Have you thought about becoming a writer? It isn’t for everyone - that’s for sure - but for some of us it is a tremendously fulfilling new direction. You may want to write a memoir for your family and friends, or magazine articles, or stories, or a novel. I hope this short account of my own journey will give you ideas about how to get going.
An advert for a weekend workshop caught my eye. It was called ‘Storytelling and the Imagination’ and the tutor was David Almond, the writer of Skellig and other novels for children and young adults. Did I have an imagination? This was my chance to find out. I was terrified. There were about ten of us and it was soon obvious that we were all terrified. But that passed very quickly and we all joined in the exercises David set us, read out our efforts and lapped up his encouragement. David wrote on the board ‘George looked in the mirror and screamed’ and we had to continue the story. By the end of that weekend I had written a short story called ‘The Pimple’ about a man about to go on his first Internet date.
After that I took a ten session course run by our local university continuing education department, with Sara Banerji who at eighty has recently published her eleventh novel. Another inspirational teacher
By now I was getting into my stride and managed to get a few stories accepted, and listed in competitions. I took out subscriptions to some useful magazines: Writing Magazine, Writers Forum and MsLexia. With some of my new writing friends I self-published two short story collections on Kindle. (No, they didn’t make our fortune, but it cost us nothing and it was a lot of fun.)
My dreamed-of novel was still just a few unconnected episodes in draft form. But then I struck lucky. I had a windfall, inherited from a distant relative I’d never heard of. Just enough to pay for the dream course: ‘Finish the first draft of your novel’, run jointly by The Guardian and the University of East Anglia.
And the tutor would be Adam Foulds author of the Booker-shortlisted The Quickening Maze, one of my favourite novels ever
Only problem: you had to send quite a large sample of your writing in with your application, as this course, unlike the others I had done, is selective.
Well, I got in. The other students were all amazing writers and their critiques, as well as Adam Foulds’, were ‘bracing’.
And now four years later I have a publisher for my novel Timed Out, about an older woman trying to turn her life around. It has been hard work, but well worth the effort.
And novel number two is on its way.
Timed Out can be purchased as a paperback and an e-book from Amazon, as an e-book from Kobo, and Apple i-books, as a paperback and an e-book from Nook and as a paperback and an e-book from Driven Press.