first exposure to creative writing came when I was ten or younger.
A question on an exam known as the Ten Plus in the UK provided a couple
of sentences forming the basis of a story, and asked the pupil to continue
that story, using their own imagination.
I don't remember what
I wrote but I do recall being told that my answer was the most creative
and imaginative of the group that took the exam.
I really started writing
creatively when I was about eleven - some 38 years ago. For 15 years
or so I generated short stories, mini-scripts (at most three pages of typed
A4) and sketches, almost all revolving around escapades with my friends
- as viewed by me - and compiled them into a huge folder.
In my late 20s I reviewed
the huge folder, decided it was all crap, and destroyed it. Not one
of my better decisions...
Then I moved on with
my life, which at the time involved working as a medical research technician
in the UK's National Health Service, with technical writing an important
part of it, but Computing becoming the main focus.
I was commissioned to
write a book for Castle House (Micro Press), and "Mastering the TI-99"
was published in 1984. (That commission arose because a friend -
Paul Dicks - was approached first but didn't have the time to undertake
the task, so he referred the publisher to me. Just in case you thought
I was first choice...)
Unfortunately for me,
Texas Instruments - the maker of the TI-99 - pulled out of the home computer
business shortly before the book came out, which didn't help the sales
But along the way I managed
to do some investigative journalism for Computer and Software Retailing
(now that was fun!), wrote a few letters and a couple of articles that
were published (in Personal Computer World and Nature, among others), undertook
software reviews (Home Computing Weekly), read and reviewed a dozen manuscripts
for my publisher, and accepted every invitation by my editor to write another
Mastering book (he would provide the hardware) - but nothing ever transpired.
My publisher then pulled
out of the computing publishing business, dashing my plans to write another
four TI books.
A few years later I pulled
out of medical science and dove into computing science, but didn't stray
far from the medical field. After a hiccup while I worked briefly
as a motorcycle courier (and got done for speeding - over 100 mph on the
M25) I went to work as a "Creative Programmer" for an interactive video
company, developing software and graphics for an information workstation
that was intended to be the leading edge resource for information on Interferon
(you may remember it as the "magic bullet" for all kinds of fatal illnesses).
Among the graphics I
produced were an animation of DNA replication, another of chromosomal translocation,
and a symbolic representation of an Interferon molecule. It was extremely
enjoyable work but it did a number on my eyesight.
The company went kaput
and I ended up spending quite some time looking for another contract.
Eventually I went back to work for the NHS, but this time for the Unit
of Clinical Epidemiology as a Programmer / Statistician.
From there I transferred
to a post with the University of Oxford's Department of Public Health and
Primary Care, which became my last position in the UK: Computing Officer
with the University of Oxford's Health Services Research Unit.
Through that position
I gained access to what soon became the Internet, and through the 'Net
I eventually met - and married - Casey, the love of my life. We celebrated
our seventh anniversary in August 2002.
Marrying Casey meant
relocating to the USA - for various reasons - and entering a period of
uncertain employment that still isn't over (ten contracts in six years,
virtually every one ending because of the employer's financial problems).
For roughly half of that
time I concentrated on the computing science aspect, but after a few years
it became obvious that a writing career was a better choice (better opportunities,
even better income) and so I switched the emphasis to Technical Writing.
Through all of this I
had not considered a career as a creative writer, which is odd when you
recall how many years I spent doing just that as a hobby.
In 2001 I began to make
the first serious attempt to establish myself as a professional creative
writer. I'm reading, and learning, and thinking, and developing,
and being alternately inspired and depressed by the successes and failures
of others who have chosen a similar path.
I have no idea whether
I will succeed. I have faith and confidence in my abilities, which
seem to be the first requirements for any creative writer.
Without those there can
be no real commitment - no belief in one's self, so no perseverance.
My first main project
should be, of course, the spec script. But I realise that to attempt
to write an award-winning screenplay at the first attempt would be folly
of the first order.
So my sights are set
a little lower: TV sitcom (specifically: Malcolm in the Middle, which seems
to fit with my warped sense of humor and my own experiences, oddly enough).
I have a work in progress,
the first treatment of which has now been transformed into a fully fledged
script (see "Other Details" here for more information). I have around
eight further main ideas and a couple of dozen subplots to support them,
so there's plenty of meat left on the bone.
I also have entries in
fiction and non-fiction writing competitions, to test my skills and abilities.
I won First Prize in the 2002 Write Thinking 24 Hour Creative Writing Competition
with a 2000 word piece entitled "So Long And Thanks For All The Pancakes".
I was also hopeful that
at least one of five non-fiction short stories - entitled "Holiday
Magic", "The Last
As A Water Sport", "Under
Cover Job" and "Scattering
Ashes" - would do well in the Sixth
TooWrite Competition in the UK, but that wasn't to be. I was competing
against over 900 other entries so my chances were slim to begin with...
I do have ideas for movies
- a score of them - that seem to be workable as far as the concepts go
(or so I have been told by more experienced scriptwriting friends), but
I need and want to learn to walk first before I try running.
Having now obtained representation
(Stuart A Bronstein of San Francisco - see NEWS)
the stage is set for the next scene - whatever that may turn out to be...