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photo courtesy of
Steve Sims (centre) with tutor Judith Cranswick and author Jasper Fforde
photo courtesy of
Jasper Fforde (centre) with prizewinners William Campbell (right) and Jonathan Clayton (left)

Internal News - 28 September 2007

Porter meets author at University that inspired him to write

A Swindon porter today met the author who inspired him to write his own soon-to-be published book.

Steve Sims, aged 46 from Walcot, met cult fantasy fiction novelist Jasper Fforde, whose Thursday Next series of novels inspired him to begin his own work.

Mr Sims was taking a course in creative writing at the University of Bath in Swindon, and Mr Fforde’s novels were used as part of the syllabus for the weekly course, run by the Division for LifeLong Learning at the Oakfield campus.

Mr Sims spent a year writing the horror fantasy novel, The House, in his spare time after signing up to the course. The novel centres on a lost boy and his family’s journey to reclaim their son through a nether world of demons and adventure.

He was one of 30 people, including past creative writing students, attending an invite-only reading by Mr Fforde.

The joint event with the town’s British Computer Society (BCS) is one of a number to mark the 50th anniversary of the leading organisation for IT professionals. Jasper will also present prizes to the winners of the BCS short-story competition Write IT on the day.

“We are delighted to welcome Jasper to the Oakfield campus,” said Judith Cranswick, crime writer and creative writing tutor in the University’s Division for Lifelong Learning.

“His work is a valuable source of learning for students on the University’s creative writing courses and hearing him read from his new novel will be an inspiring experience.”

The event is a reminder of how much Mr Sims, has achieved since he himself was a creative writing student at the campus in 2003. He left Park Senior School, now home to the Oakfield campus, with one O Level and has since worked in a variety of manual jobs, including warehousing and fork lift driving.

He started working as a porter at Oakfield in 2002 and the setting spurred him on to do something about his lifetime interest in literature. He enrolled on a distance learning course in writing, and took two part-time courses at the campus to learn more about the art of creative writing.

When he started out, he did not have access to a computer until a colleague let him have an old one. He has since finished a further two novels since the 71,000 word The House.

“I’ve always been interested in writing and wanted to have a go, but I’ve just been too busy living,” said Mr Sims.

“The courses gave me the confidence to start writing. The idea for The House came from a one hundred word short story I had to write.

“I enjoy writing but it can be exhausting. I’ve had to re-teach myself spelling and sentence construction because I haven’t been using it in my day to day job.”

Mr Sims, who is married with two children, is confident that the novel, published by publishing house Olympia Press, will be a success, as it will appeal to a wide age group.

Although set in another world, people in Swindon will recognise settings for some scenes, including a high speed chase through Greenbridge.

Mr Sims is already well underway with his next work, a black comedy, which he hopes will attract a publishing deal.

Mrs Cranswick will teach a Try Writing course at the University from 8 October designed to encourage beginners and stimulate more experienced writers. The course, which has a small number of places still available, will run at the Oakfield campus from 7pm to 9pm and is part of the University’s new programme of part-time courses for the autumn. For more information see the related links section.