What made you passionate about writing?
It’s a mystery really and will probably feature as the subject of a future poem.
The one reccurring urge is to create something new. I like the idea that words have a special magic, capable of summoning a reaction in the reader. I wish I could conjure the grand illusion of a novel, but I am happy dabbling in my little spells of verse.
I experience just as big a buzz from encouraging others to cast a spell or two of their own. The world needs more new magicians, writing more new illusions.
What made you set up the Leakey Pens?
Speed dating just wasn't working for me and ’Help the Aged’ threw me out for under age thinking.
In all seriousness and at the risk of stretching the metaphor too far, a local magic circle of creative minds, sounded appealing. To see it now as so much more than a writing group is a source of pride that I never envisaged.
The body of work that now exists, because there is a Leakey Pens, is just incredible.
How would you define your role within the group?
I'd love to be the resident sex pest, but my back's gone and my inclination went before my back did.
I am a good shout for the anchor man if we ever form a tug of war team. Chief ’H’ dropper and the face of our radio advertising campaign.
Mr. Garbett always describes me as the Collie, keeping the flock moving in the right direction. I'd go for the Guppy that keeps the water swirling.
Did you expect it to develop the way it has?
I will answer this question seriously and the quick answer is no. The group has exceeded my expectations beyond measure.
We have already spoken of our growing body of work, but there has been so much more.
We have had guest speakers, that included a Booker short-lister.
We arranged a trip to the Hay Book Festival.
We have done live performances of our work and they paid us.
We started a quiz team.
The list just grows and grows.
Most importantly though, we formed into a network where we support each other, not just as writers, but, more importantly, as friends.
Am I proud? Yes, you bet I am!
What are the highlights of the past three years?
Joy spending the first half of our first-ever Zoom meeting with a post-it note over her camera. All we could hear was her saying. ”I don't know why the bloody thing won't work.” Classic! We could all have been shortlisted for the Booker prize and it wouldn't have topped that.
Joy’s limerick about the scrotum of the man from Gotham was a close second.
Our yearbooks and our other publications are a catalogue of highlights, but when we laugh and giggle together it always sticks in my memory. I have thought for a while now that the group would make a great vehicle for a ’Last of the Summer Wine’ type sitcom.
Have you seen members’ confidence in their writing improve and develop?
Yes, but not enough! Collectively we are all a little too British about our work. A little too ”Dont listen to me, it makes me nervous and I haven't got much to say worth saying.”
The quality of our output has steadily improved. The number of contributors has steadily increased. Members who previously happily and timidly sat on the periphery are now having a go.
All good positive stuff!
I am actually part of the problem here. When you are all saying. ”I have written this or that. It is not very good but....” In my head I am screaming. ”Well I think it's bloomin’ brilliant.” If I give praise, it is never with conviction, because my own insecurity kicks in and I think, who am I to judge?
A little Rick Wood swagger would do us all good. I would love to take credit for Rick, but he is a force of nature and he does not suffer the afflictions of the rest of us.
Did you ever expect that the group you set up would empower members to go on and publish?
To be honest when the group was first set up, my biggest ambition was a second meeting. I knew some quality people had turned up to that first meeting, with some already published authors coming along for a look see. I was so pleased with that original turn out.
Imagine my delight when they all turned up again and again and again. We have accumulated quality members ever since.
Everyone has a book in them, our members are no exception. The Leakey Pens are a group of quality individuals and from quality comes quality.