Hello. I’m Sam, and this is You’re Writing Launchpad. Trust is important when you are investing in your writing. So I’d like to tell you a bit about me.
I have always loved books, words, and stories. My earliest memories are of stories at bedtime and learning them off by heart. I remember taking a copy of The Lord of the Rings into school when I was about 10, and carrying it around because it made me happy. (Full disclosure: I probably also enjoyed the kudos from reading such a long book!)
Reading, for me, has been both escape from my immediate surroundings and the way I learn about the world and the people around me. It is a headlong dive into empathy, even while also being an opportunity to do other things and experience different lives.
I’m a trained storyteller – in that I studied History and Politics at university, and have an MA in Modern History. I mean, what could be better background for understanding the power of a story than the writing and re-writing of history or the persistent fictionalising of life in politics?! I love Rudyard Kipling’s off-cited quote that ‘if history were taught in the form of stories it would never be forgotten’. I believe that every time we write history, we are choosing to tell a story about ourselves and the world as it is now.
I bring this training to my work today. I am perhaps best as a macro editor: helping you shape and construct the narrative and characters and themes of your work. Although I can offer line-by-line editing and feedback, I am not a copy editor. I will help make your book more readable, concise, and effective in communicating to your readers.
I began my career working for Waterstones where I started as a Christmas temp and went on to manage the fiction and front of store sections, institute a festival, and be nominated for Bookseller of the Year. I moved on to work for a brilliant and relatively new organisation called New Writing Partnership, which was to become Writers’ Centre Norwich and then National Centre for Writing. There I became Programme Manager and worked across a wide range of work – from international conferences to historic festivals, reading promotions to school engagement, industry development to writer support. In all of this work I got most joy from working with people in a front-facing capacity: talking about books, hosting events, helping writers develop their work, and most of all reading, always reading.
I joined the board of Gatehouse Press, and became Editorial Director. There I instigated the New Fictions prize which has worked to diversify publishing and support talented writers into publication. I was proud to publish Kumkum Malhotra by Preti Taneja, a brilliant author who has gone on to win the Desmond Elliott Prize for her debut novel We That Were Young, and a host of other talented writers.
Thanks to the incredible support I had at National Centre for Writing, in 2014 I was awarded a prestigious Clore Fellowship to spend a year learning and thinking about how I could become a better leader in the arts. There I learned that I didn’t want to lead an organisation but to stay close to artists and audiences, and to develop my own artistic practice. I trained as a coach, and learned the value of clear communication, spaces to think, and understanding myself and my own energies.
I returned full of ideas and keen to try to experiment with how books could be experienced in live events. I created Story Machine events in 2016 and 2017 and decided to focus on that in 2018. I got a dog, and started to work freelance from home. It wasn’t easy, and my income reduced, but I finally found a work-life balance that nurtured me.
I have been married for 16 years to a wonderful wife who makes me smile and helps me grow. Life hasn’t always been easy, and I’ve struggled with addiction problems which I recently talked about at a brilliant event – True Stories Live – in Norwich.
I am an introvert, which means that I prefer talking to people one-on-one rather than in groups, and need lots of time to myself to replenish my energy. I still love nothing more than reading quietly in the bath, and working quietly with my dog sprawled across my lap. Over the last few years I have invested in the things that matter to me: people and personal connections, stories, and shared experiences. I have learned a lot. Sitting on my couch now, typing this, I am more artistically fulfilled than before, more nurtured by others than I have ever been.
I hope I can use my skills, experiences, and passion for words, books, and stories, to support your writing. After all, this is YOUR writing launchpad.