Sunday Special: The Old Curiosity Shop

The Old Curiosity Shop

She’s back! It’s that Sandy again, with lots of info about her What the Dickens? baby:


(click here to read Part 1)

#TOCS is a little creative gaff full creative treats baked by these fair hands, a plethora of practicalities and delicious delights, and a triumphant team of gifted and very different writers and brilliantly talented interviewees who provide insights on the creative process, tips for writing and creating, views on art, and, above all, inspire and share stories in every form. Stories that people need to read, see, hear, discover, and know. Stories that will help you learn and your creativity grow. Stories galore. For they are, and I say this with complete sincerity, the absolute heart, nerves, brains and bones of what we do. If I was only allowed to offer up one word – so, help me – as to what we’re about, it would be STORIES every time.

The Curiosity Super Stars

Let me tell you about The Curiosity Super Stars. Michael Rowland, Donna Staveley, Rachel Quinn, Paul Hirons, Jen Hammell and Sally-Shakti Willow all provide a review on a book, piece of art, music, space or anything creative that they love and tell us why. An aim of mine with #TOCS was to make sure that we were providing opportunities for our readers to rediscover a work that’s gone before or that’s been well hidden. For our readers to be led to a creative treasure they might not have found otherwise. I selected the team and asked them to write about what they love, and that’s what they do. Perfect!

Paul (@PaulHi) makes me cry with laughter and who writes in a deft, concise and clever way (I’m saving his emails to sell on eBay in the future). I knew that he’d be able to offer up an ‘unusual’ style of reviewing, and in a kind of wonderful synchronicity he opted to review what one might consider to be ‘unusual’ books, and it works fabulously.

Jen (@idesigngal) has a very special, graceful and generous way of seeing the world and it’s all there in her writing because that is exactly who Jen is. She has this glorious vision and the most incredible eye for design and this wonderful capacity to share and I always look forward to her reviews because I know – and I’m being completely selfish here – that she’s going to make my view of the world a little bit bigger and most definitely brighter.

Mike shares his favourite stories from his childhood and teenage years, and, again, I’m in my element because I’ve taught alongside Mike and he is the most brilliant teacher who connects so well with young people. He values and loves Young Adult fiction and you can absolutely see that in his writing.

Donna (@doonakebab) is the Theatre Queen and I’m pretty sure she’s broken a record for the number of plays she saw in 2012. She is my idol for this (she’s also my PA and proof reading hero), and for the fact that in one issue she’ll review a global smash like Wicked! and in the next, she’s offering up her thoughts on a small delicate one-man play like An Instinct For Kindness, and covering that range is EXACTLY what I wanted.

Rachel (@ginquinn). Films are her fuel and fire. It was just logical to get her writing about the magic of the movies. What I like – and I mean this in the best way – about Rachel is her child-like expression of her love. It’s honest, clear, and simple, and I think that’s because she often reviews the films that were turning points for her when she was a child or that make her feel young again, and that’s lovely.

Sally (@innernatureSW) is a goddess: a woman of the earth, the sky, the sea, and the stars. She is so deeply connected to nature and aware of her environment, other people and herself. When she listens, she does so with all of her body. When she sees, she breathes everything in. I’m thrilled that Sally’s on the team because I know I can never predict what she’s going to review, but what I do know is that her sharing of that experience will be a bit magical…

Curious About…

The #Curious About… Screen, Radio and Theatre section offers a range of tools and advice through articles and interviews. Michelle Goode (@sofluid) is the #CuriousAbout… Screen Queen who stepped into our spotlight one day with a fine delivery of: “I’d quite like to write some articles about screenwriting…” I’m not sure if I’ve told her this, but it was at the same time as I was forming a plan of offering specific writing guidance for screen, radio and theatre, and I was unnerved at first, until it finally clicked that I’d got exactly what I’d asked for, and what our readers need. Michelle is a great addition to the team and writes with focus, clarity and clear structure, and her articles are motivational, practical and useful for so many.

Next we’ve #Curious About… Radio and what a response we’ve had to that, and in particular the interview I did with Radio Guru, Mr Jeremy Mortimer (@jeremort). Anyone who knows Jeremy or indeed of him, will know that he is deeply intelligent and insightful on all matters of radio drama. So many people have contacted me to say how “surprising”, “illuminating” and “inspiring” they found Jeremy’s advice AND how it’s made them more interested in radio and writing for radio. Does it get any better than that?

#Curious About… Theatre: I interviewed Literary Manager and Director, Rob Drummer (@robert_ad) for the latest issue and his interview is an overflowing pot of gold in terms of advice in that it is structural, creative and emotional. That kind of guidance, like Jeremy’s, and like that of the many creatives I’ve interviewed (the next issue is full of gems!) for the #Curious About… section, is a gift for anyone making stories in any way. It’s very exciting to know that we can enable people to create well thanks to the generosity of great ‘behind-the-scenes’ talents who don’t get read or heard enough for my liking. Hopefully, we’re garnering a bit more well-deserved attention for them and the excellent work they do too.

