for writers and readers….

MY BOOKS by a poet who was once a puppeteer, artist and teacher and her one unfulfilled Parisian ambition

AnnI am a poet now but have been a puppeteer, journalist,  artist,  teacher, tutor, mother, carer and therapist. I am a keen gardener and have a tiny allotment.
I stared writing poetry ten years ago. My latest collection is The Puppeteer’s Daughter available in City Books, the independant bookshop in Hove, and The Open Art cafe in Rottingdean. You can also buy it via links on my blog


What’s the first book you remember reading (or being read to you)?
When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne. Who could not fall in love with The Kings Breakfast and Missing Has anybody seen my mouse?  And those illustrations – a joy to behold.

Can you name a book from your childhood that had a big impact on you?
Peter Pan must have had an impact on me because I remember my sister and I were always sliding down the banisters and leaping off hoping to fly!
But Alice in Wonderland had an even bigger impact. My mother had been awarded her copy at an ordinary state school for good conduct. I thought the long dark corridor in our grandparents home where we lived was like a rabbit hole and yes, there was a door to a beautiful garden at the end.
Subsequently I often thought more than one adult was completely mad, but it was just after the war and I lived in a creative household where things were seldom normal! We also had excerpts from Alice in our marionette performances so I still know much of it by heart.

What book are you reading right now?
TogetherI tend to have more than one book on the go in different places.  I am reading Together by Julie Cohen which is a love story that drew me in straightaway. Have to say it has one of the best covers I have seen for a long time, that alone would have sold it to me.
I love autobiographies and am also reading Take Courage Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis.

And the one you read before that?

The Art of Murder

The Art of Murder by Carol McKeeJones was compelling. She is a comparatvely new author I met on the Brighton Marina a few months ago. I  missed a train connection at one point wanting to know what was coming next!
But also started dipping back into Jean Rhys as I had never read her novel After Leaving Mr Mackenzie.
First line: After she had parted from Mr McKenenzie Julia Martin went to live in a cheap hotel on the Quai des Grands Augustins.
I am a sucker for books set in Paris, my favourite city. My father’s wartime singer in this band lived there and we visited many times after the war. Always wanted to go and stay at the Shakespeare Book Company and write my autobiography. It is free shared bedroom accommodation, but I snore and I don’t speak French having tried for years and years. 

Burning books is wrong. What contemporary book (written in the last 30 years) would you save from a bonfire?
AlchemistPaulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. First page  Dedication  ‘On 29th May 2002, just hours before I put the finishing touches to this book, I visited the Grotto in Lourdes, in France, to fill a few bottles of miraculous water from the spring.

Same question: what classic would you save?
I would have to save my set of Shakespeare.that I bought in Scarborough at 15.  They have red covers, gold tooled lettering and wonderful illustrations.  I had abandoned school and  was running one of our marionette shows there that summer. A friend of the family used to take me to the Old Vic where we queued for the gallery for Shakespeare which was always exciting.

Favourite non fiction book?
Kiss Sleeping Beauty Goodbye by Madonna Kolbenshlag. The paperback version came out 30 years ago. It was acclaimed: ‘At last a book that breaks the spell of feminine myths’.
This book really spoke to me, my marriage ended when my children were quite young and I found myself on the fringes of trying to become ‘liberated.’ I studied to become a teacher with a modest grant and did a degree with the OU.
This book helped to form my dissertation for a masters at 50 looking at transitions in womens’ lives. I interviewed 25 woman about the effect that fairy tales may have had on their lives.
Brilliant readable wonderful book.

Favourite poetry book? Or poem?
ConversationsPoems by Elizabeth Bishop.   I also loved as much, maybe even more, Conversations with Elizabeth Bishop edited by George Monterio.   I discovered Elizabeth Bishop on a  creative writing course when I first moved to Brighton. She happened to be one of the tutor’s, Dr John McCullough, favourite poets.  His enthusiasm may have brushed off on to me just a tad!

And a short story that has lived with you ever since you first read it?
I tend to read prose poetry. I remember Michail Parlmer (1943)  from Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present Edited by David Lehman. Brilliant for dipping into if somewhat heavy to cart about on the bus.

What book (if any) have you found yourself re-reading over the years?
Wild herbA Wild Herb Soup by Emlie Carles  the life of a French country woman born in 1900. Her life and its deprivation is almost unbelievable, but her spirit  and careful observation of people and events always inspires me. I got it in 1999, but much later got an older a copy in French in a charity shop. My French is rubbish but I bought it for her picture on the cover and  photos of her family.

If you were giving a book as a present what book would you choose?
Impossible to answer as it really does depend on the interests of the person concerned.

Finally, what do you prefer: a real book with pages that move, an ebook, an audio device?
Real book, old books, new books, real paper, heavy paper. Books with line drawings.  Illustrations, poetry.
I love my books as much as the flowers and veg I grow in my garden.. I have a Kindle but it’s usually abandoned on the stairs, there is no comparison!
My family still think I am mad as I have so many books but I do take some to the charity shop from time to time even if I secretly buy another slim volume at the same time.

Page Break ClipartWant to take part in MY BOOKS?
Drop me a line at bridgetwhelan AT if you would like to contribute. Please put MY BOOKS in the subject line.

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