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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

I think you're expecting me ... by Jo Carroll


Knock knock … can I come in?
            I’ve been invited, so I think you are expecting me. What an erudite lot these electric authors are. I
Bombs and Butterflies by Jo Carroll
feel a bit of an interloper beside writers of such experience.
            Shall I tell you a bit about myself? Well, I didn’t set out to be a writer. I spent years working in Child Protection, which is important, and I’m proud of all I achieved. I wrote numerous articles, and a book, and did some Serious Research; and then – on a bit of a whim – gave it all up to go travelling, on my own. Well, thirty years protecting children is a long time.
I came home from trotting round the world (in my mid-50s, just to make it more difficult) with boxes of notebooks and more stories than I had people to listen to them. Write a book, someone said. Well, there were worse ways to fill my time, now I was home and trying to decide what to do next.
            Soon after that, I won a place at a mentoring scheme at Exeter University. I’d thought to use my notebooks as a foundation for short stories. No, said my mentor, you’re at your strongest writing about lived experience. And what’s different about my experience was lugging a rucksack the world on my own at an age when many women settle for gardening.
So I wrote it.
Rewrite it, he said; get closer to yourself. Don’t talk of places you can see on the telly. Tell us about things that happened, things that haven’t happened to anyone else.
Does that mean I have to talk about the man with the gun in Lucknow?
Man? Gun? Of course, he said.
Oh heck.
So I had to tell my children, about getting lost on a beach in Australia, the snakes in Malaysia, and the man with the gun in Lucknow. I’m safe now, I told them, trying to make a joke of it (though they struggled to see the funny side). And then I wrote the book again. And again. Until my mentor said, now it is good enough. Publish it.
So I did.
Then I taught myself HTML (goodness, what a lot of bad language that involved) so I could construct my own website, with some travel writing and stories and poems and even a picture or two. You can find that here.
Hidden Tiger, Raging Mountain
Travelling, and writing about it, is a strange infection. I can’t quite stop. I went back to Nepal, and was caught in a cyclone in the mountains (even more frightening than a gun in Lucknow), and found myself unnecessarily close to a tiger. So I had to tell that story, didn’t I? And then to Laos, a country I hadn’t visited before, to linger by the Mekong and discover the terrible legacy of years of bombing.
Where next? Well, since you’ve asked … on the basis of my writing and general pottering about online, I’ve been approach to review a coach trip – to France. I get free transport and free accommodation for a couple of nights, and all I have to do is review the facilities on the coach. I had a choice of Lille, or Lyon, or Paris. How to choose? It came down to practicalities: the time my bus got into Victoria Coach Station (in London) connecting with their coach to Lille, arriving in the early evening, giving me time to find my way around.
Goodness, a proper travel writer! I never thought I’d wear that label.
And I’ve bought a flight to Havana.

10 comments:

Reb MacRath said...

Welcome! And how dare you lead the most adventurous life on AE! You've inspired me to start selling more books to finance my moribund globetrotting days. Cheers.

Chris Longmuir said...

Welcome to AE. I've got a social work background as well, which had its fair share of child protection among other things. But give me a murderer on life parole any day, rather than face a tiger, or lead such an adventurous life. I know how to talk myself out of tricky situations (well, mostly) but I don't think I'd fare as well with a tiger! I'm full of admiration for you. Oh, and if any of those travel trips are going begging, I'm sure I could learn a few more skills!

Dan Holloway said...

So wonderful to see you here, Jo!

CallyPhillips said...

Yes, thrice welcome Jo. Good to see you here. There are so many points of contact with you and other members I could mention but I'll leave you to explore the turf for yourself! Some people have a personal shopper, for me, you are my personal traveller.
And hats off to you learning HTML I've never managed it. I've always found whatever way I can to use (or subvert) software to do what I want. Coding is not for me. But much respect for those who do it (I believe Chris is an HTML dame?) See... more and more points of connection will be revealed over the weeks and months ahead! Welcome aboard.

Jan Needle said...

welcome on board....

Bill Kirton said...

Fascinating and scary, Jo. Welcome. You seem admirably averse to wasting time. An example I really must try to follow.

Lydia Bennet said...

welcome Jo, you've hit the ground running on AE, what a start! Great to hear about your travel writing new direction. Adventures come to us at all ages, I always love to hear about people who buck stereotypes and reinvent themselves, you've done both!

julia jones said...

Have read Cally's reviews of your wonderful books. Great to have you in the gang.

Kathleen Jones said...

WElcome aboard Jo - the books sound great. I love travelling, whether real or virtual. Look forward to reading.

JO said...

Thank you all, for making me so welcome. I may be the quiet one in the corner to begin with - I shall probably be thinking!