Smorgasbord Short Story Festival – 9th – 12th June – From Hackney to Hollywood by Wendy Janes

I am delighted to welcome my next guest Wendy Janes with her contribution to the festival. A story of a rise to stardom that has its roots in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

From Hackney to Hollywood by Wendy Janes

“You’re on in ten, Mr Sullivan.”

I glance up to see the outline of a young woman in jeans and t-shirt standing by the green room bar.

“Can I get you anything?” Her thin arms gesture to an array of refreshments.

“No.” I just wish you’d go away and leave me in peace. I’ve been in interviews all day.

Radio, magazines, blogs, and now telly. You name it, I’ve done it. I’m knackered, and to cap it all, this settee is bloody uncomfortable.

“Oh, OK, sorry.” A look of alarm crosses her elfin face. For one awful moment I fear I must have voiced my thoughts out loud, but then realise my one-word growl had been sufficient to make her think I’m simply one more celebrity jerk.

I hastily add, “No thanks. Very kind of you, I’m fine, thanks,” and flash her one of my award-winning full-on smiles. Her cheeks flush. She really is very pretty … but also very young.

When I started out, these creatures scurrying around with headsets and clipboards, and more recently iPads and tablets, had been my contemporaries, but while I’ve got older, they haven’t. This one – she could only be about nineteen – well, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that in another life I could have had a daughter of her age. I feel protective towards her. I hope she has a family to keep her safe.

Turning away, she busies herself at the bar, tidying up bottles, glasses, plates and bowls left lying around by previous guests this evening. Job done, she perches on edge of the armchair opposite me and says, “If you don’t mind my saying, you look all in.”

“Thanks, precisely the look I’m going for today.” I give her my wry smile this time.

“Must be exhausting being a glamorous Hollywood star, going to all those fabulous parties with famous people, and having to jet first class between England and America.”

“Are you teasing me?”


I like how her playful tone matches mine.

“I’m not flying first class with the Hollywood stars, yet.” I continue to keep things light. I’m aware she doesn’t want to hear how I feel about shallow glitzy parties, soulless hotels, and forever taking crumpled, stale clothes out of a suitcase. Today’s suit has seen better days.

“A long-running series on television over here, and three films in three years in America – you’re getting close,” she says.

“Well, I’ll admit it’s more fun than street theatre in the pouring rain and bit parts on TV.”

“Oh, a bit part would suit me. I’m doing work experience here before I go to drama college.”

Jeez, she’s even younger than I thought.

She tells me about the plays she’s been in at school, how brilliant her drama teacher is, and her hopes for her acting career – stage, not television or film – but she knows she can’t be too choosy. I relax and listen to her chatter. Her naivety is delightful.

“Mum’s been a big fan of yours for years.”

Oh, lordy, she’s making me feel so much older than my forty-three years.

“We saw you the other day in a repeat of that series you used to be in on the BBC. The episode ended with you storming round to your girlfriend’s workplace to have it out with her boss who’d been harassing her.”

I remember that role; I was barely out of my teens, and at the time thought stardom was round the corner. How wrong I was, but my career of waltzing in and saving damsels in distress – on and off screen – dates from then.

“Mum told me she saw that episode first time round. Reckons she’s watched everything you’ve been in. She’s going to see your new film next week with some mates from her book club.”

“Well, please thank your lovely mother for being such a loyal fan. And I hope she and her friends enjoy it.”

The girl giggles and attempts to smooth her wild curls which spring back the moment she lets go. Nadine’s beautiful face from long, long ago flashes before me, but is cruelly snatched away as I’m whisked off by a couple of people wearing headsets, and I find myself sitting on a vast sofa, under the harsh studio lights, answering questions about my latest film, Lying.

Claudia Marshall has been doing this Friday evening slot for years. I know how it goes. You have to give her a chance to show off her knowledge first, then, usually after the clip, she gives you the space to tell one anecdote. I’m not a fan of all the interruptions, the flattery, and the fluttering of her false eyelashes, but, hey, if it gets the job done.

“… the studio re-worked the original book to focus on the men, but the wrangles over the rights and the script meant this film nearly didn’t get made …”

God, that on-off-on-off stuff was a nightmare.

“… out of this stellar ensemble cast, your character is the most complex and talked about.

