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Wendy Mitchell on living with dementia and why her cat kept getting fatter

Billy the cat was on a diet but he kept getting fatter and no one knew why. “Even the vet commented on it,” revealed Wendy Mitchell, who is living with dementia.

Wendy Mitchell and Sir Martyn Lewis at the BRACE conference

Wendy, who is 62, was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2014. Earlier this year, her book, Somebody I used to Know, became a Sunday Times best seller and Radio 4’s book of the week. Her account of being diagnosed with dementia and how she has coped with it has inspired many.

She spoke at the recent BRACE conference #Together4Dementia in Bristol and read her favourite extract from her book about her daughter’s cat Billy who kept getting fatter and fatter.

‘Billy pads into the kitchen performing a tiny dance in front of my feet before he finds the patch of sunshine on the kitchen tiles. He flops down on it while I scratch the back of his ears while he purrs his approval. I shake some biscuits into his bowl and he gets up and crunches on them noisily. He’s only allowed a few as Gemma has put him on a diet. She’s not sure why he’s put on so much weight recently. Even the vet commented on it.

‘I make myself a cup of tea and as the kettle boils, I feel Billy’s tail curling around my legs . I glance at his empty bowl. ‘Ah Billy, have I forgotten to feed you ?” He looks up with big, sad eyes, his purr audible over the boiling kettle that switches itself off, and I shake a few more biscuits into his bowl.’

Wendy goes to greet her daughter who has just come home from work. ‘Gemma and I catch up on the day. Twenty minutes must pass by like that and then Billy jumps down from my lap and sniffs at his empty bowl and sits, staring at it. “Ah no, I must have forgotten. Gemma looks at him, unsure.

‘“The vet said Billy has to lose weight; he must be getting fed somewhere else because his diet isn’t working. You are only giving him a few biscuits when you’re on Billy duty, aren’t you mum?”’

‘“Oh yes, I’m sure I do,” as I shake more biscuits into his bowl.’

‘I even see the positives in a bummer of a diagnosis’

Wendy’s account is full of humour and she talks at the conference about being a “glass half full person” saying: “I am a positive person so I even see the positives in a bummer of a diagnosis”.

Wendy used to work as a manager for the NHS at a hospital in Leeds and reveals “I used to be renowned for having a brilliant memory but it started letting me down badly. I came out of my office and I forgot where I was.

“I had so many different diagnoses at the beginning. They said it was stress or the menopause when I had already had the menopause. I knew it wasn’t stress as I am not that type of person.

“After 18 months of different memory tests, there was a SPECT can which showed a slowness in my brain.”

She is determined to reduce the stigma around the disease and encourage others to take part in clinical trials and research.

Billy the cat who kept getting fatter

“People think they have to talk to us differently,” she says. She now has had dementia for four years and still lives independently at home, where she is determined to stay for as long as possible, saying: “Living in a care home with many other people and other voices would be very distressing for me. But at the same time I don’t want my daughters to look after me as I want them to remain as my daughters.”

She has come up with strategies for living at home and says: “There are advantages to living alone as if somebody moves things about, they don’t exist for me any longer.

“At the moment I am coming up with solutions to enable me to stay living on my own at home. I have many adaptations which help me.”

She says “talking is the most powerful thing you can do to allay people’s fears when you have dementia. Talking is the most powerful thing I and my daughters can do.”

Wendy has found peer support from other people living with dementia to be hugely beneficial, saying: “We share solutions all the time and we listen to each other. We are non-judgmental and we are all going through the same thing. If one of us forgets who the prime minister is, it really doesn’t matter.”

Wendy finds images speak more to her than words so in her blogs she uses a lot of photos. “Photographs make me happy. People never take photos of people in a bad mood. When I feel anxious I go into my memory room which is filled with photographs and I look at them.

“I do travel around the country a lot going to conferences on dementia but people see me and think it is easy for me.

“But I have a pink file that tells me where I am going and has details on everything. It also has a plan B as trains don’t always go right. My Twitter friends are amazing and they will tell me what train to get if my train is cancelled.” Wendy admits that: “When I walk out of here today I will forget the details but I will remember the emotions.

Losing memories is like losing precious possessions

“Every day I lose a memory. For me when I lose memories every day, it is like losing my precious possessions every day.”

Wendy writes a blog Which Me Am I Today as she says: “It will hopefully convey the helplessness of those diagnosed with dementia, as there is no cure – the end is inevitable.

“However, I’m also hoping I can convey that, although we’ve been diagnosed, people like me still have a substantial contribution to make; we still have a sense of humour; we still have feelings. I’m hoping to show the reality of trying to cope on a day-to-day basis with the ever-changing environment that dementia throws at those diagnosed with the condition. Living as well as you can with dementia is all about adapting. Adapting to new ways to enable us to live better for longer with dementia.

