Wrexham Library have named their Author Of The Month as Jack Sheffield, who writes the popular Teacher series.
Jack Sheffield was born in 1945 and grew up in the tough environment of Gipton Estate in north-east Leeds. On Christmas morning 1953 he finally owned his first book, Five Go off to Camp by Enid Blyton which he read every night under the sheets by torch light
His first job was ‘pitch boy’, carrying buckets of boiling bitumen up a ladder to repair roofs until the 60s when he trained to be a teacher at the St John’s College, York, and spent his summers as a Corona Pop Man.
In the early 70s he was teaching in Keighley West Yorkshire, during which time he earned a reputation as a hard-tackling wing-forward for Wharfendale RUFC.
In the late 70s and 80s, Jack was head teacher of two schools in North Yorkshire before becoming Senior Lecturer in primary Education at Bretton Hall College of the University of Leeds. It was at this time he began to record his many amusing stories of village life. He began writing short stories about the humorous and occasionally sad times in his working life, however it wasn’t until he retired that he began writing full-time.
We were able to get the opportunity to ask Jack a few questions about his career as a writer. He described being named as the Author of the Month for Wrexham Library as “a lovely surprise”, and commented “my Welsh wife was particularly pleased!”
Asked about the job mentioned above as a Corona Pop Man, he has fond memories of working for the Welsh company.
“I sold Corona Pop during the summer vacations when I was a student training to be a teacher. I have happy memories of driving around West Yorkshire in my pop wagon and selling American Cream Soda and Lemonade at one shilling and threepence per bottle with threepence back on the empties. In 1966 I earned £15/week with a £3 bonus if I met my sales target. The following year I earned £48/month in my first year of teaching! On the day England won the World Cup in 1966 I started early and managed to deliver to all my customers before the three o’clock kick off and saw the game before returning to the depot. The manager decided all the drivers should celebrate this historic occasion and supplied a round of free drinks . . . of dandelion and burdock!”
Despite having written short stories which Jack says were “based on the amusing and occasionally poignant events in my professional life.”, he says that “… it was a promise to my late mother, Margaret, that encouraged me to write my first novel Teacher, Teacher! and, to my surprise, it immediately became a best seller.”
He also shares his own advice to aspiring writers who’ve just started Wrexham Library’s creative writing course, as Laura Jarratt did last month.
“Always carry a notebook . . . ideas can crop up when you are travelling to work or sitting in a public place.
Dialogue is important, it drives the plot forward. Look at how popular authors use conversations between contrasting characters and experiment with examples in your own writing.
If you intend to write a first novel, select a genre that suits you and reflects your interests and experiences. Then read the novels by the popular authors in that genre and try to discover a niche that will make your writing stand out and appeal to an editor. With this in mind consider the wordcount (for example, my Corgi paperbacks are 80K words) and the market; i.e. who will buy the novel.
Attend writers’ conferences and seek professional advice rather than feedback from friends.
Read the helpful articles in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, particularly the sections concerning how to approach a literary agent and treat it like an interview.
Accept rejections, they are part of the learning process . . . and NEVER stop writing!”
Wrexham.com would like to thank Jack for taking the time to talk to us. He can be found online at www.jacksheffield.com
The titles below and more can be requested from your local library.