I’m a full-time writer and it’s the best job in the world. How I became a writer is a long story (which I might post one day), but here’s the short version.

Since my school days, I have wanted to be a writer. As a teenager, I made comics for my friends. I loved JRR Tolkien and Terry Pratchett, so I wrote ‘hilarious’ hobbit parodies. At university, I studied English for the creative writing modules, and wrote bizarro stories about Charlie Dimmock and Trevor McDonald.

Then I graduated and had to get a job. I had been looked after by foster parents, and I wanted to use my experiences to help other children in the same situation. For the next thirteen years, I worked with young people and their families in a mentoring project, a Youth Offending Team and several children’s homes.

I completed an MA in Creative Writing in 2006, more as a hobby than for professional development. At least, that’s what I thought, but I kept sneaking writing into my day job. I made up stories to help children deal with whatever issues they might be facing. I designed intervention programmes around creative writing. In my last ‘proper job’, I edited all of our reports and helped the team improve their writing skills.

This led to a brief dalliance with freelance copywriting and editing, but something was missing. I enjoyed the work, and my clients loved what I wrote, but I felt like I wasn’t really making a difference any more. I wasn’t making the world a better place.

James Whitman doing his writer thing with a troop of teenagers at Pop Recs Ltd, in Sunderland.

Photo taken at Pop Recs Ltd by Stephanie Smith.

So I started to run writing workshops in schools and community venues. I wrote some short stories, and I’m currently working on my first novel. A friend shoved me (physically) into Sunderland’s nascent arts scene, where I met Frank Styles, an amazingly talented street artist. Since then, we have developed a unique community arts project, combining massive murals and hyper-local stories in a new and exciting way.

I don’t have to sneak writing into my day job any more. Now, writing is my day job. That sounds awesome, but it isn’t all typewriters and tea parties. Some days I’m writing a novel, other days I’m helping children make super-teams out of ancient heroes. Some days I’m just getting covered in spray paint.

Actually, that still sounds awesome. Like I said, being a writer is the best job in the world.

What next?

  • If you’re here for the fiction, check out the Stories page (coming soon).
  • For more information about my creative writing workshops, head over to the Workshops page (coming soon).
  • I can’t say much about my community arts project at this stage, but if you’d like email updates, click the subscribe button in the sidebar.