Some people have known all their lives that they wanted to write fiction – I’m not one of them.
I’ve always been comfortable with the written word. It’s probably because I was lucky to benefit from a good education, acquiring a solid grasp of language and grammar at an early age. I was luckier still to be taught at senior school by an enthusiastic trio of English teachers who instilled in me a love of books and a passion for the theatre. Outside the demands of the classroom and homework, I even wrote for pleasure – but not fiction; I became part of the small team who edited and produced the school magazine. Throughout my adolescence I picked up pen-friends around the world and I loved receiving and sending rambling missives about all the things that challenge, delight and perturb teenage girls.
In my working life, I’ve written just about every kind of commercial material you can imagine – marketing letters and email campaigns, RFPs and proposals, fact sheets, newsletters and case studies, white papers and websites, blogs and brochures and much, much more. But, until the last 5 years or so – no fiction. (Okay, careful now, I know some people might regard some marketing material as drifting perilously close to fiction, but let’s not get into that one.)
After decades of focus on work and commercial concerns, including pushing hard for career changes and then going freelance on the back of a redundancy, my creative brain – if it ever existed – was thoroughly submerged beneath layers of analytical and practical thinking.
But things began to change in 2007. A friend of mine had taken up paper-crafting and was finding it a relaxing and creatively satisfying hobby. At the time, I thought it all seemed a bit inconsequential, although to be fair, that’s probably the point of a hobby. But the cards she produced were mini works of art, utterly beautiful and such a pleasure to receive – I still have every one she has sent me. So one day, I took the plunge and bought myself a basic card kit and at Christmas 2007, I produced a very unremarkable collection of handmade Christmas cards.
I moved forward from my early attempts – licky-sticky card-making. I searched out You Tube videos and watched crafting telly; I bought magazines and strained to see the experts at work at crafting events. Gradually I began to get into the experimental and creative type of card-making my friend so much enjoyed – and I loved it.
For me, it’s an enormous pleasure to design and create a card for someone I care about. I’m not focussed on any one kind of card-making; I enjoy trying different styles and learning new techniques. And I’m a sucker for a seemingly endless selection of supplies – things like paper, inks, tools, dies, paints, foils and miscellaneous accessories.
Until I started playing with inks and paper, I honestly believed I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. Card-making is where I realised I had a creative side to my brain and more than that, it was desperate to be liberated. And if I could apply it to making little works of art for my friends, why couldn’t I apply it to my long-favoured creative environment – the written word?
You don’t know until you try, so in Autumn 2009, I attended my first Arvon Foundation course – called ‘Starting to Write’, and I… started to write.
I began with three short stories, one of which amazingly won Writing Magazine’s monthly prize and was printed in the magazine. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Within a few months of typing my first few words of fiction, I’d received a cheque. Prize money or payment for publication – whatever you call it, I was elated.
And with that £200, the genie was out of the bottle.