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The Road to Writing Renown



The Road to Writing Renown

If you needed an operation would you put yourself into the hands of a surgeon who didn’t have the necessary knowledge, experience and qualifications? It’s highly unlikely. Yet when we choose a novel to read we don’t question the level of education of the author.

How many people have written successful books without first achieving recognised literary qualifications?  The answer is too many to mention here and some of them are well known literary names.


Sir Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015. British science fiction and fantasy novelist, famous for his Disc World series, he finished his formal education at high school. He is quoted as saying ‘I didn't go to university. Didn't even finish A levels. But I have sympathy for those who did.’

With sales of over 85 million books in 37 languages under his belt, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998 and was knighted for services to literature in 2009.  He has also won numerous other awards for his work. Surprisingly only a handful of his work has made it to the big screen.


George Bernard Shaw 1856-1950. An Irish–British playwright, critic and novelist, he attended four schools and hated them all.  He finished his education at high school level and from then on taught himself. He later wrote ‘Schools and schoolmasters are prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parents. Unsuccessful as a novelist he turned playwright and wrote over 60 plays. Perhaps his most famous play was Pygmalion which was turned into a movie of the same name and also a famous musical entitled My Fair Lady.

Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Ernest Hemmingway 1899-1961 was an American novelist, short story writer and journalist. His best known works are, A Farewell to Arms,For Whom the Bells Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea, the latter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. He left high school and continued his education by reading anything he could lay his hands on, for hours at a time in his bed. Much of his work inspired films. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.


Jane Austen, English Novelist 1775 – 1817. She wrote Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma and others. Her schooling ended when she was 10 years old because her family could no longer afford the boarding school fees. The remainder of her education came from reading.  Jane began writing very soon after finishing her schooling.

Her novels have rarely been out of print and all of them have been turned into films or adapted for television production.


Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012. American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet, he graduated from high school and ended his education at that point. He said: ‘Libraries raised me. I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library 3 days a week for 10 years.’

Ray Bradbury is famous for his novels Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles.  Many of his novels have been made into movies and TV series’.

He was nominated for many awards for his works and won over 20 of them. In 1992 a newly discovered asteroid was named 9766 Bradbury in his honour.


Doris Lessing 1919 – 2013. British-Zimbabwean novelist, poet, playwright librettist, biographer and short story writer. She declared her intention to be a writer at the age of 11. At 14 she left school due to illness and never went back.  She said: "I didn't have any proper education or qualifications, so I had to be a writer. What else would I have done?"

Doris wrote over 25 novels of different genres covering social issues, psychosocial issues and some science fiction. Her novels include: The Grass is Singing, The Golden Notebook, Shikasta, Alfred and Emily and The Good Terrorist . Her work has inspired a number of films and she was awarded numerous honours. In 2007 she became the eleventh woman and the oldest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 2008 The Times ranked her fifth of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.


Charles John Huffam Dickens 1812-1870. Recognised as a literary genius, he was probably the greatest novelist of the Victorian era despite the fact that he never won any awards for his writing. His schooling ended when he was 15 due to the fact that his father was sent to debtor’s prison and he was forced to work to help his family.  The terrible working conditions he suffered influenced much of his work.

Charles Dickens published a number of major novels. The titles are so renowned that I really don’t need to mention them.  He also wrote novellas short stories, a handful of plays and several non-fiction books. His novel Oliver Twist was turned into a very successful musical, Oliver. Time Out magazine ranked it the 69th best British film ever.


It would seem that to be a successful writer, all you really need is a passion for the language you write in, determination, a vast amount of imagination, a thick skin and the ability to spin a darned good yarn.

Whether you swotted for a Creative Writing BA at university, or not, where will your writing road take you?

Jo Brand

Jo Brand




Josephine Grace Brand was born in Hastings, East Sussex 61 years ago today. Her mother was a social worker, her father a structural engineer.  She was raised in a Kent village and left School with eight O-levels.

Growing up she spent much of her time with her two brothers, smoking, drinking and staying out all hours. Aged 15, she entered into a relationship with a heroin addict and eventually left home to live with him.

She worked in a pub and with adults with learning disabilities. Gaining a degree in social science and nursing in 1982, Jo went on to work as a psychiatric nurse for ten years.

