Business Profile: Author and publisher Christine Coleman
Birmingham-based author and publisher Christine Coleman launched her second novel, Paper Lanterns, on April 27 at a Birmingham Book Festival event at Ikon Gallery. Her lifelong friend television chef Clarissa Dickson Wright will be supporting her at the launch.
Christine spent her childhood in the Sussex countryside, and was nine when she began writing stories and poems.
“I grew up surrounded by books and was inspired by my mother to write,” explains Christine.
“She would create long stories over a number of nights, with bedtime arriving only when she ran out of ideas. Her approach taught me that anyone could create stories.”
When Christine moved on to study English at Trinity College, Dublin, she hadn’t seriously thought of writing as a career.
“The course was four years at Trinity rather than the standard three here in the UK, so it seemed like a good idea to have more time to decide what to do next,” she explains.
Christine met her husband there and they moved to Birmingham when he got a job in the city. She had trained to be a teacher in Dublin and taught English for four years before the birth of her daughter.
She began to teach evening classes in adult literacy after her son was born, and when he went to school, she had more time for writing short stories.
“I soon realised that I needed critical feedback on my work and began to look for a creative writing course. Before I could sign up as a student, I was offered the opportunity of teaching the course instead. I learnt a huge amount, both by preparing the course and from those who came on it.”
Her first writing success came a few years later, and was triggered by her life-long friendship with Clarissa Dickson Wright.
“It’s no secret Clarissa is a recovering alcoholic. In 1985, when she was drinking heavily, I was so worried about her that I wrote a short story based on our relationship.
“I entered it for a competition run by BRMB and the Birmingham Readers & Writers Festival. I still have the clipping from the Sutton Coldfield Times with the account of my prize winning story.”
It was a long time before Christine experienced more success. The real transformation in her writing career took place in her fiftieth year when she went on an Arvon residential poetry course. Here she learned where to send her poems, and a few weeks later she won first prize in the Envoi poetry competition.
“That was a wonderful affirmation,” says Christine. “It gave me the confidence to join the poetry group at the MAC in Cannon Hill. There, I met Don Barnard, a former Poet Laureate of Birmingham, and joined his performance group, Late Shift. We had a lot of fun, giving performances at Literary Festivals around the country, including the Edinburgh Festival.”
Christine went on to a complete a masters degree in creative writing at Nottingham Trent University. It was this course which re-kindled her interest in writing novels. In spite of positive feedback from agents and publishers on the quality of her writing, she was unable to find a publisher for the novel she wrote during her MA course.