Scouting and Guiding

Short Story Lady workshops are ideal for Scouting and Guiding groups, and start at only £25 for a 30-minute basic session.

Please Contact me to discuss your group’s requirements and to book a workshop.

I have an enhanced DBS through Scouting, and can visit your group for 30-60 minutes during meetings and help the children achieve the requirements for various badges. Listed below are the ways in which I can work with children from  all age groups in Scouting and Guiding to get badges, wording is taken from the Scouting and Guiding websites.
Scouting badges
Beavers: Creative Activity badge (30 minutes recommended session length)
Point 1. Perform a short play or puppet show
Point 2. Make a small book with a stitched binding
Point 3. Make a puppet for a puppet show
Point 4. Use your imagination to create a cartoon character and write a short comic strip telling a simple story
Cubs: Artist Activity badge (30-60 minute session)
Design and make a decorated book cover
Make a puppet
Create scenery for a puppet show
Scouts: Writer Activity badge (two sessions of 30 minutes or one of 60 minutes)
Compose a poem of at least eight lines. Discuss its meaning and construction.
Create a short story of around 600 words.
Write a play or dramatic sketch lasting at least 10 minutes.
Write a 600-word review of a favourite book, play, or other work of literature, and talk about it with an appropriate adult.
Guiding badges
Rainbows: Look (30 minutes)
Make a story about a found object, tell it to the group
Rainbows: Learn
Create an adventure story as a group, then draw a story map to help you remember what happened in the story.
Brownies: Writer badge (30-60 minutes)
1. Write a story of your own
2. Write a scene for your favourite TV or radio programme
Guides: Culture badge (at least two sessions of 30-60 minutes)
Local 4. Find stories and legends about a local patron saint or coat of arms. Ask about local people over the years who have contributed to the well-being of the community. Present your findings in an interesting way through a short drama.
Other cultures 4. Use dolls to demonstrate costumes from other countries.
Other cultures 6. Organise an arts activity for your patrol, based on your chosen culture.

The Benefits of Storytelling

You’d think by the time the kids reach their preteen and teenage years, they’d be too old for storytelling, but you’d be wrong. This is the perfect time for them to hone their storytelling skills, and it has a number of spin-off benefits too. The skills involved in creating, editing and telling a great story are useful in many areas of teenage life.The first vital skill to develop for storytelling is an agile memory, to get the story back on track when it wanders, or adapt it to suit listeners. This skill is also useful when it comes to exams, as it enables effective information retrieval. For millenia before writing was developed, human societies used stories and songs to remember their histories. The brain is hard-wired for stories.

Next comes an understanding of characters in the story. This comes in especially useful for teens, whose developing brains have a tendency towards self-centeredness, and who are ruled by their emotions and hormones. A teen with an understanding of other people’s motives has quite an advantage over their peers when it comes to social interaction.

Setting a narrative out in a logical order, introducing plot points leading towards a planned conclusion, is a very useful skill when it comes to essay writing, a mainstay of many exams. Storytellers can see the “bigger picture” and hold it in their mind as they write, even under pressure. The skill of weaving togethoer a narrative transfers nicely to building an argument for debate (though this skill is often used against parents when it comes to negotiating freedoms!).

Children who are regularly exposed to and involved in storytelling, develop the ability to notice the extraordinary within everyday situations. They can pick out the birdsong over the roar of traffic, or notice the beauty of a plant growing in a crack in a crumbling wall. This ability brings them out of themselves, and helps them focus on positive aspects of situations that others find disheartening. Optimism is a great trait to have!

An imaginative child is never short of entertainment, even when the wifi is down and they don’t have a book to read. They have an endless source of interest in the world around, and in their own heads.

When it comes to interviews, whether for work or education, storytellers have the upper hand too. The skills of planning, refining and choosing salient points to expand on, mean they can answer unexpected questions eloquently and succinctly (not to mention, they’re more likely than most to know the meaning of the words “eloquently” and “succinctly”!).

Storytellers are confident of their own opinion, and less likely to be swung by the whims of their peers. They think things through before acting, which helps them make wise choices.

When you give your child a love of stories, you’re giving them a whole lot more. It’s not just fairytales!

Bookshop dreams

I saw a retail unit for rent in my local town, with a lovely window, and thus began my bookshop dream.

A beautiful, light-filled space, filled with books of all kinds, shelved to perfection. Comfy sofas to sit on, and proper tea to drink, with cups smaller than the pot as they should be. People from all walks of life sharing the space, joined through a common love of books and reading. A peaceful life, a healthy income, and a beautiful social space.

