This is cheating, I suppose, although since I am not married, nor in a long term relationship – I cannot technically cheat. But it is an interview for the newsletter of the the above group. It is also cheating in that I did ‘interview’ myself. The questions and the answers are mine. It will bring new followers into my life and you oldsters will be reminded of the last two and a half years of my life. Here goes…..
What made you decide to leave Marin County to go and live in London in 2014?
It was a lethal combination of folly and stupidity.
But seriously, I do not know, however, very recently it has been revealed to me (through me) that it was an intuitive sense of self preservation.
But the rational reasons that surrounding the decision were that I loved London. I visited London in the tourist capacity approximately ten times – the last six were with a theatre group that used a Bloomsbury hotel for lodging, supplied theatre tickets, and a theatre critic to provide ‘insight’ into the productions.I loved the experience; craved more theatre and museums so decided that a longer respite in London was needed. I correctly ascertained that the best way of achieving this was to attain a student status. A student visa was the magic which would allow uninterrupted stay. So I applied, to a London school, was accepted and the rest, as they say, is history,
But what school did you attend and what was the degree you would acheive?
That is a good question since, goodness knows, I did not need any more degrees having three already. My third degree, from Dominican University in San Rafael, is is a Masters in Humanities. I was awarded that degree after I had retired from county employment in 2004.
But for some obscure reason i decided that I wanted to become a writer. So I did what any sane and adept individual would do – I googled and discovered the blog (actually) of a Canadian woman who attended City University London. She was in the Creative NonFiction program (which I kept calling the NonCreative Fiction program). I applied, was interviewed during my January 2014 visit and was accepted.
What was that like for you?
Well, it was amazing. I asked the head of the program. Julie Wheelwright, who interviewed me, when the decision would be made concerning my admission to the program. She said: “Now! I have the authority. You are accepted!” I cried. She said: “No one has done that before. “ But it was prophetic.
Yes, as the program proved to be a disaster. I respectfully refer you to my blog alexismcbride.com. Respectfully refer is legal terminology as you do know that I was an attorney in County Counsel’s office for decades. I specifically refer you to my April 22, 2017 post with its reference to prior postings. It is my learned opinion that writing programs such as these are fundamentally flawed.
Flawed, but in what way?
The core of these ‘programs’ is the practice wherein students write assignments that are critiqued by their colleagues. But looking back at the program at CLU, it was a disaster as the fellow students were not terribly talented and many were negative, disapproving and jealous. So it was far from an uplifting positive experience. It can be but under these conditions it absolutely was not.
What do you mean, what can make it positive?
It is very complicated but this was my other experience. There was little or no guidance as to the choice of subject material for one’s book in the CUL program. I accidentally fell into the arms of my dead uncle, Dave Dryburgh and decided to write a biography with him as my subject. There were no class instruction or guidance on biography within the creative nonfiction program and CUL but I found, quite accidentally, that there was a certificate program offered by the Guardian and the University of East Anglia.
Guardian, University of East Anglia?
The Guardian is the leading UK newspaper and they collaborated with the University of East Anglia which is known as being one of the leading creative writing leading schools in the UK. I applied, was interviewed and accepted. Ms. Wheelwright advised me against attendance. I wisely ignored her and it was a highly informative and helpful certificate program.
What made the difference?
Very good question. It was many things. The calibre of the students was much higher for one thing. One man had been the British ambassador to Japan, another lawyer, and a highly qualified woman academic, for example We were all involved in a similar project – a biography. The other school sort of specialized in misery memoirs which are distasteful at best. The quality of instruction was at polar opposites.
The quality of Instruction?
Yes, The professor of the Guardian program was an impeccably educated scholar, Jon Cook, who I referred to as Jon (with no h) – behind his back I do admit. His curriculum was well organized, well thought out, with a great deal of academic insights and material.
Was that all of the difference?
No there was more, which I learned actually on a walk from the party on our last night of class. Jon (with no h) and I walked to the Tube together and he told me of a program that he attended and sponsored. For various reasons I do not have the details. But the program taught the professors how to critique the work of its students, how to inspire them. The other program left the students utterly to their own devices. At the end of the program, with no professor in attendance.
Do you think that made a difference?
I know it did, or at least in my opinion it did. My classmates in the Guardian program made significant and noteworthy changes in their writing over the course of the seven month program. That was not at all true in the other course which lasted for about two years. To my untrained ear there was no difference in the writing style and quality of those in attendance in the later program. I attended one class at the conclusion of the program where people submitted their work.
Did the Guardian program lead to a degree?
No, a certificate, but it is framed with pride. I did, of course, achieve it.
So is your biography done, have you completed it?
Well…after two and a half years of the hardest work I have ever done the answer is: NOT YET. Probably it is three quarters of the way there. I admit that I have been a bit distracted.
Two things. I moved back to the New World in March of 2017. The New World in this instance is is Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Not Marin County, California, USA.
So that was major and huge. Then, on impulse, I started to write a blog.
Yes, although I never followed or appreciated blogs (in my whole life as a person) I asked my London computer expert about setting one up. The question was an impulse. He said: “Yes, a blog. No problem!” He did everything in one day. I began and immediately the thing took off.
What do you mean took off?
Well these are my statistics of the day before yesterday. I have had, since January 22, 2017, a total of 6,748 visitors and 30,861 visits.
What does that mean?
Believe me, I do not know. But this is what Chris, my computer guru tells me. Most people go to a blog once or perhaps twice. The visitor number is the people. My numbers, say Chris, show that the visitors go back again and again and again. I have no idea how this is tracked but sometimes they stay on the site for more than an hour. The number of visits is the number of times the site is hit. Of course, I hit it once in a while but (goodness knows) not 30,000 times.
What affect does this have on you?
It blows my mind. I cannot integrate it. It certainly gives me self esteem. But it is mystifying. Writers crave readers. It looks like I have them.