Note: I’ve split this out from a previous post so I can add it as a sticky to the top of the page. Apologies to all who’ve already read it!
I started writing in 1985. I wanted to write short stories for magazines, which I did. And I even sold a few. Right from the off, which was great and hugely motivating.
Then a magazine I’d sent a few unsuccessful stories to actually took me on as a regular feature writer. When I had a few features with them under my belt, they started to buy my short stories. And then their sister title also started to commission me for articles.
A friend at a writers’ group I belonged to was a creative writing instructor, and she was retiring to the country. When the Adult Education department she worked for (in Solihull) asked if she could recommend a replacement, for some reason she recommended me. I hadn’t done any teaching at all, but she recommended me, and I went to work as a supply teacher teaching adults how to write.
Before long, another AE department contacted me and asked if I’d like to teach creative writing for them too. This one was with Birmingham City Council and there were lots and lots of smaller, more local departments who also had creative writing classes. They also ran IT classes they wanted me to run. Soon I was pretty much working full time hours as a supply teacher as well as writing features and short stories for magazines.
I had a day job in those days too.
At about the same time, I started a new writers’ group in Birmingham with two friends and we were able to secure National Lottery funding for a series of workshops throughout the summer. I managed those. I had five workshops all together:
- writing poetry (when I met the wonderful Alison Chisholm and her husband)
- writing articles (when I met the wonderful Gillian Thornton)
- writing plays (when I met the wonderful Simon Brett)
- writing short stories (when I met the wonderful Shirley Worrall, later Shirley Wells)
- writing novels (where a wonderful friend of mine from a Solihull writers’ group agreed to lead it, as she wrote as Alison York for Mills & Boon at the time)
I learnt a lot on each of these workshops, and I even wrote a poem or two, something I rarely do.
Shirley became a good friend who I met up with once a month for many years. Simon was so good, so funny, so entertaining we kept on asking him to come back. And Alison and I became colleagues after Gillian suggested I take over her Market Index column at Writers’ News, which I did for about ten years.
As a result of me writing Market Index for Writers’ News, Writers’ News asked if I’d like to teach some of their distance learning classes. And over the next ten or fifteen years, I taught three of those.
Also as a result of writing Market Index, one of the editors I interviewed asked me to work for him on a bird magazine. Then he took me with him to a football (soccer) magazine. And then he took me with him to a publisher of licensed activity annuals.
During this time, I trained and qualified as a broadcast journalist with BBC local radio, Radio WM. I worked briefly as a reporter for a local newspaper and then a community newspaper, and I crossed to the other side of the editing desk to become a (deputy) sub-editor, an editor, and an editor-in-chief on several magazines. I had several columns in several magazines, I was a regular features writer for several more, and I was still selling short stories.
While I was doing all of the teaching, Birmingham City Council sent me on a year-long teacher-training course. At the end of it I got my C&G in teaching. If I’d stayed around, they would have put me through my advanced teaching too. But I moved from the midlands to Yorkshire, and gave up the face to face teaching.
Oh yes, and I became a freelance activist for the NUJ, serving on two of their industrial councils (Freelance Industrial Council and Equality Council) and attending two of their annual delegates’ meeting, one of which I even spoke at. 😱 I was able to continue being an activist after I moved to Yorkshire. I’m surprised that some are still surprised by just how militant I can be.
So I think I’ve had a full and varied career over the years, culminating in ghostwriting twelve Regency romance novels over a period of about two years, and indie-publishing 54 of my own books, of varying lengths, over a twelve-month period. One a week. (I made it 54 so the graphic looked nicer when they were all done. Mild OCD.) (Find them here.)
Over all of this time, over ALL of it, apart from a couple of weeks work experience when I was on my course, I haven’t written a single thing for nothing. And even then it was for work experience that contributed to my qualification. I’ve not written a single thing for free. I’ve always been paid, in some shape or form, including copies of books. And I never, ever wrote an article unless I’d already sold it. Please, unless it’s something close to your heart, don’t write for free.
The first and only writing course I ever completed was something called Successful Writers. The publisher of this went on to create Writers’ News, now incorporated into Writing Magazine after it was sold to Warners Group Publications.
I’m always keen to learn more, though, and you might wonder why.
Well, it’s simple.
- Things change
- You can always learn something new
- Writing can become stale
I love to read writers’ guides and how-to-write books. I love listening to successful writers speak. I’m really interested in how other writers spend their days. And I love to attend courses and workshops on how to write or how to write better.
There will be more about me and my writing later in the month.
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