To be or not to be; a writer’s journey

Two-time alumna Tina Baker (Journalism, 1980 and MA Creative Writing Novels, 2017) has a two-book deal with Viper Books. Her debut novel ‘Call Me Mummy’ will be published in February 2021 and it has taken her 40 years to realise her dream! Here she shares her story, about writing her story.

Can you tell me about your time at City?

My first stint at City was the Post-Grad Journalism course in 1980. At this point, there was only this and a course at Cardiff offering post-grad journalism and it was the best year of my life. I was terrified! Parties and great lectures and work placements and challenging assignments.

It set me on a 30 year career as a journalist working in newspapers, magazines radio and TV, a 7 year love affair with a boyfriend who went onto work for the Financial Times and friendships I treasure to this day.

My second stint was my MA a mere 40 years later. I knew I wanted to write a novel since I was a child and I knew I wanted to do this course at City as soon as it started. It took me a while to allow myself the time to do it – evening classes clashed with my evening work as a fitness instructor. It was tough.

As a ‘mature’ student I found it challenging to get my mind back into gear. The feedback on what I wrote was sometimes crushing. But my colleagues and tutors and the experience meant I could finally say ‘I am a writer’ – 30 years in journalism hadn’t given me that confidence. And again, I have made friendships that I hope will last the rest of my life.

What happened after you graduated?

My first job after the post-grad journalism course was at the now defunct Northampton Chronicle and Echo newspaper. I did 2 years there before moving to the BBC as a researcher. It took 2 years after my course to get an agent – with a novel I started writing on the course, but not the one I completed for the course, if that makes sense.

I now have a two-book deal with Viper Books – the first will be published in February 2021, Call Me Mummy. A psychological thriller about a woman so desperate for a child she steals one and the mother who loses her child, who is vilified by the press and social media. Available to order now from Waterstones and Amazon.

How did the idea for your book come about?

The idea for Call me Mummy came from a City assignment – to go somewhere you’ve never been. I went to Mothercare, a store for expectant mothers and children which now trades online. As someone who’d tried to have a child and failed, this was emotionally difficult. I wrote an assignment piece and it grew from there.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

After DECADES, fulfilling, my dream of being a published author. It is still rare for people like me – I grew up in a caravan; my dad was a window cleaner; my mum worked on the fairground – to be writers.

What has been the biggest challenge?

My own self-doubt.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

I’d encourage anyone with a dream to follow it as soon as possible. Having had to shield throughout the COVID pandemic (due to chronic asthma and advanced age) it’s made me even clearer about this.

Enjoy your time at City. Study hard but enjoy the social aspects. The petting zoo was a highlight for me as much as the lectures – although the Shetland pony has never replied to my letters!

 

Call Me Mummy is available to purchase from
Call Me Mummy – Serpent’s Tail

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