I am the eldest of four children and the only girl in the family, which meant that as soon as I was able, I had to clean, iron and take my brothers out of the house. It was then that my bossy tendencies, later to be superbly well-satisfied in a teaching career, were honed. I was also writing, writing, writing. And drawing. Preferring solitary confinement than having to deal with my brothers, I read my way through our local Library. How well I remember making the leap from the children’s section into the adults. Feeling the weight of the Librarian’s gaze as I slipped into wonderland. Feeling at once ignored by adults, whilst also being scrutinised by them. She saw me three times a week for years, and must have known I was ready, but I don’t remember her face at all.
Aged 11 I passed the 11+ and chose my school because I liked the uniform. (How else is an 11 year-old expected to choose?) Things went well for several years until the need to ‘find myself’ (it was the 1970s) took my eye off the academic ball seriously enough for me to crawl out at 18 with just enough A levels to scrape me into a clerking job in a Bank.
Three years of counting money was enough. I applied to be a teacher. And it was good. Early on I mostly taught Drama (I couldn’t take English and Art at College, so I thought I’d give Drama a go, just to see). After ten years I was exhausted and switched to full-time English, did an M.Ed, took promotions.
A move to Devon boosted the upward trajectory of my career. And I stopped writing. Totally. The only writings to emerge were doggerel poems and the odd school panto. The work took everything I’d got. I loved it, but I had nothing left for anything else.
Move on several decades, and I made my escape. Now! Now is when I shall write, I declared. So, four years on, with my first novel published, and another one on the way, the decision to run away has proved to be the best thing I could have done. I was Vice-Principal of a Comprehensive School near Exeter when I left, and now I’m a struggling writer. Would I go back? Not on your nelly.
These days I do as much creative work as I can. I write short stories and poems and novels, walk, do yoga. I belong to a lovely writing group called Bow Wharf Writers, and I’m a volunteer at The Ferne Animal Sanctuary, where I edit the @ferne newsletter and enjoy bothering cats.
Life can be the thing that happens when you’re looking the other way, and, much as I love hearing about young people who get their publishing break early in their careers, for me, now is the right time, and I have so much to give.