Continuing my blog series in honour of my 20th year as a published writer, this post looks at how I got started.

Me in 1989!

I was a loud and confident child, never shy and asking questions all the time. I had no real idea of what I wanted to be (although an early career goal was to be a witch), but I read all the time and was constantly immersed in other worlds.


I was interested in what was going on around me and had a natural curiosity, so writing seemed like an obvious career. Although I wrote numerous short stories (My Little Pony a favourite for a while), I never wanted to be an author.


I always enjoyed documenting what I saw and experienced, writing “articles” about trips abroad and days out. I was even asked to read out a piece I’d written about visiting my dad in Norway, where he was working for a few months. My plan was to qualify as a journalist, spend some time in London, then work as a war correspondent.


I worked out that I needed to be qualified, and a decent clippings file would come in handy to show off my writing. But where to start? I wasn’t old enough for work experience yet and was too old for BBC Newsround’s Press Pack.

Dillon’s and Waterstones bookshops were where I spent most of my spare time (other than the library) and I’d noticed that the latter had a free magazine which came out three or four times a year.


“In Brief….” had the tagline “for teenagers, by teenagers” and featured reviews of the latest Young Adult novels, as well as interviews with authors who had a new book to promote. I picked up a copy every time a new magazine was published, and I saw that it was based in the Newcastle branch, and the contributors were all pupils from the local schools.


I also spotted a small note at the front which said they accepted submissions, so I laboured over a review of a recent teen novel I’d just finished reading. I took my crumpled missive into the shop, but was too shy to hand it over to the sales assistant. Instead, I checked the address, posted it in and nervously waited.


You can imagine my joy when I saw my review and my name in print in the spring 1997 edition of In Brief… I got several copies to give out to my family, and my nana even persuaded me to autograph a couple for her to send to my aunt. I also showed a copy to my English teacher, and she arranged with the senior manager at Waterstones to have me on the team.


I contributed to In Brief… for two and a half years, and learned a lot in that time. I read and reviewed countless books, interviewed authors and transcribed my first piece of work (a much longer process than the way I do it now!)


I helped out at the opening of Seven Stories, met my childhood hero Michael Rosen, had tea with Nina Bawden and had a private tour of Penguin Books and the British Museum’s specially-designed, fire and bomb-proof room where they keep their most important works.Michael Rosen


In Brief… was a great opportunity for me and helped me create a clippings file to show editors what I could do. Sadly, the magazine folded not long after I left and I don’t know of any other initiatives for budding writers and journalists. I’m proud of what we did and pleased to have it on my CV 20 years later.

The original book review is here. Or you can read the other posts in the series here and here.