What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Being 'Highly Commended' in the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction gave me the confidence to think I might have something to say as a writer, and the words to say it. I've also been Short-listed a couple of times, and Long-listed in the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award.
Talk us through your career path since graduating.
Having retired, writing is not so much another career for me, as a quest. People write for different reasons: I write to discover who I am—a never-ending process. I self-published a book of poetry—Unholy Verses, Sacred Songs—which is on Amazon. My short story, 'Journey to the Centre of My Room', was published in La Piccioletta Barca, September 2021. https://www.picciolettabarca.com/
What projects are you currently working on?
After working for a while on short fiction, my West Dean novel is now being reworked and finished. Alongside that, I bombard magazines and competitions with poems and short stories.
I also undertake occasional editing work, when it is always a pleasure to be allowed into the creative world of fellow writers and to help them find the best ways to say what they want to say.
Do you have any tips for recent graduates?
First rule of writing: just do it. It sounds obvious but so many talented people don't! This includes engaging with the commercial world of publishing: it is said that if your desk is not piled with rejection notes, you're not really trying. Whatever people may tell you, rejection always hurts, but you can learn to feel it and use it as fuel to persevere.
How do you think studying at West Dean College prepared you for what you do now?
Meeting and being taught by practising novelists brought the reality of being a writer much closer. We were encouraged to think of ourselves as writers and to project ourselves as professionals. I went from being someone who wrote to someone who is a writer.
What's your favourite memory from your time at the College?
Being able to stay in West Dean House, sleeping in that magical house, exploring remote corridors, wandering the grounds... Edward James' imagining—in the depths of WW2—of a safe place for artists and craftspeople to live and work, was an extraordinary and creative act of redemption—of the state of Europe at that time, and of his personal wealth.
Did you have a different career before coming to West Dean? If so why did you change career paths?
I worked with children and adults with learning needs in a network of communities called Camphill, also conceived during WW2, by refugees from the Holocaust. Having lost everything, they dedicated their lives to creating a holistic lifestyle centred around the most vulnerable members of society. I turned seriously to writing when I retired. While part of me wishes I'd done this earlier, it does mean I am still learning, and raring to go.