On the writing front, I’m currently in the middle of a practice-led PhD, which in my case means creating a young adult novel and a thesis. It has been something of a challenge to think of the novel as a vehicle for research but it’s certainly an enriching journey. The basic thrust of my PhD is to investigate the challenges of portraying an AI father in children’s fiction. However, it never feels that simple. Relatively little attention has been paid to paternal characters in fiction for the young and I have often ended up having to grasp several related areas of knowledge, such as how we portray mothers, in order to scrape together a foundation for my work. And don’t get me started on the difficulties of portraying AI – that world is so fast-moving it makes my head spin!
As you might know, one of the things you need to do to get a Creative Writing PhD is situate your work among that of other scholars and storytellers. If, like me, you don’t come from a background in English literature, that can be pretty daunting. Deciding which theoretical perspectives may be of use to my investigation has been far more time-consuming than I imagined; I have had to read a considerable amount of academic material in order to gain an understanding of aetonormativity, posthumanism, ecocriticism and various psychoanalytical perspectives on children’s literature. And a lot of that reading hasn’t even made it into my thesis! So, if you’re thinking of doing a PhD yourself, my advice would be start reading academic articles and books now. Honestly, it’s never too early. Just pick the general area you’re interested in and begin. And don’t worry if you don’t understand everything, either. I certainly didn’t. Some academic work isn’t written in a way which is easily accessible – understanding comes with patience, familiarity and time.
Beyond the PhD divide my writing time between screenwriting and other types of children’s fiction. I have an MA in screenwriting, a PGCE in English and over ten years experience of helping other writers develop their stories. In 2014, I was longlisted for the Manchester Writing for Children Prize but I’m best known for my Father Christmas letters, particularly online. When it comes to style and genre, I’m pretty wide-ranging, I’ve written for children in prose and humorous verse as well as a more literary poetic form. You can read some of my children’s poems here. In regard to screenwriting, I have a particular interest in supernatural horror, science fiction and historical drama, although when reading the latter I do find it refreshing if it isn’t a setting I’ve seen a million times before.
In addition to writing alone, I work with a co-writer, Keith Dando. Co-writing has been a steep learning experience for me but I have enjoyed every moment. It particularly lends itself to screenwriting and simple children’s stories. I suspect it would rather less successful as a way of creating literary work. Indeed, in order to fully reap the benefits of co-writing, you need to be aware of its limitations. That said, good co-writers can inspire each other to make best use of strengths, regulate each other’s weaknesses and create clarity at the speed of light. To date, Keith and I have co-created screenplays and short, humorous children’s books. Possibly the most popular of our co-creations is the children’s story, Santa’s Cat.
As may be obvious from other parts of this website, I also have a profound interest in teaching creative writing. Other writers and their working experiences are as important and engaging to me as my own. I have developed an extensive interest in screenwriting narrative theory and am particularly fascinated by the relationship between intuitive writing and the more conscious process of applying the three act structure.