John was born in Edinburgh, grew up in Fife and now lives in Kendal, Cumbria.
I’ve always kept notebooks of poetry, film ideas, book ideas etc. since I was at school. I graduated from Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen, in 1984 as a Printed Textile Designer then had a crazy up-and-down, sideways shifting career (?!) in advertising, design and publishing. I currently work as a P/T Carer and Creative Writing Tutor.
I started writing seriously in January 2005, entering the Scotland on Sunday/Orange short story competition. I didn’t win any prizes but was bitten.
In the summer of 2006 I did an Arvon creative writing course at Beauly, near Inverness, with tutors Carl MacDougal and Bess Ross. This was my road to Damascus. I received really good feedback from the two writers and the students and remain motivated by this event even to this day. I can still remember the hairs on my neck rising as I read out a story and realised the whole room was silent and listening to every word I was saying - how often does this happen in life?
I perform monologues and poetry at the monthly spoken word event “Verbalise” at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal; Spotlight at The Storey Institute, Lancaster, where I’ve headlined; also performed at Ulverston, Penrith, Hawkshead and Perth. Solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe 2017-2018. Performed at Bearded Theory Festival 2019.
Key Writing Events
2007 I formed the Grantown Creative Writing Group.
2008 I was a prizewinner in the BBC Radio Scotland ‘Days Like This’ competition, and they recorded me reading my story which was then broadcast.
2006-08. Worked as a self-employed book designer/typesetter, mostly historical and memoir books with publishers Whittles and Librario. I co-owned a small independent bookshop at this time.
2006 to 2008, worked part-time as Copy Editor for the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald..
2009 my family moved down to Kendal, where I worked briefly in production at an educational publisher, and joined a writer’s group based at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal. Since then I have been a regular and active member of three writing groups.
2009 – Short story won prize in BBC Radio Scotland ‘Days Like these Competition.
2010 - Short story 'Cowgirls and Angels' reaches shortlist of ten of BBC Radio ‘Opening Lines’ competition. (600 entries).
'Cowgirls and Angels' comes 2nd in the Ilkley Literature Festival competition. Judge was Barbara Trapido.
2012. Poem – “Mission Statement Rescued from The Shredder” appears in “Free State” magazine.
2013 - First novel, 'The Cold Glass Star', published as an e-book.
2014 'The Cold Glass Star' published in paperback. 'Book of the Week' in the Press and Journal.
2015. ‘One Precariat Place’ a collection of poetry and prose from 2010 to 2015.Wrote performance piece for Kendal Community Theatre as part of the Jacobite 1715 Re-enactment.
2016 Short play “Men of Progress” performed as part of Kendal Festival of Plays. Poem “When Frank Came to Town” in Cumbrian poetry anthology “Watershed: by Harestone Press.
2017 – Jan. Headline at “Spotlight” The Storey Institute, Lancaster.
“Men of Progress” performed at Staveley Roundhouse as one of six Best of the (Kendal) Festival plays. Staveley Carnival. Wearable Art Show. Collaborated with Kate Sumsion, costume designer/maker, producing two poems to commemorate relatives. First prize in Team section.
July. Compered “Spotlight”. Lancaster.
“Voodoo Nation” First ever show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival featuring recent poems and monologues.
November – Creative Writing day workshop at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal.
2018 Jan. Headline at Spotlight. Lancaster Storey Institute.
May. Short play “Many Mansions” top five placing in North Cumbria playrights competition. Compered evening at Spotlight, Lancaster Storey Institute.
August. Second solo show “Narrow Wins & Scoreless Draws” at Edinburgh Fringe.
October. Guest/Headliner at Verbalise, Kendal.
December. Headline at “Spotlight”. Lancaster Storey Institute.
2019. Working with Martin Dewar, musician, Edinburgh on a CD of my poems with music.
Jan/Feb. Collaborating with Kate Sumsion, costume designer/maker, for Staveley’s Wearable Arts Show. Poem on climate change called “Kate’s Bubble”.
May 24th/25th. Performed two short sets at Bearded Theory Festival, Derbyshire.
October. Spoken word to music, featuring Martin Dewar. A showcase of tracks from the forthcoming debut album, "no other gods" at Kendal Brewery Arts Centre. "Scrutinise".
December. Headlined at Lancaster Spotlight.
2020. April 6th. Release of "no other gods". Album of spoken word poetry to electronic music by Martin Dewar.
"no other gods"
Released 6th April, 2020
Our new debut CD of Spoken Word poems to electronic music by Martin Dewar.
The Garsdale Retreat
9th September 2020
31st October 2020
Headlining at Kendal's Brewery Arts Centre regular open-mic night. (Last Saturday of the month).