Now, without giving away the audacious twist at the end, can you tell me, and this lovely audience, a little bit about Billy O’Keefe?”

Ah, my turn.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say Billy is the most talked about role, in fact I think there are other characters in the film who are more controversial.”

“You’re being far too modest. Come on, Ryan, tell us what makes Billy tick?”

“OK, let’s see.” I pretend to think, trying to keep this as spontaneous as I can, despite trotting out the same lines for what must be the tenth time today, the hundredth time this week. “Billy’s an ambitious man, and he’s a romantic. The key to his character, his flaw, is that he loves his wife too much. He’d do anything for her. Literally anything.”

I pause, and Claudia leans in towards me, all eyes and teeth.

“Oh Ryan, I’m sure there are many of us who can only dream of such devotion. But can you explain to us how one reviewer can describe him both as ‘a pushover, the weakest sop on earth’ and ‘a ruthless man who’s determined to get what he wants whatever the cost’?”

“Well, I think it comes initially from the great writing. As soon as I read the part I understood why Billy feels and acts the way he does, and–”

“Is Billy anything like you?” she interrupts.

I rush my reply in order to cover my irritation. “I’m a romantic like Billy, but he’s obsessive, and I’m definitely not. Right at the start of the film Billy says he’s been bewitched by his wife–”

She jumps in again. “Over the years we’ve seen you take on a variety of roles – troubled teen, devoted family man, lovable rogue – but always with a strong love interest. I think I can safely say this is the steamiest film we’ve seen you in.” Claudia does the leg-crossing, cleavage thrust forward pose. “How did you feel about doing the bedroom scenes?”

“Hey, if it’s integral to the plot …”

The audience pick up their cue and are generous with their laughter.

Claudia coaxes more from them. “Yes, we get to see quite a bit of you.”

As the laughter begins to ebb, she continues, “I understand you had no need of a body double, even for the more risqué scenes.”

“At first I considered it, but then after a few sessions at the gym, and I thought, why not, I can do this.”

“I think this clip proves that!”

And there on a huge screen is a man in boxers having a stand-up row with his semi naked, fabulously beautiful wife. The contrast between his tousled black hair against her mane of red looks incredible. The cameraman has captured the smooth curves of her milk-white skin, and I find it difficult to comprehend that the man with the lightly bronzed torso is actually me. The argument has resolved itself in an embrace, and for a moment I can almost believe that long, passionate kiss is real. The film pauses on the close-up, and the applause thunders out.

“Wow! Let’s move from your latest role to your first role, Ryan. I’d now like you to tell us about your first acting experience.” Claudia sits back in her chair, as if to indicate, yes, it’s anecdote time. Your turn.

Nadine’s beautiful face appears again.

“I was fourteen, and I had a huge crush on this girl at school.” I’m not sure why I’m in such a confessional mood, but I need to tell this story. “She was ever so popular, constantly surrounded by her girlfriends.”

I can picture Nadine in the dinner hall, deep in serious conversation with a couple of other girls. Her mass of brown curls framing her face, her left hand reaching up to touch the silver pendant she always wore. It had her initial on it, and she’d slowly run the N back and forth along the chain whenever she felt nervous or was concentrating really hard.

“Well, when I heard she was part of the drama group performing short scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream I went along for the auditions. Not sure how the drama department thought Shakespeare was the right choice for a bunch of kids from Hackney, but anyway I was cast as Pyramus, and this girl as Thisbe in the tragicomic play within the play. I don’t know what I thought I was doing, I hadn’t even read the script properly; I just wanted to be near her. Sounds pathetic, I know.”

“Not at all,” says Claudia. Her voice low.

“The first rehearsal was a nightmare. It was only at this read-through I found out we had to kiss. I really wanted to kiss her, of course, but not on stage in front of everyone. I can still remember the ordeal of sitting round with our scripts, stuttering out the words, ‘O, kiss me through the hole of this vile wall,’ and hearing her reply, ‘I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all.’ Honestly, I’ve never felt more embarrassed in my whole life. It was a valuable lesson learned though, because I’ve never taken on a part since without reading every single word of the script first.”

“Sound advice for all young actors who may be watching,” says Claudia. “So, what happened next?”

