In Which I Cross The Finish Line And Wish You Happy Christmas

Dear friends,

How to share my news and write a Christmas post? With my chicks soon gathering back in the nest and a busy time for many, I’ll keep it short (but hopefully sweet) from my heart straight to yours…

Christmas Holly (c) Sherri Matthews

A few weeks ago, I happened to walk past the door of the law firm where I had once worked. It would not have meant much, except for me, it was a fleeting yet profound moment.

I walked out of that door for the last time six years ago when I lost my job, having been made redundant due to office closure.  My youngest was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome & Graves Disease earlier that same year.

But that day in 2012, I left the building with new resolve in my heart. Knowing I could no longer work in paid employment in my new role as full-time mum & carer, I vowed to squeeze as much time as I could to get down on paper the book that had churned inside me some 30 years…

In January, 2013, I started my blog.  Four months later, I typed the first words of my memoir. The title didn’t come to me until I bashed out a bloated first draft over eighteen months.

From September 2014, I hit the first of endless rewrites; five full drafts and four years later, a few weeks ago – November 13th, to be precise –  I typed, ‘The End’.

My finger hovered over ‘send’ for a minute or so before I clicked and let it go to the editor helping me with the next stage to publication.

Dear friends, I flung myself over that finish line as elation coursed through me. But then I broke down and cried.  Soon after, I went into town on that bright, chilly day, and by strange coincidence walked past that door and it hit me then with full force…I’ve done it, I’ve actually done it. After five years and a half years, my memoir,  ‘Stranger in a White Dress‘, is now a real book.

This is one door I would not pass by…
‘Blue Door’ Crete (c) Sherri Matthews

I wanted to shout it from the rooftops to everybody I walked by that day in town, to some odd looks I’m sure if I had, but I just smiled to myself as I kept walking, not quite believing what had just happened.

A couple of days later, I crashed and burned and got ill and it took me a while to recover. The last push was particularly brutal; binge writing does a number on your brain, honestly!

Frustration and anguish and the hell of writer’s block whacked me more than once when a barrage of challenges and derailments set me back, as life does.  Not least of all losing my dad in 2016 when I couldn’t write at all for a while. The creative process is as fragile as it is passionate, punishing at times, as many of you know.

But nobody makes us do it. I admit that the writing took over my life, for a while…

And I know it isn’t the answer to world peace, but it’s incredibly important to me, and what good is something that personally meaningful if it can’t be shared?

Thank you so much, dear friends, readers, anyone who has read a single word on this blog or wanted to know about my memoir, for your amazing support and interest. I could not have got this far without you. Now I know why it can take years to write a book! More work to come, I know, but I’ve got this far.

Since then, I’m excited to report that I’ve now got my edits back, greatly encouraged and look forward to working on them in the New Year.  I also have more travel pics/posts for the Summerhouse, long delayed.

2018 turned out to be the year I crossed one finish line; the next will be the biggest one of all, to publication.  I started this blog to share my dream and maybe inspire others to never give up on theirs, no matter how long it takes to get there.  One word, one day at a time.

Christmas Tree Festival, Sherborne, England
(c) Sherri Matthews

Until then, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and New Year…
See you in 2019!

Love, Sherri x




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Rodeo #3: Travel with a Twist Winners

With great excitement, it’s time at last to announce the winners of my flash fiction contest, Travel With A Twist. Thank you so much for your support here and at the Rodeo and for a fantastic response to this and all the contests. My co-judges, Mike and Hugh, and I, greatly enjoyed every story, which made our task that much harder. Read on for the three winning and three highly commended flashes, travel stories with a fantastic twist in just 99 words. Huge congratulations one and all!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

By Sherri Matthews

Well, we asked for travel stories with a twist, and we got ‘em.  Thank you so much to all who entered, 29 in all. You’ve taken us around the world (twice), to Rome and through most of Europe, to Morocco, Lima, on sun-drenched holidays including the Caribbean and Hawaii, up mountains, along the coast, to a Harry Potter conference in San Francisco, a monastery, Lake Michigan, Key West, Rock Springs and the weird and wonderful Garbled Creese. We’ve walked, ran and hiked, and travelled by car, cruise ship, plane, bus, motorhome, and broomstick.

The high quality and enjoyment of every story, however, did not make it easy for the judges.  I don’t like this part of the job! First, I verified every story’s word count and sadly had to eliminate 2, one just under, one just below 99 words. Then we narrowed it down with each of…

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Guest Post: Embracing Our Identity As a Writer by Author Anne Goodwin

Today, I’m delighted and honoured to host author Anne Goodwin at the Summerhouse for her ongoing blog tour.

