Tuesday 1 January 2008


Stories and story-telling have always played an important part of my life. My parents always read a night-time story to my brother and I, and my father actually made up his own stories, too: The Adventures of Mr Motty about an engine-driver, Tommy, his assistant, a flying bed and a talking pig (long before flying beds and talking pigs became the vogue in children's stories.)

And the radio, also, was a medium for stories. I remember, as a small child, my brother and I sitting on inset stone seats either side of the electric fire, after lunch, listening to the 'Listen With Mother', which I guess was on The Home Service then. And afterwards, we'd have our afternoon nap. Stories, radio and afternoon naps have remained in my repertoire of enjoyable experiences to be indulged in as often as time allows.

How magical it was to be transported into another world where anything and everything can happen: the terror and excitement of Grimm's Fairy Tales: Enid Blyton's 'Famous Five' etc with the adventurous children, the dog and afternoon tea with mother's home baked scones and lashings and lashings of butter and jam! (once I could read for myself) and then, when I was studying English, the great literature of the world telling the most heart-wrenching stories. And more, far more. Stories, poems, plays: they all have the ability to enrich life, understand life, cope with life.

So, when I decided to train as a Primary School Teacher at St John's College, York, it was no surprise that I opted to take English as my main subject; a decision which I appreciate now, to have been a very wise one (although I'm sure I didn't realise it at the time.) The only writer I really couldn't stand in my studies was D.H.Lawrence: all that angst and introversion and class struggle. Help!

I've taught at infant, junior and secondary level (English and Drama) in both England and Cyprus, where I lived for 5 years, and with all the moving around from place to place, I've always been able to find a teaching job and private teaching, so it was a good career to have chosen.

But I wanted to write as well - have done since I was young. The first piece of writing I had published was in the school magazine when I was in the Writer's Club, as a pupil, at Marple Hall Grammar School. Ironically, it was a poem about the conflict between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the 60's. I had seen a item about the inter-communal fighting on the news and had been moved to write about it. Little did I know, then, that one day I would be part of that conflict and would become a refugee after the Turkish Invasion of that beautiful country in 1974.

Whilst I was living in Cyprus, I wrote my first children's novel: The Adventures of Matilda and Archibald, the dragon. I also drew pictures for it but, sadly, it got left behind, with all my other possessions, in 1974.

Anyone who knows anything about teaching will know that increasingly, over the years, the work load has expanded at an alarming rate, reaching the point where it is now ridiculous, so there was no time for personal writing, apart from those times when I was supply teaching, when I wrote my own version of The Adventures of Mr Motty , plus a few short stories.

I sent my Mr Motty novel to a few publishers, not knowing that a synopsis and covering letter were essential (so amateurish, I realise now) and the stories to Radio 4, blissfully unaware that it's easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than get an unsolicited story read on Radio 4.

I did, however, have a letter published in The Independent in response to a journalist's scathing remarks about the Duchess of York's toe-sucking scandal and a letter of mine was read out on "Any Answers' on Radio 4. The start of my journalistic career!

About 6 years ago, I decided to quit teaching and concentrate on writing. By this time, I had mainly been teaching English so had learnt a lot about the art of writing but I decide to supplement this with a correspondence course with The Writer's Bureau, which was very productive. What I did learn, more than anything, was that I didn't know much about writing at all! And improving my writing, searching for /developing the great writer in me has been an exciting journey. It's as though I have a second life now. It doesn't pay as much as teaching (so far!) but I love, love, love it!

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