In The Beginning …
I began writing in my early teens, and after a couple of years saw my first published piece in October 1989 (a wordsearch puzzle, since you ask). Hooked from then on in, I spent as much of my free time writing as I could. Fifteen years later, in January 2004, I did something that every writing book on the planet tells you not to do – I jacked in the day job and became a full time writer. Well, if you don’t try, you’ll never find out will you?
At the age of 14 I wrote to several famous writers asking for their advice, which included:
● Don’t – become a brain surgeon instead, it’s easier. (Alan Bleasdale – The Moniculed Mutineer, The Boys from the Blackstuff)
● Never give up. (John Sullivan – Only Fools and Horses)
● Draw on what’s around you. (Alan Ayckbourn – A Chorus of Disapproval, Absurd person Singular, Bedroom Farce)
Looking back, I wholeheartedly concur will all of those. Becoming a Brain Surgeon would probably have taken less than 15 years. Nor did I give up, which is how I came to get my first book published. (Nothing surprised me more than when the publishers of my first book, 100 Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human, were forced to print 100,000 copies in the run up to Christmas 2003, such was its success.) And I’ve certainly drawn upon what’s around me – how else do you think I wrote a book about banking, another about applying for community grants, one about running a writers’ circle and yet another about walking in the Welsh borders?
After spending eight years working for Barclays Bank in south-west London, the Welsh borders beckoned, where the summer of 1997 was spent settling in. The last months of that year saw me employed in the local offices of the DSS for three months, before moving on to the Rural Development Commission for six months.
From there, the Community & Economic Development Unit of Herefordshire Council beckoned between July 1998 and January 2004.
In the meantime I kept sending out the articles and other ideas, with more and more success, becoming a regular contributor to Country Walking magazine’s ‘Down Your Way’ section (now called Britain’s Best Walks). In September 2003, Hodder & Stoughton published 100 Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human. Re-organisation at Herefordshire Council at the same time seemed to be fate suggesting that perhaps now was the time to have a crack at this writing game full time. So, in January 2004, I did just that.
So there we have it. My writing journey so far. And like many writers, I couldn’t have got this far without the help and support of a couple of other organisations, including the Society of Authors, the Outdoor Writers & Photographers Guild and the Alliance of Independent Authors.
As you explore my website you might also spot that I dabble behind the camera too. (Check out the Photography section.) I’m not, though, happy about being in front of a camera, although some people have successfully caught me unaware, as my Facebook page testifies. (Note to self: must try harder.)
Here’s what’s been keeping me busy over the last few years …
The Complete Article Writer’s Box Set
Photography for Writers (Second edition – self-published)
The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking (Bluffers Guides/Haynes – updated)
The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs (Bluffer Guides/Haynes – updated)
The Business of Writing – Vol 2 (Createspace)
The Business of Writing – Vol 1 (Createspace)
Ten Teatime Tales 2 (Kindle)
Teatime Tales Box Set (Kindle)
One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human (Icelandic edition)
The Complete Article Writer (Createspace)
Photography for Writers (Compass Points)
The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs (Bluffer’s Guides)
The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking (Bluffer’s Guides – updated)
Ten Teatime Tales (Kindle)
The Positively Productive Writer (Compass Books).
Contributor to 100 Greatest Walks in Britain (Country Walking magazine – published by David & Charles).
The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking (Oval Books in 2009). One of the ten best guides for walkers – The Independent – 8thFeb 2012
The Bluffer’s Guide to Banking (co-written) (Oval Books).
The Little Book of Alternative Garden Wisdom (Zymurgy Publishing)
Best Walks in the Welsh Borders (Frances Lincoln).
Fundraising For A Community Project (How To Books Ltd).
Contributor of chapter 18 in the Freelance Photographer’s Project Book (Bureau of Freelance Photographers).
Puppytalk – 50 Ways To Make Friends With Your Puppy (Hodder Children’s).
Running A Writers’ Circle(Ignotus Press).
100 Muddy Paws For Thought(Hodder & Stoughton) – over 50,000 copies sold.
100 Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human(Hodder & Stoughton). Spent December 2003 in the Top Ten Non-Fiction Paperback bestseller lists. Also published in Italian, Portuguese and North American editions. Royalty statements show over 243,400 English editions supplied to retailers. The American edition was nominated for excellence in its Best Book: Humour category, by the Dog Writers Association of America in its 2006 awards. eBook version published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2012.