“Before I could dash down the corridor never to return, my Thisbe came up to me and suggested we get over our embarrassment by practising so much before next week’s rehearsal that it didn’t feel awkward any more. So we met after school in an empty classroom, and she helped me see the humour in the role, and as soon as I got that, I could do it. By the end of the week, we were totally comfortable and getting quite blasé about the scene, and the kiss. But I still didn’t have the guts to talk to her about anything beyond the play.”

“Sorry, I find it difficult to believe that the handsome, confident hero, Ryan Sullivan could ever have found it difficult to talk to girls.”

“Ah, but I was a shy, fourteen-year-old with a face full of spots.”

In fact I wasn’t even Ryan Sullivan then, I was Ryan Eyre – a name my agent had refused to let me keep and had sworn me to secrecy about. When I told my da, he’d said, “Ye’d have to be a bletherin’ ejit to confuse an airline with an actor.” My ma on the other hand was thrilled I’d chosen her family name.

“So, Ryan, did you and your Thisbe sizzle with on-stage chemistry?”

“If only we’d been given the chance! The day before the next rehearsal, the drama teacher, in her infinite wisdom, decided the play within the play would be re-cast to reflect historical accuracy. In other words – an all-male cast. She tried all sorts of bribery and trickery to persuade me to play Thisbe, and in the end she paid me hard cash. I’m guessing she did the same with the six-foot-two high jumper from the school athletics team who played Pyramus. And we were brilliant, even if I say so myself. Had the audience in stitches, we did. But I could never have done it without that girl’s guidance.”

“This audience won’t forgive me if I don’t ask: did you and the girl ever get together?”

“Alas, no. Her family moved to south London during the summer holidays and I never saw her again. But if she’s out there I’d like to thank her from the bottom of my heart for giving me my first acting lessons and for kick-starting my career.”

“Well, thank you, Ryan, for sharing your bitter-sweet story. Unfortunately that’s all we have time for this evening. So it only remains for me to thank Mr Ryan Sullivan, star of Lying, for being such a charming and witty guest, and I wish you all a good night.”

With the applause from the audience ringing in my ears I’m ushered out of the studio and into a cab to take me through the dark, rainy streets to my last interview of the day.

In a small south London suburb, Nadine sits on the sofa beside her husband watching the credits roll on the 42-inch TV dominating their modest living room. She runs her silver pendant back and forth along the chain around her neck. Throughout the programme she’d seen traces of the teenager she once knew in the middle-aged man now recognised by millions. A smile to cover his shyness, a laugh to hide embarrassment. She knows it shouldn’t still hurt like this. Not after all these years. Not when she’s made a good life with Archie and the kids.

“Bit of a pretty boy, isn’t he, that O’Sullivan bloke,” says her husband.

“Sullivan. There’s no ‘O’.” She fixes her eyes on the screen as if doing so will hold Ryan there.

“Can’t you picture him poncing around in tights doing that Shakespeare stuff.” Archie lets out a big belly laugh. “Wouldn’t catch us doin’ it at our old school. They do it at yours?”

“Nearly, um, well actually…” As she has many times before, Nadine senses she’s on the verge of telling him. She’s filled to the brim, the words are waiting to spill from her. Turning to Archie, she’s about to speak, but as she opens her mouth she sees his attention is focused on his mobile phone.

“Meeting the lads for a pint in The Harrow before the footie tomorrow.” The sofa creaks as her husband hauls himself up.

“Cuppa tea, love?” he says as he lumbers into the kitchen.

“Yeh, thanks,” she replies, unsure whether she feels relieved or thwarted. She thinks of the two younger ones upstairs in their bedroom, and Davina at the TV studio. A flutter of something a little bit like hope quivers in her chest as she wonders if her daughter and Ryan could have met tonight.

“No, you silly woman. Get yourself back to the real world,” she mutters to herself, wrapping her cardi around her and reaching to the pendant round her neck.

Alone in the living room, Nadine allows the familiar waves of longing and regret to sweep through her.

About Wendy Janes

Wendy Janes lives in London with her husband and youngest son. She is the author of the novel, What Jennifer Knows and the short story collection, What Tim Knows, and other stories. She has also contributed short stories to a number of anthologies, including the fundraising anthology, A Kind of Mad Courage.