“I can type as though dementia never entered my world as that part of my brain has not yet been affected, but that often works against me as people question my diagnosis. All I can say is, live a day in my shoes and I’m sure the reality will dawn.

“What I want is not sympathy. What I want is simply to raise awareness.”

To read Wendy’s blog click here

 

16-Nov-18 Article By: Sue Learner

 

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Welcome, Jean Gill…

jean sm~head and shoulders 

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

After a career teaching English, and writing when I could find the time, I wanted to write full-time. I now live in Dieulefit, a small village in Provence, where we moved from Wales in 2003 after my husband retired (and is the subject of my memoir How Blue is My Valley). My claim to fame is that I was the first woman to be a secondary Headteacher in the Welsh county of Carmarthenshire.

From 2008, I also worked as a photographer. Life brings surprises if you’re open to adventures, so I learned dog-training with top international Michel Hasbrouck, and then, two years ago, I trained as a beekeeper. Which means I live with a Nikon D750, two scruffy dogs, a couple of beehives and a man. We also have five children between us so life has been pretty hectic.

What is the title and genre of your book?

Song at Dawn is Book 1of The Troubadours Quartet, historical fiction set in 1150 Provence.

Jean sm Song eBook cover

How did you come up with the story?

I was reading books about the troubadours, who lived and worked in this very region where I now live, and I came across the sentence, ‘Rumour says there was a female troubadour touring the south of France with a large white dog.’ How could I not write that book? Poetry, a feisty woman and a big white dog! I could see Estela in a ditch, on the run, and the Great Pyrenees at her side, and that’s how the story begins.

It has a lovely cover, did you have any say in what you wanted the cover to be?

Thank you and all credit to my amazing designer Jessica Bell http://www.jessicabellauthor.com/book-cover-design-services.html  Yes, that’s one of the things I love about Indie publishing – never again will feel disappointed at seeing the cover a publisher has chosen!

Designing The Troubadours covers was the first time Jessica and I worked together but she understood straight away that I wanted a branded look for all my books, a series look for The Troubadours (three were already written) and finally the individual cover. An impossible task with 18 published books, of different genres, but she pulled it off!

Jean ms troubadours no text

Jessica is free to choose any of my photos if she wants and, for Song at Dawn, the dog on the cover is one of my own Great Pyrenees, Bételgeuse. The 12th century fortified village is also my photo, of Poët-Laval, a 12th century stronghold of the Knights Templar, right next door to me.

I wondered if we’d made a mistake having fantasy adventure vibes rather than a straight ‘authentic history’ medieval tapestry-type cover, given that the period detail is as accurate as a year’s research can make it, but when a reviewer said the book’s ‘like GOT but with real history’ I thought, ‘Yes! We got the covers right.’

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Believe in your own work. If you don’t, why should anyone else? And I’m a big fan of the approach; ‘Don’t get it right, get it written,’ with the P.S. ‘THEN redraft as often as it takes to get it right!’

What is your writing routine?

I’m a morning person, writing either at my desk in a corner of the living-room, where I can look at the garden and listen to Metallica or troubadour music, or outdoors with my laptop. I write about 1,000 words in one session and I try to always stop at a point when I know what comes next. I’m sure that’s why I never get writer’s block (touch wood!)

Do you have an editing process?

I really hate editing but nobody else can make my choices for me, even though I have a great professional editor. I write the book first, only looking back to check details or re-arrange parts and insert foreshadowing. When I finish (hooray moment!) I re-read and edit the whole book (ouch moment!). Then I let my husband read it; he has the knack of picking out a wrong note or something that just doesn’t work. Then my close group of writer-friends read it and feed back. Their feedback is essential and I call them alpha readers because beta readers is demeaning to such top quality writers. Then I consider all the suggestions, make my changes and send the typescript off to my editor for the final polish. She too will make suggestions on content so the pain is still possible.

What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?

Editing!

Where can people find you on the internet?

 Everywhere! 😊

Song at Dawn, Book 1 of the award-winning Troubadours Quartet is available free to subscribers who sign up to Jean’s newsletter here http://eepurl.com/AGvy5

Contact jean.gill@wanadoo.fr

IPPY Award for Best Author Website www.jeangill.com

Blog www.jeangill.blogspot.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/writerjeangill

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/writerjeangill

The Troubadours Page https://www.facebook.com/jeangilltroubadours

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4619468.Jean_Gill

Watch the book trailers on youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/beteljean

Jean sm twitter banner 2016

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Welcome Sandra Delf…

Can you tell me a little about yourself (inc a pen name f you use one)? Sandra Delf~author pic~head and shoulders

I have lived in Lowestoft for most of my life apart from 6 years in Australia and 3 in London. I left for Australia on my own at age 21. I have 3 children who have all now flown the nest.

