A Little Background:
My parents were from Dundee and my father worked in the Jute industry. I was born in Calcutta and grew up on a jute mill compound on the edge of the River Hooghly, a tributary of the Ganges. I had an older brother at boarding school and my mother rescued baby parrots that fell out of nests and raised them. We left India to live in England when I was fifteen.
How I Started Writing:
I began my autobiography when I was eight and managed to fill almost a whole sheet of A4 paper on my dad’s typewriter. My dad said I could only be a writer if I had done something worthwhile.
I started reading and writing poetry between the years of ten and seventeen and then suddenly stopped. I went on reading fiction, had good marks for stories at school and a few prose pieces in the school magazine. My mother used to complain that I read my library books too quickly.
When I left school I was delighted to get a job at Longman, the publishers in Harlow. Later, I also worked at Cambridge University Press (the printers,) and briefly at Good Housekeeping Magazine in London. I then qualified as an English teacher . While my children were babies, I edited the Wokingham Branch National Childbirth Trust Newsletter for a year, before going to live in Singapore and Hong Kong.
We went abroad for two years and stayed for ten. It was in Singapore that I began writing full time. I started as a volunteer staff writer for the Singapore American Newspaper where a group of experienced and generous writers, and the wonderful camaraderie, taught me so much about writing and gave me the confidence to write for publication. Over the next eight years I wrote over forty articles for local magazines and newspapers: feature articles, restaurant reviews, book reviews, travel articles and a brochure.
I interviewed writers and scholars and gave lectures on local culture at the Singapore National Museum. I was also a volunteer study group supporter at the museum and a volunteer guide at the Jurong Bird Park.
Becoming a Non-Fiction Author:
In 1989 I stopped writing articles and began writing books. When my first book on parrots was launched at the Jurong Bird Park, I hoped my father would think I had finally done “something worthwhile”. I wrote two more books in Singapore before moving to Hong Kong in 1990.
In Hong Kong I began a fourth book. It was to be called “Skeleton At the Table” and was to be a much larger book on the history of the opium trade. I found some wonderful illustrations and made it to the penultimate chapter before we had to leave Hong Kong. Sadly, it had to be put aside for more pressing things and the manuscript now languishes in one of my desk drawers.
Working and Studying Back in the UK:
When our family returned to England in 1992, I worked at a garden centre and qualified as an adult education tutor. After teaching creative writing at various venues in Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, I applied to several Universities to do an MA in Creative Writing Classes, including St Andrews in Scotland. I got a place at all of them but I chose Sheffield for the city’s warm and friendly atmosphere. At the time, Scotland seemed to far away.
Towards the end of my MA I had two short stories published and one broadcast on Radio 4. I was also invited to read at the Oxford and Hay literary festivals.
After I completed my MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam I worked part time at ‘Sheffield Environmental Training’, embedding literacy and key skill programmes into NVQ’s in Environmental Conservation and Horticulture. I also ran day time and evening classes in creative writing for the WEA (Workers Educational Authority)
The End of my Travels:
I remarried in 2004, and, several years later, moved from Sheffield to Scotland. I began a M.Phil at Glasgow University (Dumfries Campus) but gave it up to buy my dream house and garden in the far west of Dumfries and Galloway. Since I settled here I have returned to writing poetry and have had a series of poems published. I work part-time at a small theatre while I write fiction and poetry and work on new ideas for book. I fit in blog posts when I can.
Some Things I Love:
– Geese flying overhead
– Hot baths
– The smell of earth after rain
– Tidy rooms
– New shoes
– Laughing with old friends
– Black and white cows on the hillside
– Reggae Music
– Patchwork quilts
– The crunch of scissors cutting through fabric
– When something that I’m writing turns out well
Something for Room 101 (pet hate):
Cooking. Why cook when you could be doing something much more exciting, like writing a poem? It won’t disappear ten minutes after you have spent time and effort creating it, either.
Have a look at my page called the ‘Writing Room’. It will tell you a bit more about the ‘writing side’ of me.
See you there –
If you want to contact me: