Ever been told that ‘your story could make a book’? Or would you love to see your story in print and on the bookshelves? As a ghostwriter signed to one of the country’s biggest literary agencies, I can help you to turn that idea into a reality.
I have written five non-fiction books to date, two of which went onto become Sunday Times bestsellers. Aprons and Silver Spoons, published by Penguin in March 2013, and The Refuge (Simon & Schuster, April 2014), both reached the Sunday Times Top Ten. My background as a journalist specialising in national newspapers and women’s weekly magazines has given me an instinctive understanding of what makes a compelling read, whilst my experience as a novelist and ghostwriter translates those stories into commercial page-turners. I will work hard to capture your authentic voice and use my extensive publishing contacts to give you the best possible chance of seeing your story on the bookshelves. Once your book is published, my expertise in social media, press and marketing will help to ensure it gains enough traction to reach its full potential.
A Spoonful of Sugar – (UK version)
Hodder & Stoughton
Nostalgic memoir of a nanny in the 1940s, a real-life Mary Poppins.
“They say you can never truly love a child that is not your own, but that goes against every instinct that runs through me. For I have loved children born to other women all my life and every child that I have ever cared for, I’ve adored with all my heart. Many I would have laid down my life for, in fact on some memorable occasions when I fled to air raid shelters clutching my charges to my chest, I very nearly did. In 62 years of being a nanny I have lost count of the number of children I’ve cared for, but it must be approaching 100. Which means I am inordinately proud to say that despite never having actually given birth I have 100 children. How many women can say that?”
Brenda spent 62 years working as a Norland Nanny. Just like a real-life Mary Poppins, she devoted her life to giving children the best possible start in life. Brenda began training at the Norland Institute in 1939 at the age of 18, shortly before war was declared. It was a time of great upheaval and uncertainty, particularly for children.
Even as a nervous young trainee, she was determined to give the children in her care a wonderful childhood, regardless of the horrors that were unravelling on the continent, and when the Blitz began, on their doorsteps. Brenda worked for poverty-stricken evacuees from the East End London, as well as in the nurseries of smart Kensington homes. She frequently put her life at risk, dashing to air raid shelters. This is a story from a time when nothing was taken for granted and life itself was in peril on a near-daily basis. But the war was also a time when people pulled together like never before or since, and it called upon Brenda to make sacrifices she’d never imagined having to make… Warm, funny and incredibly moving, Brenda’s memoir brings to life the colourful world of wartime England.
Spoonful of Sugar was serialised in the Daily Mail and Brenda Ashford appeared on Woman’s Hour and This Morning.
A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny’s Story (US version)
Brenda Ashford is the quintessential British nanny. Prim and proper, gentle and kind, she seems to have stepped straight out of Mary Poppins. For more than six decades Nanny Brenda swaddled, diapered, dressed, played with, sang to, cooked for, and looked after more than one hundred children. From the pampered sons and daughters of lords ensconced in their grand estates to the children of tough war evacuees in London’s East End, Brenda has taught countless little ones to be happy, healthy, and thoroughly well bred. In this delightful memoir, Brenda shares her endearing, amusing, and sometimes downright bizarre experiences turning generations of children into successful adults. From the moment Brenda first held her baby brother David she was hooked. She became a second mother to him, changing his nappies, reading him stories, and giving him all the love her warm heart contained. Knowing a career caring for children was her calling in life, Brenda attended London’s prestigious Norland College, famous for producing top-notch nannies. It was a sign of privilege and good taste for the children of the well-to-do to be seen being pushed in their Silver Cross prams by Norland nannies, who were recognizable by their crisp, starched black uniforms with white bib collars, and their flowing black capes lined with red silk. And what skills were these trainees tested on daily? Lullaby singing, storytelling, pram shining, bed making, all forms of sewing, cooking simple meals, and dispensing first aid—including knowing the best way to help the medicine go down. In A Spoonful of Sugar, Brenda recalls her years at Norland and her experiences during the war (after all, even if bombs are dropping, there’s no reason to let standards slip), and recounts in lovely detail a life devoted to the care of other people’s children.
Sprinkled throughout with pearls of wisdom (you can never give children too much love, and you should learn how to sew a button, for goodness’ sake), this delightful memoir from Britain’s oldest living nanny is practically perfect in every way.
