Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Review by Susan Kramer, MP for Richmond Park

“Shared Experiences” is a wonderful, positive book that draws together the experiences of so many families with children who have upper limb deficiencies, not only to share their worries and difficulties but also to share their successes and joys.

When I was young, we often visited family friends whose beautiful little daughter was a victim of Thalidomide with very short arms and minimal hands. We all envied her gorgeous blond hair and classical beauty but she so often felt such utter frustration with her short arms and just being different that she would break out into anger hitting all of us children on our arms. She and her family, who felt very isolated, would have devoured Charlotte Fielder’s book and its sense of all that is possible as well as its acknowledgement of the challenges.

The book focuses most on birth and the early years since, as Charlotte herself says, for older children “life has turned out well despite some bad experiences”. It’s an important message. And because the book has behind it the support of “Reach”, it can link parents to a national organisation for support and advice.

This book is written with such loving kindness and yet such a recounting of real experience, that it will resonate with many who have never encountered upper limb deficiency but are aware that in our world, no-one faces life without challenges.

Susan Kramer MP for Richmond Park

Friday, 28 August 2009

Welcome to new and old readers of my ‘Shared Experiences Blog’

I have some really excellent news, as yesterday the publishers sent me the final version. The layout is superb and anyone who has interest in upper limb deficiency will find it very reader friendly. The ‘layout designer’ has used pink and turquoise to alternate each chapter. So it will be very easy to flick through and find the chapters you are most interested in. It is purely fluke that these are my favourite colours!

So put a note in your diary that Shared Experiences will be available from the first week in November. However to pre-order please send an email to;

So don’t delay, place your order today!

‘Shared Experiences’ has been a truly collaborative process. It would not have been possible without contributions from parents of children with upper limb deficiencies and the support of Reach Not to mention our amazing publishers, my highly efficient and very personable editor Alexa Tewkesbury, my husband Gary and friends like Angela Boulter, Zoe & Peter Downey who have put a lot of energy into helping sell copies as well as throwing themselves into fundraising activities.

And friends and associates with their own websites like Joan Henshaw and Peter Billington for adding to their websites.

So big thanks to all those helping promote and sell Shared Experiences and enormous thanks to those of you who are buying a copy/copies. As Gertrude Stein said ‘Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.’ Gertrude certainly knew her onions, so I hope my message of gratitude is loud and clear. THANK YOU EVERYBODY.

To read reviews and for more information please scroll down and down and down!

STOP PRESS….And keep on reading because in the near future I will be creating two more blogs on whacky fund raising called

• ‘The boys are going to Banjul’ an epic adventure of three men, a rusty old car and a spare tyre.
• ‘Pete n Nick are Nutz’ see to read how stupid they are even think abut cycling around Iceland and to donate. No donation is too small because we need to reward their efforts, as they’re not that good at map reading.

Monday, 3 August 2009

When life gives you lemons - make lemonade!

I have been thinking about how to attract ‘media attention’ to boost sales of ‘Shared Experiences’. Leaving a ‘post it’ note underneath the windscreen wiper, of Rupert Murdoch’s limo is one option, but I’m actually going to leave all the big PR stuff to our sponsors and stick with my blog. However I did test the water, by sending an email to two local newspapers. A subsequent interview with one reporter, Justin, proved to be quite challenging. I had prepared myself to talk about Reach and the content of Shared Experiences’ but he was more interested in why I wrote it. I tried side swerving his questions several times, before giving in under closer cross examination!

We ended up talking about motivation, adversity and what drives us to take on certain challenges. I reflected on this after he left and I concluded it would been very handy for the sake of brevity, to come up with one single word, or ‘all encompassing’ snappy, media friendly, phrase, but nothing came to mind! Getting to a point where I was ready to write ‘Shared Experiences’ was more of a gradual process, because I had reached a stage in my life, where I was happy enough, with who I am, to be able to do it.

