This week the Allsorts are asking what we’d be doing if we weren’t writing for a living.
My neighbour’s grandson has just self-published the first novel in a trilogy. He’s 16! And he’s finished books two and three, too.
If only teenage me had known that she wanted to be a writer. I wouldn’t have wasted all that time on plans A, B, C and D. At least I know what I could be doing now, if writing hadn’t worked out…
Solicitor? My first serious ambition was law. At 14 I spent my work experience in a solicitor’s office, which was 5% going to court and 95% filing. I’m not sure what put me off most – the autopsy pictures in the coroner’s files, or the prospect of all that public speaking. Equally chilling.
Engineer? At 18 I decided to build bridges for a living, and began a degree in Engineering Science. After two woeful months with only Kreyszig’s Advanced Engineering Mathematics for company, I realized it wasn’t for me, or me wasn’t for it. I switched to a blend of science and arts subjects. Once I stopped writing equations and started writing essays, I was hooked.
Weather girl? I applied in a post-finals fug. Only when I was standing in Television Centre, beginning my screen test, did I remember that I’m rubbish at public speaking. In case you are ever tempted, I can confirm that BBC Weather are not in fact looking for a science degree and good writing skills, but for someone who does not run off set to find her reading glasses while still attached to the sound system.
News hound? As a student, I was so keen to be a journalist. I wrote for Cherwell, measured column inches for the Guardian (remember The Editor?), failed to track down Yoko Ono’s telephone number for The Times, and got a front-page byline in the local paper with a pooper-scooper exclusive. Then a dilemma: a year working for free at the local paper, or a paid job in textbook publishing. I chose textbooks.
So was I destined to end up writing for children? Or would I be equally happy in a parallel universe, prosecuting criminals or forecasting rain?
Careers advisers say find out what will make you happiest by looking at what you loved doing as a child. A more direct route is to find out what makes you sick with jealousy.
I get the occasional twinge when I interview someone with a seriously cool job. But it’s nothing compared to the green-tinted glasses I don in bookshops and libraries. So many books – why aren’t more of them written by me?! That’s how I knew what I really wanted to be. Criminals, bridges and weather, you can breathe easy.
Isabel Thomas has written more than 90 books for children and teenagers, published by DK, Pearson, Collins, Raintree, Wayland, Lonely Planet and Bloomsbury. She is zookeeper for three young sons.
Isabel Thomas studied Human Sciences at Oxford University before becoming a writer. Her books for young people include HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD (OUP), shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize 2016, and SELF-DESTRUCTING SCIENCE: SPACE (Bloomsbury). Isabel lives in Cambridge, where she is zookeeper to three young sons.