My degree is in creative writing. I chose it because writing is like a disease that crept under my skin in childhood and I couldn't do anything else.
The disease was caught from reading. Reading books that opened a world to me that nobody else could see, and where I could do, see and be anyone, anything.
Books, reading, writing, all gave me something I couldn't explain and made me happy in ways I couldn't explain even now - and discovering new books and new writers who inspired me to try to do the same myself was exciting.
Then I got older, and my confidence in what I was writing wobbled around, and I stopped trying to do it so much, and though I blog and do freelance articles I am cowardly about fiction, and about letting the stories out of my mind where other people could judge them.
There are very few people who I read books from now who give me that itch again, who write SO well that I can't NOT write, that I can't stop myself from grabbing a pen and paper at three in the morning because their stories have woken my mind up from the locked away stupor of parenthood, fear and 'being a grown up' about my dreams.
This week I found a new one.
I was sent a copy of 'Wild' by Gill Hoffs (don't forget the 's') and I just could not put it down.
I wasn't sure what to expect - I've followed Gill on twitter for a long time and chatted now and then. I've admired her red hair and poked around her website and wondered how I could begin the same journey of writing fiction that people read, but I hadn't actually read her stories.
I have fallen into a reading rut recently and tend to stick to a handful of writers and, I have to admit, I've become bored of it. Once you read four books in a row from the same person they kind of merge into one long, slightly confusing tale that you can't be bothered to finish.
Then my letterbox popped open to show a copy of 'Wild' and I cracked the spine as I waited for my tea to brew.
My tea went cold, because I couldn't stop turning pages.
This isn't chick lit, it isn't fluff, it isn't all sparkles and happy endings. It's emotional, sometimes dark, it wakes your brain up and leaves you breathless and desperate to see more of the world Gill leads you into.
A lot of the stories are very short, just a few pages. They pause, rather than stop, and you are given an opportunity to create the images yourself, you're awoken, in a way that only a truly excellent writer can do.
Some incidents are so exquisitely detailed that you can taste the air, smell the grass, hear the sea. Some are so carefully hinted at that you witness them happening from a shadow and hope the characters can't see you.
Of all the stories in the book 'The Rabbit and the Dam" stays with me most. I'm a mother, and you cannot switch that off as the story unfolds, and I held my toddler that night with the feeling of water lapping my toes.
Gill's dedication to her craft, and to her research, is inspiring. Her stories give me hope.
Very few things I've read in the last five years have made me want to pick my pen up and open my mind to the whole world. Gill has made me dream, again, in a way I had lost, of being a REAL writer.
I carried this book around my house, I stayed awake when I should have slept, I waved it at my husband and repeatedly told him to read it, to listen to parts. My copy is embarassingly dog eared because I've been back through and re-read stories when I should have been watching the pans boil and doing my housework.
You can't have my copy.
But I do have another, fresh, pristine copy that you COULD have, if you fancy it.
If you don't win the giveaway you can buy your own copy from here, and I strongly recommend that you do.
I'm not even going to make it hard for you - just leave a comment below, ask me nicely, and the rafflecopter widget will pick one of you at random.
a Rafflecopter giveaway