During the 70s I spent some time as the roving hack for my school’s magazine, The Pilgrim.
In this role I penned memorable exclusives such as an account of the school history society, and a review of its well-stocked museum. But it wasn’t until a few years later that I was bitten by the desire to write.
It was through reading novels that I was so stricken — specifically those by Wilbur Smith — so it followed that a good chunk of my enthusiasm would be for writing fiction. But where to begin? Enthusiasm might go some way toward fuelling ability but I realised that talent (whatever the level) must be taught.
That then was during the mid-70s. Now we must fast-forward to 1994, the year I finally decided to take action.
… plus ability …
Whilst there are undoubtedly many more opportunities to learn pretty much anything nowadays thanks to a burgeoning internet, there were several tuition options open to me at the time.
In my view, the writing course that stood above all others was that run by the Writers’ Bureau. It was well respected in the market place, had received consistently high reviews and came recommended.
The course provided — and continues to provide — wide-ranging creative writing tuition, not only in short fiction and novel writing (across several genres), it also included non-fiction (letters, articles and features) and script-writing (radio plays and screenplays, for film and television).
Along with sound writing tuition it provided valuable guidance on presenting and selling the resulting work. A good grounding then for any enthusiastic wordsmith.
The course also came with a money-back guarantee. If by the end of it I failed to earn enough from my writing to cover my costs I could claim them back. That sealed the deal.
… nets rewards
As it turned out, I didn’t need to resort to making a claim. Having adopted the guidance given by my excellent tutor, Nick Daws, by the time I posted my final assignment my earnings had exceeded my course costs. If that wasn’t surprising enough, ninety percent of those earnings was from non-fiction.
So, helped by ‘The Bureau’, I received training across a range of writing formats which in turn served to broaden my level of interest and capabilities.
Whilst my heart remains firmly in producing fiction, I can — and do — turn my hand to other forms of writing as the mood and opportunity takes me. I’ve added some examples on subsequent pages. One such piece, however, I’ve included below.
Seeing my name in print and being paid for my work has been intensely satisfying, but the highlight of my literary education and the event that bolstered my confidence to continue to write creatively was winning a competition run by the UK’s Writers News magazine.
The task was to produce a piece of pseudo-journalism, a mock April Fool spoof of the kind often published in newspapers on the first of that month. The piece was to be a maximum of two hundred and fifty words. My article, titled Passengers wanted for Mary Rose matched that word-count exactly. Here it is: