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Saving Lives – A Love Letter to Psychiatry

There are many reasons people decide to go to medical school, but if you ask someone on their first day, why they are there, they will tell you it’s because they want to make a difference. They will tell you it’s because they want to do something valuable – something important. They will tell you it’s because they want to save lives.   Saving lives is a big crowd puller when it comes to med school entry, and I can truly understand it. On my last placement before finals, I found myself in A&E, the not-quite-a-doctor, trying desperately to avoid…

The Wrong Kind of Kindness

I do my best thinking when I’m driving. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps it’s the silence (I very rarely listen to music), or perhaps it’s because no one can hear (I tend to think out loud), or perhaps it’s because a car is a strange, in-between place which feels familiar and comforting, but is anonymous enough to soak up all your thoughts, and when your journey ends, it allows you to leave everything behind and walk away. This week, I went to an event in Manchester, and as I was driving home, I started thinking about my car…

My Top Ten Tips for Twitter (or or how to be a human being)

Just lately, I have stumbled upon several blog posts, giving detailed instructions on how to ‘sell books on Twitter’. Guidance on ‘networking’ (which always makes me think of trapped fish) and ‘growing your audience’ (houseplants?). Posts like that make me nervous. Actually, they make me more than nervous, they make me want to tear flesh from my own skull. I think I’ve read enough of them now to warrant writing my own. So here, for what it’s worth, are my top ten tips for Twitter (or alternatively, how to be a human being).  1: YOU ARE NOT ON TWITTER TO…

Breaking and Mending

A few years ago, I found myself in A&E.   I had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn’t eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains, listening to the rest of the hospital happen around me, and I shook with the effort of not crying. I was an inch away from defeat, from the acceptance of a failure I assumed would be inevitable, but I knew I had to carry on. I had to somehow walk through it.   Because…

The Person I Became (or what I’ve really learned since being published)

If you attend enough events as an author, you will find you are asked the same questions many times over. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because with each response, you are able to fine tune your answers. ‘Are you a goat, or a sheep?’ ‘Yes, but where did Mrs Creasy really go?’ ‘What have you learned since you’ve been published?’ What have I learned since I’ve been published? I will usually answer, ‘the toilets at Euston Station only take ten and twenty pence pieces,’ and ‘Salisbury is a lot further away than you think.’ The truth is, I have…

Love Letter To A Bookshop

When I was eight, I was given a gift by my teacher. A thank-you for a year’s worth of cleaning the board and pushing the chairs under the tables, and emptying the bins. It was also a goodbye gift. A gift that sent me on the way into my next chapter. It was a book token. My teacher was very wise, and knew this gift was unlike any other. It was a passport to wherever I wanted to go. It was an introduction to new friends, friends who waited for me within the pages of a novel. It was an…

The Goat Bursary

In the (many) interviews I’ve done since THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP was published, one question seems to come up again and again: Our readers would love to know: are you a sheep or a goat? I think, perhaps, you only have to take a look at my CV to find an answer to that one. I left school at 15, went to medical school in my thirties, and I wrote a book, sitting in an NHS car park in my lunch break. I would say that’s pretty standard goat behaviour. There are many other qualities too, smaller ones,…

Heroes and Villains

  I have met the greatest hero in the world. Her name was Jackie and she had bowel cancer.   ‘Jackie’s going to beat this,’ she told me. ‘Jackie’s going to win.’ And I smiled and nodded, and she smiled and nodded back, even though we both knew this was a victory that would never happen. Weeks later, I was called to certify her death. Jackie wasn’t brave, because by definition, bravery suggests that someone has a choice. A choice to face a fear or turn away. Jackie had no choice, which – to me – made her the greatest…

The Monster Under The Bed

Today is an unusual day. There have been many unusual days on this journey of Goats and Sheep. Days I’ve stared into space and wondered if this was all really happening – the day I signed with my wonderful agent, the day my publishing deal was in The Bookseller, the day I saw my novel on the Waterstones’ website. Today, however, is the most unusual of unusual days. Today, I’m in The Observer, staring back from the page as one of their ‘new voices in fiction’. Have a look here, if you’d like to read it. Every year, I watched…

Unspoken

He never said I love you. Instead, he said don’t forget your coat, and drive carefully and when will you be back. He never said I love you. Instead, he made her tea with just the right amount of milk, and remembered her birthday, and always switched the television on, to warm up. Over the years, even when she asked, he never said I love you. Instead, he said don’t be silly and you know I do and of course. The words were trapped. Awkward and stubborn and shy. He tried to coax them from their hiding place, but they…