I don’t use a pen name despite have a very boring name. If I did and someone called me by it I don’t think I’d answer anyway. Also, my book is about letters written by my father and a pen name, therefore, would not really fit.

What is the title and genre of your book?Sandras cover~Keep Smiling Through

My book is called Keep Smiling Through. It is a non-fiction history book containing letters written from prisoner of war camps during World War Two.

How did you come up with the story?

These letters, written by my father, Cyril, had been in a cupboard in my house for several years before I read them. Once they were put into date order I found there were interesting stories running through them.

It has a lovely cover, did you have any say in what you wanted the cover to be?

Yes and I wanted the cover to state clearly what the book was about. I found an image of a prisoner of war camp on the internet and set about gaining permission to use it on the cover.

I passed it on to my cover designer, Jen Moon, with a description of what I was looking for. She did a wonderful job with a very unglamorous subject.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Just keep going. If you are writing non-fiction make clear notes of where you find your information

What is your writing routine?

I write in the mornings when I am fresh and keen.

Do you have an editing process?

Not really. But I do save all my research and edit it subject by subject. As far as the letters are concerned I transcribed them onto the computer as I read them.

What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?

Seeing the final result is wonderful.

I dislike learning to use new technology but it is a necessary a tool.

Are you writing anything at the moment?

Yes I enjoy writing fiction and have a new project, a book containing 5 short stories about long separations. Also, I am hoping to get some feedback from Keep Smiling Through and will be carrying out some research to try and find out what happened to Cyril’s prisoner of war companions. If so I hope to write about it.

Do you belong to any writers groups?

Yes, I belong to: The Waveney Author Group, Writer’s Corner and Lowestoft U3A Writers Group.

Where can people find you on the internet?

I have a Facebook writer page.

https://www.facebook.com/Sandra-Delf-881404858618606/?fref=ts

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

I will be at the East Anglian Festival of Culture (Eafoc) on the 2nd and 3rd July in Kirkley, Lowestoft (details below). It would be great if people popped in to say hello. I will be situated at The Clyffe Hotel.  And if they cannot make it I will be at the Meet the Authors event 11th & 12th November at the Coconut Loft in Kirkley, Lowestoft.

As a member of the Waveney Author Group and part of our on tour programme I will be at Saxmundham Library 10.30am Thurs 7th July and Lowestoft Library 2-3pm Tues 20th September.

How does it feel to finally hold your book in your hands?

I felt excitement, relief and a great sense of achievement. And, immediately started thinking about my next project.

Thank you, Sandra. You have been a marvellous guest and I look forward to seeing you at the East Anglian Festival of Culture (EAFOC) this July in Kirkley, South Lowestoft, Suffolk.

Sandras cover~Keep Smiling Through

https://goo.gl/t7MFj7

And if you would like to come and meet Sandra and get a personalised signed copy please visit the website for more details: www.eastanglianfestivalofculture.co.uk

 

 

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Welcome Ellie Holmes…

Can you tell me a little about yourself? (inc if you use a pen name and why)Paula Guyver

I was born in Essex but made in Cornwall and use those two places as the source of inspiration for my writing. Like most people, I juggle commitments to family and friends, a part time job and my writing so my days tend to be hectic and my nights are long.

I write under the pen name of Ellie Holmes which is a combination of my two grandmothers’ names. I decided to use a pen name because I also write darker, crime driven novels which I may publish under my own name in due course although I haven’t completely made up my mind about that yet. I might introduce a darker line of Ellie Holmes’ novels instead.

What is the title and genre of your book?Ellie Holmes front cover

My debut novel is called The Flower Seller and it is commercial romantic fiction.

How did you come up with the story?

Believe it or not, it was supposed to be a short story about a woman re-entering the dating game after many years of marriage. One hundred thousand words later you can see my imagination took over. It developed into an exploration of the idea that people are not always how they first appear which is a rich seam for a writer to mine.

It has a lovely cover, did you have any say in what you wanted the cover to be?