It’s lovely to welcome Anne again, so much enjoying her engaging and much discussed guest post, ‘Putting the personal into fiction…and taking it out again‘ three years ago (yes, that long…!).

Since then, Anne has published two novels (see her bio below). Her latest publication, ‘Becoming Someone‘,
an anthology of 42 short stories, launches on
23rd November. 

Anne’s stories explore the very different ways we view ourselves, asking,  ‘Is identity a given or can we choose the someone we become?’ (See Blurb below.)

As a mother of an adult child with Asperger’s Syndrome, this is a subject close to my heart, as discussed in my Raw Lit post over at Carrot Ranch in March, ‘Asperger’s, Voice And The Search For Identity.’

Anne’s guest post explores another subject close to my heart, and many of us reading I’m sure, as she delves into the complexity of a writer’s struggle with identity:

Don’t let your fears prevent you from embracing your identity as a writer

You write, so you’re a writer, right? Yet many of us struggle to embrace that concept, and not only because it twists the tongue if we try to say it fast out loud. Somehow we’ve built up such highfalutin fantasies of what a writer actually is we feel a fraud to claim that identity for ourselves. There’s often a sense we don’t deserve that title unless we’re exceptionally good at it, but is that logical? Think of government ministers lurching from one crisis to another: do they shy away from declaring themselves politicians merely because they don’t shine at the job? Of course not. Nor do they seem to pay much attention to how others judge them, given the level of criticism required to shame them into resignation.

The fear of feeling a fraud

Sometimes, however, knowing our assumptions aren’t rational isn’t enough to shrug them off. In my previous identity a psychologist, I learnt to do detective work on dysfunctional beliefs, excavating their origins and the fantasies that shore them up. Often, it helps to revisit our childhoods to explore how our unhelpful attitudes first arose.

Were your parents especially critical, looking out for behaviours to criticise instead of things to praise? That was certainly the case for me, and for many of my generation. (Although the current tendency towards excessive validation can also be damaging if children get the message it makes no difference what they do.)

Hard-to-please parents can set an overly ambitious standard of what’s acceptable, with no sense of good-enough. Maybe they didn’t intend to, maybe we didn’t mean to internalise the message, but it’s there when, at the end of a writing session, we can’t congratulate ourselves for getting the words on-screen or paper because those words are flawed.

As a child, what did you think writer was and did you dare imagine becoming one? Scribbling stories from almost the moment I could shape my letters, I think that, deep down, I always wanted to be a writer, although I’d never have articulated it, not even to myself. In fact, it was hard for me to summon any kind of ambition other than pleasing my parents, but it wasn’t only that. Writers were a breed apart from the adults in the working-class community that raised me. I’d have as much imagined being a writer as going into politics, and I had no notion of that.

When, in middle age, I admitted I wanted to write, it still felt audacious. The only writers I knew of were the successful ones whose hardback novels graced the windows of bookshops and were reviewed by other famous authors in the literary supplements at weekends. No wonder it took me so long to take my literary interest seriously with the barrier set so high.

Now, with two published novels and a short story anthology on the way, I’m definitely more confident in my identity as a writer. Nevertheless, published by a micro press no-one has heard of, there’s still a part of me that feels I’ve failed. If we’re prone to self-disparagement, that’s something every writer has to live with. In our hyper-connected world, we’re constantly reminded of the myriad things we haven’t achieved. Something else I take from my career as a psychologist – although don’t heed my own advice as much as I ought to – is that, as in any emotionally-demanding job, we need to take care of ourselves, to celebrate the small successes and to mourn our writerly disappointments too.

The fear of others’ negativity

If it wasn’t tough enough to embrace our identities as writers for ourselves, we have other people’s attitudes to contend with. Of course, we shouldn’t care what others think, but most of us do. Especially those of us who’ve imbibed criticism with our mothers’ milk. But there are things we can do to ensure that others’ negativity doesn’t cancel out our treasured identities altogether.

The first is obvious, but not necessarily easy to implement. We need to surround ourselves with people who do accept our legitimacy as writers and, where we can, shed those relationships that don’t. If it’s taken you time, as it did for me, to emerge as a writer, those close to you might also need time to adjust. But if they don’t adjust, and continue to undermine you, would you have the courage to let them go? Ah, but my mother/husband/sister doesn’t intend to hurt me, you might protest. But if you’ve tried to explain what it means to you and they still don’t listen? Their failure to support you could be symptomatic of a more general absence of respect. Unravelling ourselves from dysfunctional relationships can be complex and painful, but perhaps a necessary step towards becoming the person we want to be.

