the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Writing plates are spinning

I’m currently in the fortunate position of having a debut novel published, a children’s picture book under contract, a novel on submission and a new work-in-progress. My time is carved up between marketing and promoting The String Games, sending out submission packages for This Much Huxley Knowsfinalising the illustrations for Pan de mo nium and cracking through the first draft of Little Swot. It’s just as well my only other commitment is ten hours a week e-volunteering with VSO. Some days it feels like my feet hardly touch the ground but I’m not complaining.


Does this girl look like a little swot?

With all of these plates spinning, the real excitement is my new work-in-progress Little Swot which is quite different from my other manuscripts. The idea came from evenings in Ugandawhen I was too tired to read, too hot to sleep and so listened to podcasts. I’m writing one thousand words each day which soon adds up and I’m now over half way through the story and pleased with my progress. I’ve written a synopsis so I know what’s going to happen and I’ve played around with ideas for pitching the novel to publishers when the time comes.Indeed, I’d love to receive some feedback from you. Do you think this novel idea has legs?

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When e-volunteering and writing collide

As a former VSO international volunteer at Bidibidi Refugee Settlement in Uganda, I am  pleased to be able to continue work with colleagues remotely. I was repatriated from my post as a psychosocial and child protection adviser due to Covid19 in March 2020. Now I’m in contact with team in Yumbe to develop ways to support young children and families through the pandemic.


In Uganda, the lockdown continues much as experienced elsewhere: social distancing, wearing of masks, essential shopping only etc. Yet in a country where there have been only 870 cases (as of 30 June) and no deaths, one might think that restrictions would be easing. But such is the concern to avoid spread of the virus, there remains no proposals to reopen schools, no allowing of motorcycle taxis (bodas) to carry passengers and no opening of shopping centres. Indeed there is no indication of when lockdown may end. 
This has considerable implications for families who are forced into poverty due to loss of earning. And as for children, without schools this not only means a lack of education but can mean hunger where children rely on school feeding programmes.

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Round up for May 2019

May was a busy month which ended with the launch of The String Games at Waterstones in Dorchester. It was a fabulous evening with so many friends there to help give the novel a proper send off. Thank you to Sophie and Jorge from Victorina Press for travelling from Shropshire to help celebrate the launch.


Earlier in May I received some fabulous reviews on my blog tour (you can read the best bits here) and I also appeared in several publications including:

The Dorset Echo: How writer Gail Aldwin gained creative stamina from running

Female First: My Inspiration for The String Games by Gail Aldwin

Jera’s Jamboree: Interview with Gail Aldwin

Whispering Stories: The Writing Life of Gail Aldwin

Books in my Handbag: Gail Aldwin’s Debut Novel The String Games

Troutie McFish Tales: Writing and Running

If you want to listen to my advice for writing flash fiction, you can hear me on the Write Club Podcast. It’s worth listening to the whole podcast although I’m introduced at 27:18. I was also on Keep 106 the community radio station for Dorchester and enjoyed a lovely chat on KeeP Talking with Andy Worth who interviewed me and Town Crier Alistair Chisholm as part of Local Radio Day.


Photo credit: Rob Mott

Phew! Quite a month. I hope June might be a little quieter although there is another book launch in London, so somehow I doubt it. Here’s an invitation, I’d love to see you there.

flyer for Housmans



#fridayflash: Hitching

Sieving dry earth through my fingers, I make little towers that crumble immediately. Sweat trickles down my spine and I brush needles of grass from my jeans. Staring into the distance, the outback reminds me of a lumpy picnic blanket with yellow-green tufts. It’s not much to look at but at least the days of pavements and puddles are over. Sliding a mirror from my backpack, I notice my cheeks are pink and I smooth sunscreen over.

‘Have you got any lip-gloss?’ I ask.

Jane looks up from the magazine and fishes in her pocket.

‘Catch.’ She lobs a small tube and then returns to her reading, pinching the pages that have flipped over in the breeze.

‘Perhaps we should’ve caught the Greyhound.’

‘We can always do that tomorrow, if we don’t get a ride today.’ Jane talks to the celebrity photos in front of her.

When the sun casts a honey-glaze on the land, a road train approaches. Squealing brakes bring it to a stop and I stand beside the second of two huge containers, each set on dozens of wheels, all taller than Jane. The cab door opens and the truckie leans out, beckoning a hand blotchy with tattoos.

‘You girls shouldn’t be hitching,’ he shouts. ‘The Territory’s a wild place. It’s only safe to take a lift from a truckie. Where yous heading?’