That’s the dream anyway. I looked into the reality of bookshop ownership, and it bore little resemblance to this Utopian fantasy. Before even selling a book, I’d need to shell out thousands on stock, fittings, rent, rates etc. Serving tea brings issues of food hygiene certificates. Hiring staff involves interviews, then once hired, sorting out tax, NI, uniforms, rotas… To even cover overheads I’d need to sell hundreds of books a month. Add to that the long hours spent in the shop, paying staff a decent wage but taking little if anything for myself. Missing out on family life to chase elusive dreams.

Even customers aren’t what I dreamed they’d be. Most browse in store then buy online, cracking book spines, getting grease marks on the stock, then buying a pristine copy for themselves from discount online booksellers and leaving the soiled copy on the bookshop shelf.

My dream in tatters, I remain glad that I researched before giving too much of my heart to bookselling, glad that I have a family life to keep me grounded, and glad some hardy souls still run independent bookshops so I can visit them.

If you take one thing from this, please visit a bookshop and buy a book there. Keep someone’s dream alive. Otherwise, one day there won’t be bookshops, and the world will be the poorer for it.


300 Seconds Manchester 2014

I was the official blogger for the 300 Seconds event at SpacePortX in Manchester. Here are my blog notes from the event:

SpaceportX in Manchester was an excellent venue for the 300 Seconds event, with lots of audience participation led by compere Elizabeth Clark (CEO of Dream Agility).
Victoria Sorzano (BBC) 5 things you should know about Ada Lovelace
First up was the lovely Victoria Sorzano (BBC), who confidently led us through a fascinating synopsis of the life of Ada Lovelace, as the event was held on Ada Lovelace Day.
Ada Lovelace was a pioneer, the first person to write a computer program, working closely with Charles Babbage. She was the daughter of Lord Byron, though he left when Ada was young and she was brought up by her mother. Ada’s mother encouraged the very intelligent Ada to pursue studies in Maths and Science, and steered her away from the arts, though Ada showed her creative side in the elegance of her computer algorithms. Ada died of cancer aged 36, though her life was not all plain sailing. She was known to have had affairs, and was clearly dissatisfied with elements of her life.
Victoria ended her talk by showing us a funny extract from the graphic novel series “Goth Girl” (Illustrated by Chris Riddell) featuring Ada as the character “Ada Goth”.
Gemma Sou (Viva Voce podcasts) Viva Voce: a new social network for social scientists
@gemmasou @vivavocepodcasts
Gemma Sou spoke about how she developed a new social network which enables research students to disseminate their work across the academic community.
While studying for her Doctorate, she reviewed her online profiles, but couldn’t find an existing network to share her work that didn’t read “like an online CV”. She decided to set up her own solution to this problem, choosing to use 4-minute podcasts to summarise a variety of research topics. Each member of the social network can choose up to four key search terms for their work, encouraging interdisciplinarity and recognising that research often spans multiple subject areas. The podcasts are long enough to get a feel for the subject, while short enough to keep the interest of people outside the field of study.
Gemma hopes this network will rapidly expand, and encouraged the audience to spread the word.
Rachael Ball (BDB Marketing) What does a digital project manager do? A window into my world
Rachael used clear graphics and imaginative illustrations to show us the various aspects of her role as a digital project manager. She took us through the process of driving a project, from balancing the expectations of all the parties involved in the project to juggling the timescales and workload across concurrent projects. She showed how keeping “two or three steps ahead” helps drive projects forward, anticipating problems and preparing for eventualities. She explained the importance of empathy in dealing with clients, an understanding that their digital knowledge is not the same as hers, and the need for regular face-to-face meetings to avoid confusion about the project’s aims and progress.
Paula Moughton-Weems (Thoughtworks) Making the impossible possible
@iamPaulaMW @thoughtworks
Paula Moughton-Weems spoke about her journey into the field of tech (beginning her talk with a description of her journey across an actual field!)
From humble beginnings, Paula knew she wanted to have an impact on people’s lives, but did not follow the traditional University route into Tech. She met people who worked in software, and knew she wanted to be a part of that world, so she applied for a job at Thoughtworks, not expecting to actually get the job as she lacked the qualifications and experience of her competitors. Nevertheless, the Thoughtworks team wisely saw her passion and potential and hired her. Paula’s first impossible thing was “Don’t let them know I have no idea what I’m doing!” She faced a steep learning curve, with plenty of trial and error and asked lots of questions. She knew that asking questions would get her the information she needed, but without knowing what she didn’t know, how could she know what to ask? Her next impossible challenge came when Paula was asked to train up an intern. She didn’t feel she had the expertise to train someone else, but very quickly found that the best way to learn is to teach. When the intern asked a question she couldn’t answer, they found out together!
