First and foremeost, thanks to the parents of the Dwight Bookclub for inviting me to talk about Puffin Boy. I really felt humbled and flattered about how well you knew the book, and also the two short stories on this website. I have many more short stories, so if        you´re interested in reading some, let me know.

And so here we go again. I write this in the early stages of seeking represenation for Lazari, my new novel. I spent the summer tidying it up and am now sending it off to Literary agents. Again I use a teenage protagonist, Simon, a boy who turns out to be quite special, and having “tried” the first chapter on my Year 11s, they gave it the thumbs up! Well, they would, wouldn´t they! 



Puffin Boy

Puffin Boy in Amazon

Puffin Boy in Watersones

After finishing my debut novel, Tumbling in Bethnal Green, I began writing short stories. With the initial aim of keeping each story within a 2000 or 5000 word limit, as I approached the 5000 word limit with the as yet unnamed Puffin Boy, intrigued to see where it might end up, I simply abandoned word count.

Here on the website, (see menu at top of page) along with details of Puffin Boy, are a couple of “works in progress,” short stories I wrote during this period. The Snip, pure fiction, is an exercise in discipline of sorts, the focus remaining on plot rather than individual character development to keep it within the 2000 word limit.

Within the 5000 word limit is The Latin Lesson, its origins an incident I experienced during my own schooldays. Both this story and Puffin Boy explore aspects of education, and as such, there are “overlaps” in references to texts I mention such as Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock which I studied as a 13 year-old. Though I understood very little, when I think of this poem, I wonder if those responsible for choosing this early 18th century mock-heroic poem for 13 year-olds to study genuinely believed it could win the “hearts and minds” of boys in that era spellbound by the irresistible allure of T-Rex and David Bowie. (For ex-students reading this, you may recognise parts of The Latin Lesson from stories I quite possibly told you in class.)

While Tumbling in Bethnal Green is an observation of my own learning experiences in the UK and USA, Puffin Boy responds to my experience as a teacher, commenting on aspects of what constitutes a “good” education – a varied and enjoyable experience, rarely pursued in isolation, a process most effective when individuals see purpose and value in what they learn. To this end, individual curiosity, central to a happiness life, a key aspect of the novel, requires nurturing, as once the long grind of adult life begins, if one lacks curiosity, rekindling it later in life is often very difficult.

Through Tom, the narrator, born into a tiny island community in Scotland in the 1940s where little has changed in generations, I explore how opportunity, curiosity and a desire for learning can change lives for the better. Isolation, war, poverty, and a culture opposed to individual progress and ambition appear insurmountable hurdles for him to clear. His future appears bleak. However, a chance encounter opens up a world of unexpected opportunities, the novella’s blurb capturing the spirit of the story:

Solitary and curious, 12-year-old Tom feels the limitations of life on a remote island off the west coast of Scotland. Tradition, self-doubt, and a distant violent father suggest a bleakly depressing future. But then he meets Thomas – artist, philosopher, saviour. Through art, music and literature, and under Thomas’ guidance, Tom searches for a happy meaningful life. Puffin Boy – a story about discovery, triumph and how to live.

With colleagues I often discuss difficulties students experience transitioning from adolescence into adulthood. Whilst writing Puffin Boy I thought often about the challenges my students face at this time. Like Tom, they are at turning points in their young lives, many on the verge of casting off familial security as they search for their own personal paths to happiness. Consequently, when the publisher requested a target audience for Puffin Boy I ticked the Young Adult option. However, with friends, I frequently discuss aspects of life considered more “adult” – family conflict, exploring love, abuse of power, prejudice – all barriers to finding happiness, a lifelong project, which I also comment on, and so believe the novella has a broader appeal than solely a Young Adult audience.

Finally, if you’re reading this, thank you for showing interest in my work. Feel free to get in touch. I’d love to hear from ex-students – to know how you’re getting on in lives that are, hopefully, exceedingly happy.


Puffin Boy – update

I think the last post here I titled, “The Most Infrequent Blogger.” Well, I´ve certainly kept my promise on that one. With Tumbling in Bethnal Green now a fond memory, it´s time to start talking about Puffin Boy. I can´t believe it was a couple of years ago that I wrote in the last blog, “when I started writing Puffin Boy, the new novel’s title (for now at least), it appeared to have “legs.” It’s at about 27000 words at present so it’s more of a novella than a novel.”

As I mentioned in that last blog, I had begun a number of short stories after TBG and Puffin Boy emerged out of an idea for a short story. I was, and still am, conscious that it´s a story about teaching and learning. As a teacher, I have to promote the wonders of education and curiosity and, hopefully, these are present in the novel.

In the last blog I said Puffin Boy was at 27000 words. Well, during revision, that went up to the mid 30.000s. And what is surprising, looking back at the date I posted the last blog, is the time it has taken to get to this point. And this point is that yesterday I sent the final edit to the publisher, with the usual trepidation that I could make more changes to improve it. But there has to be a cut-off point and I think I´ve reached it.

And so, here I am back on my website that I have not seen for over a year! Others have though, and I was especially surprised when a student mentiioned it on a final activity recorded for a final examination!! So, clearly, someone takes a look at it!!

The process of getting a novel published is arduous. The manuscript was with the publisher for a good deal of this time. I sent it last March, and while I was waiting for it, I had an idea for another novel. And so, during the summer holidays, all the way up until Christmas, I knocked out another novel while I waited for the proofs of Puffin Boy. While Puffin Boy is more a of a novella, Lazari, the working name for this new novel, is over 70,000 words. But, one thing at a time.

Once Puffin Boy is published, I will use this site to comment on it. The idea of promoting it is very unappealing, but at the end of the day I would like people to read it, and as I previosuly said, I think teachers might be particulary interested.

If you want to drop me a line, please do.

Recent reads – (personal) Middle England, J. Coe, Fear, S. Zweig

(for teaching) Noughts & Crosses, M. Blackman, Hate U Give, A Thomas

Cheers, Tony