Her writing is inspired by family, friends, and everyday events that only need a little twist to become entertaining fiction.

As well as writing contemporary fiction, she loves to read it too, and spreads
the word about good books online and in the real world.

Wendy is also a freelance proofreader, and a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service.

Books by Wendy Janes.

Read the reviews and buy the books:

Read more reviews and follow Wendy on Goodreads:

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My thanks to Wendy for sharing her story and please share on your own networks.  Coming up tomorrow a story from Mary Smith and one from Robbie Cheadle.

Smorgasbord Short Stories Festival – 9th to 12th June – The programme of events.

As you may have already heard there is a #BloggersBash going on in London this weekend and having been unable to go the last two years, I am delighted to be heading off tomorrow.

As usual when taking a break I invited some guest writers to contribute their fiction short stories to keep you entertained while I was offline. And I am very grateful to Sheila Williams, John Howell, Phillip T. Stephens, Wendy Janes, Mary Smith and Robbie and Michael Cheadle for their wonderful tales.

There will  also be the regular posts from Paul Andruss and the start of the serialisation of Geoff Cronin’s second book written when he was 84 years old with more stories of life in Ireland in the 1920s onwards.

On Monday morning I have also scheduled a health post and an introduction to a new series.. The health benefits of laughter and the Smorgasbord Laughter Academy.

The Programme – Friday 9th June

Thomas the Rhymer


Paul Andruss with the background to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Boy with a Harmonica

Sheila Williams with a story set in France during World War II with a supernatural twist.


Sally Cronin –  Meet a man who was the perfect candidate for the job set in the near future.

Saturday 10th June.

The Matmakers

Geoff Cronin – As a boy Geoff befriends the travellers who come to the beach near his home every summer.

The World Darkly

John Howell with a story that makes you rethink your approach to finding lost property!

The Last Emperor

Sally Cronin with a story of redemption and loyalty in the Magic Garden.

Sunday 11th June


Geoff Cronin explains the old country ways of bird catching.

Search and Seizure

Phillip T. Stephens with a futuristic look at border and customs control.

From Hackney to Hollywood

Wendy Janes takes us on the trail to stardom from Shakespeare in Hackney to the chat show sofa in Hollywood.

Monday 12th June

The health benefits of laughter and an invitation to join the academy with your favourite jokes, videos or images.

Sir Chocolate and the Stolen Moon and Stars

Robbie and Michael Cheadle bring us another adventure story starring Sir Chocolate in verse and also Michael’s original concept for the tale.

Trouble with Socks

Mary Smith with a story of how simple things can become very important to us.


Sally Cronin with the story of a woman planning to surprise her husband on his birthday.

I am sure you will enjoy the stories from my guest authors, and as I shall be offline completely for the weekend from tomorrow, I will catch up with you on Monday evening. 

As I will not be here to click the share buttons.. I would be very grateful if you would do so for me.  Thanks Sally.



Guest Post – Wendy Janes – Musings on proofreading fiction and non-fiction

Wendy Janes Musings on proofreading fiction and non-fiction.

Back in the twentieth century when I started out as a freelance proofreader I worked solely on non-fiction, mainly academic texts for a variety of publishing houses. Each had an in-house style guide that editors and proofreaders were expected to work from, which was very useful for a newbie who felt she needed a safety net.

In addition to correcting grammar and punctuation, I became involved in decisions about the hierarchy of headings, styles for different types of lists, plus the setting of figures, tables and boxes. I was also required to check in-text quotations and references against bibliographies and reference lists, as well as ensuring that bibliographies and reference lists were set correctly and contained full publishing details. It was meticulous and rewarding work.

Friends used to remark that I must be very clever, since I spent my days reading so many interesting books about obscure aspects of subjects such as education, history, politics, art and film. Alas, this wasn’t the case. Although I had been totally immersed in a book while proofreading, once I’d finished, it was astonishing how little I could remember. Maybe there’s only so much my brain can retain. However, one fact I do recall is that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were delivered by the same midwife.

Anyway, let’s get back to the proofreading…

After a few years, a publisher offered me a novel to proofread. Elated by a sense of freedom – no lists, no figs/tabs/boxes, no quotes and, joy of joy, no extensive bibliographies and references to double-check – I reckoned this was going to be a doddle.