Paula is glad that Thoughtworks believes in passion and potential, and says she now gets to make an impact on the world because she faced those seemingly insurmountable challenges and “made impossible things possible.”
Verity Stockdale (BBC) Technology and Language
“What have technology and language got to do with each other?” Verity explored the complex relationship between these seemingly distant topics. Repurposing language is far from a new thing: in fact neologisms have been giving language purists trouble since at least the 16th Century! As new technology develops, language needs to adapt to adequately describe new ideas and ways of working.
Verity referred the audience to Tom Chatfield’s book, “Netymology” which shows the long history of words most people assume to be brand new. For example, the first recorded use of O.M.G. as an acronym was way back in 1917, and the “Smiley” 🙂 has been in use since the 19th Century. Mostly, language innovation is viewed as inevitable and indeed a necessary part of societal change, but there are some who are vehemently opposed to the alteration of language.
In France, the “Académie Franҫaise” (known as ‘Les Immortels’ – sounds like something out of Twilight!) guard the purity of the French language, with varying degrees of success. The ‘pure’ French equivalents of popular modern terms were certainly a mouthful, it’s no wonder they didn’t catch on.
Verity showed how neologisms can follow rules, so even brand new words are understandable. She gave the example of an e-sofa. Language and technology are more closely linked than you think, as one changes and develops, inevitably the other will too.
Viv Slack (Code Computerlove) If you build it, will they come?
@vivslack @givingevents
The theory behind ‘Giving Events’ is simple: you do something, other people enjoy it, they donate money to a worthy cause.
Viv researched existing platforms, but couldn’t find anything that bridged the gap between organising events and giving money. Her top tip when setting up something new such as this was ‘ask friends for help!’ A friend helped her design the site, and soon it was up and running.
Viv finds it satisfying to see people having new experiences (an overseas student’s first glimpse of English countryside at Edale for example) but her current challenge is getting the site more widely known, beyond the sphere of her personal influence. She is bursting with ideas, and urged us all not to give up if an idea doesn’t succeed, but to move on and create the next new idea!
Nour Alomary Everyday digital security
Nour spends a lot of time on public transport, where she sees many people using technology. She has had ample opportunity to learn strangers’ passcodes, as they type them in slowly in public! Luckily, Nour is not a criminal, and used her experience to help the audience stay safer online.
Her useful advice included an insight into the ways hackers crack passwords, and a warning not to use “really obvious” passwords such as ‘password1234’ or ‘your pet’s name, and the date you got your pet’ (at this point, several gasps rose from the audience as they realised their ‘terribly safe’ passwords were anything but). She advised using phrases instead of dictionary words, and adding numbers and characters, with the exception of replacing ‘o’ with zero (hackers have technology that can see through that). Several of the audience changed their passwords after Nour’s talk, so while her advice is not complex it is clearly necessary!
Emma Madden couldn’t make it, so we went straight to the final speaker, Lizzie Dyson
Lizzie Dyson(Ladies that UX) BBC Sports Persona refresh in 6 weeks
@lizziedyson @LadiesthatUXMCR @BBCSport
Lizzie started her talk by showing us the ‘before’ pictures of uninspiring personas for the BBC Sports site. They were DULL, and needed an urgent facelift. The information contained in the personas was factual and adequate, but needed to appeal to a discerning online audience, thus began a 6-week process to refresh the personas.
The first step was to commandeer a corridor wall and cover it in post-it notes of different colours to denote different things. Passers-by were intrigued by the spectacle, and were wisely roped into informal interviews, informing the content. The public were consulted about the personas, with Stakeholders looking on through one-way glass. Lizzie noted that the public were an important part of the process, and it was important for the stakeholders to see their views, as ‘stakeholders tend to think that everyone thinks like them’ and real users are more diverse.
Once the consultation was over, the story-building began. All flat surfaces were covered with strips of paper, dubbed ‘post-it porn’ by Lizzie and the team. The strips of paper were shuffled around to make engaging stories for each persona, then the content was made into web pages. A ‘naming ceremony’ was held, where the team showcased the personas and explained the reasons behind each one, then the personas were formally launched.
All in all, Lizzie provided an engaging, humorous account of the process, and showed how there’s far more to a persona than bare facts on a page.


