‘A Very Selective History of My Life as a Writer’

 ‘A Very Selective History of My Life as a Writer’

1972 – born in the shadow of Wembley football stadium, London. My scream such that the then England football manager, Alf Ramsey, who is diligently working at his desk, tilts his head, wondering what he just heard.

1977 to 1982 – various attempts at “what-I-did-in-my-school-holidays” stories, I expect.

1983 – tasked with reading Graham Greene’s The Comedians at school. Incomprehensible to eleven-year-old me. I flee into a universe of Clive Cussler adventure yarns and Sword of Shannara fantasy novels. (Later, much later, I go back to Greene’s books and make a good friend.)

1986 – England men’s football team knocked out of World Cup by Maradona’s “Hand of God” mischief. Nation devastated. Team needing an overhaul. Sit waiting for a phonecall. Waiting.

1988 – I write a commentary at school about Ted Hughes’s poem ‘Pike’ which begins: “The first thing to say about this poem is that it’s long and thin – like a pike.” My best friend and school rival tries to embarrass me about this. To be fair, I deserved it.

1989 – head over heels, falling hard for Edward Thomas’s poems and Joseph Conrad’s sea stories. Clive Cussler who?

1992 – setting off jet-fuelled for university, desperate to study literature even though teachers warn me otherwise.

1995 – graduate from Oxford, but can’t bear to read a single book again. Ever.

1997 – I pick up a book again. Not a very good one, but it’s something after two years of abstaining.

2001 – ending up as as a market research consultant and focus group facilitator for shiny corporate clients, helping them figure out why people rely on favourite brands of shampoo and toilet paper. Suddenly out of work. “What am I doing with my life?” Sven-Goran Eriksson now England men’s football manager. Still no phonecall. Feeling glum, I console myself by writing a poem about walking by the Grand Union Canal. Keep working on it for about 8 years.

2002 to 2009 – helping charities in the third sector. Various attempts at “where-am-I-headed-with-my-life” poems. Writing is consolation and play.

date uncertain – little by little, writing is taking me over. I start to think of myself as a “writer”. I roll the sound of the word around my head. It’s a new hat and I like how it feels.

2004 – set up the UK’s only poetry magazine for the modern sonnet. Because why not.

2009 to 2011 – MA in Writing at Kingston University. First taste of teaching at the Bradbury Active Age centre with a group of retired lovelies. It feels just like being a focus group facilitator. Except we’re not talking about shampoo or toilet roll. Hooked.

2011 – debut poetry pamphlet collection He Said / She Said published by HappenStance Press. Small, quiet tears of joy in kitchen, possibly. Thank you, Nell Nelson.

2013 – decide to make a living teaching full-time in adult education. Delusional, possibly. But convinced.

2013 to date – various successes with “what-other-people-do-with-their-lives” stories. Poetry/fiction bigamist.

2018 – novella-in-flash Three Men on the Edge – a short novel composed of three linked short-short story sequences – published by V. Press. Shortlisted for Saboteur Award for Best Novella in 2019.

Now – Editor, Higher Education lecturer, coach. Writing still consolation and play. An identity. And somehow a job and somehow still a hobby. A lens through which to see the world. A way to learn.