Being OK with yourself - is very important! You have to tell yourself. In fact you have to say it, repeat it often and then believe it. Unfortunately a ‘positive attitude’ towards life doesn’t come in a jar. It would be nice to buy a big jar, open the lid, and let positive mental attitude waft all over you, but it doesn’t work like that. However, if you are open to the possibility and take real ownership of your life; and your thoughts and feelings then you’ve started the journey. Life throws all type of brown sticky stuff at us all. None of us are immune from heartache, worry, anxiety, frustrations, emotional upset. And sometimes low self esteem, poor body image lack of confidence in our abilities, feelings of low self worth can be quite overwhelming. Life can be tough and unforgiving and just as we deal with one crisis another appears on the horizon. Developing a better positive attitude means that we start to recognise negative thoughts and feelings and deal them quicker and in a way that serves us well. Now I’m not an expert, I just know what works for me so that makes me, an expert in me.

Growing up with an obvious limb deficiency is like having the ‘mother of all spots’ on the end of your nose! Now if you have ever had a horrible big, angry, pus filled spot, shining like a beacon on the end of your conk, you will know that you can’t even contemplate leaving the house, until drastic action has been taken. You have one choice either you lance it and cover it with every medicated lotion ever produced (including domestic cleaning products) or you stay in.

Well I can’t do the equivalent of lancing my spot, so I reached a point where I had to learn to live with it and eventually like me, for me. I’m not saying it was easy and others with more obvious deficiencies might see my missing hand as just a spot, but when you’re young, you don’t see other people’s stuff – you just see your own bag of troubles. Starting work for me and mixing with adults was a big turning point and slowly the clouds started to rise. I was a very different person at fifteen, to who I am now, so I feel compelled to share what has helped and inspired me tp take on a challenge like writing Shared Experiences’.

Firstly I’m a great believer in being optimistic. There is a saying that ‘Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist the outcome is the same, but the optimist has a better time’. That’s not to say I’m blindingly optimistic and have a permanent day pass to ‘La La Land' but negative thoughts just breed more negative thoughts. The best advice I was ever given is ‘If you can’t change a situation - change the way you think about it’. So make 'being positive' a lifestyle choice.

We have one life and this is it, right here, right now. Life is fragile and can be so stupidly short and we have a responsibility to ourselves to make the best and most of it. Sometimes just seeing how others live their lives can spur us on. I watched most of the 2008 Paralympics feeling humbled, inspired and also very thankful for everything I have in life. Choose your role models carefully. Pay special attention to those who leads their lives simply, but purposefully. Stay away from anyone who wants to drain your emotionally batteries and take you down, to where they are.

We are at our best when we do things together. Sharing our thoughts, our feelings, our time. Reaching out to our friends our families, our colleagues our communities is where we start to feel that real sense of belonging and it stops us living in bubbles. It stops us from only seeing our own troubles and becoming self obsessed. Dale Carnegie said ‘Let's forget our own unhappiness by trying to create a little happiness for others - when you are good to others, you are best to yourself.’ Last year I did my first sponsored walk (only 6.5miles) but it was a 05.00 start, in the rain, but it felt purposeful and I knew I was doing it for a worthy cause. I would say to anyone who wants to lift their mood or develop more of a positive attitude do things for other people and not just you! Do a sponsored walk, grow a moustache for charity or cut an elderly neighbour’s lawn. Whether it’s a small act of kindness or big sponsored event do something that benefits someone else. Start with small things like phoning an elderly relative, sharing your knowledge by helping a colleague prepare for an interview, giving emotional support and maybe being there for someone when they fall. Be that person.

Stop being angry. There is nothing is more corrosive and damaging to you than being angry with someone else or a situation you can’t change. It draws you down and drags you in. And the longer you carry it around, the more it eats away at your very soul. Forgiveness is never easy, but once you found a way to let go of anger you start to feel better and more positive about your own life. Disposing of a ‘victim’ mentality is very empowering. Let things be. Bringing up 'old battles' keeps you rooted in the past and stops you living today. Stop asking why did this happen to me? Stop believing you were selected for bad things to happen to or were in some way worthy of it. Life is random; good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.