Stories published in Take A Breakmagazine, Woman’s Weekly, Fiction Feast, People’s Friend, The Weekly News, That’s Life, Fast Fiction in Australia/New Zealand, Yours Fiction Special and Ireland’s Own.
100 Stories for Queensland Anthology – Painting By Numbers used in charitable anthology produced to raise money for Australian flood victims.
3rdPrize – www.5minutefiction.co.ukValentines Day competition 2012
Shortlisted – The First NAWG Open Short Story Competition 2011
Shortlisted – Exeter Writers Circle Short Story competition 2011.
Top 8 – Write Space “Lost Love” competition 2010.
Top 5 – Write Space “Families” competition 2009.
First Prize – Wrekin Writers short story competition 2007.
3rdPrize – Swanley Scribblers Short Story Competition 2006.
Highly Commended– NAWG 2004 Short Story competition.
Short listed (final 10)– Writers News Postcard Competition – September 2003.
Short listed– Kings Lynn Writers’ Circle Short Story Competition – July 2003.
First Prize– Writers News Foggy Morning Short Story competition – April 1998.
– Regular contributor of travel and other feature pieces to The People’s Friend
– The Business of Writing series in Writing Magazine (since April 2014)
– Regular Contributor to Country Walking’s‘Britain’s Best Walks’ section since 2004.
– Provider of Country & Border Life’s Walking column for six years as well as producing several one-off features for the editor on a range of topics including history and local events. Also provided the ‘Practical Fashion With Simon Whaley’ feature for 12 months.
– Regular contributor to BBC Countryfile’s Great Days Out section.
Other features provided for Coast, Celtic Life International, The Simple Things, Hotel, The Lady, Water Gardener, Dogs Monthly, In Britain, Walking Wales, Garden Ideas, Trail, PetDogs, Trail, On Foot, Country Quest, The Link, Cumbria & Lake District, Holiday Cottages, The Author, British Heritage, Discover Britain, Outdoor Photography, Cheshire Life, The Daily Express, The Observer. Most features are offered with my own images for illustrative purposes. Regularly produced articles for Internet websites.
2016 – Shortlisted in the I Must Be Off travel writing competition
2016 – Runner up in the Bradt Slow Shropshire Travel Writing competition
2013 – 5thplace in the Writers’ Digest (USA) Annual Writing Awards – Feature category
2012 – Long listed in the Walkopedia Travel Writing Competition
2006 – Award for Excellence from the Outdoor Writers’ Guild for my Country & Border Life walks and features.
2006 – 1stPrize – National Association of Writer’s Groups Article Competition.
2005 – 1stPrize in the County Signpost Travel Article Competition
2005 – 1stPrize in the Shrewsbury Readers and Writers article competition
DISTANCE LEARNING COURSES (WRITERS BUREAU/STT TRAINING)
2013 – Updated the non-fiction modules of Comprehensive Creative Writing Course
2010 – Effective Time Management.
2010 – Effective Project Management.
2009 – Finance for Non-Financial Managers.
2008 – Proofreading & Copy Editing.
2009 – ‘Crossing The Threshold’ – a community grant toolkit for the Diocese of Hereford.
2005 – Ten pages of content for the Wales Tourist Board Guide – Walking Wales.
Stilwell’s Independent Cottage Brochure – Introduction
Second Prize– Derek Lomas Playwriting competition – October 2001 for my farce, Rambling On.
The Writers Bureau – tutoring over 1,000 students (2004-2016).
Writers’ Summer Holiday Tutor: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
Writers’ Holiday Winter Weekend Tutor: 2018, 2019
Relax & Write Course Leader since 2012.
NAWG Festival of Writing: 2007, 2008, 2012, 2020(talk).
Swanwick Summer School: 2010, 2021
Regularly provide workshops for writers’ groups and events.
Transformational Books Ltd (USA) – Editing/proofing clients’ books, prior to production.
I regularly supply photographs to accompany my articles and, when needed, books. Several of my images have been used in calendars.
2011 – Shortlisted in the Outdoor Photographer of the Year – British Landscape category
The Society of Authors
The Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild
Alliance of Independent Authors
Wrekin Writers committee – 1999 to date.
Ludlow Writers – organising and running – 2015 to date
NAWG (National Association of Writers’ Groups) – Committee Member – 2018 to date.