Food and Wine, Oh and Writing

Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts invaded Ramsgate for a writing retreat last week with fellow writers Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman 

Views from balcony

View from the sitting room


Our writing retreat had been planned for quite some time: we had picked our house, packed our things and brought plenty of wine.



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And it was twice that size to begin with!

It was a week to celebrate. We had just entered an ice cream parlour when Elaine Everest discovered she’d made it to number 16 in The Sunday Times Bestseller List, so we had the biggest ice cream ever seen, followed by champagne, of course.

Views of the harbour





Views of the harbour

Views of the harbour


Some of us were writing: Francesca wrote the second part of her serial for People’s Friend and Elaine R started her second novel. Elaine E and Natalie were busy doing edits. We each picked a space in the house to work in, though some of us could be found from time to time on the balcony in the sun, and even across the road on the terrace of the snack bar. We worked hard, but we managed to enjoy the glorious weather, the view of the sea, eating and drinking. We spent a hilarious hour one afternoon sitting by the marina, coming up with book titles, eliciting some funny looks from people close by.


at Corby's Tearoom with Pat Corby, cousin of writer Deirdre Palmer (and well recommended by her.)

At Corby’s Tearoom with Pat Corby, cousin of writer Deirdre Palmer (and well recommended by her.)

You've got to have fish and chips when you're at the seaside.

You’ve got to have fish and chips when you’re at the seaside.








The bohemian Belgian Bar was on our doorstep.

The bohemian Belgian Bar was on our doorstep.

Reliving our childhoods in the arcade below us.

Reliving our childhoods in the arcade below us.

A brick three piece suite spotted in a courtyard.

A brick three piece suite spotted in a courtyard.






On Thursday, the four of us travelled up to London for the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) summer party, where the contenders for the Joan Hessayon Award gathered and the overall winner was announced. This year it was Clare Harvey, author of the Gunner Girls, and our congratulations go to her. This wonderful event gives you the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones. The established writers are always willing to give advice and share what they have gone through to get where they are. It makes you realise everyone experiences something similar so you’re not on your own. It was a good night, which obviously involved more food and wine.


Elaine Everest and Francesca.

Natalie Kleinman

Natalie Kleinman

Our own Elaine.

Our own Elaine.







It was soon time to pack up and return home. It was an enjoyable week, but as someone famous once said, “There’s no place like home”.

Have you ever been on a writing retreat? Does the scenery or area distract you, or are you prolific in your writing? Let us know your views.

@FCapaldiBurgess & RobertsElaine11

You can also read Francesca’s post on the advantages and fun of writing retreats here

Graduating the New Writers’ Scheme – Jo Thomas

Elaine Roberts is proud to welcome this years winner of the Joan Hessayon Award, Jo Thomas, to WMWP.

Jo started her broadcasting career as a reporter and co-presenter with Rob Brydon on BBC Radio 5, reported for Jo ThomasBBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and went on to produce at BBC Radio 2 working on The Steve Wright Show. She now lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her writer and producer husband, three children, three cats and a black lab, Murray. She writes lighthearted romances about food, family, friendships and love; and believes every story should have a happy ending. 

Why/when did you know you wanted to write?

I remember getting the bug when I read my first Christina Jones followed very quickly by my first Katie Fforde. In fact, a friend at work had read it on her holiday and passed it over the desk, saying ‘here we go Jo, I think you’ll like this’. Like it? I loved it! And it was then I thought I wish I could write those kind of stories. I wish I could be part of that world.  Nothing bad ever happens in those stories and I always knew there would happy ending.

How long did it take you to complete your manuscript?

Well, an oyster takes about three years to grow and that’s probably how long The Oyster Catcher took from first getting the idea to actually being published.

How did you find your publisher?

At an RNA party of course! I was introduced to Hazel from Accent Press and some time later she offered to publish my book as an ebook. It was time to get my story out there.

Can you tell us something about your ‘road’ to publication?

I was published in November 2013 by Accent Press as an e-book. In January 2014 it started rising up the Amazon Kindle charts. By February it rose to number 2, inbetween ’12 Years a Slave’ and ‘The Book Thief’. Whilst it was there I was approach by one of the big publishers and a number of other publishers showed an interest in me. I ended up going to auction and I was really lucky to finally sign a 4 book deal with Headline.

Now you have that first book ‘under your belt’ what’s next in your writing life?

Busy! The first book, The Oyster Catcher is coming out in paperback in November so I’ve been doing edits on that. My second book, The Olive Branch, is due out in February 2015 and I’m just about to do the next draft on that and, in October I have a novella coming out as an ebook, called The Chestnut Tree, which I put the final full stop on this morning! Oyster Catcher

Thank you, Jo, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today.

The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas

According to a champion shell shucker, in order to open an oyster, you first have to understand what’s keeping it closed. When runaway bride Fiona Clutterbuck crashes the honeymoon camper van, she doesn’t know what to do or where to go. Embarrassed and humiliated, Fiona knows one thing for sure, she can’t go home. Being thrown a lifeline, a job on an oyster farm seems to be the answer to her prayers. But nothing could prepare her for the choppy ride ahead or her new boss the wild and unpredictable, Sean Thornton. Will Fiona ever be able to come out of her shell? As the oyster season approaches, will there be love amongst the oyster beds of Galway Bay? Or will the circling sharks finally close in?


Amazon uk: The Oyster Catcher


Twitter: @jo_thomas01

So many words, so little time!

Elaine Everest, wishing there were more hours in the day and days in the month!

I know it’s been said before but where has the year gone? It doesn’t seem five minutes since I was writing last month’s blog piece and only days since I declared my writing intentions for 2014.

For some crazy reason I’d decided back in January that I was going to increase my output of articles and research new markets for my journalistic work. This was mainly because the Everest household was facing redundancy. ‘Him indoors’ was being cast aside by the American owners of the company he worked for, along with every other long serving employee. The company was making excellent profits, and providing a much needed service to the medical industry, so it made no sense that the work force (most being over the age of 55) were faced with possibly never working again. Sorry, rant over! However, ‘Him indoors’ secured a lovely job after we wrote to over fifty companies in Kent enclosing an SAE, letter and CV – we didn’t mention that he was over sixty. Seven replied. I almost started a fresh rant about people who can’t reply to a letter… We tackled the problem head on by writing those letters. Employment agencies are ageist and can be so depressing to the older person. We needed to stay positive. It worked. In July, American Independence Day in fact, he leaves the employ of the Americans and joins a good old British firm.

Something else happened in January. I found myself an agent – imagine me dancing around the room at this point – I had to pinch myself. Had she made a terrible error? Did she mistake me for someone else? It seems not. Isn’t this the dream that every writer hopes will happen? So, instead of thinking about the aforementioned article research I found myself researching World War Two and the people of Kent once more. Yes, I have my dream job, writing Sagas set in the war years. Vera Lynn sings in the background as I work and old black and white films are constantly running on my television. I’m back in the zone. My word goals for the week, along with research, leave no time for much else in my life. I’m not even sure I’ve stepped outside the front door since then!

The other big event for me was in May when along with sixteen other novelists I attended the Romantic Novelist Association’s Summer Party as one of the nominees of the Joan Hessayon Award. It was fabulous. So many people were complimentary about Gracie’s War that I felt just like a winner even though that honour went to Jo Thomas. There’s nothing better than being in the company of so many lovely authors most of whom I first met on the shelves of my library and Waterstones.

Looking forward I’m hoping to be able to hand my new book over to my agent Caroline Sheldon, who has been so helpful as I move onwards in the writing world. Fingers crossed that a publisher will like my book. If not I may well be researching new markets for my articles!