Sam Smith - The Journal
Born 1946 Blackpool, Lancashire; but raised Stoke Gabriel, Devon, England; the whole of my adult life I've been a struggling novelist - with the appropriate number of bread-and-butter jobs - from, among many others, Merchant Navy, building labourer, scaffolder, male model, computer programmer, data control manager in Imperial College, milkman, plumber, demolition, truck driver, residential social worker, laboratory analyst, gardener, groundsman and, for the last several years, a psychiatric nursing assistant. My very last job was as a cashier in an amusement arcade. Since 2003 I've been a self-employed writer/editor/publisher.
In 1972 an editor at Macmillans declared me to be '...this generation's Orwell and Huxley rolled into one...' But not that particular novel thank you very much. Thereafter every 3 years, or thereabouts, of an otherwise ordinary working life a novel of mine got accepted. Only for the publisher - before the novel made it into print - to go bust, or for the accepting editor to get sacked, or disappear with the MS, or develop drunken paranoia. Meanwhile I'd traveled much, lived in Chelsea, and ended up in Somerset with the love of my life. I have 3 beautiful daughters, now grown. When they all left home Steph and I moved first to Ilfracombe, then Maryport, and then here, Blaengarw. In 1988 yet another publisher went bust, but this time having had me rewrite the entire novel. I set to rewriting it back to its original. (I did not then have a word-processor.) For distraction I dabbled with poetry, took to it the same disciplines I normally reserved for novel writing. In 1991 I discovered the Small Presses, soon had work - poetry, articles, short stories, novel extracts & reviews - accepted in over a hundred titles. Even got to read on Radio 3 when a poem of mine got selected for the Forward Prize. All became hectic after that. Seemed that as soon as my first collection To Be Like John Clare was published by the University of Salzburg Press, other books followed, with my novel, Sister Blister, getting nominated for the 2000 Booker, another, The End of Science Fiction, shortlisted for a 2001 Eppie.
During that same period I became the founding editor of The Journal of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry, started the Original Plus press, and seemed to have been making a parallel career for myself out of school workshops, writing and festival workshops, organizing readings, etc. I was invited into schools as part of schools' 'Reading Weeks', as well as for the Pushkin and Threshold Prize schemes. And, along with my then local council, I inaugurated the 'Brewhouse Bash', a festival which involved poets going into local schools and working up 10 minute cabaret performance acts. I also devised and ran the 'Confluence' series of readings; while the 'Poetry Cruise' down the River Dart I ran with Anne Born. I also experimented with setting poetry to jazz at the Nunney Jazz Cafe, even got onto the same stage as the great Pee Wee Ellis.