free tea? i'm in!

Today I am at home, with a throat infection, feeling sorry for myself.

Luckily, this most excellent blog post from Jenn Ashworth has cheered me up. I have long contemplated doing a creative writing MA course - and this one includes free tea, gin AND humiliation.

Love it, love it. Now the only question is, where am I going to find a pink dress and a kitten?

the red shoe diaries

... today I thought I would post this piece that I wrote back when I entered the Vogue talent contest in 2005. Entrants had to submit three pieces of writing, one of which was an autobiography in 600 words, and this is what I came up with. It's not strictly an 'autobiography' because most of it isn't true, but it could be the autobiography of a fictionalised version of myself. Of all my work, it was the piece which seemed to appeal to the judges most: when I went to the finalists' lunch at Vogue (my very own "Carrie Bradshaw" moment) it was definitely the one that they remembered: people kept saying, "oh, you're the red shoe girl!" Yep, that's me!

And it's true that I am strangely compelled to wear red shoes (the ones above were a present from France). Even though this piece is now over three years old, it seems particularly appropriate to post it here, given the title of the blog and all. After all, it's all very well to talk of going off to follow yellow brick roads, but how much better if you've got a pair of kick-ass ruby slippers to do it in?

So here we go:

The Red Shoe Diaries

1. Red Sandals

They glistened and gleamed, the red shoes. They were perfect, everything a shoe should be. Red, glistening and perfect, like something out of a dream.

She lay on the rug and rewound, just to see Dorothy skipping along in the shiny red shoes. “Their magic must be very powerful, or she wouldn’t want them so badly,” Glinda the Good Witch said. Her own shoes were black, patent-leather, round-toed and squeaky: shoes her mother chose. They were cartoon shoes, something Minnie Mouse might wear, nothing remotely magical about them. At school, the other girls had proper, grown-up shoes, with little heels that they click-clacked importantly in, up and down the playground. But they weren’t magic shoes, either: it was red ones she wanted.

She had a book of fairy-tales with a story in it called ‘The Red Shoes’. The shoes were treacherous but they were magic too. After all, she read, there is really nothing in the world that can be compared to red shoes.

That summer, she finally got them. Red sandals to wear with her white knee-socks and gingham school dress. They didn’t dazzle like Dorothy’s, but she knew they were magic just the same. They were sandals to skip along unknown roads in, shoes that could take you anywhere. They looked quite ordinary, but she knew better. Sometimes she surreptitiously practised clicking her heels together, once, twice, experimentally, just to see.

2. Scarlet Shoes

No one else had scarlet shoes. Their feet were all the same, in their identikit fashion trainers, and they looked scornfully at her in the red velvet high-heels she had bought from a charity shop for a handful of pennies. Back then, they had seemed enchanted shoes, exotic, otherworldly: shoes to wear to a smoky jazz club or a fabulous party in some faraway foreign city. Now, they were giving her blisters, and the other girls were looking down their noses and saying nothing. The drunk man in the corner kept leering at her across the room. “You know what they say about girls who wear red shoes...”

After that she kept them to wear at home: she wore them to do homework in, to dance around the bedroom to David Bowie.
Put on your red shoes and dance the blues. Years later, she found them at the back of her cupboard, still waiting for another dance. She thought of the film The Red Shoes with Moira Shearer, which had, for a brief time, made her long to be a prima ballerina. She remembered: The Red Shoes are never tired... Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on....

3. Ruby Slippers

They glistened and gleamed, the red shoes. They were perfect, like something out of a dream. Beyond the haze of the shop window, they stood waiting for her. The perfect ruby slippers: crimson Marc Jacobs peep-toe shoes with tiny bows on. They were everything a shoe should be.

“You can’t be serious,” said Emma. “You’re going to spend a month’s rent on shoes! When will you even wear them?” But she wasn’t listening. As she slid her foot inside, she felt the enchanted transformation take place. They were powerful magic shoes, shoes that would never be tired. There is really nothing in the world that can be compared to red shoes. It was true, she reasoned, as she skipped out of the shop and off along the unknown road, going who knows where.

my favourite time of year (even if it's raining)


give this girl a break, please!

