Sidmouth Writers Group celebrated its third birthday last Friday – and the guest of honour was one of its members turned best-seller.

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Iris Jones Simantel blew out the candles on a cake to cap off “fabulous” celebrations to mark the anniversary.

Iris’ first book, Far From the East End, was published by Penguin in July and has been in the Sunday Times bestsellers lists ever since.

The book covers Iris’s life up to the age of 16, with her experiences of her early life in war torn London and Essex, evacuation to Wales and post war teens, growing up on a new estate near Watford.

Over the last three years, Iris has enthralled fellow writers group members with tales of her childhood, offering a tantalising glimpse of her book in progress. Beating thousands of other entries in Saga magazine’s life story competition, she got her first publishing deal at the age of 74.

Writers group member Alison Kerruish said: “The group was delighted to have an opportunity to talk with Iris at length and she gave a fascinating account of what motivated her writing, talking from the heart about her life and also her experience of writing the book.”

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