Words are what I do. I spent 36 years teaching secondary school pupils how words work – aka as teaching English. And since about 1990 I’ve written over 50 books and 5,000 articles for newspapers, magazines and websites. And that’s a lot of words.
Inevitably, given my background, most of my writing – regardless of genre – used to relate to education in some form or other. In recent years I’ve become more performing arts-focused. From 2005-2016 I was (freelance) Education and Training Editor at The Stage, which involved three columns a week. I do a great deal of theatre reviewing for various publications. An amateur violinist myself and lifelong listener, I also review classical music concerts.
Over the years, I’ve written extensively for The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Sunday Times, Daily Mail and for dozens and dozens of magazines ranging from The Woodworker, Cat World and Here’s Health to TES, The Lady and Good Housekeeping. I also wrote for The Independent on and off for a very long time. Today I am a regular contributor to Ink Pellet, Sardines Magazine and Drama and Theatre – among others.
Book authorship took off in a big way in 2004 when I finally gave up my part-time teaching job. Since then I’ve written a series of English textbooks. I’ve also done English Literature study guides and teaching resources to go with them, along with how-to books for teachers.
My new book All Booked Up: A Reading Retrospective will be published in March 2024. It’s a homage to a lifetime of reading – another take on my “words, words, words” obsession, I suppose.
Based on blogs written during my husband’s final illness, The Alzheimer’s Diaries was published in 2022, It’s wry not gloomy and one reader described it as hilarious.
Please Miss We’re Boys – published in 2019 tells the story of my first five years in teaching when I was a delicate, sheltered 21 year old woman deposited in a rough, all-boys’ school in Deptford. It is, they tell me, both poignant and funny as well as providing a snapshot of what life was really like at the chalkface in 1968.
I grew up in south London (where I now live, once more) with an elderly tabby and white cat named Dave. I attended Sydenham High School for Girls and Bishop Otter College, Chichester. Later I did an absolutely wonderful, life-changing BA degree with the Open University (followed by a slightly less wonderful MA) to rectify the woeful shortcomings of my teacher training. It was the OU, bless it, which reminded me that a) I can write and b) I like doing it.
I was married to the lovely Nicholas Elkin – known to my Twitter followers as Mr E for 50 years until his death in 2019. I have two grown-up sons and four gorgeous granddaughters whom Twittersphere knows as GD1, GD2, GD3 and GD4.