It's been another week of madness. On Wednesday night, I was at Manchester Art Gallery for the launch of the b.tween conference. Wandering through the beautiful pre-Raphaelite and Victorian galleries with my glass of wine whilst we waited for things to kick off made for an interesting contrast with the main event - pitches from five creatives for the exploding narratives project, which uses cutting-edge technology.

On Thursday, I headed over to Liverpool for the Design Show at the Contemporary Urban Centre. I am quite impressed that I managed not to spend any money (except for buying a quite disgusting tuna panini - though that, as they say, is really another story). I did take quite a fancy to Rachel Eardley's pretty dove earrings, but sadly they were rather out of my price range. The dangerous Tatty Devine stand was also quite difficult to resist. Oh the gorgeousness of the black cat bangle! Oh how covetable is the petite antler pendant! I think the Tatty Devine people could see me drooling because they kindly gave me a rather fabulous heart-shaped lolly and and this most excellent badge which I love. (Secretly, I am still only about 5 years old.)

Today, I was back in Manchester for day two of the b.tween conference at MoSI. I felt like a total wally when I arrived this morning because I was (literally) the only one there without a laptop (specifically, a shiny new mac book), a blackberry or an iphone. Instead, I had a pen. A pen. My god, I like pre-Raphaelite oil paintings and I use a pen. I am practically analogue. I am surprised some kind of digital police force didn’t come and forcibly eject me from the auditorium because I wasn’t Web 2.0 enough to make the grade. However, I did start to feel better when someone made a cheezburger joke on the webchat screen and I actually understood it. (Is that a good thing?)

It was an interesting day - I enjoyed listening to this guy whilst watching my neighbour's rather impressive doodling. I got another free badge! And then there was Bill Tidy - the highlight of the day. His slightly nonsensical but entertaining talk, which took in everything from coathangers to Lady Godiva, was illustrated not by boring old powerpoint slides, but by his own rapid-fire illustrations. The audience loved it: the glossy meeja type sitting next to me was audibly snorting with laughter at one point and on the webchat screen a whole “bill tidy rocks, death to powerpoint” movement was rapidly gaining momentum. I felt a lot better after that: clearly analogue has still got it after all.

... And now the week is over! It's Friday night and my plan for the weekend is for sunshine, artlessness, and sleep!

creative weekend?!

What do masking tape, sandwich bags and Derrida have in common? You may well ask...

At the weekend some of us from the Salford Restoration Office Reading Group got together with the intention of making a publication in two days. The feeling was that we wanted to do something more as a group beyond our activity so far, which has been largely reading and discussing texts and inviting speakers to the fortnightly Open Sessions. When we talked about possible ideas and projects, making a publication was a popular suggestion which we all felt would be interesting for the group to explore. The plan was to make something deliberately low-tech with only very minimal forward planning: we would just turn up on Saturday morning and get stuck in!

Well, I think we may have been a little optimistic with our plans: our final ‘publication’ wasn’t perhaps quite what I had expected (and yes, it did involve masking tape, sandwich bags and Derrida!) but we did have some fun in the process, including experimenting with an old letter press, reading about Collage Party, the odd trip to the pub and making a pinhole camera from a cardboard box, taking photographs and developing them in our very own improvised dark room. The picture above is one of the photographs taken in the office as we’re all working: I like how ghostly and mysterious everything looks.

I’d been really looking forward to getting stuck in after a long and tiring week at work. Since I started my current job three months ago, I have had very little time or energy to do anything creative for myself, so it was great to put a weekend aside to play, even if the end result wasn’t quite what I had anticipated! I was also supposed to be attending a two-day writing course this week, but disappointingly, it got cancelled at the last minute. I didn’t know whether to be sorry or relieved when I found out: I have never taken any kind of writing course or class before, and I was quite terrified at the prospect of showing others my work, though I do think it would have been very good for me. I am trying hard to find a way to kick myself back into writing regularly at the moment but it’s surprisingly difficult! But hopefully writing here will be a good start.

this week I have mostly been looking at...

