I grew up in a small town in North Wales, immersed in myths about giants and fairy rings.
I devoured books from a young age – stories, to me, were magical. I was a shy child and would happily curl up with a book and escape on adventures with Jo, Bessie and Fanny to Enid Blyton’s ‘Enchanted Wood’ or get up to mischief with the rascally ‘Brer Rabbit’.
We had a crab apple tree at the bottom of our garden, which had the shape of a small door, half way up its trunk. If I scrunched my eyes closed and tapped on the door three times, I would be magically transported to the Crabble Fairies’ Kingdom inside the tree.
Wet playtimes were my favourite at school as they meant having to stay in and listen to a story (and living in not-so-sunny Wales, wet playtimes weren’t a rarity). I would sit cross-legged on the mat, captivated by Roald Dahl’s words.
A trip to the library was the highlight of my week. I’d totter home, arms piled high with books. Some days, Mrs Roberts, the old lady who lived next door would come out to the garden and ask me to return her books in return for 50p and a packet of Jammie Dodgers – she really didn’t need to give me anything, I would have happily skipped along to the library for nothing.
At Secondary School, English was my favourite subject. The first book we studied was ‘Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH’ by Robert C. O’Brien. I loved it and read it again and again. Then came E. B White’s ‘Charlotte’s Web’, which is still one of my favourite ever children’s stories.
Early in Secondary School we were asked to write a piece of non-fiction as homework and I wrote about board games and their importance in family life. My teacher kept me back at the end of a lesson and I stood nervously at her desk, tears threatening, trying to work out what I’d done wrong.
‘Your homework,’ she said, ‘about board games. Did you just copy it from a book?’
‘Um, no,’ I said blushing. ‘I wrote it myself.’
She looked at me funnily and said, ‘Well, it’s extraordinary.’
It was about this time that I can remember seriously saying to myself that one day I was going to write a book. I would fill endless notebooks at home with stories. I won the school’s R S Thomas award for creative writing and walked onto the stage to collect the prize thinking, ‘Me? My writing’s actually good enough?’ A two-day writing retreat at Ty Newydd followed, which firmly cemented in my mind, that I wanted to be a writer. Writing excited me. It could make my heart pound as my hand tried to keep up with the words flowing from my head.
I went to University and studied English and Education, and began to write creatively less and less. University life just kind of took over. I graduated then panicked … what on earth was I supposed to do now? Writing didn’t even enter my mind. I needed a proper profession, a proper job from which I could earn money. So I completed a year’s teaching training – I didn’t know what else to do. By the end of the course, I had secured my first teaching position.
And that’s when real life began. The stories that had, at one time, filled my head drifted further and further away to gather gossamer cobwebs in the recesses of my mind. I was a teacher … I got married … we had our first son … then our second. Life trundled along, keeping a steady momentum.
It took the deeply distressing time in my life, when my second son was diagnosed with meningitis at six weeks old, to finally make me step off life’s wheel for a moment and think, ‘Life is so precious. Live for right now, this moment.’ And it all came flooding back to the forefront of my mind, a tidal wave of stories. I wanted to be a writer. That was my dream. It was never going to go away. The yearning to write gripped me vice-tight. I had to go for it. I had to start writing again.
(Part 2 will follow shortly)
Hwyl am y tro x