“Reflecting on her 62 years as a nanny, Ashford presents a delightful compilation of memories, child care tips and insights from a radically different time and place…Ashford recounts a life filled with love, devotion and hard work – a snapping good story by a true British treasure.” – Kirkus Reviews
“For anglophiles and Downton Abbey fans, a memoir of 62 years of nannying.” – The New York Times
Tuppence for Paper and String: A nanny’s story of hope and happiness in 1950s England.
Hodder & Stoughton
“Each and every single one of the 100 plus children I have cared for over the past 62 years are very much in my heart.”
It is 1945, the war is finally over and victory marches fill the streets of London. Brenda and her friends, happy that at long last peace has arrived, hope that they’ll soon leave the days of rationing and worry behind. Before long Brenda’s skills as a real life Mary Poppins are in demand again. Moving from house to house, she never stays long, but just enough time to sprinkle a little magic and happiness.
Word quickly spreads of this wonder nanny, who gets up to feed fretful babies in the middle of the night, who delivers quiet wisdom, and calmly restores order and happiness. Facing tragedy in her own life, Brenda never gives up on her quest to help the most troubled homes, changing hundreds of children’s lives forever.
TUPPENCE FOR PAPER AND STRING is a warm, uplifting and incredibly moving tale of a 1950s nanny, and her determination to give the children in her care the best possible start in life.
Aprons and Silver Spoons: The heartwarming memoirs of a 1930s scullery maid
Penguin. Sunday Times bestseller.
If you liked Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, it’s time to discover the reality in the true story Aprons and Silver Spoons by Mollie Moran. When young Mollie became a “skivvy” in a stately London townhouse aged just 14, she quickly learned that a large amount of elbow grease and a sense of humour would be tantamount to surviving there. Through Mollie’s eyes, we are offered a fascinating glimpse into London’s invisible “downstairs”, a world that has long-since vanished: cooking huge roast dinners; polishing doorknobs; scrubbing steps… and covering up her employers’ scandals. Going to dances with her fellow servants and flirting with Harrods’ errand boys, she had no idea that the oncoming war in 1939 would change her world, and that of those she served, forever…
Discover the real hardships and rewards for a pre-war domestic servant in Mollie Moran’s charming memoir Aprons and Silver Spoons.
If you liked Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, it’s time to discover the reality in Mollie Moran’s Sunday Times bestselling memoir, Aprons and Silver Spoons.
‘If you love Downton, this is right up your street!’ Closer
‘This evocative memoir… provides a fascinating insight into a world that has long since disappeared’ The Sun
‘A vivid, entertaining and human glimpse into life in service during the 1930s complete with recipes, tips and photos’ My Weekly
‘A wonderful book’ Bookbag
‘A lovely story’ Mailonline
Mollie Moran’s story was serialised in the Daily Mail and she appeared on Woman’s Hour and This Morning
The Refuge: My Journey to the Safe House for Battered Women
Simon & Schuster – published 2014. Sunday Times best seller.
Until 1971, female victims of domestic violence were expected to “kiss and make up” with their husbands, hide their black eyes and bruises, and bear the shame that somehow their partners’ brutality was their fault. Chiswick Women’s Aid was Europe’s first ever refuge for what were then called “battered women”, and Jenny Smith was one of the first females who bravely made their way to this much-needed safe house. Desperate, and in fear for her life and the welfare of her two small children, Jenny had fled her dangerously schizophrenic partner, carrying only a few possessions. In the Chiswick shelter, founded by famous women’s rights campaigner Erin Pizzey, Jenny found other women in the same position, all with harrowing, extraordinary stories to tell. Amenities were basic, but the respect, kindness and humanity of the community would help to give Jenny a new lease of life and strength. When the safe house came under threat of closure, she lobbied Parliament and drove across Europe in a convoy of women in camper vans to raise awareness of their plight. Jenny’s story is a slice of social history that begins in a Derbyshire mining village in the 1950s and takes the reader to inner city Hackney in the 1960s, and Jenny’s heart-breaking journey to the refuge. The house was the subject of a famous documentary, Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear, which, when first broadcast in 1974, sent shockwaves through the UK. Jenny was one of the first women to break a taboo by speaking publicly about domestic abuse. With the new start afforded her by the refuge, Jenny went on to find love, have another child and work as a foster carer.
“Smith chronicles a time when society turned its back on women who were being attacked by their partners. Suffering from constant black eyes and bruises and painfully thin, her pleas for help were ignored, even as she was kicked and punched in a street in Hackney while heavily pregnant.” – The Guardian
Jenny Smith appeared on BBC Breakfast, the Jeremy Vine show and she was interviewed for a BBC Horizon documentary