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Writing and Me title

Childhood Ambitions

Children are always asked what they want to be when they grow up. Ignoring the inherent implication that your job should somehow define you, it is a good way of gauging your child's aspirations and personality. Are they already the ambitious type who see themselves as astronauts or brain surgeons? Are they prematurely power-hungry and see themselves as future world leaders? Are they the practical types that wish for futures as train drivers or plumbers? Are they creative, yet a little delusional, and see no better future for themselves than somehow becoming a squirrel? For me the answer was always the same: "I want to be an author". This said I was creative, shy (preferring writing alone to speaking to people) and no doubt inspired by my Dad (who was also a writer).

Specifically I wanted to write children's books, but that's only because I was a child myself and those were therefore the books I liked to read! Grown up books looked so boring in comparison; where were the pictures? I was a big fan of Roald Dahl (whose birthday I also share) and his books always came with those wonderful Quentin Blake illustrations. Grown up books didn't even seem to have interesting covers (although this was before the creation of Harry Potter and the whole notion of having children's books that were also aimed at adults - but the less said about that the better)!

As I got older, I moved on from Roald Dahl, through Enid Blyton, Judy Blume, the Point Horror series and eventually onto those proper grown up books I used to think looked so dull. Specifically I developed a taste for contemporary fiction (you can find a list of my top 10 favourite books here) and realised that those were the type of books I would actually like to write.

Writing Development

All school children are asked to write stories from time to time and it was something I always revelled in. I'd scrawl away and write 13 pages worth in the time it took most classmates to write 4. The one story that sticks in my mind from my time at primary school is one I wrote in year 6 called 'The Magic Hole' (double-entendre intended - I was at that kind of age!). It was like a cross between Alice In Wonderland and that part in The Simpsons where Homer imagines the land of chocolate. I know it included an eagle made of fried eggs; complete with illustration. My writing's definitely gotten less surreal since those days.

The main story I remember writing at Secondary School was part of my GCSE coursework. We had to write a short story that was in some way inspired by our recent work experience placements. I'd worked in a book shop (despite requesting a library) and managed to use that scenario to crowbar in what was essentially X-Files fan fiction. I wasn't actually aware of the existence of fan fiction yet, but I was a big fan of The X-Files and wanted to use the characters in my story.

During my time at University I started writing a lot of poetry (some of which you can read here), though I also discovered fan fiction. Fan fiction's often sneered at for being a lazy use of someone else's characters; a form of wish-fulfilment; and/or an excuse for smut. There is a vast amount of badly written fan fiction (and a hell of a lot of smut), but there's some good stuff out there too. The success of Fifty Shades Of Grey has obviously shown that fan fiction can lead to success and widespread recognition, rather than just niche appeal, though it arguably hasn't done much to promote the actual writing quality of a lot of fan fiction (judging by the reviews I've read - I have no remote desire to actually read it myself). Personally I found that fan fiction was a good motivational tool for getting me writing - partly because there are pre-defined characters that you already care about, but also because you have a ready-made audience. The community aspect of it is a definite positive. I wrote more fiction than I had done in a long time.

Post-university I continued to write a decent amount of poetry and went on to win the staff poetry competition at the University of Worcester for two consecutive years. My short story writing, however, started to gradually dwindle. Instead I discovered blogging; arguably less creative, but still a good outlet for my thoughts and feelings. Also during this time, through a fortuitous and surreal set of circumstances, I came to be in touch with one of my musical idols: Cerys Matthews. I got to set up and run her MySpace site and then took over the running of her official website as well. As part of my role as her webmistress, I was asked to write a biography for use on her management's website. It wasn't the type of thing I was used to writing, but I enjoyed the challenge and was pleased with what I produced. I was even more pleased when it was then used in one of her tour programmes. It wasn't the first time I'd seen my writing in print (I've had various poems published in anthologies by Poetry Now and Poetry.com), but it was definitely a proud moment for me. As the biography's now out of date, you can't find it on the official websites any more, but you can still read it here - it starts towards the end of the page, beginning 'Cerys Matthews is a Cardiff-born singer and songwriter...'.

The next jump-start to my writing came in 2009 when there was a competition being run through my place of work. It was for any form of creativity based around the topic of libraries. I contemplated the writing of a poem, as they'd previously done me well in workplace competitions, but I fancied a new challenge and decided to write a short story instead. Although my fiction writing hadn't dried up and I'd made a couple of recent attempts at starting novels, I'd not actually written and completed a short story in quite a long time. Having a deadline was the necessary motivation I needed and I was pleased with my runners-up placing (even though winning would have been nicer, obviously).

Since 2009, I've gone on to write a few more short stories and poems, as well as making a start on a novel. Unlike other novels I've started writing and not gotten very far with, I feel a sense of dedication to this one that I've never felt before. However, I still struggle with self-discipline and motivation. The setting up of this website is a way of trying to combat that.

Personal Websites

This isn't my first personal website. I first set one up in about 2000, just after I'd learnt how to make them at university. It was... how can I put it?... colourful! The word 'gaudy' also springs to mind, but hey, this was back in 2000! Prime time of awful geocities sites with multiple animated gifs and frighteningly loud background music that you couldn't turn off. My site was at least free from background music and only had the one animated gif (correction: it had 3 - I forgot about the 2 spinning disco balls - the shame!). In particular it was defined by its pink colour scheme and the cartoon picture of me on the front page. Thank goodness my web design skills have moved on since those days... *ahem*. Behold the monstrosity:

Old website
(the cartoon Chantal waved and the disco balls span around - classy!)

I did create a more toned down version at a later date, albeit still very pink. As you can tell, it was never intended as a particularly serious site. Although I did use it as a means of sharing my poetry, it was more predominantly a way of sharing my photos and honouring my favourite musicians, actors and actresses.

So why have I now decided to set up a new personal website, 12 years later? Well, as I already mentioned, I need incentive and motivation to encourage me to write more and to finally achieve the goal I set for myself as a young child: to be a novelist. If I can use this website, and the blog in particularly, to build up some kind of potential audience for my writing, I think it'll give me the incentive I need to actually sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). So, no pressure or anything, it's only my childhood dream, but if you could read some of my short stories and/or poetry and then, if you like them, pop over to my blog and harrass me to get my novel written, I'd greatly appreciate it.

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