An agent persuaded Jo Brand to begin career in stand-up comedy.  Aged 29 she took the stage in London clubs and received abuse and no applause for her very first act. Her deadpan delivered humour was drawn from the media, well-known celebrities and public figures. Ignoring the boos, catcalls and objects thrown at her, she persisted with her near-the-knuckle, often offensive and hard-style comedy to become a popular household name appearing frequently on television as a comedienne and in several TV shows and series. She has been involved in numerous fundraising events and supports a number of charities.

Shortly after beginning her career as a stand-up comic she married Bernie Bourke, a psychiatric nurse. They have two daughters.

Awards and honours

In  2007, Jo Brand was awarded an honorary doctorate for her work as a psychiatric nurse. The same year she received a Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing Lifetime Achievement Award.

In  2014, she was awarded a second honorary doctorate from Canterbury Christ Church University, for her work in raising awareness of mental health issues and challenging the stigma surrounding such illnesses.

British Comedy Award 1992: Top comedy club performer

British Comedy Award 1995: Best stand-up comic

British Comedy Award 2010: Best female TV comic

BAFTA 2011: Best Female Performance in a Comedy Role

British Comedy Award 2012: Best female TV comic

A fellow stand-up comic said of her "She is one of the loveliest people I've ever known. She's somehow reached the point where no matter how vicious she is in her act she still retains her generosity of spirit."

Joe Brand had also written 4 novels, 2 autobiographies, 2 non-fiction books  and a feature film in which she starred, an adaptation of her novel The More You Ignore Me. The film and the book share the same title.


Sorting Out Billy ISBN 0-7553-2336-X

Living in a London council estate, Billy is loud, badly behaved, has a vicious temper and beats his girlfriend. Three women get together and attempt to sort him out.

 It's Different for Girls ISBN 0-7553-2229-0

Set in Hastings, this is a novel about two teenage girls in the seventies sticking together against nutty parents and school bullies, enjoying all-night parties and discovering sex, drugs and punk music.

The More You Ignore Me ISBN 0-7553-2231-2

About a girl growing up with a mentally deranged mother and a hippy father convinced that she needs five personalities to cope.  The book was made into a film.


Look Back in Hunger ISBN 0-7553-5525-3

An autobiography about her early life and nursing years.

Can't Stand Up For Sitting Down ISBN 978-0-7553-5526-6

Autobiography about her rise to fame and fortune.

Non fiction

A Load of Old Balls ISBN 0-671-71385-X

Jo selects her top 50 men troughout history and savagely  portrays them with her unique hard-hitting style

A Load of Old Ball Crunchers ISBN 0-684-81695-4

Jo Brand’s portrayal of her selection of 50 famous women.

Her books are written in similar style to her stand-up humour and probably wouldn’t be an ideal gift for your Mary Whitehouse minded granny.  However, a fan of Jo Brand style comedy is likely to experience an enjoyable raunchy read.

Jo Brand Quotes

I never ever take into consideration the consequences of my actions until it's too late.

The way to a man's heart is through his hanky pocket with a breadknife.

In 2003, Brand was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy.

For further information:



Cherished Fictional Characters

Cherished Fictional Characters

Even though it’s well over 50 years ago, I can still recall watching Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben and other similar television programs for young children. I loved them all. As I grew a little older I became a fan of Dr Who and to this day I recall vividly the intense thrill of fear the very first moment I saw a Dalek on the television screen.  I was literally petrified of them but so fascinated I was glued to the screen during the episodes.  Someone only had to point at me and say ‘exterminate’ (a popular children’s amusement at the time) and I would run away screaming. My greatest fear then was that Daleks would become a reality and suddenly appear in front of me. Even with all the advantages of technology in today’s filming industry, nothing I’ve ever seen on a screen since has installed the same feeling of dread in me.

Fictional characters (if you can call a Dalek a character) can play an important role in people’s minds, especially the young.  I longed to be part of a gang and share the same adventures as Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Secret Seven characters, to fly like Peter Pan, or to fall in love with a Mr Darcy. Today’s young people probably dream of being Harry Potter or Hermione Grainger.  Adolescent boys may fantasise about Daenerys Targaryen and young ladies possibly dream of meeting Jon Snow.

There are countless fictitious characters immortalised in literature. Unlike us mere mortals, forgotten a generation or so after we leave this place, fictional characters are re-discovered and loved anew by each new generation of bookworms, film buffs and story lovers.

A fictional character begins life inside a writer’s head.  As a writer, perhaps one of your characters will become immortal, possibly originally inspired by one of the WA’s Monday muses.

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