On Thursday night I went to check out the private view of Broadcast Yourself, the new exhibition at Cornerhouse.

On Friday, I headed over to International 3 for the launch of Artranspennine08, an exhibition taking place across various locations across the transpennine route over the next two months, which will include work by a number of my pals.

Afterwards, I went along to the preview of the MMU Degree Show, where I picked up all these lovely postcards. My favourite piece in this year’s show was by Amy Davies, a student on the Interactive Arts degree programme: a whimsical and beautiful installation made up of hundreds of images cut from old Ladybird books that appeared to be growing across the gallery wall. However, I have to admit that it’s always the sketchbooks that I like best. Looking at them makes me wish I had chosen to study art or design - actually, I haven't even got a GCSE in art. I think I decided not to study it because I felt I wasn't good enough: teachers were always telling me that my work was ‘too messy’ and I knew I couldn’t draw ‘properly’ (i.e. draw things that looked ‘real’) so I felt it wasn’t for me. I didn’t realise that being messy and making work that didn’t look exactly the same as everyone else’s could actually be a good thing. But now, I look at all those sketchbooks and I feel quite envious - I want to make a sketchbook too!

this week I have also been...

reading: mainly The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. Whilst I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of her other novels, I was impressed by the back-in-time structure of the book. At first I didn’t find the characters especially engaging, but by the end, I was completely engrossed and I found myself wanting to go straight back to the beginning to see how it all fitted together. For me, wanting to start all over again the moment you’ve finished is always the mark of a good read.

I have also been browsing a newly-discovered blog, hulaseventy (full of lovely photographs) and the latest issue of the mighty fine Blanket magazine.

listening to: CSS and the Juno soundtrack whilst sitting on the bus and gazing out of the window trying to spot the unexpected secret things that no one else is noticing: hidden fragments of graffiti; a bird swaying on a t-v aerial; wild flowers growing on a building site; an abandoned bicycle with no wheels (one of the saddest sights of the city); and, predictably enough, any passers-by with particularly cool shoes.

eating: homemade burgers and sweet potato wedges; pineapple and mango for breakfast; my favourite vegan pizza at Cornerhouse; udon noodles with king prawn, ginger and spring onions; and erm... jammie dodgers.

and most importantly of all, sleeping: as much as is humanly possible.

the beginning

follow the yellow brick road is named after a kind of diary I had when I was little, which brought together writing, drawing and all kinds of different things I made. It was mainly stories and poems (my personal favourite is entitled "greenfly" - "i am a greenfly/I live on a rose/I eat all the little bugs/And I am as happy as a greenfly") but also collections of stickers or pressed leaves, drawings of animals, slightly strange "fashion illustrations" and all manner of other things. I kept it all together in a big blue and red ring-binder with the title 'The Yellow Brick Road' on the front in peeling Lettraset.

I would like to think this space can be something similar - a place for writing, but also a collage of ideas, thoughts, images, general amblings and meanderings. I'm just going to see where it leads...

Feel The Fear and do it anyway?

Today I made a decision to do something which has absolutely terrified me for years. I have signed up for a creative writing workshop - a two day novel-based course coming up in the next couple of weeks.

To anyone else that might not sound so scary, but I have always been petrified by the idea of sharing my writing with strangers. I don’t know what it is I am so afraid of, but the very thought of it gives me The Fear. However it’s far too late now - I’ve decided to take the plunge. Also I have already paid, so I’m going to have to go through with it and be brave.

With that in mind, I am back here again. It’s not so very adventurous I know, given that (so far!) I would estimate my current readership to be a grand total of nil. However, it’s still a step in the right direction.