The Curious Creative Life

We’ve had Goldberg, Cameron, Dillard, but in #TOCS we have, after much pestering from me, the poetically-blessed Freddie Stevenson (@nightingalefred) and the sharp-and-savvy SJI Holliday (@SJIHolliday) who offer their thoughts on the creative process. What I love about Freddie (who is also a great musician and gave me a gorgeous #CuriousInterview a few months ago) and his Reflections is the heart, rhythm and exposure in his writing; with Susi (who’s a super duper crime-thriller writer) and her Reactions, I love her direct approach, wit and ballsiness. Although Freddie and Susi write in different tones and from different stances, they’re on the same page in terms of sharing how frustrating and blissful, tiring and empowering writing can be, and they complement each other beautifully.

The Curious Interviews

I love interviewing people that I respect and whose work I enjoy but I fear that one day they will destroy my ability to control my bladder entirely due to how ridiculously excited I get about what they share, their advice, and if they’re particularly gorgeous and charming (they always bloody are, y’know. It’s AWFUL). I have only a few rules when it comes to the #CuriousInterviews and they are as follows:

1)   IT’S GOTTA BE QUALITY: I interview people that I admire, or who intrigue me, and who I think/believe/know to be talented grafters and good souls. Sharing this immediately makes me want to tell you MORE about the brilliance of all our interviewees, and how Jamie Parker (@DickLeFenwick) left my head hurting in the best way with the intelligence and the intensity of his answers, and forgave me for making him late to get ready to go on stage… Then I want you all to know about the fab work the award-winning authors, Kate Cann, Bali Rai (@BaliRai) and Jeremy de Quidt do in schools to get young people writing… And I could harp on all day about the theatrical talent, kindness and continuous support of Sam Barnett (@MrSamuelBarnett) aka Bapsy, and the loveliness and brilliant witty story-telling of author, Jane Elmor, and I guess that the fact that what ALL our interviewees have given has resonated so strongly tells me these are people worth reading and knowing more about.

2)   HONESTY, FOCUS and TRUST: The interviews are always geared specifically at each individual so that they can talk about the WORK they’ve done, they’re doing, and some of the work they’re doing that isn’t spoken about as much. It is incredibly important that all our interviewees know that they can discuss their craft and that they can have complete faith that their words won’t be altered for any kind of sensationalistic effect. Morven Christie (@MissMorven), a fine actress, a great friend and a brilliant human being and who has very little interest in publicity or bullshit, agreed to an interview last summer and said afterwards very openly: “It’s the first interview where I read it and it still sounded like ME…” That matters hugely to me, and I think it should matter hugely to anyone taking the time to read an interview with anyone, otherwise what’s the point?

3)   HAVE FUN: There must be an element of fun, and fortunately for me, our interviewees are all funny and willing to answer some of my, quite frankly absurd yet terribly artistic questions and go with the flow. No beigeness is allowed in the #CuriousInterviews.

The #CuriousInterviews have proved to be a popular section of the magazine and I hope, I think, that they serve all involved in them well. I know for a fact that discovering that I’d interviewed “her off Early Doors”, Ms Christine Bottomley (@ChrissyBotto) made my Dad’s day: “She’s a lovely actress!” So that’s one happy customer. The request list he’s given me for future interviews isn’t quite as good. Mainly due to the fact that some of them are dead…And so, you won’t be surprised to know that the aceness of the interviewees for the next #WTDzine has actually made me cry into my pants with joy. It happens to the best of us. This is what love does. And I love doing the #CuriousInterviews.

Thanks for the Memories

We’ve had some beautiful #Memories shared in #TOCS that have made our readers giggle with delight and cry at their tenderness. Sadly but rightly so, the #Journey issue of What the Dickens? is the last issue that will contain any Memories as due to changes, it’s been decided that they belong on the writing platform of the website now.


About Sandy

Teacher, writer, story-teller, artist, mural-maker, crafter, do-er.


Thank you to everyone who has supported us in various ways – we are hugely appreciative – and thanks for taking the time to find out a little bit more about What the Dickens? Magazine #WTDzine and The Old Curiosity Shop #TOCS. Please visit our website: to find out how you can get involved and share the work that you’re doing. Take a look at our shop too: and order your copy of the magazine. Tell your friends. Tell your fellow writers and artists. Enjoy!

P.S. Copies of Issue 8 may be limited so if you want one (which you do), it might be a good idea to pre-order your copy now

…and why not throw in a copy of Issue 7, while you’re at it? 🙂