HIP literary editor Pete Donohue catches up with local author and creative writing course provider Joan to get her story

When I was eight years old, I discovered that my local newspaper in Portsmouth had a children’s page called The Chipper Club. It paid 25p for a published letter and 50p for a star letter. A writer was born. I love stories, short ones, long ones, written and spoken ones, it doesn’t matter. I like to be spellbound. I tried my hand at poetry and gave it up which will probably be the greatest service I do for the planet. I even had a go at writing songs but prose is my thing.

Stories are the fabric from which our lives are made and writing enables me to spin yarns, weave tales and embroider the truth – no surprise then that I used to be
a textile teacher. I get ideas not only from my own experiences but from all sorts of other places too, classified ads, photos, “what  if” scenarios, and from eavesdropping on buses – go on admit it, I’m not the only one. Sometimes I get ideas just by finding random words and letting my brain connect them into something meaningful on the page. It’s magic really.

We’ve all had incredible, moving, frightening or hilarious experiences which can be turned into great creative writing. And it’s good for you. It helps you get things out of your system; it improves mood and well-being, it reduces stress. Like many things that are good for you, the more you do it, the bigger the benefits. It requires a bit of discipline and practice but you don’t need special footwear, or fancy leggings. You can write a good story in your pyjamas – just not on your pyjamas.

My stories have made it to Radio 4. They have appeared in a number of anthologies, most recently, Stories for Homes Vol. 2, published by Shelter to raise money for the homeless. My latest story, set in Hastings has just been shortlisted for the Cambridge Short Story Prize. My first novel, The Birdskin Shoes, was set in Mexico. It is ‘the marvellous story of Joey Pachuca, a fugitive young man with a strange gift and a guilty conscience.’

It’s available as a paperback and e-book from Amazon.


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