In view of all this creative fear and angst, I’ve unearthed my copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for artistic inspiration and support. I always find it a particularly peculiar book - perhaps just because I’m not always comfortable with the terminology used and the approach Cameron takes - there’s a bit too much about God and it has that slightly discomfiting ‘self-help’ quality to it. However, there’s no doubt that it’s a great source of inspiration to get going or to carry on when the going gets tough. It’s a good place to go for straight-to-the-point advice that always hits home: today I opened the book to read mistakes are necessary... progress, not perfection is what we should be asking of ourselves.

Couldn’t be better advice. As The Fear looms like a nightmare monster, I’m taking a quote from Henry David Thoreau as my motto: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!

... this is the first post!


Some friends and favourite things online:

artists, illustrators, designers

andrew bracey
art yarn
contents may vary
keri smith: wish jar
little doodles
maeve rendle 
nicola dale 
obsessive consumption
rachel goodyear
sandra diekmann
the pansy project

galleries, studios and projects

castlefield gallery
international 3
islington mill art academy
manchester art gallery
raven row
rogue artists studios
we make london

books and book design

book by its cover
book cover archive
carcanet press 
comma press
library of unwritten books
manchester literature festival
persephone post
première de couverture
stuck in a book
untitled books
vulpes libres

writers and writing

a handful of stones
anna mckerrow
art of fiction: adrian slatcher
benjamin judge
chris killen
diary of a bluestocking
emily mcphillips
emma j lannie
jenn ashworth
manchester writing
max dunbar
my shitty twenties
nik perring
nikesh shukla 
no point in not being friends
rainy city stories
richard barrett
sh - the interactive library novel
six sentences
the manchester review
the other room
walled city
words and fixtures


baroque in hackney
lady levenshulme
liberty london girl
like father like daughter
lions, tigers, elephants and bears
manchester blog awards
manchester is ace
mithering times
this little lady went to london
travels with my baby


amelia's blog
casey's musings
monmartre's sketchbook
sea of shoes
style bubble
the cherry blossom girl
the sartorialist
the thoughtful dresser
wee birdy 
wish wish wish


all the mountains
blaze danielle
cute overload
daydream lilly
english muse
greedy girl
ihanna's creative space
little brown pen
that unreliable girl
the selby
the unicorn diaries
what katie does
where the lovely things are

Check out my sidebar links for some of my favourite art blogs.

Blog not here but think it should be? Like to change how your blog is listed? Just let me know...


"Writer Katherine Woodfine runs this delightful blog about arts, literature and culture around Manchester and London (as she flits between the two)..." Creative Tourist

Follow the Yellow Brick Road is an award-winning blog about art, books and other good stuff in London and sometimes also in Manchester. There may also be the *occasional* mention of red shoes.  

Follow the Yellow Brick Road
 started back in 2008, when it won Best New Blog at the Manchester Blog Awards in 2008. It was also in the running for Best Arts and Culture Blog in 2009, and more recently, it has been a regular fixture on Creative Tourist's list of Top 25 UK Arts and Culture blogs.

More about me

By day I work for Booktrust, where I'm a web editor responsible for all the lovely children and teenage book content on the Booktrust website, and I also look after the Children's Laureate programme, working with amazing children's authors and illustrators such as Julia Donaldson and Anthony Browne. In my spare time I love to write.

I write both fiction and creative non-fiction, most recently published in the anthology Mostly Truthful from Flax books. In 2005 I was highly commended in Vogue magazine's talent contest for the best young writers. I'm currently working on a children's fiction project. 

Read some of my creative writing here:
I have also written about art and books for other websites including BookmunchCreative TouristTransmission and A-N.

When I'm not writing, I love going to exhibitions, collecting and reading children's books, riding around London on my bicycle, shopping for shoes, baking (and eating) cakes, exploring new places, playing the piano and the ukelele very badly, and attempting to swing dance. Read about a few more of my favourite things here.

You can also follow me on tumblr, on twitter or on pinterest.