Guest Author Cheryl Headford







When I was about ten years old, my niece used to stay with me. She was three years younger and very afraid of the dark. My mother wasn’t big on ‘pandering to irrational fears’, so she wouldn’t let us have the light on.

My niece was terribly afraid of ghosts. It’s not unsurprising, given we lived in Cemetery Road and spent a lot of time playing in the graveyard. Nor was it unfounded.

Anyway, on the wall of the room we stayed in, was a plate. It was a 3D plaster wall plate, something like the one on the left.

Truthfully, it was bloody awful but my mother loved it.

Lying together, in my mother’s bed, I made up stories about a ghost called George, who got up to all kinds of humorous adventures. I don’t know if it took away her fear of the dark completely, but she always went to sleep with a smile on her face when she stayed with me. I got so bored with George by the end!

As well as my niece, my cousin who is in between the two of us in age, used to come to play almost every Saturday. I was responsible for thinking up ‘adventures’ and we’d spend hours riding horses across blistering deserts to find hidden chambers under pyramids (this was BEFORE I saw Disney Aladdin), wading across swamps to save princesses, and swinging over lava pits to escape baddies. I have to say these adventures often ended in tears and it was always my fault, even though I was the least daredevil of the three. As the oldest and the maker of the stories it was always my responsibility. Unfair!

I started actually writing down the stories when I was, maybe twelve. No one was interested in reading them, but that didn’t matter because it was the writing I loved, not having someone else read. For years and years I wrote story after story, in notebook after notebook many of which are now lost. I still have a few and it’s so strange to read them and think how far I’ve come. I’ve tried bringing one or two up to date, but it’s no mean feat.

When I was twenty eight, I joined a re enactment society. My husband, daughter (and later also son) spent our weekends being Iron Age Celts. It was great fun. I learned a hell of a lot, made some great friends, and even married my husband in an Iron Age ceremony.

On the morning of the wedding, I was woken by my ‘ladies’ who took me to a nearby waterfall. The wedding took place at National Folk Museum of Wales and for a long while one of our wedding photographs appeared in their brochure. After washing in the freezing water of the waterfall I dressed in the costume I’d spent more than a year making, and had flowers woven in my hair.

My husband, on the other hand, had to work a bit harder. He had to catch a pig, climb up the waterfall, shoot an arrow into a target and fight the chief of our tribe, The Silures. Unfortunately, the chief decided to use a sharp weapon, which are only used for display, instead of our usual fighting safe ones. The last thing my husband did before getting to the wedding (late) was take a trip to the medical tent. He has blood all over his face in the weddings photos and bears a scar to this day – which is okay because I’d fallen down the stairs on the day of my hen party, and had a black eye and stitches. We made a right pair.

That, of course, has nothing to do with storytelling, except that by then I had become storyteller of the Tribe, as well as part time Druid, and my husband had proposed to me a year previously during the performance of one of the stories.

My art as a storyteller, if not a writer, was honed before audiences of exceedingly critical children. If you think children are gullible and easily fooled/fobbed off, try telling stories to groups of them for a while!

By the time I was forced to leave the group due to ill health, I’d started writing and telling my own stories. It was a shame I had to leave the group and I miss it to this day, but my body could no longer cope with sleeping on the floor and climbing mountains.

After that, I went back to writing stories rather than telling them, and still no one read what I wrote. Then, about eight years ago, I had a visit from a friend and his boyfriend. I asked him to read a scene from one of the stories I’d written. Even then, I was more comfortable writing gay characters that het. He suggested I look up some of the online free story sites I didn’t even know existed. I did as he suggested and found Gay Authors

Struck gold. Gay Authors is not just a free book site, it’s a community and I fit right in and found a home. That’s where I found my dream – to be able to walk past a bookshop and see a book in the window with gay characters. Doesn’t even have to be mine. I dream of a time when gay kids, like the ones I’ve spoken to on GA, can walk into a store and see books with characters just like them, and find their own happy endings, to find that it can work out well. Silly maybe but everyone needs a dream.

Once I started posting on GA I never looked back. People read my stories, liked them and commented on them. I got all the encouragement anyone could hope for, from some wonderful people. They pushed me to think bigger, to put my boys out there in the big scary world of publishing – and the rest is history.

Cheryl Headford

Cheryl was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her family and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created in play.

Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller was the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.

In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon and cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art, with a healthy smattering of magic and mayhem.