I first came to the South Coast as a student at the University of Southampton in the 1970s. When I left at the end of my three year course, I knew this was the part of the country I wanted to live in, and was determined to return one day. Life had other plans: I moved to Bedford for my first job after graduation, met a local man, got married, had kids and ended up spending most of my life about as far from the coast as it’s possible to get in England. But fortunately, by the time I returned in 2015, I’d seen the light and settled in Southsea rather than Southampton!
Three things have struck me since I moved here: how many people I meet have moved to Portsmouth from other places; how many say that they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else; and how many are creative in some way, whether professionally or for the love of it: writers, artists, musicians, and craftspeople.
It’s this combination of affection for the city and a vibrant cultural and artistic scene that makes Portsmouth Plugged In such an exciting project and is the reason why I was delighted to get involved. My role of social media manager involves setting up the Facebook page and Twitter account, keep them rolling ( with lots of help and support from the rest of the committee (especially Charlotte).
I’ve had quite a ?checkered? /varied? career – including IT, academic research, administration, web design and print design – but one thing I’ve always done is write. I know that what I’ve written has defined me, whether or not it ever reaches a wider readership. I have the classic never-published typescript (a fantasy novel), another unfinished fantasy novel (first of a trilogy), a travel memoir which I’m currently editing prior to self-publishing, stacks of poems, journals and a ten year history of blogging. It was blogging which changed my relationship to my writing, making a daily ritual of capturing that stream of words which constantly flows through my head – and convincing me that there are people out there who actually want to read what I write.
I used to discipline myself to write a minimum of 500 words a day for my blog, and sometimes I did this daily for months on end. When it’s going well, it feels like taking dictation – come to that, it can feel like taking dictation when it’s going badly too. There’s always some story going on in my head. If I catch the words when they’re in flight, it’s easier than trying to pull them out of nowhere at a later time – like putting up a net for them to fly into, as opposed to having to stalk them. You have to grab what you can and sort them out later. It’s no good trying to be cautious and canny and get them to come to you. If I wait for those perfectly polished phrases to appear fully formed, I’ll never get anywhere.
Recently I’ve become interested in the process of publishing too, and the way print-on-demand technology and e-books have opened up the market. I’m passionate about good writing and good book design – a sadly underrated and misunderstood craft. My pet hate is so-called publishing companies who will accept any unedited, ?unproof-read, poorly laid out pdf, then print or e-publish it and sell it back to the author without offering any help or advice. My dream is to raise the game of independent publishing by using my arcane collection of skills – good grammar, spelling, punctuation, layout design and proof reading – to help authors to craft their work into quality books which do justice to their inspiration and ideas.
So that’s me – a lover of words and a lover of books – not to mention a lover of Portsmouth, feeling as though I’ve come home at last.