Forgiveness. Try and forgive others for what you think they have done to you and also learn to forgive yourself. None of us are perfect. We all screw up, make mistakes, say and do the wrong thing. That is part of the human condition. The important thing is to learn from those incidents and move on. Most of us don’t deliberately set out to hurt another human being, but relationships can become messy and complicated, so learn to apologise sincerely for your part and again move on. Keep in mind that we choose how we behave. We might not think that behaving well or badly is a conscious choice, but it is. Become more choice aware.

Acceptance. Accepting that there are some things that we just can’t change is so fundamental to our very being. Acceptance is so important and accepting that some things are outside of our control is an importance concept to grasp. We can’t change the way others think and we can’t make others like us. We just have to accept that some things just are. Although perversely when we stop trying to influence a situation, or bring someone round to our way of thinking, it often makes it possible for change to happen. For example we might throw ourselves at repairing a damaged relationship, but both sides must want to change. We can’t make people change because we want them to, but neither should we assume they never will. Acceptance of how things are in ‘the here and now’ keeps us living in the present and making the most of today.

Making the most of what we have. There is always someone who seems to have more than you or having better time of it, or so you think. But life is simpler if we learn to do the best we can, with the resources we have. There is a saying that 'When life gives you lemons - make lemonade '. It’s a quote you hear every now and again, when someone is talking about developing a positive mental attitude and especially when faced with adversity. It happens to be one of my favourite quotes and has evolved from Dale Carnegie’s original quote ‘When fate hands you a lemon, make lemonade.’ Whether you like the modern version or the original, both boil down to the same wisdom of trying to make the best of what you're given and playing the cards you're dealt etc.

I am now the result of every good piece of advice I have ever read, every fridge magnet that has ever inspired me, but most of all many years of careful soul searching and growing. I still have to remind myself constantly of all of the above and I have much, much more to learn. I’ve learnt that you are enriched by the people you meet on the journey, the experiences you share and recognizing that you can transform lemons if you want to. My next book is going to be entitled 'How to make lemonade'! Good luck.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Harriet Sergeant's review

Charlotte Fielder wrote this book for all parents who go for that first scan, or at the birth, find their new baby is missing a limb. It is a shattering experience. This excellent book offers them support, reassurance, moving and funny stories. It also offers something even more important. It offers the experience of Charlotte herself. For Charlotte was born without a left hand.

The first time I met Charlotte, it was at a Christmas party. She was entrancing a circle of people – mostly high ranking police officers and politicians. She was doing this by being entirely herself. She is funny, original and a very hardworking government employee. Everyone wanted to hear what she had to say. As she talked, she waved both her one beautifully manicured and beringed hand together with Fred, the name she gives her stump, with equal animation and confidence. Fred is never tucked away. He is out there as much a part of Charlotte as her kindness, style and humour.

This confidence appears to come to Charlotte as easily as breathing. In fact it was hard won as her determination to write this book shows. She was bullied at school and left at 16. She knows the humiliation of being a bright, attractive but one handed teenager. When she talks, you listen. But you do not despair. For Charlotte’s unique personality permeates every page. The ultimate message of this book to the new parent is one of hope. They will learn many things but the most important is that nothing need stop their child growing up to be like Charlotte – an amazing human being.

Harriet Sergeant is author of five widely aclaimed Think Tank reports on immigration, the NHS, the Police and the Care System. She has also written three books on South Africa, Shanghai and Japan. She has written for numerous newspapers and magazines in Britain and abroad and frequently appears on radio and television.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

'Unexpected Outcomes' and I will make you a personalised motivational fridge magnet!

I've had some unexpected outcomes!

I initially thought that writing 'Shared Experiences' was a very enriching experience, but I now think marketing it is equally so. Mainly because I am constantly amazed at how much effort my friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances are putting into spreading the word. I feel constantly humbled by their efforts. Today my friend Angela B forwarded me an email that she had sent to her mates and she has also offered to help with a major piece of fund raising later on in the year. It's so kind of her to put in so much effort in and I'm so grateful to her and everyone who has said 'yes' to buying a copy, have forwarded my link on, or have put one of my posters up on a notice-board somewhere. It feels like team-work so thank you. I hope you know that you really are helping to raise funds for Reach and children like Erin above, will benefit tremendously from your kindness .

