ON Wednesday April 24, 2024, at about half past one in the afternoon, I received an email from Professor Bob Cryan, the Vice Chancellor of Huddersfield University, where I had worked for nearly eighteen years.

It was a long email, but the gist of it was, that due to an ongoing financial crisis, caused in part by surging inflation, and no real increase in tuition fees, the university was about to embark on a ‘programme of transformational change’, a euphemism for redundancy.

Mere minutes after receiving this generic message, another one popped into my inbox. This was from HR and was much shorter. It basically said, click on this link to find out if you still have a job. I hovered over the link for some time before eventually clicking on it and finding that, after eighteen years of service, I had been made redundant. I was on the scrapheap.

At fifty-three I don’t count myself as old, but I know there is little chance of me getting another job in academia: I’m too old and too expensive, and jobs in Creative Writing are few and far between. I have another fifteen years of employment before I can access a state pension.

I class myself as a professional writer. I’ve spent over thirty years writing for page, stage, radio and TV. I have written nine books: four novels, two short story collections, two poetry collections and a hybrid memoir, all critically acclaimed and successful in their way, and I’m working on my tenth book right now, another novel. Yet the money I get from my writing barely covers my bills.

I now have no obvious means of earning a living. I won’t even be able to get a job stacking shelves. Who would employ an associate professor on minimum wage? I wouldn’t if I were them. ‘What would be the point?’ Would be the thinking. ‘They’ll only move on as soon as they get something better’.

So my long career in academia has come to an end, at the point when the future for Higher Education isn’t looking good. In fact, higher education is in crisis, although none of the main political parties seem to want to address this in their manifestos. Many universities are axing their arts and humanities programmes, and courses in fine arts, Creative Writing, English, History, Geography and Philosophy have disappeared in several universities.

Fourteen years of constant underfunding at government level is mostly to blame, that combined with an emphasis on STEM subjects and a belief that the subjects we loosely bracket under the title ‘arts and humanities’ are not proper subjects, despite the arts being one of our main sources of income as a country, and despite the arts being one of the major exports and the reason we are still valued across the world. There is pretty much no one on the planet who hasn’t heard of Shakespeare or The Beatles. We all rely on the creative arts every day: whether that is the music we listen to, the books we read, the television programmes we watch, and so on. Even scientists access the arts on a daily basis. No one is immune.

I have years and years of experience of teaching the art, craft and business of creative writing. Many of my students have gone on to be published authors. In short, I know what I’m doing and I now want to offer my skills and expertise to people outside of academia. With this in mind, I have set up a new writing initiative called the Brontë Writing Centre, in order to offer opportunities for emerging and aspiring writers: residential courses, online courses, masterclasses, workshops, mentorship, and more.

The first course we are offering is called How to Write a Novel and Get it Published, and it will be available face-to-face and online. I’ll be running it with Costa award-winning writer, Sairish Hussain, who I taught and mentored as a student - yes, she’s one of my success stories! The course is designed for all levels and will include: inspiration, world-building, building backstories, characterisation, story structure, plotting, drafting, re-drafting, editing and polishing, writing a synopsis and a proposal, and how to approach agents and publishers.

The face-to-face version will take place in Haworth - the home of the Brontës. This landscape has inspired some of the best-known novels in English Literature. If you are reading this, and are an aspiring novelist, perhaps this landscape can inspire you.

The state of education in many universities is pretty dire: reliant on part-time hourly staff, on zero hours contracts, who are exploited and under appreciated, often teaching subjects outside of their specialism. Students come out of universities typically with over £50,000 in debt, and for what? It is hard to make the case that they are getting value for money anymore, because they are not. What I want to do is offer university quality education at a fraction of the cost. I want to make all the things I’ve learned available to as many emerging and aspiring writers as possible. This is a unique course and I’m now in a unique position to run it. Places booking fast!

* To find out more visit: www.brontewritingcentre.wordpress.com or email: brontewritingcentre@outlook.com