From there to here

I’ve had to write a bio for something I’m working on and it’s made me consider how I got into this writing lark in the first place.

Like many other people, I became interested in writing creatively at school and seemed to excel at it. I had a very encouraging teacher, which helped. I was also a very keen reader as a child – I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on; even the cereal packets at the breakfast table.

But I didn’t get into writing for a living in the conventional way. Actually, I never seem to do things in the normal way! Most people these days take their A’levels in the sixth form and go onto Uni; studying English, or Creative Writing, or Media Studies or something relevant. Instead, I did a business studies course, started working at 16 and a half in a variety of jobs and studied English A’level at night school. Some years later I enrolled on one of the writing correspondence courses of the type you see advertised in magazines, so for a couple of years I was doing assignments with my tutor on short stories, articles, life writing and more. At that time I found I was better at the non-fiction pieces and started writing for a church magazine and speculatively for a couple of local publications.

Not long after, I was working for a local community magazine as a reporter and editorial assistant, progressing to Editor which was more of a case of being in the right place at the right time I guess. Since then, I have been a writer and editor for a number of publications and organisations, as well as a freelance copywriter, PR consultant and editor, whilst also cutting my teeth as a children’s author and short story writer. My writing career has spanned 25 years and I have earned a good living through writing/editing everything from adverts and press releases through to features and website copy.

More recently, I have concentrated on writing fiction; so far it hasn’t been nearly as succesful or lucrative but I’m working on it.

I’m hoping that my unusual introduction to a writing career will inspire others. Yes, of course it would have been easier to do that degree at the beginning of my career but, I’ve trained and learned as I have gone along and had a rich and varied life to draw upon for subject matter. The most important thing I have learned is that if you really want something, you must have self belief that it can happen.

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Fiction writing and events

Recently I went to an event along with two other members of my writing group @vivmillera and @mapike2013. It was run by the Dorset Writers’ Network at the Arts University of Bournemouth. The best aspects of the event were that a) it was free and b) you got a chance to meet with other writers.

I really enjoy meeting up with other scribes and hearing what they’ve been working on;  whether they are old hands at this writing stuff, or whether they are completely new to it and finding their way. The age range comprised Uni students in their twenties to octogenarians, and quite a few in-betweenies like me, proving age is certainly no barrier to writing.  It was a pleasure to bump into Tracy Baines and Gail Aldwin and a few other people I knew.

As a bonus, there were two mini workshops; one by Maria Donovan looking at how to pitch your novel to agents and publishers and the other by Peter Roe about using modern media (smartphones) as a device to move on your story, rather than by face-to-face conversation. This is the session I had picked and it certainly gave me food for thought.

At the book sales table I met Kathy Sharp, who was doing a grand job selling other people’s books as well as her own. I hadn’t realised how many she had written. I fear I can never come away from a book sale or shop without buying something, so I finally decided on Maria Donovan’s intriguingly entitled novel The Chicken Soup Murder. I’m a sucker for a good title! The last book I bought based on its title alone was Game of Scones by Samantha Tonge, which I enjoyed. And, though I have only got through the first few pages of Maria Donovan’s book, the beginning is excellent.

Of course, attending workshops and events means there is less time for the actual writing but, I always come away inspired, and ready to do battle with the computer keyboard again. Happy writing!