If you’re in Nottingham on 23rd October please come and say hello at the launch of ’25’, an anthology celebrating 25 years of the NTU MA in Creative Writing, at University Hall, Nottingham Trent University at 7pm on Wednesday October 23rd 2019. It’s free but do book ahead if you can.

The book contains new work by staff and former students of the MA and is edited by David Belbin and Rory Waterman. My personal association with the course is that I helped to devise and launch it a whole quarter century ago. I will be giving a short reading from my chapter, along with Mahendra Solanki, YA novelist Kim Slater, former Visiting Professor Michael Eaton, and several others.

If you were connected with the MA, or indeed with the trAce Online Writing Community, which was born at NTU a few years later in 1995, please do come along and say hello. It would be great to reminisce! In the meantime, here’s a short excerpt from my chapter in ’25’:


The best thing about teaching writing, and the moments I enjoyed the most, were when students exclaimed in wonder “I never believed I could be creative!” Often it happened after the simplest of exercises –  choosing an object from a box of curios, eating a piece of fruit, or picking words from a bucket at random. People of all ages who, sometimes for decades, had considered themselves to be outside the realm of art and imagination, suddenly found that they could let their thoughts fly. And once the process began it was hard to stop. But why would you stop? Writing is life.

In 1993 my colleagues and I devised the MA in Writing at Nottingham Trent University. At that time, it was less common than it is today for young undergraduates to move straight to a Master’s after completing their first degree, so we expected most of our applicants to be mature and often with a long record of employment. We knew that many of them would come from ‘non-standard’ backgrounds; might never have experienced higher education before, and could be aged anywhere from the early twenties to retired. A writing sample and face-to-face interview would be much more important for selection than formal qualifications and, for some, the academic environment itself might pose a substantial challenge. Wherever they came from, our aim was to offer them a rigorous and supportive atmosphere in which to develop their work.

One of the reasons I was asked to lead on the project was that I myself came from a non-standard background. I had embarked on a BA degree at the age of 35, and I knew how it felt to press one’s nose against the steamy and scary windows of academia. We expected that a fair proportion of our students would be people like me, self-taught late starters arriving with low self confidence but broad life experience, a passion for writing, and a determination to learn. Some of them, perhaps, had started out as rebels against the very system they now wanted to enter. That had certainly been the case for me.

Read the rest, and lots more, in ’25: Celebrating 25 years of NTU’s MA in Creative Writing’, out on 23rd October 2019.

'25: Celebrating 25 Years of NTU's MA in Creative Writing'

What I’m up to

After 20 years of no fiction, I’m writing a new novel, ‘The Fault in Reality’, due for completion in 2020. My most recent piece for Orion Magazine is ‘A Landscape History of Brexit’ and there’s an article about animal webcams in the works. ‘Nature and Wellbeing in the Digital Age’, a guide to feeling better without logging off, is available in print and on Kindle.