Alumnus Jon Wilkins has always been passionate about writing, but it wasn't until recently that he was able to make his dream of professional authorship a reality. In March 2020, Jon released his debut novel: 'Poppy Flowers at the Front'.
After a 20 year career teaching English at high schools around Leicestershire and then working in a local bookshop, Jon decided to return to the classroom as a Creative Writing MA student at De Montfort University (DMU) in 2014.
Jon said: "I have always loved writing since I was at school and that was a major factor in my decision to become an English teacher. However, between teaching and coaching girls basketball over the course of my career, I never had the time to sit down and seriously work on any major projects of my own.
"After I finished teaching, I found work at Waterstones which gave me further opportunities to be around books and writers. I worked alongside the successful author of the Icemark trilogy, Stuart Hill, whilst working there and the environment encouraged my own thoughts of writing a novel in the future.
"Following my retirement, I finally had the time to study again and I secured a place at DMU where I was encouraged by a range of fantastic teachers and guest lecturers. The environment was really conducive to learning and I loved interacting with the other students on my course. I was able to work as a note-taker for students with special requirements alongside my studies and this gave me an appreciation for the diversity and enthusiasm of the student body."
Following the successful completion of his MA, Jon decided to self-publish a novel produced for his dissertation assignment while continuing to stay connected with DMU. At an event hosted on campus he was able to engage with a former colleague and visiting speaker, now working at Brigand Press, who expressed an interest in publishing some of his work.
Jon said: "The events and guest lectures at DMU are a great addition to the learning opportunities on offer, attending Phillip Tew's talk gave me the chance to discuss the manuscript I was working on with him and get my foot in the door at a publishing company.
"I'm incredibly proud that from those beginnings, my debut novel 'Poppy Flowers at the Front' was published last March. It's a thriller set in the closing weeks of the First World War, which follows the adventures of a French nurse and her ambulance driver companion as they navigate the dangers of the conflict."
"It has been an amazing journey to having a book published and my MA at DMU played a huge role in giving me the skills to achieve my dream. Writing is more competitive than ever and undertaking further learning to give yourself an edge can make the difference when it comes to standing out."
Posted on Monday 11th January 2021