When we decided to move for my partner’s job almost seven years ago, I wasn’t even quite sure where Nottingham was (I know – I’m sorry!). I’d lived in South London all my life; I was surrounded by family and old friends. My son was still at infant school, my daughter still in nappies. Things were safe and happy, if in a bit of a skint, day-to-day bumbling-along, unthinking kind of way.
Moving away with hardly any money and no guarantees and small children to re-settle wasn’t easy, but I soon started to discover brilliant Nottingham things (wonderful countryside nearby, some excellent eating, music, cracking cocktails, lovely people …). And I had no idea that books would become such a part of my life here too.
Before I moved to Nottingham, I wasn’t published. Although I’d always loved writing and becoming an author was a long-term daydream, I had never considered studying creative writing and I rarely shared my stories. Firstly, living in Nottingham gave me the space to start taking my writing more seriously. And later on, it offered me support.
Nottingham Writers’ Studio has been inspirational, presenting many opportunities, along with introductions to a varied and vibrant range of writing people from poets to journalists, playwrights to publishers (including my wonderful second publisher, Weathervane Press). There really is an awful lot of fabulous writing business going on in this town. And the fiction produced here is amazing.
I’ve just finished reading Maria Allen’s hugely enjoyable and evocative debut Before the Earthquake. Just before that, I was blown away by Jon McGregor’s third masterpiece, Even the Dogs – and before that, I was enormously moved by Frances Thimann’s haunting collection Cello and Other Stories. Over the next month, I’m looking forward to reading Nigel Pickard’s Attention Deficit and Roberta Dewa’s Holding Stones. And last Saturday, while attending the East Midlands Writing Industries Conference, the supremely talented Nicola Monaghan (acclaimed author of The Killing Jar, Starfishing and The Okinawa Dragon) came over to ask me to sign her copy of The Dawning! I already knew how lovely and supportive Nicola was from reading with her last year – nonetheless, I was dead chuffed. And very pleased, and very grateful, to be writing in Nottingham too.