When I grow up…

This time next week, I have to stand up in front of hundreds of Bristol uni students, and tell them why I’m a writer. Which has led me to question many things e.g. my sanity when I agreed to do this, but most of all, why exactly I am a writer.

Because when I was a small girl (all right, smaller girl) I didn’t think “ooh, when I grow up I want to spend all day by myself at the computer wondering if it’s OK to put the word ‘poo’ in a sentence or not”.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved books. In fact I lived books. And that’s the thing. Because I didn’t want to be the one writing them, I wanted to be in them. I wanted to be George in the Famous Five (not because I thought Ann was prissy, but because I had short hair and knew my limitations). Then I wanted to be Darrell in Malory Towers. Or Matilda.

Then I moved on to film and wanted to be Velvet Brown and win the Grand National, preferably disguised as a boy. Or Andy in Pretty in Pink, falling for the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Or Baby in Dirty Dancing, getting to save the world and dance a neat merengue with Patrick Swayze sweating in a vest.

And for years I tried to be someone who would be written about. I studied drama, I worked in television, and then politics. But I would find myself, in the basement of 10 Downing Street, attempting to write 300 words on why ID cards were a good idea, actually imagining I had been dispatched to the Middle East and been attacked in a car bomb, whereupon a dreamy Deputy Chief of Staff would profess his love for me as I lay in a coma (I had moved on the West Wing by this point).

And that’s when I knew. That I wanted to write. Not speeches, or news reports, but stories. Because life was never going to be like it is in books or films. But by writing my own, I could still spend all day imagining I was George, or Darrell.

Or Rachel Riley or  Buttercup Jones or Penny Dreadful…

So that’s why I write. Because I read. Because I want to spend all day surrounded by stories. And because I want to pass that feeling on to you.

About Joanna Nadin

A former broadcast journalist and special adviser to the prime minister, since leaving politics I’ve written more than 80 books for children and adults, as well as speeches for politicians, and articles for newspapers and magazines like The Guardian, Red and The Amorist. I also lecture in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and hold a doctorate in young adult literature. I’m a winner of the Fantastic Book Award and the Surrey Book Award, and have been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the Booktrust Best Book award and Queen of Teen among others, and twice nominated for the Carnegie Medal, for Everybody Hurts, and for Joe All Alone, which is now a BAFTA-winning and Emmy-nominated BBC TV series. I've also worked with Sir Chris Hoy on the Flying Fergus series and ghost-written Angry Birds under another name. I like London, New York, Essex, tea, cake, Marmite, mint imperials, prom dresses, pubs, that bit in the West Wing where Donna tells Josh she wouldn’t stop for a red light if he was in an accident, junk shops, crisps, Cornwall, St Custard’s, Portuguese custard tarts, political geeks, pin-up swimsuits, the Regency, high heels, horses, old songs, my Grandma’s fur coat, vinyl, liner notes, the smell of old books, the feel of a velveteen monkey, Guinness, quiffs, putting my hand in a bin of chicken feed, the 1950s, burlesque, automata, fiddles, flaneuring, gigs in fields on warm summer nights, Bath, the bath.
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3 Responses to When I grow up…

  1. bookwitch says:

    But now you’ve given it away, and it won’t be news!

  2. Oh this made me smile so much – this is EXACTLY how I feel.

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