Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Guest Post - Taking a chance on a creative writing course by Catherine Simpson - Chances Fortnight

I wrote my first book when I was eight and then got writer’s block for nearly forty years. I dreamed of writing a book throughout my teens and twenties but instead I trained to be a journalist – it seemed a more realistic way of making a living with words.

Journalism was good to us (my husband is a journalist too). I enjoyed interviewing people with amazing real life stories and writing them for women’s magazines including Woman’s Own and Closer. It was well-paid work I could fit in around raising two children, one of whom is autistic. I still had a dream of writing a book but I voiced that dream less and less and stopped believing it would ever happen.

Then when I was 45 my uncle died and left me a small legacy. At the same time a friend told me she’d signed up for a Creative Writing course with the Open University. I was galvanised into action. What better thing to spend my uncle’s legacy on than finding out once and for all if I could write fiction?

I took a chance and signed up.

This felt like an enormous risk because as long as I didn’t make an attempt to write fiction I couldn’t fail at it. But I think I’d got to the stage that the fear of failing was overtaken by the fear that I would never try at all.

The OU course was online and we were asked to write short pieces and submit them for critique by a small group of peers.

I sat at my kitchen table, brand new notebook in front of me, all ready to get going, knowing I would find out pretty soon if I could write things people enjoyed reading.

The first thing I learned (and very quickly) was that I loved doing the OU writing exercises. Once I started I didn’t want to stop. I realised creative writing was a way to find out what you thought about all sorts of things.

I was nervous when I pressed the ‘send’ button and my fledgling bits of work flew off to the members of my tutorial group.

I was delighted and relieved to receive positive feedback from someone who became a good friend and remains so today. From that moment my confidence began to grow.

I did two years of OU Creative Writing and, knowing I still had a lot to learn, I went on to do a Creative Writing MA at Edinburgh Napier University. As part of the MA I had to write the first 20,000 words of a novel. That novel became my debut novel, Truestory, about a woman struggling to raise a child with autism who refuses to leave the house. It is fiction inspired by my own experiences and is a book full of humour and hope.

I was awarded a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award when I submitted the opening passages of Truestory. The mentorship they offered helped me finish it. I got an agent shortly after and Truestory was published by Sandstone Press in 2015. I was 51 and it was a dream come true.

It has been translated into Danish and is due for publication in Denmark in May 2017.

My website:

My Amazon Author page:

Twitter: @cath_simpson13
Thank you so much Catherine for sharing your chance with us, It is always encouraging to know that its always possible to realise a dream no matter your age. 

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