To my surprise, it wasn’t.

Very quickly I discovered that I had to constrain my initial impulse to impose every single rule I’d been required to use when proofreading non-fiction. Let’s take the following sentence, as an example:

The therapist should ensure they keep their notes up to date.

In the textbooks I’d been proofreading I was expected to change this to:

The therapist should ensure he or she keeps his or her notes up to date.


Therapists should ensure they keep their notes up to date.

Some of my publishers encouraged their authors to make a note at the start of the book if they had chosen to run with masculine or feminine, but the mix of singular and plural was to be avoided at all costs. This is far less of an issue with informal non-fiction and in novels, where common usage and flow is more important. For a while when proofreading fiction I had to physically stop myself from correcting this. Mentally, I still make the correction, whatever I’m reading.

Similarly, I would correct the following contractions in the reference books I was working on:

Good therapists don’t doodle in their notebooks during therapy sessions. It’s not professional.


Good therapists do not doodle in their notebooks during therapy sessions. It is not professional.

That formal style would make for a very stilted novel, and in dialogue (unless the character is particularly prim and proper) it would sound downright wrong.

As I received more fiction titles it became clearer that while errors in fiction can suck all the drama from a novel, errors in non-fiction make the reader doubt the authenticity and accuracy of the information. I also realised the importance of listening to the novelist’s voice and the need to take time to decide when to intervene and when to let something go. In fact my touch is now much lighter with both fiction and non-fiction, and I reckon that makes for better proofreading.

I believe I was lucky to start off proofreading non-fiction for publishers, picking up invaluable tips from the editors I worked with while honing my skills. I think this post is a sort of thank you for that start. Without it I wouldn’t have been able to make the move into proofreading for independent authors. Initially, working with indie authors felt like swinging through the air on a trapeze without a safety net below. No in-house style sheet to rely on, no editors to double-check things with, just a knowledge that I had the confidence and skills to take that leap, catch the bar, execute a perfect somersault and land gracefully on the other side.

Books by Wendy Janes

One of the excellent reviews for What Jennifer Knows

‘What Jennifer Knows’ is a subtle and shocking tale of modern family life and relationships.
Sensitively drawn characters charm us but we, like them, are unsure who to trust. The shifting nature of loyalty and love is portrayed through searingly honest glimpses into the characters’ lives, both past and present.

The children in the novel are beautifully drawn and the way Tim’s siblings give him the acceptance and understanding he needs is both heart-breaking and wonderful.
As the complex plot deepens, we become so caught up in the characters’ lives that we have a real sense of urgency to know what will happen. How will Jennifer deal with what she knows? The final twist gives a fitting ending to this extra-ordinary book.

One of the reviews for What Tim Knows and other stories.

After reading and enjoying “What Jennifer Knows” by Wendy Janes, I was looking forward to seeing what these short stories held. Although all the stories were engaging, my favorites were “The Never-Ending Day” and “What Tim Knows”.

“The Never-Ending Day” tells the story of a new young mother, and I was completely impressed with Janes ability to make the reader feel this poor woman’s anxiety, fear, and isolation as she tried to adjust to her new role as a parent. Becoming a mother is often painted as an awe-inspiring experience, but in truth we know that many women struggle with the new responsibility, and when they do it’s easy for them to feel as if there’s something wrong with them. This piece was intensely honest, and I was relieved when the story ended on a positive note.

“What Tim Knows” tells the story of a young autistic boy going to his first birthday party. Janes did an excellent job of showing what it must be like to go inside the mind of someone on the spectrum and the constant struggle to make sense of the world, especially as a child.

Janes has a wonderful ability to place herself inside the hearts and minds of a variety of character types, making her readers feel empathy for those characters, even in instances when the reader may not particularly like them. I would highly recommend this read. 

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

About Wendy Janes

Wendy Janes lives in London with her husband and youngest son. She is the author of the novel, What Jennifer Knows and the short story collection, What Tim Knows, and other stories. She has also contributed short stories to a number of anthologies, including the fundraising anthology, A Kind of Mad Courage.

Her writing is inspired by family, friends, and everyday events that only need a little twist to become entertaining fiction.

