It was when I realised that I could walk on water that I knew for sure that my life would be far from ordinary (click here for evidence). Those who know me will realise that was taken some time ago!
With an English mother and a Canadian father I flitted back and forth between continents long before this became an ordinary life-style. Having a pilot for a father, flitting became a way of life. I was at least 10 years old before I realised that there were people who had lived in the same town, gone to the same school and even lived in the same house all their lives.
During my childhood homes, schools and friends were transient and not to be relied on – but at least my life was never boring. I have had quite a few changes of career, but the best have always in included my favourite thing – children.
Starting off as a housemother in a residential home for disabled children, I then became a nanny to a Canadian millionaire. Then I became a housemother again, this time to 45 Eskimo, Indian and Settler children –as they were known in those far off days - in Northern Labrador. I still suffer from chronic snow deprivation syndrome.
Seeing a need to get letters after my name to ensure that I was the one to make the important decisions for the children in my care, I studied to become an Occupational Therapist, eventually specialising in psychiatry and learning disabilities. This is not a career held in the esteem it deserves, but I found that afterwards I could talk myself into any job I fancied, due to its amazing training.
With the advent of three and, ultimately, four children I decided to become self-employed and started a business making original wooden toys and educational equipment. If you have a multi-layered (up to 10 layers) wooden jigsaw puzzle with ‘Barnabas’ hand written on it, it’s one of mine! Our unique toys won many prizes, including beating multi-million dollar companies but, being pre-Internet and very time consuming to make, not much money.
From my earliest childhood I’d always loved spending time inside my own head, which was populated by a vast array of hilarious and adventurous characters. Sometimes, as a young working mother, I’d considered this something of a secret vice and wondered if I shouldn’t be doing something ordinary – like listening to the Archers or current pop music, or even doing the housework – but I was always shouted down by the resident cerebral population. Sometimes I let some of them out, as stories for children, but never wrote them down.
My four daughters are all dyslexic to so degree, so I spent their childhood trying to find things at which they could excel, so they could have at least as many experiences of triumph as defeat. This was mostly in the realms of arts and craft and outdoor activities. Then I found a writing competition. ‘What a great idea for half term!’ I enthused. ‘You could all write a great story for this competition!’ Their response was predictable. ‘That’s worse than school! Why should WE have to do something like that? You never do!’ As we tended to do such things together I had another quick read of the rules. Sure enough, there was a category for adults. ‘I’ll do it if you will!’ I promised. Thus ensued a quite enjoyable write-in from the three-quarters of us who’d opted to participate. To cut a long story short, I joined my ‘Literary Lions’ children and won the adult section. It was as if the physical action of putting pen to paper had opened a dam – I couldn’t stop! So I finally settled into the joyous occupation of writing for childrenSoon after I was short-listed for the Kathleen Fidler Award for the best new book for 8-12 year olds, which confirmed that I was on the right track.
I have an MA in Creative Writing and enjoy teaching, but the writing side wins out every time. I’ve now had nearly 50 books published in my own name (or at least one of my names!), along with many dozens of articles, mostly in American learning anthologies, which do something to satisfy the thwarted teacher in me. I am a Christian and would love to make Christian books more exciting and accessible for children - we need more publishers of Christian fiction in Britain! I still have many books in my head, in all genres, from baby to YA. They are all fighting for supremacy, so check in on my website again to see which has triumphed.