I’ve always enjoyed writing; I remember creating little booklets as a child. The one with a front-page article on the moon landing stands out. Alas none were ever kept.
At school I wrote poetry, not just in English classes but when I was bored. If something didn’t interest me, I went into my own world.
My next memory of writing was when working as a Welfare Officer for the Post Office. A hybrid role of counsellor and advice worker. Many of the staff were postwomen, who got pregnant and many were unsure of their entitlements from organisation and state. I created a booklet which was used throughout the organisation and I updated it till a promotion. It was so helpful, I got great feedback. This first piece of non-fiction, came out in the 1980s.
I continued to write with my work – creating open learning materials, developing courses. I found putting words on paper very satisfying. As an introvert it means I can take time to find the right words.
In my personal life I was a member of the Sealed Knot re-enactment society. I met someone and we planned for a 17th Century style wedding, including banquet. I did a lot of research for this, and I was asked to put my knowledge into book format – 17th Century Wedding Customs. The book (came out in 1998 I think) has been highly useful for film and tv researchers.
In 2007 I was asked to appear on Tonight with Trevor McDonald as a guest expert, helping unemployed graduates to find work. The Director said that I should write a book. So, I wrote a book proposal and found it was going to take over a year for it to be published. First career book: How To Get a Job in a Recession.
I wasn’t going to wait that long. Back then I don’t think hybrid publishing options were available so I set up a publishing company – Brook House Press, got my own editor, typesetter, copy editor and PR company and it was out in March 2008. A lot of work, but it did well.
A month later I was asked to write a book aimed at younger people about interview skill – Winning Interview Answers for First Time Job Hunters. This was a paid contract, I wouldn’t get royalties and I had to write to their chapter headings, there wasn’t scope for originality.
I’d only been working on it a few weeks before I was approached by Harriman House to write the book – Now You’ve Been Shortlisted. I loved writing this book, they gave me freedom to structure it in my way and were highly supported. They got me on the radio, I was on a Guardian podcast, they created a video. And my royalties were great – 50% of each kindle edition.
So, 3 books in one year!
I never sought out book deals, I had enough consultancy work, but was asked, by Icon books to write a job search book for their Introducing series … it was half the size of How to get a job in a recession so I needed to significantly edit the work I’d done. First edition was Getting The Job You Want, rebranded as Find Your Dream Job. Royalties by now are poor … around 6p a book
Later I brought out a second edition of How To Get a Job in a Recession. It was much smoother this time. I had also lost 10 and a half stone and wrote a memoir – Fat to Fantastic. I’d write that differently if I was to do it again and as I’ve put weight back on, I feel uncomfortable referring to it (still 7 stone down though 13 years later).
6 years ago I was again approached by a publisher, this time to write Find Work at 50+. It’s done well and began my expert status in working with the over 50s. It got a lot of media attention.
This brings me to now … and in just over 6 weeks – Rethinking Retirement for Positive Ageing will be published. The book of my academic research. This time I created and submitted a proposal and got rejected by publishers I’d worked with in the past as it didn’t fit their direction. So glad to be working with Routledge.
I plan it to be a series of three books, moving on from the young-old (this book) through elderhood and wisdom in book 2 to late life, which I plan to write when I’m in my mid-80s. So, time for some other books in between, if it feels right to write!
So why write this?
I wanted to share my ‘journey’ as a writer as I consider my book launch. It’s also how I plan to write my life-story, for future generations. You don’t need to start with an early memory but to write about significant events or paths. I have plans to write a course to create that too. Whilst the structure of writing comes easy to me, it doesn’t to everyone.
It may encourage you to think of an aspect of your history and write it up, if so, I’d love to hear from you.