Well I'm now a 'one woman road show' and last night I attended a Heathrow Rotary Club meeting as their 'after dinner' speaker. It's quite nice being an after dinner speaker - you get a great big fat cigar, a large brandy and you get to tell filthy jokes. I told a spectaculaly filthy joke about a doctor, his paient and a pair of under-pants........

However not last night, and not at Heathrow Rotary Club, who meet regularly at the Thistle Hotel, Longford and have a very civilised dinner before the meeting. We ate in the restaurant on the top floor with a terrace with the most amazing view of Terminal Five and the Northern run way. If you are an aviation enthusiast (or an anorak as I prefer to call you) then you must go and have a meal there. It's Heathrow's best kept secret. Well it was, but now I've told you!

Back to my evening with the Heathrow Rotarians. They are a lovely bunch of people (I've now made them sound like bananas) but they desperately need new members and you don't have to work at Heathrow to join. Let me know if you're interested and I'll email you th secretary's details.

They made me very welcome and I spoke to them for about 40 minutes about Reach and 'Shared Experiences'. Afterwards the President told us about her own grandmother who had grown up without an arm, went to Cambridge, drove a Rolls Royce and was partial to sawing branches off tress whist sitting on them.Clearly people with missing limbs are made of sterner stuff than other mere mortals!

The unexpected outcome was that Gillian, the president of Heathrow Rotary is very well connected to the Royal College of Midwives and is going to forward details to her associates. So another door opened. I'm delighted.

So I am now even more convinced that we attract whatever we focus on. If we think negative thoughts, we effectively draw them in, but equally if we think positive thoughts we draw them in too.

For the last few months I have been thinking very positive thoughts about how I am going to market 'shared Experiences and it's BLOODY working! I think the secret is to visualise what you want to achieve and go for it.

Reprogramming your thinking isn't easy and it doesn't happen overnight, but it is possible. So go for it! Think those positive thoughts and please let me know if you want me to if you want make a personaised motivational fridge magnet for you!

Thanks for reading this and following me on the Blogosphere

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Charlotte's thoughts on sales, cycle rides & other outcomes!

Thank you for looking at my 'Shared Experiences' blog which I have created to keep 'Shared Experiences' supporters up to date on where we are on the road to publication.

I appreciate all the interest and support expressed and demonstrated, as every copy sold makes money for Reach. During difficult and uncertain financial times small charities work hard to raise money so hopefully Shared Experiences will provide a steady income stream over the next few years. More about what Reach does with its donations in future blogs

Anyhow back to money - last night in the canteen at work, someone asked me about how much I would make from the sales. It was a well meant question because my colleague clearly thought I would have to be nuts to spent three years writing a book without payment! BUT please be assured this is my voluntary work. I am doing this for FREE.

I'm not on a percentage, so by buying a copy you are not paying for my next cruise!

There are of course other rewards. For example the sense of achievement and satisfaction of seeing something that started as a small idea becoming a stomping reality, but most of all my reward is the emails I have received from parents of children with visible deficiencies, some who contributed and many who didn't. That's really all the feedback I need. So if this book helps new parents through some dark days then how wonderful is that. And if you buy it because you are interested in other peoples' life experiences how wonderful are you - thank you.

A some what unexpected outcome is the increased level of interest this book has prompted in Reach

Now. I'm not a not a trustee of Reach - I am just a member, so please note whatever I say about Reach in these pages are my thoughts about the charity and I'm not expressing official views. I have to say that in case I inadvertently say something horribly controversial!

Back to the increased interest in Reach. Since I have been openly promoting Shared Experiences and talking to friends and colleagues about it, two of my colleagues are going to raise money for Reach on the Plymouth to Banjul rally (this will be covered in a future blog because it's a great story). Plus one of my friends is considering doing a cycle ride around Iceland (the country not the shop!) I cannot begin to describe how good it feels to engender such interest. I must have missed my true vocation selling replacement windows!

