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 tea, I realised that wasn’t the case. I needed help.
Thankfully, I was offered a place on a creative writing course run by the Faber Academy. It felt wonderful, for the first time, to be in the company of other writers and I no longer felt my obsession with words was 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.
Although I’d always read a lot, and could have opened a library of my own, I was encouraged to read critically (often known as ‘close reading’) during the Faber Academy course and shown how to do it well.
If you’re into retro photography or had x-ray results before the digital age, you’ll be familiar with light boxes. They illuminate items 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 and wanted to share all I was learning.
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 cup of tea 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’s summit, a dream I’d conquered back in 2012. But, the warm response from readers blew away my fears and I kept going. Blogging helped me improve dramatically as a writer as I strived to make each article better than the last. I was honoured to go on to be selected for one of the prestigious, Curtis Brown Creative programmes in London, which helped me take my novel (a psychological thriller) to the next level and get to ‘The End’. It went on to become a runner up in both the Best Opening Chapter and Friday Night Live competitions at the Festival of Writing in York in 2017 and I was subsequently featured on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book.
As I work on editing my novel, Literary Lightbox continues to grow. It’s become an online magazine, of sorts, which is read by over a million writers every year. It feels amazing, and such a privilege, to know that our articles are inspiring readers and writers on every continent. It spurs us on!
Best of all, Literary Lightbox has become a community. We’ve had the honour of hosting many guests including New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling authors, indie authors and emerging authors. It’s our special space where we writers can inspire each other, lend support and encouragement.
So, why not pour yourself a tea (coffee or wine if you prefer) and let some of our author interviews, literary reflections and writing lessons lighten your day?
And, if you love what you see, please do subscribe to our newsletter on the right so you never miss out on our newsletters filled with articles designed to inspire and uplift you on your writing journey.
I look forward to chatting to you and maybe even having the privilege to feature you one day!