Looking back over 2022 and forward to 2023

During 2022 I have continued to blog at least weekly on Sue’s Trifles and weekly on Sue’s words and pictures. Once again I took part in the blogging from A to Z in April challenge and was privileged to have two guest posts on the official A to Z blog – A reverie on 21st April and (with help from J Lenni Dorner) #AtoZChallenge An Alphabet of Blog Tips on 2nd August 2022. My theme for the A to Z 2022 challenge was Christmas, with posts including links to Christmas carols.

I am now a reserve for the Association of Christian Writers’ More than Writers’ blog and have had four posts on it during the year:

Are you thinking of blogging?

Meandering along the writing path

Genealogy then and now

Problems Pantsers avoid

Annmarie Miles interviewed me about my poetry and my faith. The radio interview was aired in a programme on UCB Ireland – The Writer’s Trail and repeated on Sunday 19th June 2022 at 7am BST. It was subsequently available as a podcast.

On 23rd July two of my poems were published in Agape Review Multifaceted Light and Space and Time and on 14th August a 75-word story on Paragraph Planet.

After writing a post about books on nature and climate change, I added a page, Books about Nature and Climate Change, which I am keeping updated with new links.

Many of my posts are reviews of books of my own choice, which I have read and enjoyed. I was also invited to review a few other books including the following four:

Brisbane: A novel by Eugene Vodolazkin translated by Marian Schwartz

Book Review: Popcorn Poetry by Brendan Conboy

Book Review and author interview: The continued times of Isabella M Smugge by Ruth Leigh

Book review and author interview: The Wanderer Reborn by Natasha Woodcraft

I have continued to write poetry mainly from prompts issued for an online poetry group affiliated to the Association of Christian Writers. Not many of these poems have appeared online. Some of them are part of a project I have begun, writing poems about our 900-year-old church building. One previously unpublished poem written in 2021 featured in my post: A surprising event

Away from the world of social media I have attended committee meetings, choir practices, church services and done some voluntary work. At home I have enjoyed gardening, knitting and local walks.

My word for the year has been generosity. This follows on from previous words I have tried to focus on in earlier years.

For 2023 I have picked the word Listen. I write in the living room and concentrate on what I can see rather than what I hear. When the news is on the radio, I don’t concentrate on it for long. I need to pay more attention when people are speaking as well. There is also the question of ‘listening’ to what God might be telling me. I believe that God speaks through the Bible, through other people and angels, and sometimes directly as to the prophets. The prophet Isaiah exhorted the people to listen. In Isaiah 48 he was speaking to the people of Israel and Judah, and in Isaiah 49 to people of distant nations.

My regular readers will know that words fascinate me. My three words (20162017 and 2021)  have a progression of shared letters – ReST – TRuST; TrUSt – FocUS. My word for 2022, GenerOSity, and for 2023, LISTen, continue this trend.

My writing and blogging goals include finishing my poetry project and publishing it, taking part in the A to Z challenge again, reading and reviewing more books, including one I have been invited to review and have already read and enjoyed. This is Beneath the Tamarisk Tree by Rob Seabrook, which I’ll be reviewing at the beginning of February. On Sue’s words and pictures I intend to continue with Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge.

Thank you for reading. I am praying a New Year’s blessing on all my readers.

Photo of an orchid with hand-written text New Year Blessings

Book review and author interview: The continued times of Isabella M Smugge by Ruth Leigh 

This post consists of a book review, an interview with Ruth Leigh, links to other posts about this new book and stockists of The continued times of Isabella M Smugge.

Book review

The third book in the highly entertaining series about the dreadful (but gradually improving) Isabella M Smugge, who refers to herself as Issy, is available now. 

My reviews of the first two books are The Diary of Isabella M Smugge and The Trials of Isabella M Smugge

Cover of The continued times of Isabella M Smugge showing a pink silhouette of a woman taking a selfie. Inside her head is a woman's profile and a hashtag. Text: 'If austen was writing in the 21st century, she might have created Issy Smugge.' S J Lewis.
Title and author's name. Background is light-coloured with sprays of flowers and a bird

The continued times of Isabella M Smugge resumes the story like the earlier books in the form of a diary. I received a digital ARC, which I read on my phone. That was hard work, but I was keen to find out what had been going on in the lives of Issy, her friends and extended family. I have since enjoyed it far more in the paperback edition. (Yes, it is a book worth reading and re-reading.)

There are lots of amusing or cringe-worthy incidents. The brand names and band names are a hoot (a surprisingly old-fashioned word Issy used). Much of her improved character is a result of her new friends and her focus on forgiveness. Footnotes including passages of, or references to, scripture are included where they add to the reader’s understanding of the story.

Author interview

I have interacted with Ruth Leigh in conversations on Zoom with other members of the Association of Christian Writers. The interview below gives you, my readers, a chance to learn more about her (as I did). 

Q. Issy uses social media platforms which I don’t think you are on – yet. How did you research these, and do you intend to branch out onto new platforms yourself? 

A. I joined TikTok quite recently and wasn’t at all sure that I belonged there. My natural home is Instagram and Facebook, although I am getting the hang of Twitter. I did some research on the terms used on that platform and watched what Wendy H Jones did as she is a very successful TikToker. I spent a lot of time looking at people who had millions of followers and learned new terms (stitching, anyone?) as well as taking advice from the 13-year-old daughter of a friend who has really cracked it. I mention Pinterest in Continued Times and while I am on there, technically, I have no idea what it’s all about and how to use it! I think taking the leap into TikTok is enough for me – maintaining four social media platforms, even with the help of Lovely Jason, is jolly hard work! I don’t know how Issy does it. 