So please log into my blog from time to time. I somehow feel comforted knowing we're all hanging out together in cyber space!

woman on a mission

Please consider doing your 'on line' shopping via the attached link. It won't cost you an extra penny, but the retailers will give a percentage to Reach. Isn't that great? Thank you so much, for even thinking about it.

Message from Gary Phillips - Chairman of Reach

"As a charity supporting families of children with disabilities, we know how important it is for parents to feel that they are not alone in their situation. Charlotte's book provides that reassurance through the many experiences she has gathered here. It is an amazing read and will appeal to anyone, whether they are professionally or personally touched by disability or just interested in other's life experiences."

Gary Phillips Chairman of Reach - June 2009

To order pre-order your copy send an email to;

Gary is a Reach parent, father to Matthew and Thomas. The family joined Reach when Matthew was born with an arm deficiency, which was found on the 20 week pregnancy scan. Since joining Reach in 2000 they have regularly attended events organised by their local branch Wessex as well as the Family AGM Weekends.
He is responsible for starting the leadership weekends, to provide suitable leaders for the activity week and other events. He works for a large public sector organisation in IT and has considerable experience in working with young people, organising adventure activity trips for 10 – 18 year olds and running several cadet units in St John Ambulance. He was also instrumental in putting together Reach child protection policies and the new website.
Gary wants to ensure that Reach is fit for the 21st century and with the development of the 5 year plan looks forward to working with the members to ensure Reach is around for another 30 years. He can be contacted on

Friday, 24 July 2009

Frank Shapiro - Coach and Author

'A touching account that pulls no punches by saying what needs to be said regarding the fears of children and parents of children with upper limb deficiencies. Charlotte clearly displays an understanding of this topic and provides parents who find themselves worried about the future of a child with answers to questions that they might have. Her ‘cup half full’ approach is clear by the way she concentrates on the ability of the child when some may be stuck on the disability. By writing this book, Charlotte has given parents and children alike what they most need, reassurance.'

Frank Shapiro – Coach and Author

A note from Charlotte

Frank Shapiro is a Life Coach, Broadcaster, Freelance Writer, and Public Speaker. I met him on the Ventura. I attended his talk on 'personal passion' which was exceptional and at that point I realised that writing 'Shared Experiences' was my personal passion and not just my hobby.

The next day I started talking to Frank in the cyber-cafe and he is such an uplifing guy. The type of person who you want to stand next to for ages, so that some of his qualities rub off on you! Frank and I have become e-pals and there is a chance that if he is in the country, he will come along as an 'after dinner speaker' for a fundraiser I want to hold for Reach in 2010. If so, make you buy a ticket because he's good and you'll come away buzzing with enthusiasm.

Frank specializes in coaching High Profile people such as Models, Actors, Entertainers, and Celebrities, as well as Entrepreneurs and Professionals. Frank helps them discover how to achieve their career and personal goals, resulting in a more balanced life. Frank has a vast amount of experience in public speaking. He speaks on all subjects relating to health/well being and is available for workshops and seminars. Subjects covered also include personal development and business topics.

During Frank's 20 years of coaching, he has enabled scores of people to bring out the very best in themselves. His coaching background includes extensive corporate experience, where the emphasis has always been on the personal best of the individual, for the ultimate benefit of the entire organization.

Frank is especially interested now in the needs of the creative person, which stems from his association with an Entertainment Management company where he looks after artists, songwriters and producers. Subsequently, he has taken on the role of personal manager for a select group of this company’s clients, helping them to focus on achieving their individual career and personal goals.

Based on his experience as a coach, Frank believes that in order to be at your best, you need to be happy not only with your work but with your personal life as well. He also believes that his coaching works best for the person who feels they have a substantial gap between where they are now and where they want to be. In fact, he believes the wider the gap, the faster the results.

Frank has been professionally trained as a coach with Coach University. He is also a member of the International Coaching Federation and adheres to its pledge of standards, practices and ethics.