As well as writing contemporary fiction, she loves to read it too, and spreads
the word about good books online and in the real world.

Wendy is also a freelance proofreader, and a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service.
There are many testimonials for Wendy’s work and I am just sharing one with you here. I suggest that you pop over and read the others. You will be impressed.

“Wendy proofread my second novel, she is a pleasure to work with. Her knowledge, skill and sharp eyes picked up numerous, minor errors which both I and my editor had overlooked despite numerous read throughs. Wendy noted misleading sentences, caught graves which should have been acutes and found spaces in places they shouldn’t haven’t been.

My manuscript now sparkles, and I would definitely use Wendy again. Her prices are fair, her work is exemplary, and the proofread was completed ahead of schedule.
Thank you, Wendy, for a scrupulous and professional service. Thoroughly recommended.”

Sam Russell, author of the contemporary romances A Bed of Barley Straw and A Bed of Brambles

To find out more about Wendy, proofreading, her own published work and how to get in touch here are the links.

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My thanks to Wendy for her very interesting and useful post and you are of course welcome to share in anyway that is physically possible.  You are also most welcome to contribute to this blog.  I consider it a collaborative work in progress and the more variety the better..

The Sunday Show – A Funny Thing Happened to Wendy Janes

My guest today, Wendy Janes, has a foot in both camps as she is not only a professional proofreader and also is an Indie author.


After completing a Bachelor of Education degree from Goldsmiths College in London Wendy worked in a variety of schools as a teacher, classroom assistant and school governor. She has also spent the last fourteen years working with a range of mainstream publishers utilising her Chapterhouse qualification in proofreading and copy editing. In 2012 she experienced the challenges and the joys of self-publishing and began to help other indie authors get their books in shape ready for publication. Wendy continues to work with publishers but offers a discounted rate to those of us who are making our own way in this exciting business.

Apart from helping to polish other writer’s manuscripts, Wendy also loves reading and as part of that reviews books and you can find those on her site. If you pop into Wendy’s blog you will find excellent articles on proof reading your own work and self-publishing and you can follow Wendy’s own writing journey. She has had several short stories published in anthologies and I am going to mention one or two of Wendy’s stories that were singled out for five star reviews.

As if this did not occupy her days, Wendy is also is a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service which I will be asking her more about later.

The author.

I have selected two of Wendy’s short stories that have been published in anthologies that have received individual five star reviews.


 ‘Verity’ is a poignant short story about a woman who has carried a family secret for far too long. Amazon reviewer says: ‘So touching, really moving, I loved it.’ Published in 2014 in the fundraising anthology A Kind of Mad Courage. Nineteen authors from around the world were given six weeks or less to produce “a story involving a mother somehow.” The result is a gorgeously eclectic collection of tales that will make you laugh, cry, and truly appreciate the “mad courage” of motherhood.

Wendy’s Verity is a Winner 4th July 2014 by Joy E

Such a lovely book….my favourite story amongst the many gems has to be “Verity” by Wendy Janes. Such a beautiful story, so well-constructed. A joy to read. The Author has managed to move back and forth through the decades so smoothly; never losing momentum….I hope that Wendy continues to write with such gentleness and care. I will certainly be looking out for more of her work.


‘The Stars They Never Own’ – a short story about a rising screen star who recalls the start of his career. Amazon reviewer says: ‘The twist at the end was absolutely charming.’ Published in 2014 by Safkhet Soul in the anthology Romantic Heroes.

5.0 out of 5 stars The Stars They Never Own by Wendy Janes. Brilliant by Peter Davey – 31 Mar. 2015

Up until now I have known Wendy Janes only as a razor-sharp reviewer and perceptive critic, so I was delighted to find some of her own writing – the short story ’The Stars They Never Own’ in this excellent collection. I thought it was superb. In a few pages she manages to evoke two parallel but very different lives which crossed briefly many years before and deeply affected each other. The ‘romantic hero’ (the term here used somewhat ironically) is a successful but rather world-weary film star – Ryan Sullivan – who, despite having glimpsed the highest pinnacles of fame, seems to lack something fundamental in his life.

