Please welcome this week’s guest to the Showcase.
SUE JOHNSON – A LIFE-LONG OBSESSION WITH WRITING
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” my teacher asked when I was seven.
“I want to write stories and draw pictures.”
She turned a dull brick-red colour. “I don’t think that’s a proper job, dear. You’d better write about being a nurse.”
I did write about being a nurse – it was probably my first commissioned pieces of work – and it was put on the wall and much admired on Open Day.
I continued to write. I had a more encouraging teacher the following year and she let me carry on writing, even if the rest of the class were going off to do something different.
I wrote a weekly newspaper held together with glue and sticky tape and charged my friends an old-fashioned threepenny bit to read it. It taught me the value of writing a story with a cliff-hanger where they had to wait a week to find out what happened. The one week I didn’t do this, my earnings dropped dramatically.
I loved my ballet classes and used to take part in stage productions. I wrote a couple of my own which were performed in my Dad’s garage. I used to persuade my friends to take part and then invite friends and family to come and watch. They included dances, songs, poems and short plays.
I still prefer to work on a variety of things at the same time – typically a poetry collection, a novel or short story and some non-fiction. I’ve never suffered from writer’s block. Art and music are important to me. My novels and stories begin with poems and collages. I am a hybrid writer – which means that some of my work has been conventionally published and some self-published.
Life became less creative as I got older. I hated school, didn’t know what I wanted to do (a sign of lack of character according to one teacher) and I was also quite shy.
When I left school I did an apprenticeship with Times Newspapers in London. I learned shorthand and typing and loads of other things that I’m still reaping the benefits of.
I got married, had three daughters and ran a small business making patchwork items (everything from pincushions to quilts). I developed ‘streams’ of income – talks for the W I, party plan, workshops for adults and for school groups, writing articles for craft magazines.
Unfortunately, the guy I was married to didn’t like me writing. “Don’t tell people you write,” he used to say. “They’ll think you’re weird.”
After my divorce, I met my partner (poet Bob Woodroofe www.greenwoodpress.co.uk) and we’ve been together for 22 years. He encouraged me to write and keep going. I did a course with Birmingham University. A story a lecturer told me to rip up because it was ‘fatally flawed’ got shortlisted in a competition and was published in ‘Woman’ – the first of over 100 stories that have been published worldwide.
I worked for two colleges running writing and art workshops for people with mental health problems. I still have a keen interest in mental health.
Yoga and meditation also form part of my creative process. This is a picture based on the chakras that I created a few years ago. It’s on the wall of my writing room.
The income stream idea came into play again – I went self-employed in 2005 and still run workshops in various locations in Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire. I have been a Writing Magazine Creative Writing Tutor since 2005.
I am published as a poet, short story writer and novelist. I also create books aimed at taking away other people’s excuses for not writing.
My first two novels ‘Fable’s Fortune’ and ‘Yellow Silk Dress’ were published by Indigo Dreams. They also published my first poetry collection ‘Tasting Words, Hearing Colours.’
Novels three and four ‘Fortune’s Promise’ and ‘Apple Orchard, Lemon Grove’ were originally published by Endeavour Media. I now have the full rights back and have republished them under my own imprint Toadstone Press.
‘Apple Orchard, Lemon Grove’ was shortlisted for the Romance Writing Life Competition in 2015, organised by Mills & Boon, W H Smith and Kobo. (I didn’t expect to be shortlisted and wrote most of the book in three weeks in case it won!) It is currently being recorded as an audiobook by narrator Martin Hussingtree (www.hussingtree.carrd.co)
Back cover blurb begins: “When Gemma Lawrence inherits a share of her Great Aunt’s restaurant, she is dismayed to find that Stefano Andrea, a moody Italian chef, is her new business partner. Gemma and Stefano have broken relationships behind them and dislike each other on sight. They have to work together for six months to turn the dilapidated restaurant into a thriving business. If they fail, they will lose their inheritance.”
Novel number five ‘The Girl With Amber Eyes’ was originally published as a My Weekly Pocket Novel (available in supermarkets and newsagents). I have self-published this and am also hoping to get it published as a large print book. It has also been recorded by Martin Hussingtree.
Since 1st January 2013 I’ve written a poem every day. I also aim for a minimum of 1000 words on anything else I’m working on (this increases when I do NaNoWriMo).
I have no shortage of creative ideas and am on my second Year of Living Dangerously. This means saying yes to every project that sounds interesting. It has led to very productive collaborations with other writers and artists. I have long since stopped worrying about failure. I concentrate on diving into the magic – and then picking myself up and doing it again.
I can be found on Twitter @SueJohnson9
My Facebook page is: http://www.facebook.co.uk/suejohnson/7758235
I can be found on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/sue-johnson-16264642
My website is: www.writers-toolkit.co.uk
There are Amazon buttons on the Publications page of my website which take you straight through to my page.
Thank you for reading this. Happy writing – and don’t stop until you’ve achieved all your creative dreams.
My thanks to this weeks guest for a great post. I hope you all enjoyed it.
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Have a good week,