I’m delighted to announce that my latest book “Drabble Folk and Fairy Tales” is now available in a Local Independent Bookshop.
If you’re passing an Independent Bookshop on your travels, why not pop inside for a bit? You can find some lovely books in Indy Bookshops that are simply not available through chain stores.
Of course, if you feel like asking the bookshop owner to stock “Drabble Folk and Fairy Tales” or any of the Drabble Diary series I’d be much obliged, point them in the direction of the Drabble Diary website, where they can get hold of these lovely titles.
Local Independent bookshops are vital to small publishers and self-published writers, please visit yours and buy a couple of books (ideally my book!).
You won’t regret it!

Ten Taster Tales – free sample PDF ebook

I have had feedback that some people haven’t bought my book, “Drabble Folk and Fairy Tales” because they don’t know what a Drabble is.

To answer this, I’ve made a taster PDF containing 10 of the 100 stories from the full book.

These delightful little stories are ideal for a quick children’s storytime or as the basis for crafting a longer tale….or just to read for your own pleasure.

Enjoy and let me know what you think. Please feel free to pass them on to anyone who may also enjoy them.

Download it free here:

Ten Taster Tales

Drabble Diaries Folk and Fairytales

I am pleased to announce that my latest book, “Drabble Diaries Folk and Fairytales” is now available to buy as an ebook at Smashwords Here

The paperback version is due out in the next couple of weeks, in time for Christmas stocking fillers, but for now, here’s the blurb:

If you wonder why the world is the way it is, then this book is for you.
Familiar fairytales, worldwide folklore, and traditional religious stories nestle among the brand new imaginings of Carol Ferro, the famous “Short Story Lady”, all honed to perfection by the hugely talented Sharon Richards.
Within these covers, quests are undertaken, lessons learned, and princesses rescued.
Find out how birds got their colours and whose face is in the moon.
The wisdom of ages, distilled into 100 stories of 100 words, ideal for storytime or a quick read.
It’s what the world has been waiting for…

Front cover image

Front cover of the book

Agaric and the Flower Fairies

toadstool image

Every spring, the flower fairies awoke from their winter sleep, and they painted the spring flowers. They arranged the petals facing the sun to make it smile, then they danced among the stems to shake the flowers and make them wave to the bees.
I say all the flower fairies, but one is missing. Agaric has overslept. She stayed up late last autumn painting the leaves orange, and forgot she still had the red leaves to paint, but then she was always so easily distracted.
As spring gave way to summer, the flower fairies were busy making ever larger and brighter blooms for the butterflies, but still Agaric slumbered on.
Only when the summer was giving way to autumn again did she stir.
She was bleary-eyed and drowsy after her long sleep, and when she made her flower, she realised she had no green to paint the stem. She had also put the flower on upside down, with the petals facing the ground instead of the sky!
She went to paint her flower with the red paint she still had, but as the paint dried it cracked, making the flower look spotty.
Agaric sat down under her flower and cried. She felt she was the worst flower fairy in all fairyland. As she sat, it began to rain, and Agaric realised that she was still dry, because the flower was like an umbrella, pushing the water to the sides because it was upside down.
She saw a pair of green legs appear in front of her, and Mr Toad addressed her in his croaky voice “thank you Agaric, I’ve been looking everywhere for a comfy seat, and you’ve made me a lovely Toad Stool.
“That’s it!” Said Agaric, “a toadstool!” She made the toadstool so perfectly that she was given her wings, to be a flying fairy. Now every year, Agaric makes Mr Toad lots of toadstools just the way he likes them.
You’ll know which are Agaric’s, they have speckly red tops, and are pure white underneath.
If anyone asks, you can tell them the name of those toadstools is Fly Agaric, and you can tell them why.

The Strangeling’s Tale

I have finished my new book, “The Strangeling’s Tale”. Here is the blurb, which summarises the story beautifully:
Seven stories merge to one,
When the seal’s song is done,
Trees will walk and talk and sing,
Sailor, Tailor, Trapper, King,
Daughter meets a father changed,
Strangeling finds himself Unstranged,
Scrivener’s writings cut the gem,
Wild-heart’s tears reveal them,
Blood of the cursed meets blood of the free,
Paper’s revealed by the roots of the tree.
All the seven make the quest,
And, united, pass the test.
Seven stones that mark a grave,
Call the timid and the brave,
Ancient evil bows to good,
In the confines of the wood.
Words and stories hold the key,
Strange the powers that they see,
Strange, the magic that they hold,
When the meek become the bold.
Leaves of pages, leaves of trees,
Mark their mingled destinies.
Some for better, some for worse,
All together break the curse.

The book is now available on Smashwords, Amazon, and Kobo , I’ll update as it appears on other sites.