Adam Afriyie's review

Adam Afriyie MP for Windsor said;

'‘Charlotte’s personal determination and commitment to reach out to others affected by limb deficiency is overwhelming and this book is a wonderful testament to all her hard work.
Readers will be left humbled by the experiences of the contributors.

It is only through a publication like this that the veil can be lifted, from those unaffected, to glimpse into the lives of those with limb deficiency.

It is reassuring to know that there are people like Charlotte around, who are willing to listen, support and share their experience with parents who are faced with the shocking news that their child will have to face the challenge of limb deficiency.

When I first met Charlotte I was struck by her energy, optimism and drive and she has my very best wishes.’

July 2009

House of Commons:
Westminster, London, SW1A OAA

Windsor Conservative Association:
87 St. Leonards Rd, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 3BZ
Charlotte's notes
If you live in Windsor vote for Adam! He is the most sincerest of men and has a genuine interest in what his constituents are up to. I'm always struck by his natural ability to pick on up on threds of conversation from months before. He has a natural interest in people.
More notes from Adam's impressive CV
Adam has a gained a broad experience with service on parliamentary Select and Standing Committees to appointments ranging from policy development to party spokesperson:
Shadow Minister for Innovation, Universities & Skills - focussing on Science and Innovation. 2007.
Conservative Parliamentary Leader for TMT - Technology, Media and Telecoms. 2006.
Member of the Economic Competitiveness Policy Group, co-chaired by John Redwood and Simon Wolfson. 2006.
Chairman of the Deregulation Task Force. 2006.
Science & Technology Select Committee. 2005.
Finance Bill Standing Committee. 2007.
Welfare Reform Bill Standing Committee. 2006.
Lottery Bill Standing Committee. 2006.
Civil Aviation Bill Standing Committee. 2005.

Born in Wimbledon in 1965 to a white English mother and a black Ghanaian father, he attended former grammar school Addey & Stanhope in New Cross and went on to gain a BSc in Agricultural Economics from Imperial College (Wye) London University.
Living in Israel and visiting Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Holland, Denmark and Sweden in his gap year, his appetite for travel has not diminished over the years.
Sport has also played an important role and since captaining the basketball team at university Adam has remained a keen distance and charity runner and health and fitness amateur.
Over the last 30 years his sports have included cycling, tennis, badminton and skiing, but since a knee and foot operation activities have been somewhat restricted.
BusinessAdam’s business experience is well recognized. He was a regional finalist in the 2003 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the year awards, and in 2005 he sold his controlling interest in DeHavilland Information Services to EMAP plc.

He is also non-executive Chairman of Adfero Ltd - a news and information services company - and past appointments have included Governor of the Museum of London, Trustee of the Museum in Docklands and a director of Policy Exchange, the centre-right think tank.
As Patron of Berkshire Young Enterprise, Adam is keen to encourage teenagers to recognise their business skills as early as possible.

Having joined the Party in 1990, Adam is an experienced Conservative activist. During his time he has stuffed envelopes, delivered leaflets, surveyed, door-knocked and canvassed, run supporters clubs, chaired branches and spoken at conference on several occasions..
Selected as the candidate on 3rd October 2003, Adam was elected to Parliament as the MP for Windsor on 5th May 2005 with:- An increased share of the vote of 49.5%- An increased majority of 10,292- A swing against the LibDems of 1.2%

Cerrie Burnell's review

Cerrie Burnell, CBeebies Presenter wrote;

'A collection of experiences that take you on a journey of discovery, spanning decades, cultures and attitudes, in society and the medical profession. These stories are shocking, saddening, funny, inspiring and captivating. A brilliant realisation of life with one hand.'

Note from Charlotte

Many of you will recall that in February 2009, Cerrie shot into the headlines when a small number of parents complained that Cerrie CBeebies, children's TV presenter with one hand appearance was prompting awkward questions from young children.

So how should you explain this kind of disability to a child? No-one comes up with wrong-footing questions quite like a young child. And young, curious minds don't hesitate to point out differences in people they see around them. So when the BBC's children's channel CBeebies employed presenter Cerrie Burnell, who was born with only one hand, her appearance on television screens prompted a debate among parents about what they say to their children.