Thank you, that’s very kind of you. Yes, absolutely.  As an indie author the cover is so important. I chose the cover designer I wanted to work with – the wonderful Berni Stevens www.bernistevensdesign.com and wrote her a detailed brief.  My brief included my wish for the cover to be “eye catching and beautiful with rich colours” and she certainly delivered on that. I love it and count myself very lucky to have such a beautiful cover.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Do something writing related every day. Really it’s the only way. If you can carve out a few precious minutes each day you will be amazed by what you can achieve. But that doesn’t just mean writing. In addition to that it could be catching up on a webinar on an aspect of the writing business you need guidance on. It could be researching a topic for your next book. It could be choosing editors or cover designers if you are self-published.

If you are engaged in the business of writing and serious about what you are doing and have the commitment and the strength of will to keep going for longer than a few weeks you are a writer. Being a writer is not about having a deal or not having a deal. It is not about traditional publishing or self-publishing. It is about the commitment.

What is your writing routine?

I aim to write 5,000 words a week, a 1,000 words a day for five days, usually in the evenings. In addition, I write two blog posts a week.  The blogs I tend to write first thing in the morning. The one day a week I am at home (apart from weekends), I spend editing.

Do you have an editing process?

I usually let a piece of work sit for a few weeks before I start editing. When I do, I’ll read it through making a few notes about the flow, any loose ends I haven’t tidied up and the areas that need expanding upon. Then I start the hard work of working through it chapter by chapter until each chapter sings. Once I reach the end of the beginning (usually around the thirty thousand word mark for a full length novel) I’ll do an out loud read through of that section. It helps to improve the flow and sharpens up the dialogue when you hear it out loud. Then I repeat the process for the middle section and the final section. Before doing an out loud read through of the whole thing. My read throughs for The Flower Seller were accompanied by the loud snoring of my longhaired Dachshund Sasha, hopefully my book won’t have the same soporific effect on humans!!

What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?

I love the buzz when you have an idea and you start to develop it and suddenly the characters take over. When you are in the zone it’s almost as though you are taking dictation from them which is wonderful.

I don’t enjoy writing the blurb for the back of a book. I am a hundred thousand word kind of girl (fifty thousand for my novellas) sticking to 150 odd words is HARD!

Where can people find you on the internet?

People can find me at my website www.ellieholmesauthor.com

I am also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EllieHWriter  and Twitter @EllieHWriter

and Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/EllieHWriter

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

Yes – I am going to be taking part in a pop up book shop at the East Anglian Festival of Culture across the weekend of 2nd and 3rd July in Lowestoft (details below). I would love it if people stopped by to say hello so don’t be shy.

How does it feel to finally hold your book in your hands?

When I first held my book it was a bittersweet feeling. My mum had very much been looking forward to sharing the moment with me but she died earlier this year. My dad is also gone and I know he wanted this for me perhaps even more than I wanted it for myself. Then, as I remembered all the hard work that had gone into not just writing the book but creating it, I felt very proud.

Thank you, Ellie. You have been a marvellous guest and I look forward to seeing you at the East Anglian Festival of Culture (EAFOC) this July in Kirkley, Suffolk.Ellie Holmes front cover

The Flower Seller   http://goo.gl/UrHYRb

 

 

And if you would like to come and meet Ellie and get a personalised signed copy please visit the website for more details: www.eastanglianfestivalofculture.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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https://getwriting2.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/writing-weekend/

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Had a super time at Woodbridge Library with the Waveney Author Group

https://waveneyauthorgroup.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/at-woodbridge-library/

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A new website has been launched to help children understand dementia, after a poll revealed that almost a third of parents say their children have been impacted by the condition.

Alzheimer’s Research UK has launched a website called ‘Dementia Explained’, designed to help children understand dementia. The launch of the website follows the results of a YouGov poll commissioned by the charity which revealed that 29 per cent parents have children who have felt the impact of the condition of a loved one.

dementia website

The Dementia Explained homepage

Chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, Hilary Evans, said: “There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and, as large as this number is, it is far from the complete picture. Dementia doesn’t just affect individuals, it impacts whole families and communities. Despite how common it is, there are still a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding dementia. For children, especially those with a close relative like a grandparent or parent with the condition, it can be a particularly difficult experience.

“Dementia Explained uses engaging content that will appeal to children of different ages to demystify dementia and explain why and how the condition can affect someone. It’s important for young people to appreciate that changes in the way that a family member may be behaving are nobody’s fault, least of all theirs, but the result of changes affecting how the brain works. Educating the next generation about dementia is critical if we are to overcome the stigma that still surrounds the condition today.”

The Dementia Explained website provides child-friendly resources that focus on the ways people living with dementia can change and the impact this can have on families.

The website contains resources, such as videos, interactive games and stories narrated by broadcaster Edith Bowman. All resources have been designed to help young people to learn about the brain and how it is affected by diseases like Alzheimer’s.

For more information on Dementia Explained, visit: www.dementiaexplained.org

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