It seems incredible when I think that we’ve been in Beijing for less than eight months. So much has happened in that time: we’ve met so many amazing people, traveled to extraordinary places, had so many new experiences. I’ve made stumbling progress toward learning a new language, and have embarked on a new career with beijingkids.
Prior to this I lived most of my life in Birmingham, England, where I worked for many years in a variety of roles supporting homeless and disadvantaged families and children. For the last three years I’ve been a full-time writer, editor and creative writing teacher. My published books are historical thrillers, in which a poet and a thief solve mysteries in early medieval Baghdad. (The Father of Locks and The Khalifah’s Mirror are both published by Dedalus Books; you can read reviews of them here.) I’m now working on something very different though, an epic, experimental science fiction novel set at the end of the universe (currently around 500 pages and still unfinished!)
Besides my own fiction I supported other writers, mainly through a weekly writing group which I founded and ran. I also established a literary festival, now in its fifth year, mentored people through their novels and other writing projects, and edited manuscripts, I taught creative writing at Coventry University and at the Midland Arts Centre. Here I’ve set up the Beijing Writers’ Network, which meets monthly for members to share and critique their writing.
My other great passion is music. I sang and played flute, keyboards and guitar in bands for many years, and was half of Birmingham’s last all-vinyl alternative DJ duo. (Sadly all my vinyl records had to go into storage when we moved, along with my books, and I now use an MP3 player and e-reader. But it’s not the same.) I’m an avid armchair sports fan, my lack of any skill at football, cricket or rugby being no impediment to my having noisy opinions about them.
It was my wife Karen who suggested we emigrate. She traveled much in her younger years, and was keen for our boys to have the experience of living in a different country. If you’ve read any of my blog posts or columns you’ll have met my sons, laid-back, easy going Noah (aged 10), and Joseph, a fiery-tempered, deep-thinking seven-year-old. They attend Yew Chung International School Beijing (YCIS) where Karen is a teacher, and are learning Chinese with an ease and speed which put us both to shame.
I’ll be acting as Managing Editor until the summer, overseeing the Home and Relocation Guide and the Spring issue, before handing over the reins to Vanessa Jencks, and returning to a part-time role as Contributing Editor. I’m always happy to hear your thoughts, comments and ideas about the magazine and the website, by email or in person, and if you have news to share with Beijing’s international families, then we’re the people to talk to. I look forward to hearing from you!
Photo: Andrew Killeen