Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Travel Tuesday - Wales

Kate Walker has a big smile on her face this month as she plans, prepares, and finally packs her bags to head for one of the favourite places in all the world - the beautiful country of Wales which has some special memories - and one particular very special memory for her.

A week from today I’ll be packing my bags, ready to head for the writing weekend where I’m teaching the course from Friday. I can’t wait. Because not only will I get to meet interesting new - people who want to learn about writing are always intriguing – and catch up with some I already know, but also I get to visit one of my favourite places in the world. That’s because the Writers’ and Artists’ Weekend is held in Fishguard in Wales.

Wales has always held a very special place in my heart – and, really, it doesn’t seem to matter which part of the lovely country I visit. When I was a child, my family and I used to travel to the Isle of Anglesey in summer and stay in a tiny place called Treaddur Bay. Apparently this wasn't the first place I ever stayed in Wales. Before Anglesey, we used to stay in Nefyn, also in North West Wales, but I was only in my pram then so I don't remember too much about it!.

But I do remember Treaddur Bay. My aunt used to come over from Ireland - the Irish ferry docked at Holyhead, just down the road, and we would all get together for a family holiday. It was a perfect place for my sort of holiday – a wide, sandy beach, sand dunes to play adventure games in, the sea for swimming – if you were brave and immune to the cold. And there were outings to places like the South Stack Lighthouse where –once you’d got over the terrifying swaying bridge high over the sea – you could see puffins and other birds and occasionally dolphins or porpoises out in the waves.

When I was choosing a university to study at, some kind man told my mother that if he had a daughter who wanted to be a librarian – which I did at the time – he would make sure she went to University College of Wales Aberystwyth where they had just started to very first Bachelor of Librarianship degree. I went to ‘Aber’ for an interview and fell in love - twice. First with the place. I would work my hardest, I vowed, if only I would get a chance to study there in the wonderful ‘Old College’ building by the sea. There was another wide, curving beach – two of them actually, more dolphins in the sea, (They would occasionally come and swim with you if you were brave enough to venture into the freezing waves) and an old ruined castle looking out over the waves.

And that second time I fell in love? Well, I had to wait two and a half years for that but it was in Aberystwyth, one cold and very wet October night that I met my husband. Someone I already knew from the drama group brought a gang of friends round for a cup of coffee and one of them was the man who became my husband and is known worldwide as the Babe Magnet. So our relationship is very much tied up with connections to and memories of Wales.

Connections that were renewed when we started working with Caerleon Writing Holidays based in Newport near Cardiff. The Babe Magnet had written a How To book on Writing and Publishing Poetry and he was asked to run a course on poetry at Caerleon. Could I come along too, we asked. When they discovered that I wrote for Harlequin Mills & Boon, they asked me to give a ‘main’ talk on the subject. So back we went to Wales – and I fell in love all over again. With Caerleon village, with Writers’ Holidays as an event - and with Anne and Gerry Hobbs. The warm-hearted, generous, welcoming people who run the event for writers, with writers, with no financial support whatsoever.

Caerleon gets you addicted. Once you’ve been there, you want to go back – again and again. The Magnet and I have given lectures, taught courses, (Writing Romance, Writing Poetry, Write Yourself a New Life ) and sometimes we’ve just paid our money and joined in the event because we can’t bear to stay away. Last year we really couldn’t make it – the RWA Conference in San Francisco clashed with the week that Caerleon was running. We were devastated when we found out and we missed our time in the, University of Wales' College Caerleon. This year we’re going back again – can’t wait. We’re both teaching again. I’m running a five part course on the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance and the Babe Magnet is teaching Writing the Past – a course for those wanting to write creatively from the past - biography, historical non-fiction, and fiction - covers research, writing techniques and writing for publication. We’ll meet up with old friends, make new ones – you always make friends at Caerleon. And we’ll help Anne and Gerry celebrate this special 25th year of the event.

Caerleon itself is lovely with the ancient Roman Fortress and it's supposed links with King Arthur. Some even think that it might have been the site of Camelot.In 830AD Nennius wrote Historia Brittonum. It included a list of Arthur's battles one of which he located at 'The City Of The Legion' - this could well be Caerleon. Caerleon is known to have had a large civilian population living immediately outside the fortress walls so it certainly would have been considered as being a city. But there's another attraction not too far away that always draws us - for the Babe Magnet a visit to this part of Wales wouldn't be complete without a trip to Hay-On-Wye.

Hay-on-Wye has become world famous for its secondhand and antiquarian bookshops. Founded by Mr Richard Booth in 1961, it has become the world's largest Secondhand and antiquarian book centre. At present there are thirty major bookshops in the town some specialising whilst others carry general stock. The larger bookshops are open 363 days a year and during the summer, stay open until late evening. Every year we visit, I arrive with lists of books to look for from friends and family - and I usually leave with - er - one or two for myself. The Magnet has been known to fill the boot of the car!

And this Writing Weekend I’m heading for next week? Well that follows on from Caerleon really. Anne and Gerry also run Writers’ and Artists’ weekends in Fishguard, a little further up the coast from Caerleon, where the ferries run to Rosslare in Ireland and where Dylan Thomas' famous tale 'Under Milk Wood' was filmed starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O'Toole. A couple of years ago Gerry asked me to run the Writing Romance course there at their Winter Novel Weekends in November. Sadly, those didn’t get enough numbers to run any more, but this year I’m teaching The Novel at the Writers’ and Artists’ Weekend from 20th - 22nd February. The Magnet is going back to his poetic roots, teaching Writing Poetry. From our first visit to Fishguard over 3 years ago, we fell in love with another part of Wales, its people, the scenery – and of course the sea. It’s a long journey to get there – around 300 miles – but we don’t care. We’re looking forward to being there. And to being in Caerleon in the summer.

After all, we have so many wonderful memories tied up with that country. If we hadn’t both decided to study at in Wales all those years ago we might never have met and our stories would have taken very different paths.

It doesn’t bear thinking of. So we have a lot to thank Wales for – and its no wonder we’re both looking forward to going back again – and again . . .

Kate's latest Harlequin Presents Cordero's Forced Bride is currently riding high on the Waldenbooks Best Seller Chart. Pink Heart Society Reviews described the book as :

" . . . intense, explosive and the passion leaps off the pages. It’s one of those books that once you begin you’ll literally stay up all night reading.

Cordero’s Force Bride is part of the Bedded by Blackmail series and a wonderful addition especially with this year being Harlequin’s Diamond Anniversary, celebrating sixty years. It’s a beautiful sensual and passionate love story and one you definitely won’t want to miss."

Cordero's Forced Bride will be released in Mills & Boon Modern in March and Mills & Boon Sexy in April.

You can find out more about Kate and her books on her website or for the most up to date news, visit her blog.


  1. Oh Kate - what a truly lovely post!

    It makes me wish I could just jump on a plane.

  2. I love Wales. I would love to go back someday. I have some great memories of being in Cardiff and just love that city.

  3. I hope the weather's kind to you, Kate. We don't seem to have been hit as hard as a lot of places. That said, I was holed up for a week in a village that never saw a gritter!

    Wish I had time to take a trip up to Fishguard myself.

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  5. Donna - if you jump on a plane soon, you could come and join us - tempted?

    Samantha, I'll say hello to Cardiff for you next week. Maybe one day you'll visit again

    Hi LIz! Please keep the snow away until I've visited andmanaged to get home. I wish you had time to come and visit too. (I don't actually have time really!!)