Q. Bringing up your own family has obviously given you some insight into child development. Issy had a very different experience at boarding school from her children at the local schools. What sort of schools did you attend? Did you choose something similar for your own children? 

A. I went to the local community primary school in our village. I was in the baby boom year (1966) and our class was huge. We had massive grounds and always hosted all the other primaries for District Sports Days which was fun. My future husband used to come and play our team at football, strangely enough. I loved playing on the field and in the hedge at the back and on the extremely dangerous play equipment. No TAs [Teaching Assistants] and no health and safety back then! I passed the Eleven Plus and went to the local girls’ grammar where I was very unhappy. It may be (and I hadn’t thought about this before I read your question) that some of Issy’s memories of school in Continued Times spring from that. My children went to our village primary and then on to the local high school – no posh boarding schools or Latin mottos for us! 

Q. What about your faith? You portray Issy as someone who finds church life unfamiliar. Were you brought up in a church-going family or were you more like Issy? 

A. I was taken to church from the egg. It was a huge part of my life. Mum was a Scottish Presbyterian and Dad a Methodist, but in our village we only had the Baptist Church on one side of the village green and the CofE on the other. So Dad went to the Anglican church and we went to the Baptist with Mum and Nana. I was familiar with all the denominations from an early age as Dad was a church organist and as the only other member of the family who could read music, I often accompanied him to weddings on Saturdays to turn over his music in the organ loft. I loved seeing all the different kinds of churches. The Catholics were my favourites – lots of mysterious smells and statues. 

Q. Issy has improved her writing efficiency with practice. Is that something from your own experience as a freelance writer? 

A. Yes! Exactly that. Issy’s proficiency at knocking out a blog in twenty minutes is me to a T! When I got my first freelance writing job in 2008, I agonised over every word for hours. Fourteen years on, while I still spend time researching and polishing, I work much more quickly and efficiently; that experience has stood me in good stead for fiction writing. 

Q. Do you find fiction writing easier or more difficult than writing factual articles? 

A. Great question. And quite a difficult one. I would say it depends on the subject and the client. I’ve had some of my freelance clients for years and slot back into the right voice and tone immediately, so don’t find writing their articles difficult. But when I get a new one, it can be tricky to get it right straight away. Until I wrote Continued Times, I’d have said I found fiction easier to write, but I had terrible writer’s block with it and struggled to get it finished. I think both writing forms have their challenges and each their joys.  

Q. And finally which character in your books is most like you? 

No one has ever asked me that before! I’m really having to dig deep to find the answer. I think there are elements of me in Issy (the Protestant Work Ethic, the ability to wear a mask, the desire to do everything perfectly) and lots of my friends have said they see me in Claire. I don’t think any of my characteristics appear in Mummy, Lavinia or Mimi (at least I hope not!) Maybe my loyalty to friends informs Lauren and the girls. Mainly though, I made everyone up and if there any aspects of my own character in them, it was entirely unconscious. 

Thank you, Ruth.

Links to other posts

The other posts in this blog tour may be found from the links below. 

Issy Rides again by Ruth Leigh

Maressa Mortimer’s review

Andrew Chamberlain’s podcast interview with Ruth Leigh

Martin Horton’s review and interview

Issy Smugge and The Velveteen Rabbit – Book Review by Liz Manning

Joy Margetts’ review

Rob Seabrook’s review

Penelope Swithinbank’s review

Natasha Woodcraft’s review

Sheila Johnson’s review

Claire Wong’s review

Claire Musters’ review

Wendy H Jones’ review


Photo of Ruth Leigh
Ruth Leigh

Signed copies complete with merch can be ordered via Ruth Leigh’s website and from good bookshops, Eden, Waterstones and Amazon from 22nd October 2022. In Suffolk, Issy Smugge is stocked by Woodbridge Books, Dial Lane Books in Ipswich and The Halesworth Bookshop. 

Book Review: Talking God by Jacci Bulman

I first heard about Talking God: Daring to listen a few months ago. It was published by Lion Hudson in 2021. Two members of the writing group I attend had been to Penrith for the book launch. They had both been interviewed along with nine other people about their beliefs about God. The author was exploring her own beliefs by daring to listen.

Book cover Talking God Daring to Listen Jacci Bulman. The illustration is a beach with rocks Blue sky and brightness where the sea meets the sky

Each interviewee was asked fourteen questions about their understanding of what or who God is, whether hell and the devil exist, and about some aspects of Christian creeds.  

All their answers are included in the book. I was interested to see that Martin Halsall, whose poetry book Sanctuary I reviewed earlier, was one of the people. The author Jacci Bulman would like all the readers of this book to answer the questions for themselves. I have done this.

The people interviewed worship in churches of various denominations. It is interesting to compare their answers to the questions.

Talking God is a book for people exploring the Christian faith. There is a Workshop for Listening and Connecting Skills at the end. Some prayers, original poetry and Jacci Bulman’s journey of exploration of the faith are included.

The book promotes ‘finding unity in diversity’. Personally I regard this as a very important aim. In any group of people there is more to unite them than to divide them, but often people focus on the differences.