On the other hand, we need to guard against being so sensitive we detect slights that aren’t there. Sometimes, the negativity we perceive in others is actually a projection of the fraudulence we fear ourselves. Or it could be that an individual doesn’t recognise you as a real writer because of their misguided fantasies about what being a writer means. Is it easier to deal with if you can attribute it to lack of knowledge? Some people can’t resist attaching the adjective famous to the word author, perhaps even rich and famous in their heads. By responding with facts, rather than defensively, you might transform them into one of your supporters. You might, by example, encourage them to follow their dreams.

Although not all writers are published, most of us want our words to be read. Which inevitably means they’ll be judged, if we’re lucky, by people we never meet. Sensitive souls that we are, many of us feel diminished by a negative review. With practice, we can use this as a cue to take care of ourselves and also, as I found with my first one-star review on the eve of publication of my second novel, a reminder that tastes differ and we can’t please everyone.

It’s all material!

Remember too that everything’s material: our doubts and disappointments can be ploughed into our writing, contributing to an emotional depth. In my short story collection on the subject of identity, you might recognise some of the issues outlined in my characters’ narrative arcs. But it’s not swarming with writers, far from it: there’s only one young woman claiming the right to tell her story in her own individual way.

The theme’s evident in the mediaeval nun who retreats from her creativity and in the prize-winning physicist who can’t decide what to wear. It’s there in the woman with a worn-out marriage who discovers good-enough and in the overworked doctor who conjures up an alter ego to give himself a break. It’s echoed in the woman whose nearest-and-dearest thinks she’s crazy to adopt a more frugal lifestyle and in the young man telling his parents some uncomfortable and unexpected truths. Perhaps, if you do me the honour of reading the anthology you’ll identify other connections too.


Thank you so much, Anne, for shedding your fascinating insight on this subject which I, and I’m sure most writers, relate to.  It took me a long time to say with purpose, ‘I am a writer.’ You indeed inspire us to be the someone we should be.

‘Becoming Someone’ is published 23rd November by Inspired Quill

Many Congratulations, Anne!

Becoming Someone blurb

What shapes the way we see ourselves?

An administrator is forced into early retirement; a busy doctor needs a break. A girl discovers her sexuality; an older man explores a new direction for his. An estate agent seeks adventure beyond marriage; a photojournalist retreats from an overwhelming world. A woman reduces her carbon footprint; a woman embarks on a transatlantic affair. A widow refuses to let her past trauma become public property; another marks her husband’s passing in style.

Thought-provoking, playful and poignant, these 42 short stories address identity from different angles, examining the characters’ sense of self at various points in their lives. What does it mean to be a partner, parent, child, sibling, friend? How important is work, culture, race, religion, nationality, class? Does our body, sexuality, gender or age determine who we are?

Is identity a given or can we choose the someone we become?


Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, was published in 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity launches on Facebook on November 23rd, 2018, where the more people participate the more she’ll donate to Book Aid International. A former clinical psychologist, Anne is also a book blogger with a particular interest in fictional therapists.

You can connect with Anne here:


Twitter @Annecdotist

Amazon author page

Author page at Inspired Quill publishers


And just in time for Christmas… Sugar and Snails promotion Anne’s debut novel is discounted to 99p or equivalent (Kindle version) throughout November


Follow Anne on her ‘Becoming Someone’ blog tour trail
for more updates and guest posts!









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We Will Remember Them

At the Eleventh Hour On the Eleventh Day Of the Eleventh Month

We Thank You:

Soldier, Walter Ridout (Battle of the Somme, 1916)

Sergeant, Albert Edward Matthews
(8th Royal Tank Regiment, El Alamein, 1942)

Seaman, Stanley Matthews (Lost at sea on HMS Hood, 24 May, 1941)

John Anthony Taylor, Home Guard WWII

And to all who sacrificed their all for us.  Lest We Forget.


