Author Feature as seen in Western Morning News

As a child, my father, a professor of linguistics and religions and collector of myths and legends, read his found stories to me. This inspired my early love of fables and fantasy. I’ve worked in various jobs over the years. Now I run a small-holding with a holiday let, which fits in well with being a writer. I am also a member of a local amateur dramatic group, Red Spider Company, a local acapella choir, The Packhorse Singers, and I work occasionally as a film extra. Meeting Tim Burton on the set of Alice in Wonderland in the gardens of Antony House, Devon, was a particular high-light.

I’ve been a sporadic writer all my life. I’ve written an illustrated children’s book, a panto for charity (performed and well recieved), a play, numerous poems and short stories. I also wrote a fantasy novel or two. But I’d never been published – rejection slips filled a drawer and my confidence hovered around the zero level. So my writing tailed off. Then one fine day, my husband, Paul, encouraged me to try out the Get Started with Creative Writing online course run by Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education. An excellent course, it inspired me to write again.

I then heard about the Diploma in Creative Writing, also run by OUDCE. I never thought for a moment I’d be accepted onto the course, but I sent in an application anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say.

Astonished doesen’t cover it when I got a letter with an interview date. I read up on the course, its structure and reading list, and the books, poetry and playscripts the tutors had written. Girded with this knowledge, I took the bus to Exeter, a train to Reading and yet another to Oxford. I shook like a leaf the whole way, barely able to read a word of the book I’d brought along for company. I loathe interviews with a passion, confidence is not my strong point.

Oxford is a beautiful city, and I fell in love with it. The honeyed architecture, the history, the museums, the ancient colleges. It felt glorious to think I might be part of it, if only for a moment.

To say the interview was intimidating is an understatement. Three interviewers grilled me. The course director and two of the tutors. I managed to bumble my way through somehow and thought I’d failed miserably as I blinked my way outside again. But I couldn’t be sad as it was a beautiful Spring day, and I spent the rest of it walking along the sun-sparkled river, and thinking how wonderful it was to have got to the interview stage.

Imagine my amazement when I got a letter stating I’d got in. Me?

As the weekly journey took five hours each way, I read a lot and stayed one night a week in St Hugh’s College. Breakfasting in their portrait-heavy refectory, I felt almost like a real student. What am I saying? I was a real student, just a great deal older than those surrounding me.

The diploma taught me a great deal about all the different genres of writing. I loved meeting the others on the course, and hearing their different voices in their writing. Most importantly, my writing improved.

Two years later I got a 2:1, and attended a wonderful graduation ceremony in the beautiful Sheldonian amongst all the good friends I’d made. Needless to say, I glowed with pride.

I’d started an epic fantasy during the Diploma, and ended up publishing it on Smashwords.com. It’s incredibly easy to self-publish, even a numpty like me had no problems. But before it’d been there long, the chief editor of Claret Press read and loved my manuscript for The Cracked Amulet.

In March last year I signed a three book deal with Claret Press, London. It’s a new type of publisher where they print but the author does the marketing, so it’s sort of half indie. The Cracked Amulet, book one of the Wefan Weaves trilogy, was published in January 2016.

I’ll admit, I did a happy dance on that day – I just couldn’t contain myself. There’s a certain thrill you get knowing your words are being read. I once read somewhere that writing is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I have to say I agree.

A snippet of my writer’s journey hope you enjoyed it.

All the best

RB Watkinson

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