Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For as you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

51fWQBmjbVL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_I remember the day my year five teacher started reading The Phantom Tollbooth to us. It was a Wednesday, around Easter-time. I remember being totally captivated by Milo’s adventures. But, until I picked the book up recently, I had no recollection of the plot. All I could recall was Milo’s car, the tollbooth, and a watchdog named Tock.

The plot is this: When bored young Milo receives a magic tollbooth as a gift, he drives through it in his toy car and is transported to the Kingdom of Wisdom. There he is sent on a quest to restore to the kingdom its exiled princesses, Rhyme and Reason.

Needless to say that upon rereading this book, I was instantly captivated all over again. It is a fast-paced story with short chapters; easy to tumble into and difficult to climb out of. The imagery is superb, yet simply drawn. The humour is light and clever, focusing mostly on word play, which is delightful!

It must be said though that none of the characters felt very fleshed out. Conversations between them go on for pages without any real character development happening. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the simplistic style in which it was written does not account for much character development, I just prefer a little more to the characters I’m supposed to be identifying with. The Little Prince does this simplistic style well, while still maintaining complex characters.

But I digress – I dislike comparing books to one another. The Phantom Tollbooth is not The Little Prince. It is neither “better” or “worse” than The Little Prince. They are simply two different stories.

The Phantom Tollbooth is the story Norton Juster wanted to tell, and that is all that matters. I find often that these days we focus far too much on individual opinion, rather than the vision the author has brought to the page. All stories have merit, for all stories take time and effort!

You can find links to buy The Phantom Tollbooth at GoodReads!


BELOW wins the Northumbria University/Channel 4 Television Drama Writing Award 2017

So proud of my mama!

Alex Clarke


I’m delighted to announce I’ve won the Northumbria University /Channel 4 Writing for Television (Drama) Award 2017

bonafideThis is so exciting! I get to develop my screenplay BELOW with the amazing team at Bonafide Films over the next 12 months before showing the results to Channel 4.

I simply cannot wait to get stuck in and learn as much as possible and write as much as possible and …all the possibles!

I just can’t thank the brilliant people at New Writing North & Bonafide Films enough. I mean, Bonafide Films brought us the stunningly good Nosferatu in Love! So what a huge treat to work with them!

Everyone who sponsors and supports the awards are brilliant too. Without them there would be no bursaries and mentorships at all. Expanding inclusion within the industry is vital if it is to remain vibrant and relevant. Integral to this is including Northern creators…

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Emmy & Matt’s Return Home

We’ve arrived home from our holiday in Llandudno, Wales, to a very warm Sale. The greenery is alive with the sounds of summer rustlings, chirpings and buzzings.

And green isn’t the only colour we spy. There are flowers, popping with colour. They lean out towards us as if to say “How do you do?” Butterflies flutter by, bees trundle lazily, and wasps use leaves to glide across the air (really!)

It is warm, so warm it tickles the nose. Matt’s hand is in mine as we stroll; the other points out bird after bird, discarded feather after discarded feather. His hand is always firmer in the summer. Each individual finger rests comfortably against my knuckles. The grass is as green as his eyes.


© Emmy Clarke 2017

Book Review: The Right to Write by Julia Cameron

In a sense, our creativity is none of our business. It is a given, not something to be aspired to. It is not an invention of our ego. It is, instead, a natural function of our soul. We are intended to breathe and to live. We are intended to listen and create. We do not need special pens. We do not need special rooms or even special times. What we do need is the intention to allow creativity to create through us. When we open ourselves to something or someone greater than ourselves working through us, we paradoxically open ourselves to our own greatest selves.

51DVf6dPeEL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_The Right to Write is the second book about writing I have read. The first was Stephen King’s On Writing, which I found helpful in regards to the more practical aspects of writing. But The Right to Write is a different sort of book altogether.

Julia Cameron speaks of writing as a spiritual act. This is the first time I’ve experienced that outside of my own family, and it is very refreshing. The idea that all writers are channels, that we are simply scribing stories that are whispered by a Muse, a Higher Self even, somewhere just out of sight… For some, this might terrify. They want to be in control, to be known as the sole creator of their work. For me, though, it came as a relief. Writing for me has always felt like a collaboration between myself and my spirit pal. Sometimes I lose sight of that, though. And so often I find myself caught up in trying to write well that I forget that the most important thing is to simply write. It is lovely to discover that other, greatly successful writers view writing in a similar way.

The Right to Write is a calm book, a meandering book. With its short chapters and handy tools for getting you out of your own way, it is a breath of fresh air within a sometimes creatively stifling genre. Indeed, it is less of a how-to-write book and more of a GO DO IT NOW! book. Incredibly inspiring and expertly written, it feels as though Julia Cameron has written from her soul to mine, and has held my hand through many creative blocks.

I will leave you with another quote from the book:

Writing – and this is the big secret – wants to be written. Writing loves a writer the way God loves a true devotee. Writing will fill up your heart if you let it. It will fill your pages and help you fill your life.

You can find links to buy The Right to Write at GoodReads!

Total stars: 5/5!

Emmy & Matt’s Jay Filled Day

21.01Two lovely jays greeted us today. I heard them rustling in the trees, then saw them; pale tails raised as they nodded to one another in silent conversation. As always when normally shy creatures reveal themselves to me, I felt blessed. Doubly blessed for they were double-jays. I felt as if I were floating. I stayed and watched, Matt’s hand in mine, and all I could think to say was:

“Hello! Hello!” over and over.

It is a funny word, hello. When said in wonder, it is more of an expression of joy than an actual greeting. It means I am alive. You are alive. What a fantastic world this is!

Later we began to see snails. Snails, snails everywhere. We saw double-snails, and then a whole cluster of snails. So many snails!! If you did not already know, snails cluster together in warmer weather to avoid dehydrating. During the summer months, snails remain rather dormant, and can even bring their heartbeat to half its usual rate! Nature is a wonder.

© Emmy Clarke 2017