I’ve got a short story in the latest edition of Aurealis. I get a particular thrill out of publishing stories. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’m happy being a scholarly writer these days. I enjoy tussling with ideas and sneaking in a cheeky turn of phrase. My description of Tom Riddle’s ‘act of anagram’ in my essay in The Gothic in Children’s Literature is one of my favourites. But I love writing stories. When I read Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades as a child, I was excited to discover that people could write stories about kidnapped, cross-dressed girls, sinister dukes and elaborate balls. That excitement has never left me. It’s taken me a while to start publishing, but I’m glad I’ve made the effort. There’s nothing quite like sharing a story with the rest of the world!
I have many students who want to be published writers and I’ve always felt comradeship with them. It’s not an easy thing to achieve. The trick is, alas, to simply keep writing, to keep trying, to keep reading, to keep learning. The trick is also to enjoy the successes you do have and not to worry if you aren’t the next J.K. Rowling. They’ve forecast many a ‘next J.K. Rowling’ and only a handful have had decent success. Lev Grossman’s Magicians Trilogy has been termed ‘Harry Potter for adults.’ It’s a great series – snarky, but emotionally complex and not always gratifying. He writes honestly in Buzzfeed Books about his early ambitions and how he learned to balance his desire to be a writer with actually having a decent life. It’s very easy to see a writer’s life as magical – and I did love Neil Gaiman’s recent advice to a struggling writer – but writing actually fits into very ordinary life. It doesn’t require a Parisian garret or starvation or a magic wand. And you can write whatever you enjoy writing. That’s okay too. After all, if you’re going to fit your writing into the gaps between work, family and friends, you want to enjoy what you’re doing!
Since I started teaching, I’ve had students who have published books and stories and I’ve been ever so proud of them. I’ve met authors, too, who are so generous with their time and interest in scholarly matters. It’s small wonder so many of us want to be writers. So I really am thrilled to share my story.