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

(From the poem The Fallen, Laurence Binyhn 1869-1943)

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Pumpkins Memoir And A Bull Ride And A Radio Spot At The Rodeo

This time last year, we had just moved house.  What a difference a year makes.  We’ve painted, repaired and put up new fencing for starters. And Animal Farm has a new addition: a tiny ball of kitten naughtiness and heart melting cuteness, nine week old, Olive…

(Photo a bit blurred…she’s too quick, little rascal…)

(c) Sherri Matthews 2018

I found a place I thought would be good for growing pumpkins, my first attempt for twenty years since living in California. I got the seeds, germinated them indoors, then planted them out after the last frost and hoped for the best:

They grew and grew and by early October, had Eddie in a Halloween mood…

The seeds worked! We got our Pumpkin Patch…

Like those of you who garden, I’ve had a mix of triumphs and failures.  In California, I also grew zucchini (courgettes) with great success.  Until one year when gophers got to the roots and did for the lot of them.

Like writing.  It thrives and then it doesn’t.  It calls, sweetly, then whacks you like a fist to the eye. It holds you captive until you get that damn sentence written and you get it written right.  It turns you into a raving loon if you’re interrupted, but even when hours stretch out unhindered – ahh, the bliss – it doesn’t let up.

It’s passion gone mad; a lure to the edge; a messing of your mind.  You bleat on and on to all who would listen until their eyes glaze over and you know they’re thinking, for crying out loud, get the thing finished already and give us all some peace.

Exhilarating and punishing in equal measure and it has to be to get the job done.  Harvest time for the pumpkins, then for my memoir.

Meanwhile, back at the Rodeo, I’m proud and honoured to wear my beautiful Rodeo Leader badge for my contest, ‘Travel With A Twist’.  Thank you, Charli Mills!  And this week it’s time to saddle up for some bull riding at the Rodeo for the last, but certainly not the least, of the contests with D Avery, all details in the link below:

D Avery’s Rodeo #5:  Sound and Fury

Entries must be received by November 7, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. (EST). Contest winner, second and third place entries announced here December 14, 2018.

Carrot Ranch is also running an exciting new bonus contest, open to all for a fantastic opportunity to win a cash prize and a radio spot advertising The Continental Fire Company, a proud sponsor of Carrot Ranch:

ATTENTION WRITERS: Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio remains open to enter through November 7 11:59 p.m. EST. There are THREE cash prizes and an opportunity to hear your story on the radio! Questions or concerns, contact the Lead Buckaroo.

Thank you again for supporting Rodeo, 2018, the response has been wonderful. The next part is the hard part for the judges.  Read here for a round-up of all the contests with dates of upcoming winner announcements. As a reminder, mine will post at the Ranch and here at the Summerhouse on Friday, November 30, and once again, good luck to all!

I’ll be back for a major catch up when I’ve crossed the finish line…until then…

Happy Halloween!

(c) Sherri Matthews 2018



Posted in Carrot Ranch, Halloween | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 60 Comments

Rodeo #4: Fractured Fairy Tales

Halloween is almost here, so what better time to rustle up those fun treats and cook up a twisted fairy tale, or two? Hello again, dear friends, it’s week four at the Rodeo and time for Norah Colvin’s contest: Fractured Fairy Tales. Food, naturally, is the prompt. As before all details below, all entries are free with a $25 cash prize for the winner. The contest runs until 11:59pm EST October 31. So you’ve got plenty of time to don your aprons and mix a fine brew for Norah and her esteemed judges. Just watch out for the big bad wolf, especially if he’s called Fred.

And a huge thank you, dear readers, for keeping the Summerhouse ticking over while I write up a storm on my memoir. I’ve got a date with an editor in just over two weeks…It’s really happening this time…yikes!

See you back here next week with the last, but certainly not the least, of the Rodeo contests. Good luck all!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

A Flash Fiction contest by Norah Colvin
Co Judges: Anne Goodwin and Robbie Cheadle

Do you love fairy tales? Chances are, unless you are a parent or grandparent of young children or an early childhood educator as I am, you may not have encountered a fairy tale for a while. Well, I am about to change that by asking you to fracture a fairy tale for the fourth Carrot Ranch rodeo contest. [READ MORE…]

For insights and tips from the contest creator, read Norah’s Post, “Once Upon a Rodeo Time.” For word count, use Microsoft Word or Be aware that punctuation and word-hyphens can change your word count so run it through one of those two counters.

