My Life as a writer
When did you first realise you wanted to write for a living?
When a school English teacher told me she believed I would be a writer. The only problem was then, I really struggled at school and it wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I got myself assessed as being dyslexic. By this time, I had another career which I loved but did get published in this field with non-fiction books for children.
Later, following a period of ill health, and unable to continue that career path, I took some time out and shortly embarked on an MA in creative writing.
Which writer, past or present, do you most admire?
Where does one start? Here are just a few:
For children’s books – Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Michael Bond, Terry Pratchett, Roald Dahl.
Adults – Ian McEwan, Ann Cleeves, Meg Rosoff, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rachel Abbott, Stephen King, Peter James, Rosamund Lupton, Jojo Moyes.
Screenwriters – Jed Mercurio, Sally Wainwright, Abi Morgan, Coen Brothers, Anthony Minghella, John Hughes, Chris Lang.
What was your first published (or performed) credit as a writer?
My Life and Me – an interactive workbook for looked after children. Published by CoramBAAF but under my previous surname of Camis. This was a best-seller and was even translated into Japanese and used as a training tool in universities there before Japan purchased the rights and published it formally there.
The great thing about this publication was seeing the many children and young people who were experiencing challenges and moves in their lives use this publication to make sense of their lives. One particular 15-year-old girl was so creative with this and her motivation, enthusiasm and dedication to the book will remain with me always. She was truly inspirational.
Which piece of writing work are you most proud of?
My Life and Me. I don’t think this will ever change because the book made a huge difference in children’s lives. It was published in 2000 and is still selling now.
Oh, and a TV drama, because of the amount of research and hurdles I had to conquer to write it!
Who or what inspires you to write?
Writing is almost equivalent to the air that I breathe. Creating stories has been an integral part of my life ever since I can remember. It’s a natural part of my life that keeps me motivated every day.
How do you switch off when you’re not writing?
I’m not sure that I ever do entirely…
If I’m reading a book or a script I am learning and developing and this can often spark new ideas. This also applies to watching films or a TV series. Although I do quite easily get lost in both at times.
When out walking, there’s always a bird, dog, or a person and wonderful sights to conjure up one’s imagination.
But, having said that, I do switch off when I listen to music. Also, whilst trying to fight the cat for a place on my piano stool as I’m trying to teach myself to play but so is she. Plus she hit the local headlines doing so!
Which one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t give up!
I’ve recently self-published my first children’s fiction book. It’s been so empowering!
Before I got into screenwriting, I had sent off so many children’s stories and all were rejected.
What with Covid-19, then falling in the garden and breaking my femur in May 2020, I decided this was the time to take the plunge and do what I’ve always dreamt of doing – creating stories for children. This is probably because I’ve never really grown up!
I still love my adult thrillers and dramas though so my other piece of advice is not to listen to those who advise you as a writer to stick to a particular genre or medium. Embrace the stories that come to mind and follow them through.
Why are you a member of WGGB?
It’s a fabulous resource and forum for writers and it provides the knowledge and safety net that I know that I have somewhere to go if I need a contract checked or other advice.
Jean comes from a background in local authority social care. Past roles have also included work in prisons, hospices, fostering, adoption and child protection. A published and best-selling author in this field, her creative writing skills are also supported by a varied range of qualifications including a summer course at Oxford University in writing for radio, a Master’s degree in creative writing at Kingston University in 2012 and a Producer’s Foundation Certificate, presented by Raindance in 2014.
She has also attended various other screenwriting seminars such as; Robert McKee, Syd Field, Linda Seger and others.