I'm branching away from my normal writing themed posts today, as in light of my recent spell instructing skiing (I've been away teaching the Army for two weeks), I wanted to talk about something else - skiing, and its dubious link to writing.
Firstly though, I feel there's a question to answer - how does a kid who grew up on a council estate on free school meals in northern England end up teaching wealthy Londoners to ski? That's a long story, but I'll try to keep it brief.
It all began back when I was 19, when I quit my university degree to join the Regular Army. I was studying mechanical engineering, which sounded cool when I chose it, but I rapidly realised my aptitude for maths didn't quite compliment my often half-arsed approach to study. In other words, I realised that if I was going to pass, I'd have to work hard, bloody hard. And I wasn't terribly keen on that, so I quit before I failed and trotted off to the Army Officer Selection Board, known to most as AOSB.
I didn't fail, but I didn't get the grade I wanted. At AOSB you can get a category 1, 2, 3 or 4. 1 means go straight to the next stage of selection, 2 means you can go, but you have some stuff to work on first (I won't bore you with what 3 and 4 mean, the details are online if you want them). I got a category 2, and was told I had to wait 12 months to go to the next phase of selection. I was a little stumped. "Now what?" I thought.
Some of the feedback I got from my assessment said that I needed to get a bit more stuff on my CV, like exciting stuff. The kind of things that rich kids have as standard because their parents could afford to pay for it. All I had were a load of part time jobs on my CV and little else.
In light of this feedback I started looking for random jobs abroad, something with a little adventure attached that wouldn't cost me anything and would sound slightly more exciting on my CV than 'barmaid at local pub'. I came across some jobs as Chalet Assistants in ski resorts in the French Alps - all expenses paid and £50 a week spending money. Sounded perfect. I applied, I got a job, and off I went.
I should note, that back then I knew nothing about skiing. Skiing was for rich folk. I didn't even know anyone who knew about skiing. I remember seeing 'salopettes' on the kit list and not having a clue what they were. I set off to France without even the clothing I needed to go skiing. In the winter of 2004-5 I began my ski season. Lift pass paid, ski hire paid, accommodation and food all paid with £50 beer money a week in return for cleaning rooms, serving food and washing up. But no skiing lessons. I had two choices, don't ski or teach myself. I chose the latter.
Over the next 5 months I kept hurling myself down a mountain at ever increasing speeds until I worked out how to ski. That's how I learned, and afterwards I decided not to join the Regular Army just yet, I returned to Reserve Service and I decided to give uni another go. This time I studied Earth Systems Science and I even made it to the end with a 2:1. But during the three year course I also had managed to pass the next stage of officer selection and commission in the Army Reserve. By the time I graduated I'd been a commissioned officer for two years and I had a long term boyfriend (he's now my husband). I didn't fancy re-doing all my officer training and selling my ass to the Army, so I decided to remain as a Reservist instead.
Years passed, Army skiing was a distant thing that other units did. I didn't have a clue how to get involved in the early days. But eventually opportunities presented themselves and I got on a military course. Cue two weeks of having my self-taught bad habits beaten out of me (not literally). But bad habits aside, I was still a good skier. It's about the only sport I've found I'm any good at.
After my course I was recommended to move straight onto instructor training and so I did. In 2014 I did my foundation ski instructor course, the year after I did the intermediate one. I've taught skiing every year since, usually for a few weeks per season. And in the Army, we get all expenses paid and we get paid our daily rate as well. I'm a Major, I get around £140/day. Its a slight pay rise from £50/week.
So what the hell has this got to do with writing? Very little, except that my route to teaching skiing is quite reflective of my outlook on life. I meet hurdles, I find a way to over come them. I seek opportunities, I grasp them. I take risks, I throw myself into commitments I make. Not long back I quit my job to be a writer; 18 months ago the Gallantrian Legacy didn't exist, now its 6 books long. In 2004 I'd never skied before in my life, now I teach other people how. I love skiing, I love writing. I made a success of skiing, writing's next.
Charlotte Goodwin is the author of the Gallantrian Legacy series. A set of six books (and counting) set in a universe where magic is real, there's just not much of it on Earth.