I’d just reached an age at which it’d become flattering to be ID’d when buying a case of Côtes du Rhône and a six-pack of Carlsberg at the local wine seller, when I decided to take my dream to be a writer seriously.
Copywriting had been part of my career for over a decade, and satisfied some of my creative cravings, but I needed more. I wanted to rekindle my dream of writing a novel, one that began, aged six, when my class was challenged to publish a book with the help of cereal packets, double-sided sticky tape and paint that, looking back, I probably shouldn’t have eaten. With luck, I escaped any ill effects but, as I got older and life took over, my dream was pushed to the back of a draw along with a gang of Barbies, dehydrated Play-Doh and a teddy with one eye.
Now I’d committed, once more, to writing a novel, it would be simple, wouldn’t it? However, after a couple of years’ effort, a few more crates of Côtes du Rhône and a reservoir of coffee, I realised that wasn’t the case. I needed help.
Thankfully, I was offered a place on a creative writing course run by the fabulousFaber Academy. (Cue more wine to celebrate and a phone call to my credit card company.) What a relief it was to be in the company of other writers. I no longer felt mad. Slowly, with structured learning and feedback, my writing started to improve. I knew where I was going wrong, how to get it right and was warmed by the encouragement. I’d also got into one of the most critical disciplines for writing well: Close reading.
If you’re into retro photography or had x-ray results a few years back, you’ll be familiar with light boxes. They illuminate things so they can be examined. That’s what I felt I was doing with the books I was now reading. How enlightening it was to explore what every book could teach me about, not just writing, but life. Seems there’s sometimes more truth in fiction than reality. I felt selfish keeping all this to myself though. I needed to share it.
The solution for doing this came as I stood, mulled cider in one hand, baked chestnuts in the other, watching fireworks welcome the arrival of 2014. As the last rocket dissolved in the sky, I decided to set up a book blog. I called it Literary Lightbox in honour of my recent reading experiences, vowing each article would share something about life or writing, would be short enough to be enjoyed over a latte and would not require readers to pause for a dictionary to look up words that haven’t been used since 1883.
Publishing my first article made me shake more than the wind chill at Kilimanjaro’ssummit, a dream I’d conquered back in 2012. But, the warm response from readers blew away my fears and I kept going. Since then, my novel has progressed significantly, and Literary Lightbox is now read by over a million writers every year. It feels amazing, and such a privilege, to know that my articles are inspiring readers and writers on every continent. It certainly spurs me on!
Literary Lightbox, though, is far from an island. It’s grown into a community. I’ve had the honour of hosting many guests including New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling authors, indie authors and emerging authors. In fact, it’s become much more than a blog book. It’s our special space of the Internet where we writers can inspire each other, lend support and encouragement.
So, why not pour yourself a coffee (wine if you prefer) and let some of our author interviews, literary reflections and writing lessons lighten your day?
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I look forward to chatting to you and maybe even having the privilege to feature you one day!