Norah Colvin is an Australian educator, passionate about learning and early childhood education especially. She has many years’ experience in a variety of educational roles. She currently blogs about education…

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Rodeo #3: Travel with a Twist

Hello again, dear friends! We’ve reached the midway point at the Rodeo which means it’s time to pack your bags and flash a holiday tale with a twist. My contest, Rodeo #3: Travel With A Twist, is up and running at the Rodeo until 11:59 EST October 24. As before, all details below.  The winner, second and third places will be announced at Carrot Ranch and the Summerhouse on 30 November. See you soon and Bon Voyage!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

By Sherri Matthews

In July, I had the good fortune to spend a week’s holiday with my husband on the Italian Amalfi Coast. I say good fortune, because hubby won it, thanks to a random prize draw. We couldn’t believe it. Who wins those things anyway? Surely it’s a scam? But I can report back that it’s no scam because I’ve got the pics to prove it. [READ MORE…]

Welcome to Travel With A Twist, the third contest at Rodeo 2018.  Packed and ready for the off? Then let’s ride. But first, just like any essential safety demonstrations, a few simple rules before take-off:

  1. Entry must be 99 words, no more, no less (not including the title).
  2. Use the form below to enter, including your name (judging is blind).  All entries will receive a confirmation email. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email, contact us at

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Rodeo #2: Memoir

‘She Did It’. That’s the prompt for Irene Waters’ Rodeo #2 Flash Fiction Memoir Contest. Huge apologies for my late re-blog this week – wifi/update issues, say no more – but there’s still plenty of time to enter by 11:59 EST 17 October. As before, all entries are free with a cash prize for the winner. Irene asks for a 99 word memoir or a BOTS (Based on a true story), all rules below. Winners announced 16 November at Carrot Ranch. Speaking of memoir…time to press on and good luck to all!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

By Irene Waters, Rodeo Leader

Memoir is a passion, so I’m thrilled to once again host the memoir section of the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest. Hoping you’ll tighten your saddles and put on your spurs and join in. [READ MORE…]

Last year we had Scars – this year?

“She Did It.”

Three little words can hold so much meaning and have so many stories that come to mind. For the memoir prompt “She Did It” write a true story or a BOTS (based on a true story) keeping in mind the tips on writing memoir.


  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the net as this will be the one I use to check the entries. Entries that aren’t 99 words will be disqualified.
  2. The genre is memoir although BOTS (based on…

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Rodeo #1: Dialog

And we’re off! Geoff Le Pard is first through the gate at the Rodeo with contest number 1, ‘Dialogue’. All details below. Open to all, free entry, and a cash prize for the winner. Contest closes October 10 at 11:59pm EST. See you back here with next week’s contest, and best of luck to all.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

By Geoff Le Pard, Rodeo Leader

Writers are notorious people watchers. It’s a small miracle we don’t get done for stalking more often. Part of that idea — thieving we do involves listening to what people say — phrases, the modes of speech, dialect, etc. People convey ideas and feelings with words. [READ MORE…]

So, those pesky rules:

  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit.
  2. It’s dialogue only. Everything inside speech marks, please. (American and British styles both accepted.)
  3. Any genre, time, place, just let us know via words. If you can world build a fantasy, hats off! (Oh, by the way, I bloody loathe the overuse of the exclamation mark. Be very sparing or my prejudices may show through.
  4. It’s a conversation so you need two characters at least. But can you have a conversation with yourself? With…

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Travel to the Rodeo

Howdy Folks! Yep…it’s time once again to saddle up, polish your boots and grab your pen too: the Rodeo is back! Five, 99 word flash fiction contests, each with a unique prompt, running weekly through October at Carrot Ranch.

Open to all, no entry fee and a cash prize for the winner.

Thrilled to lead my contest, ‘Travel with a Twist’, which opens October 17.

Details of this, my fellow judges and every contest,  including Lead Buckaroo Charli Mill’s TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction), a free-write challenge remaining for September 25, posted below.

I’ll re-blog each contest’s opening day here at the Summerhouse.

So watch this space, pack your bags and get ready to Travel to the Rodeo…with a twist, of course.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Sherri Matthews has kept her feet in the stirrups at Carrot Ranch while riding hard to revise her memoir. She’s one of our premier memoir writers who also pens a hapless village werewolf character who first debuted here in flash fiction. Her fiction can turn a dark twist as deftly as a rodeo bronc.

This year, Sherri seeks inspiration from travel. It’s not her first rodeo, so as a leader she’s going to shake up her event. Her husband Mike Matthews and friend and fellow writer, Hugh Roberts, joins her in the judging. Here’s what she has to tell you to prepare for her event.

Rodeo #3: Travel with a Twist
By Sherri Matthews

In July, I had the good fortune to spend a week’s holiday with my husband on the Italian Amalfi Coast. I say good fortune, because hubby won it, thanks to a random prize draw. We couldn’t…

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