At the height of the world’s biggest recession in over 70 years, I quit my job. Walked out, had enough, didn’t want to be part of that rat-race anymore.
I was living in Dubai with my family in 2009, and we came to realise that no amount of sunshine, big 4×4’s, maids, gardeners or even swimming pools can make up for that clawing lack of fulfillment. So I left. We came home to Scotland with my dream of becoming an author.
And everybody laughed. People thought I was bonkers. Friends and even close family members told me ‘how stupid’ I was to walk away from a great job, and basically, to give up the career in hotel management, and lifestyle, that I’d spent 25 years working towards.
My wife, on the other hand, was brilliant. She said “What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll just need to get another job in 12 months, if it doesn’t work out. Give it a go!”
So five books published and six years later, I cannot begin to describe the absolute pleasure and feeling of total satisfaction I had stepping off that Emirates 767 flight in Dubai, ready to embark on a 12-date tour of schools in the UAE. I had come full circle.; the journey was complete. I’d left with a dream and was returning fulfilled, proving doubters wrong and truly able to say “I’m an international author!”
And what a celebration my three week visit was. I stayed in my old hotel, I met old friends and caught up with so many of my original team. I hired a car and rejoined that wild roller-coaster of ride called Sheikh Zayed Road. After all, this wasn’t a holiday, this was work.
The schools were fantastic, despite the steep learning curve about not mentioning the opening page of Charlotte’s Web. the dog in a Michael Morpurgo book called Stella Artois, and the risks of showing a topless picture of David Beckham during my book show. He was picking his nose, but it must’ve been his belly-button that caused offense.
In total I performed to nearly 3000 pupils, and sold almost 1500 books. I hosted 42 creative writing workshops and drove 1000 miles between Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain. I hit the headlines in the local newspaper, 7Days, and it felt brilliant!
The icing on the cake was my final school, the royal Rashid School for Boys at Nad Al Sheba, where every single pupil is a prince or related to royalty. I happened to mention the opening line from David Walliam’s Billionaire Boy… “Have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a million pounds?” and every kid in the class practically shrugged and said “I got that for my birthday.”
The senior librarian thanked me before I left, adding, “How you kept 120 princes entertained and engaged for over an hour was mermerising. Well done!” and that feeling of fulfillment washed over me again.
Now, I was wrong about one thing. My journey’s not complete, the journey is only just beginning. 2015 was fantastic, my most successful year yet but my first international book tour has opened up a host of possibilities. I’ve dipped my toe in the worldwide waters and and I want to inspire every kid in the world to want to love books.
2016 is shaping up to be even better. My diary is jam-packed with school visits from Cornwall to Aberdeen. From Lowestoft to Liverpool, Norwich, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and my hat-trick of appearances at the Wigtown Book Festival. I have a tour of Isle of Man schools in April, and a three week tour of Northern Ireland in June. I’m hosting a few gigs in Australia in August and heading back to Dubai in October. There’s even a little dialogue about a trip to Los Angeles.
Reading Rocks over the world!