“I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t want to write. The first time I went to Haworth and saw the tiny ‘books’ in which the Bront children wrote their amazing first attempts, I remembered that I used to make the same sort of little books and write stories in them.
“When I got married we went out to the West Indies to teach English in secondary schools, but I also worked part-time for the local tourist paper. I was paid by the inch, with double if I made it on to the front page, so every Friday I picked up a copy on my way home from school and, armed with a ruler, measured up my inches.
“Back in England, my first published story was for ‘The Brownie’, for which I received a cheque for two pounds. This seemed miraculous people actually paying me for doing something I loved!
“My next writing, which fitted in beautifully with bringing up a family and part-time teaching, was for a girls’ comic, doing the storylines and speech bubbles. I then wrote three full-length children’s novels, all of which are still gathering dust in a drawer upstairs, along with enough rejection slips to paper a room.
“I reluctantly decided I wasn’t going to be the next Enid Blyton, and for a while I rather hung in the wind. But my mother and various aunts had always read the ‘Friend’, and one day I picked up a copy and began to read . . .
“My first accepted story, after several false starts but lots of encouragement and advice from the editorial team, was about a young woman who’s a children’s birthday party organiser. The zip sticks in her tiger outfit and she has to be rescued by the handsome single father of one of the children. I can still remember the excitement of that ‘yes’, andthat feeling isstill with me whenever I get the same response today.
“My plots originate from anywhere and everywhere conversations overheard (writers have big ears), ‘what if’ situations and holidays. A few days in Sicily last year gave me a recent story and our lovely tour guide, Rosario, provided the name for the little boy.
“Nowadays, I havenever lost the urge to write. In fact, my family tell me that I’m bad-tempered when I’m not bent over my desk or muttering to myself as I work out plots. And for anyone who thinks they’d love to have a go do it! Lock yourself in a room with a blank sheet of paper for just one hour. Put pen to paper (much better than fingers on a keyboard), and even if you just write Mary had a little lamb five thousand times, don’t stop until the hour is up. Sooner or later, your brain will tire of Mary and her goody-goody lamb and something will click . . .”
You can catch up with Annie’s latest story, “Towards The Flame”, in our Sept 19 issue.