brewing about my new vocational inspiration – sharing meditation and coaching to support people to create happier, healthier, more empowered life, love and business. Finally, after several years and many book ideas scoped out, I won 6 months mentoring from the amazing writing coach, Julia McCutchen, and my first book was completed! Diving for Pearls: The Wise Woman’s Guide to Finding Love was published by O Books in 2017.

Since then, I’ve contributed to two other books: I wrote the opening chapter for Swanwick Writers’ own Chasing Unicorns which was an appreciation of my darling late sister Katy Clarke – echoes of Jackie Magazine all those years ago! As many of you know, Katy was a very long term participant and tutor at Swanwick, including a terms as President and  founder of Virtual Swanwick.

And the other book I’ve contributed to is an anthology – The Book of Soulful Musing by Chrisoula Sirigou. More recently, my writing has been for website articles, newsletters, promotional materials and Facebook posts, mostly. Plus I’ve been enjoying the medium of video and have recorded a guided inner wisdom meditation.

I do have another book brewing within me – a follow up to Diving for Pearls called True Love Cuts Deep – charting the ups and downs of conscious relationship, drawing on my experience of being with Pat. But it may be another few years before that sees the light of day!

What is your link to Swanwick? Have you been many times in the past?

My links is entirely through my sister Katy. She was so enthusiastic and it was such a big part of her life that I feel I have been there. She was always encouraging me to come, but so far, I have yet to attend. One day!

The after-dinner speakers are always a highlight of the week. Given an unlimited budget and access to all writers, living or dead, who would you book for next year?

Easy! Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic which are two of my favourite books. She’s recently recorded an fascinating interview with Fearne Cotton on Fearne’s Happy Place podcast.

Share with us a picture that illustrates your attendance at VS 2019 and tell us why.

This is a picture of my mum, Moira Gibson, and me on the isle of Cumbrae off the west coast of Scotland where she lives (taken a few years ago, but I love this pic). I’ve posted it on Facebook today.

I’ll be there with mum this weekend and often am during Swanwick including 2017 when we scattered Katy’s ashes and Virtual Swanwick celebrated her so beautifully.

Maggie Kay, thank you for finding time to be with us today. Enjoy this coming week – and we hope to see you at Actual Swanwick one day soon.

By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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