>How I started

>Teresa started it, and if you’d like to see her post, you can find it here.

Apologies if you’re sick of reading this (my) story. :o)

I never knew I wanted to be a writer. Okay, all of my school teachers thought I should also be a poet (whatever the day job), but I hated and detested poetry. Still do. If it doesn’t go tum-ti-tum-ti-tum-ti-tum, I’m not at all interested. However, no-one ever said “you should write a book” or even “you should be a journalist”. Instead, I was told: “You should be a nurse.” (I got too tall to dance …) And so I started my pre-nurse training …

It was at the age of 20, in 1984, that me, my (then) fiance and my dad were at my dad’s cousin’s in Worcester talking about a letter she had found written to her mother many, many years before. I’m not going to go into detail because it’s very personal to my dad. However, I started to learn about his dad (my dad and his older brother were orphans), and I found out he used to play billiards and snooker. He was so good he used to play with his walking stick (he couldn’t afford a cue), and he beat the late great Joe Davis at billiards – all of the snooker world knew the stories about my paternal grandad, even among players still famous today.

And so I wrote to the Kidderminster Shuttle to see if anyone remembered my grandad, and the replies I got were so moving and so numerous (one man even cut out a cartoon* he had in a very old newspaper that featured my grandad), that I suddenly said “I could write a book”, and my dad said “go on then”.

But I didn’t know where to start, and this has to be one of the most daft stories ever – I was reading Jackie Collins at the time, can’t remember which one, and Corgi were publishing her … So I got the publisher address out of the front of the book and fired off a letter: “Dear Sir/Madam, I’d love to write a book, which I think you’d be interested in. Would you tell me how to go about it, please? Thanking you in anticipiation, etc, etc …”

Well, I should never have received a reply to that letter, I didn’t even enclose a stamped, addressed envelope. It should have gone straight in the bin, once everyone had had a jolly good laugh about it. But I did receive a reply and I wish I’d kept it. A lovely lady took the time to write me a personal letter, suggesting I enrol in a writing class, get hold of Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, join a local writers’ group, and maybe get a few stories or articles under my belt.

And so I did. I enrolled on the then Successful Writers correspondence school from David & Charles (before they became successful publishers). I spent hours pouring over the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook at the library and bought their previous year’s copy from them. I joined the then Birmingham Writers’ Group. And in 1985, following a rather horrid manuscript reading (a few BWG members, for some reason, thought you had to serve a 20 year apprenticeship, that you couldn’t just come along one day and decide to be a writer, it wasn’t fair to those that had been writing for years), I had my first short story published. (The wanting to write story is repeated on this same archive post.)

I put my mind to it and I did it.

Why can’t I do that now?

Anyway, the rest, as they say, is history, and for those that don’t already know the story of how I became a non-fiction writer, ask for it and I’ll provide it in another post.

How was it for you? How did you start? When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

*Oh, and I still have the cartoon. I may scan it one of the days and post it as a pic.

10 thoughts on “>How I started

  1. Shirley Wells 30 June 2009 / 11:17 am

    >I love the letter to Corgi. :o)I started in much the same way, thinking "I could do that" when I read a short story. My first letter to a magazine started as "Excuse me, I'm not a real writer, but I've penned this story and wonder if you'd like to publish it." And they did. They even sent me a cheque. :o)


  2. carolwarham 30 June 2009 / 12:00 pm

    >I always loved words. As a child I would spend hours laboriously creating comics for my friends. I became a trained jounalist, but think I was a little unrealistic about journalism (starry-eyed). When the children were small I did a little free-lancing and have had anecdotes published in the last few years but for a long, long time now I have just written for pleasure.


  3. Josie 30 June 2009 / 12:20 pm

    >great post! first time I've read your story about being a writer.Josie x


  4. Diane 30 June 2009 / 1:10 pm

    >Shirley: As if Corgi even considered non-fiction books like mine would be. They were (and probably still are) into mass-market fiction. I love your story though, especially the cheque part.


  5. Diane 30 June 2009 / 1:11 pm

    >Carol: You've been commenting on here for years and that's the first time you ever said you used to be a journalist. I think your last words say it all, though, "… for pleasure …". If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't do it.


  6. Diane 30 June 2009 / 1:11 pm

    >Josie: Thank you. That means you won't be bored by the story yet. :o)


  7. Melissa Marsh 30 June 2009 / 2:28 pm

    >I remember the exact time and what I was doing when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I was sitting on my bed after school, reading a Rosalind Laker book, The Smuggler's Bride, and I thought, "I could do this." And that was it. I set up shop downstairs (I believe I was in the 6th grade at the time – about 12 years old) with my mother's manual typewriter, an old school desk, and sheer determination.I still have that first manuscript. :-)I think when you say, "Why can't I do that now?" harkens to a conversation I had with my friend the other day about this. Back then, writing for us was something new and exciting and FUN. Now we know it's hard work and for some reason, the joy and fun has gone out of much of it – and perhaps we've allowed that to happen. Perhaps try and get back that feeling of joy you had when you first started and how much fun you had writing.


  8. Teresa Ashby 30 June 2009 / 4:20 pm

    >What a smashing inspiring post, Diane and I agree about poetry – if it doesn't have that tune, I'm not interested either!And your letter to Corgi – what a lovely reply you got!Please do show us the cartoon!


  9. Diane 1 July 2009 / 9:02 am

    >Melissa: I think that's why I keep going back to how-to books and books with USEFUL exercises (as opposed to exercises for the hell of it). I'm also much more prolific when my income depends on it.


  10. Diane 1 July 2009 / 9:03 am

    >Thank you, Teresa. I think the cartoon is in the loft – well, I think the folder with all the letters, etc, is in the loft. But I will scan it in one of the days. It's a lovely sketch.


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