Last Thursday I visited HMP Low Newton to talk to a reading group - and what a fantastic audience they were. As many of you already know, I used to work in a prison myself. It's a very different experience when you're not a member of staff with an ID however: there was the search tank, the pat down and fingerprinting to contend with. As a crime writer, when someone asks for your fingerprints, all sorts of odd thoughts go through your head!
Transported back in time, I actually reached for my keys as I approached a locked gate. Anyway, I had a brilliant morning and I'd like to thank English PEN, HMP Low Newton's librarian, but most of all the women who made up the group for the warm welcome they gave me. I was touched by the words of one group member: "Very informative and inspiring - Mari showed me that good things can come from bad experiences."
At the weekend, I attended Newcastle's inaugural Writing Conference organised by New Writing North in association with Northumbria University. The day began with a brilliant keynote speech by Costa-nominated author, Stephen May, and continued with an array of impressive speakers: top literary agents, publishers and authors.
Topics included getting published, current trends, the process of bookselling and touched upon some of the innovative projects writers are getting involved with on the digital side of publishing. There was a chance to network with other delegates and even time for a mini tweet-up with Twitter friends I'd never met before outside of the social media platform. So well done to all those involved in putting the conference together.
I was on radio at BBC Tees today talking about my journey to publication, my links with Teesside University, my former job as a Probation Officer and of course my books. I even got to sit in the presenters chair and choose my own music. What an absolute treat! It was great fun, but I should tell you that the name of the presenter was a little scary: John Foster. If you've read The Murder Wall, you will know what I mean. ;)
One of the music tracks I chose was Joni Mitchell: For Free. When John asked me why, I said it was because it always makes me cry. But there is a more serious reason. If you haven't heard it, do listen in. The lyrics are a reminder that there's not much difference between star performers and the talented others that never make centre stage. That's as true of writers as it is of musicians which is the real reason I love it so much.
If you'd like to listen to my chat with John you can do so here: BBC Tees My contribution begins at 2:07 and ends at 2:58, although he did go on to play one more of my tracks after my interview: Jackson Brown - For a Dancer - another great favourite of mine. Thanks for inviting me onto the show John!