The bulk of the story focuses on a television chat-show interview conducted by a popular hostess and in it we learn, by means of asides, anecdotes and reflections, something of the unlikely means by which Ryan became an actor and the root of his discontentment. The ending contains a terrific twist which links it to the beginning and casts new light on everything that has gone before, rendering the story a deeply satisfying whole.

Wendy Janes’ prose is sharp, witty and economic and flows like cream and her wonderful eye for detail, particularly body language, brings this story alive and makes it entirely convincing. I can’t wait to read more of her writing.

Hot off the press…..


Another short story “Stefania” appears in the newly released second anthology in the Anthologies of the Heart series. This one is entitled Blood Moon, and contains twelve stories that explore the theme of transformation.


The One and Sixpenny Englishman is the memoirs of Wendy’s grandfather who came to England as a baby at the turn of the twentieth century.

Published in 2014 this is the story of an immigrant who came to the UK as a babe in arms as part of a family that fled persecution in the east. A man who fought in the British Army as a foreign national and who took citizenship immediately after the first war. A man who made his way in the world during the 20s and 30s, and served in Civil Defense during the second war. Having turned his hand to many things in his life, he wrote this memoir in the early 70s as part of his convalescence. Harry’s story is of an immigrant who made good, and of a life well lived.

The Reviewer

As an avid reader Wendy appreciates the importance of reviews to authors and when she reads a book that she enjoys a review is posted on Amazon and Goodreads and is also tweeted and posted on Facebook.

 The proofreader

I am going to be asking Wendy questions about proofreading in her interview but I think you will be very impressed with the testimonials that she has received for work. Like reviews for an author this ‘word of mouth’ form of recommendation is invaluable for authors who are looking for someone they can trust with their writing.

Now that we have covered a few of the basics it is time to get into the interview and find out more details about Wendy’s work and writing.

Welcome Wendy and delighted to finally have the opportunity to interview you. What made you want to become a teacher and was the reality of working in the school system as you expected or did you find that it was as challenging as many press reports indicate?

I went into teaching because I wanted to make a difference. I had an idealistic view of teaching, genuinely believing that I could inspire a love of learning in my pupils through my own enthusiasm for my subjects (drama and English). Alas, in mid-1980s South London the reality wasn’t so rosy-tinted. At the tender age of 22 my classroom discipline was woefully inadequate and I failed to engage my students. The challenge was too much for me, so I did everyone a big favour and left the profession. Years later I returned to the classroom as a teaching assistant, which was a far happier experience for me and my students.

You are a caseworker for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. I was not aware that the number of people in the UK who have autism spectrum disorders was as high as reported. Almost 700,000 people which is around 1 in 100. This must require a great deal of focus on the services available particularly in the education system. What is your role as a caseworker?

My role is to empower parents. I help them try to ensure that their children – wherever they are on the autism spectrum – achieve their full educational potential through receiving the appropriate support in an appropriate setting.

I’m part of a small team of trained volunteers who provide advice to parents via phone and email. We need to listen carefully to what parents want and help them use the special educational needs law, regulations and government guidance to achieve it. We encourage cooperation between parents, schools and local authorities, and always focus on the child’s needs. Sometimes we can do this in a twenty-minute phone call, other times it’ll take weeks of calls and emails to reach a resolution.

I love this work and feel privileged to be able to help some wonderful families and their wonderful children.

Copy editing and proofreading are very different. I would assume however that when you receive manuscripts from authors that inevitably there is some cross over. Can you summarise the differences and clarify at what point a writer should work with you as a proofreader?

Yes, in theory copy editing and proofreading are different, but in reality there is a rather large grey area where they overlap. I could fill pages with lists and explanations of the differences, but I’d really like people to read on, so I’ll just say that a proofreader should be the last professional to read every single word of an author’s book before publishing. We’re meant to be there to pick up those final typos – inconsistent hyphenation and spelling, missing full stops and quote marks, transposed letters etc.

Authors should have had their book looked at by a developmental editor and a copy editor prior to sending it for proofreading, and should only work with a proofreader when they feel their book is ready for publication. This isn’t because we want to do a minimal amount of work, it’s because if we are dealing with things like inconsistencies in the plot it is unlikely that we will also be able to pick up all the spelling and grammatical errors as well.