‘Darwin,’ I splutter.

‘You’re in luck – get in.’

Jane nods, auburn curls tumbling into her eyes and I take the cue, climbing the treads. The cab is roomier than I expect: a bench set back from the windscreen, the steering wheel sprouting from the middle of the floor. I push sweet wrappers and old newspapers away, making space on the seat.

‘Too right.’ The truckie speaks from the corner of his mouth. ‘Make yourself at home.’ He slaps the bench indicating where I should sit and Jane settles at the end.

‘What d’they call yous?’

‘I’m Claire and this is Jane. Thank you for stopping.’

‘No worries. Poms are yous? I’m Gary.’

‘Good to meet you,’ I say, but I forget his name at once.

Air rushes through the driver’s window and a fan pulses but the atmosphere is stuffy. Besides the odd grunt, the truckie doesn’t say very much and I struggle to keep the conversation going.

‘Hey you. What’s yer name?  Jan is it?’


‘You want to take a sleep in the back?’ He nods in the direction of the bunk behind and Jane peers into the space. Throwing aside a T-shirt that smells of diesel, she scrambles inside.

‘Right!’ The truckie slaps my thigh, clawing the denim with his jagged nails. When he removes his hand to change gears, I wriggle away and shift my bag from the floor, wedging it between us to prevent further contact. He looks at my new position and laughs.

Through the windscreen opaque with dust, I trace the road as it slices the land. Decaying kangaroo carcasses mark the route like milestones, victims of road kill. I turn and watch the truckie as he rolls a cigarette, the paper and tobacco balanced on his knee. The radio crackles as if creatures from outer space are trying to make contact. The truckie coughs and tosses me a small container that rattles with pills.

‘Smoking’s a killer’ he says. ‘Try some speed.’

I fiddle with the lid and shake a pill into my palm.

‘One’s not enough – pass them to me!’ Upending the container against his mouth, I hear the drugs tumble and as the truckie crunches, speckles of white pattern his face. He throws the pill bottle back towards me and I’m conscious of him watching as I shake out another tablet. Aiming one and then the other at the back of my throat, I swallow. What the hell – it’s going to be a long journey.

The road becomes like a mesmerising snake as it shimmies into the retreating distance. I lose track of time as my eyeballs roll and my chin bounces against my chest. My mouth falls open only to be clamped shut when my eyes ping into focus. When it’s dark the truckie brings the road train to a stop and he jumps to the ground.I listen for his footsteps as he wanders into the inky night. Peering through the glass, a swollen moon shows his silhouette walking away.

‘I’m beginning to regret this.’

‘Too late now.’ Jane slithers from the bunk onto the seat next to me. We rest our foreheads together, our clammy skin sticks. Taking turns, we look over the dashboard. He’s out there, whimpering and thrashing around. Smoothing a lock of hair between my fingers I suck the ends.

Pummelling and scraping sounds interrupt my trance-like state. Jutting forwards, I see a mass of dark hides turning the earth black. Like floodwater, the cattle spill across the land, their heads nodding up and down like mechanical toys. The truckie jumps and swings his arms, a matchstick figure weaving between the herd. Once he’s free, he recovers his power. This time he gives a rasping shout, and through the barren landscape, he strides towards the truck.

Leaping onto the metal ladder, the crashing footfalls announce his progress. He pants as he works his way upwards, and with each step I shrink a little smaller. The cab tilts as he balances his weight, and he tugs on the door but it doesn’t swing free. Instead, he lurches on top of the engine, sprawling in front of us, the windscreen our only protection. He levels his bloodshot eyes and mouths incomprehensible words. Grappling with the wipers, he gets to his knees then he surges onto the roof of the cab. Kettledrum beats echo while he dances, singing to a tune I struggle to recognise. My breathing shallows as the fear creeps. I count his footsteps until the pace slows and I guess the roof will hold his weight while the truckie sleeps. Jane ducks her head as if the truckie’s pressing her down and my neck feels short with my shoulders all tense. I look towards Jane – our eyes meet then part again, meet then part again – until I’m consumed by sleep.

Coming to consciousness, my eyelids flicker and daylight shoots through the cab as the driver’s door jerks open. I feign sleep as the night-time memories invade. The truckie hums as he moves around the cab. Jane’s body is warm next to mine and I brave a glimpse through slit eyes. The truckie’s fumbling for a silver container among the plastic and glass bottles wedged by the door. He yawns and turns towards me.

‘G’day,’ he says. And aiming the aerosol of deodorant, he sprays.

This story is currently appears as a podcast on Cypruswell.