About Shirley Heaton
I was born and brought up in Yorkshire with my three sisters. My father, a little disappointed he didn’t have a son, had to put up with a household of five females! I didn’t think anything about it at the time, but now I look back and think poor old Dad! During the war years times were hard but we were a happy family and made our own entertainment mostly outside in the fresh air with our friends. But that didn’t exclude any indoor activities. I was an avid reader – and still am. Of course we couldn’t afford to buy books, especially at the rate at which I read them, but that never deterred me. I walked three miles to the local library several times a week to change my books. During the early years Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ and ‘Mallory Towers’ series were my favourites but then, as I developed a more sophisticated reading style, I moved on to the classics – Dickens, Hardy and the like.
My first school was Wellington Road Primary where I worked hard to pass what was then called the ‘scholarship.’ I was fortunate enough to get through and I moved on to Belle Vue Girls Grammar School. So far I’d been brought up with girls and now I’d been sent to an all-girls school! What did I know about boys? Very little, apart from what I’d read.
When I was sixteen reluctantly I left school. My teachers wanted me to stay on but Mum and Dad, having four girls to clothe and feed, couldn’t afford the expense. I started work in an accountant’s office as a junior shorthand-typist. It wasn’t very exciting but it was a job. A year on and I saw an advert in the local press for a medical secretary at Woodland Orthopaedic Hospital, which wasn’t very far from my home. I was quite apprehensive when I first started because in those days there weren’t college courses geared to medical secretarial posts. But I coped, gradually picking up the medical terminology as I went along. It was a challenge working there and much more interesting than the accountants’ office. At Woodlands I did the ward rounds with the consultants, taking medical notes in shorthand before transcribing them into patient folders. The hospital was small and the members of staff, from doctors and nurses to cooks and cleaners, were very friendly. It was a happy time both working with them and joining in the social functions.
I was a mere slip of a girl of twenty when I married. Within four years I had two children, first my daughter, Alison and then my son, Philip, to me the ideal family. When the children were old enough I took a part-time job at the Bradford Royal Infirmary in the Pathology Lab – again doing secretarial work. But by the time I was thirty I wanted more. That’s when I decided to go to college and realise my ambition to become a teacher.
It was 1972 when I qualified, working first in a junior school and then moving on to an upper school. Meanwhile I decided to study part-time at Bradford University for my degree, at the same time continuing with my teaching and caring for my family. I remained at the upper school and in 1984 I was given a year’s secondment to study for a master degree at Leeds University. When I returned I spent my final year as deputy head before moving to a non-teaching role with Bradford Education. When I took early retirement from the authority I worked for several awarding bodies, verifying sixth form work and training teachers in assessment and appraisal skills.
After such a busy life teaching and bringing up my family, once I retired I didn’t intend sitting down and twiddling my thumbs, or becoming a couch potato and watching daytime TV. As far as writing was concerned I knew I had the technical skills but I’d not tested out my creative skills since I was a child. And that’s how it all began. I spent two weeks on residential writing courses in France with Anita Burgh who gave me inspiration, I joined the local writers group in Baildon and I became a member of the Romantic Novelists Association.
I’ve written several mainstream novels, most of which are in the archives unpublished. I’ve had full reads for two of the books but no one would chance taking them on. I’ve had lots of rejections from agents – again it’s a major risk for them to take on someone new unless they think they’re on to a J.K.Rowling! The recession hasn’t helped nor has the preponderance of celebrity memoirs.
But not to be deterred I submitted ‘Relative Strangers’ direct to the publisher and I waited six months before they made a decision to take on my novel. I have another novel underway with a partial on the back burner. All I need now is the time to get writing again!