As a reviewer you mention that you post your comments about the books you enjoy. I assume that there are times when you might not enjoy a book enough to do so. What is your advice to those of us who read a book but feel that it would benefit from additional work? Do we contact the author direct or post a poor review in public?

I don’t feel comfortable giving advice to other reviewers, but I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I choose not to post poor/negative reviews. The internet is already overcrowded, and I prefer to concentrate on taking up my tiny corner of it by writing reviews in order to spread the word about great books. I have contacted authors directly where I feel I can provide encouragement, not criticism.

You have an exciting time ahead with your novel What Jennifer Knows, which is due to be published this year. What is the story about and who is the main character?

My lead character, Jennifer Jacobs, is the recipient of some potentially disastrous information about a couple of friends. She can’t decide whether to share that information with them or not. While she prevaricates, things become a lot more complex.

Jennifer is a dance therapist. She lives in a delightful village in the English countryside with her eccentric husband, Gerald. She values family and friendships, and all these relationships are put to the test in the pages of my story.

She’s a good person who finds herself in a difficult position. My hope is that readers will relate to Jennifer’s dilemma.

We have now arrived at the central theme of the interview which is ‘A funny thing happened to me on the way to…’ and I will hand over to Wendy to tell her own story.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the top of the volcano

In the summer of 1980 – between finishing school and starting teacher training – I went on a two-week holiday with a friend to southern Italy.

After a week of lazing by the hotel pool by day and dancing and drinking in clubs by night, we thought we ought to try a bit of sightseeing and soak up a drop of culture. We explored local markets, tiny picturesque villages, and orchards ripe with citrus fruits and olives. The island of Capri was stunning, magical. Next on the itinerary was a visit to the haunting ruins of Pompeii followed by a trip to the summit of Vesuvius.

Dressed in shorts, t-shirts and strappy sandals, a hike up the mountainside was not an option. A tubby gentleman bustled over and in beautifully accented English explained that for a bargain price he would drive us in his cab and save our precious sandals from ruin. Eagerly we handed over a few thousand lira and followed him round a corner.

There, lurking under the shade of a stray lemon tree was the most battered car I’ve ever seen outside of a stock car race: dented, rusty doors and roof, a windscreen covered in crazed cracks. My instinct was to walk away, but my friend was already clambering into the back seat. It wouldn’t do to abandon her, so I dumbly followed. I winced as my thighs came into contact with the baking hot plastic seats and my nose was assaulted by the stench of stale tobacco. On the upside, the windows were wound down, or more likely I suspect they weren’t there in the first place.

After a few attempts at slamming the door shut – it wouldn’t latch properly – the taxi driver rummaged around in his trouser pockets. I imagined he was going to produce a tool to mend the door, but instead he pulled out a handful of grubby string. With a shrug and a smile in our direction he somehow secured the door closed by winding the string around the door handle, through the open window then across to a hook screwed into the back seat. With a satisfied sigh he sat his bulk in the driver’s seat and repeated a less complicated procedure on his door, this time from the inside with a length of string from his shirt pocket.

Even if I’d known the Italian for ‘Please let me out of your taxi,’ my English reserve wouldn’t have let me use it.

After a few attempts at starting the engine we bumped and rattled up the mountain road that rapidly got thinner and thinner, as did the air. I shuddered as our wheels skidded, and I shivered as the temperature plummeted. Goose bumps covered my sunburned skin. Each time our driver swung the car around hairpin bends our shrieks of alarm only caused him to chuckle and gun for the next corner. I don’t know how we failed to avoid hurtling over the precipitous drops beside the road or why I had to keep gazing at them in horror and fascination.

Eventually, near the summit, we were released into a swirling chilly mist. We must have walked the remaining distance to the top and somehow reached the bottom again, but my memories of that are as misty as the weather shrouding Vesuvius. Crystal clear, over thirty years later, are the terror, the biting cold and the grubby string.

Wonderful if horrifying story and I wonder how many terrified tourists have shared that mind blowing ride over the years and I bet that the old boy regaled the locals with tales of his passengers in the bar at night!

Links to to find out more about Wendy, Proofreading, buy the anthologies that contain her own published work and how to get in touch.

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For the other interviews in the series and to meet Hugh Roberts, Jane Dougherty, Judith Barrow, D.G. Kaye and John W. Howell.