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1986, Lancaster University, Fylde College. I’d made the move from sunny Devon to Bailrigg with (what felt like) its persistent rain, to study English. Living away from home for the first time ever. The Smiths ruled, Neighbours made its debut, Mrs. Thatcher was Prime Minister, there were full maintenance grants and all fees were paid for by the State (sorry). There were 4000 students, ensuite bathrooms belonged in five star hotels and mullets, quiffs and perms were everywhere. A pint of cider was 88p and a cheese and onion pasty from Birkett’s was 39p. And the F word stood for Feminism. All a bit of a culture shock considering I’d never been further north than Birmingham.
Over the next three years, I studied Shakespeare, Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, George Eliot and discovered a life-long passion for English literature. I played women’s rugby, got involved in Nightline and developed a political consciousness. I went on student marches, helped out on holiday play schemes, danced in the Carleton and spent far too many hours in The Sugar House. I even turned down a bribe from a lecturer who promised me the exam questions in return for a pint in Furness bar – I don’t think he was serious….. All my essays were written in long-hand, all my calls home were at a pay phone and I used the hitching post to get into town until I bought my first car – a yellow Triumph Dolomite, for £100.
I met some people who are still my best friends now. I also met my future husband, Niall, who was Fylde JCR president and later AU President.
I was ready to leave, to get a job and make my mark in the world, but in 2002 I was back, ‘virtually’, to do an MA in Creative Writing by distance learning. This time round I took my studying more seriously. I had three young kids and had to fit the work in around them and had to pay for my fees by selling Avon. I got the bug. Writing was was what I wanted to do.
The next few years were a time of determination and persistence as I faced rejections and near misses and a nagging voice in my head that taunted me daily with ‘why am I doing this?’ But in 2010, I entered the Luke Bitmead Writers Award and was amazed when I heard I’d won. The prize was a bursary and a publishing deal. The Generation Game was published last August by Legend Press and will be followed by This Holey Life later this year.
I am currently working on the next novel which is partly set at Lancaster University in the 80s. They do say you should write what you know….