Online message boards on CBeebies and the BBC's disability magazine Ouch! were brimming with support for the employment of a person with a disability, and the way this educated children about diversity.
But a minority of parents expressed concern that Ms Burnell's appearance was "scaring" children. One father said he feared it would give his daughter nightmares and a mother said her two-year-old girl could not watch because she thought the presenter had been hurt.

Ms Burnell, 29, says she doesn't take this personally but these kind of comments highlight the prejudice that disabled people face.

Professor Simon Kay says -The surgery of congenital abnormalities of the hand is challenging and intricate, and this field attracts some of the most skilled and capable surgeons in the world. But, in treating children with such conditions, too few surgeons recognize that they are treating the child, the parents and the family. In fact, they are also treating someone who is not yet present: the future adult. To recognize that they are not simply treating an anatomical abnormality but a large intertwined group of people is difficult for some surgeons, and so this book should be compulsory reading. In fact it should be compulsory for all health care professionals interacting with children with congenital differences, and their families, because it will enable them to hear, and what they hear from the experiences in this book will remind them that the surgery is not the most important part of what they do. It should also teach lessons in courage and duty that will humble many.


Simon Kay, is Professor of Hand Surgery at the University of Leeds and a consultant Hand and Plastic and Reconstructive surgeon at the Leeds Teaching Hospital, UK. Simon is also a Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of UmeƤ, Sweden. He has developed one of the largest children's hand surgery services in the UK and has focused on microsurgery in reconstruction of congenital defects of children's hands. His research also includes brachial plexus surgery and nerve repair. He co-edited the world's major textbook in children's hand surgery, The Growing Hand. He led the first series of comprehensive syllabus based European instructional courses in hand surgery. He was the President of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand in 2007 and is president elect of the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons.

Alexa Tewkesbury's review

Award winning writer Alexa Tewkesbury writes - Been very busy and among other things have just edited a book called Shared Experiences written for parents and relatives of children with upper limb deficiency. The book has been produced in conjunction with REACH, a charity set up to provide advice and support for those affected in any way by upper limb deficiency. Author, Charlotte Fielder, has painstakingly brought together true stories, reflections and observations from parents bringing up upper limb deficient children - and they make amazing reading. When you have a visibly different child, it's not just about coping with your own emotions and the practicalities of life. It's about dealing with other people's reactions, too. Sad to say, many of the recorded experiences aren't good. Then again, many have found things far easier than they ever thought they would, and the humour both parents and children have been able to apply to their situations is definitely up-lifting. This isn't a book weighed down with full-on emotional trauma or heavy-weight psychology. Reading it is a lot like sitting down over a cup of coffee and having a chat with Charlotte herself. It's friendly and accessible - and where she shares any personal thoughts, it's safe to say Charlotte knows exactly what she's talking about. She herself was born with an upper limb deficiency. As she says in the book, she's been through it all, and the warmth and generosity of her personality shine through as she recounts, sometimes with startling honesty, what it's like to grow up with a visible difference in a world where tolerance for such things can at times be harshly sparse. Whether, you're affected by the issues or not, Shared Experiences is an informative, eye-opening and, at times, delightfully funny read.

Note from Charlotte

I adore Alexa. Not only is she an award-winning writer of many books for children, as well as an editor, proof reader, copywriter, story teller and voiceover artist, working with publishers, designers and film makers nationwide but she is also a genuinely lovely person and I would thorougly recommend her as an editor.

Based in the UK, Alexa works on a freelance basis and will undertake all types of writing commissions, such as corporate literature, advertising copy, website text and magazine articles.
She also offers services as an editor and proof reader, allowing you to make the most of your written words.

If your project needs a voice, Alexa’s skills as a voiceover artist and story teller embrace a range of vocal skills, styles and accents. Whether for advertisements, films, telephone message recordings or websites, Alexa will work with you to achieve the sound and delivery you are seeking.

Whatever you want to say, Alexa will help you say it precisely and professionally – because, after all… words matter.

Look her up on