The two dreams had always been there: be a writer, work as a university lecturer. Yet I was stuck in my role as teacher of modern foreign languages. And after all, that was the fulfilment of another dream – to be fluent in two foreign languages.
Yet even when I got the kick-start to taking my writing seriously I still dabbled in the foreign language scene. Another ambition was to become a head of modern languages. I did that for six years and finally left full-time high school teaching in 2000.
My eureka moment about writing led me to establishing a routine, which led me to Writers’ Register, part of the continuing education initiative of the University of Southampton, which led me to doing an MA in Writing for Children and the University of Winchester (at that time rather charmingly named King Alfred’s College). A few weeks after I graduated I received my first publishing contract.
I missed university life, however, and soon found myself applying to do a PhD. Winchester didn’t offer them at that time but on my tutor’s recommendation I applied to the University of Wales, Bangor and was accepted.
Then came a life of a 600 mile round trip most weeks, living in a house share (postgrad at least), post-lunch coffees in the postgrad room with the theologians, teaching undergrads and postgrads and the challenge of writing a YA novel that aligned with the definition of what a YA novel is, a definition I was trying to pinpoint by studying numerous texts (in many languages and in other Englishes), publishers’ guidelines and the opinions of educationalists and young adult themselves.
As the period of study drew to an end, I began again to realise that I would miss the university way of life, so I started to look for posts in higher education. I secured one at the University of Salford so reduced my round trip to 300 miles. I’m glad to say we have since moved to the North West and I’m really glad we did; we’re near to Manchester, a vibrant and culturally rich town, the cost of living is considerably lower here than it was on the south coast and we’re pretty well bang in the middle of the UK, so nowhere is too far away.
I’m retired now but I’m still doing a little work now and then for the university, and a lot of writing and publishing. My languages are still bubbling away there in the background – I’ve joined U3A conversation groups for French, German and Spanish. And I’ve now also become a publisher.
I gained my PhD and started my new career in higher education when I was 55. When I was very young and we used to go on seaside holidays to Colwyn Bay I used to dream of going to the teacher training college at Ross on Sea. I sort of got there but overshot a little; Bangor is just up the road form Ross on Sea and it has a university rather than a teacher training college.