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News > Alumni News > Rodge Glass (OS 1994) Set To Launch Compassionate Family Memoir

Rodge Glass (OS 1994) Set To Launch Compassionate Family Memoir

Inspiring Q&A with the successful novelist and biographer
2 May 2024
Alumni News

In order to get here, I needed to see the possibilities in creative work, and that originally came from my teachers.

Old Stopfordian, Rodge Glass, is a hugely successful novelist and biographer and when not busy writing, is also a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. He is the author of eight books published since 2005 and is set to launch his new memoir, Joshua In The Sky, in September 2024.

Over the years Rodge’s work has been nominated for numerous awards, both national and international, including the Authors’ Club Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and the Frank O’Connor Award. He also won a Somerset Maugham Award for Non-Fiction in 2009 for his book Alasdair Gray: A Secretary’s Biography .

Rodge has written for The Guardian, The Paris Review, The Herald, The Scotsman and others. His various fictions have also been translated into Albanian, Danish, German, Hebrew, Spanish and Slovenian, and he has appeared at international literary festivals around the world, including New York, Toronto and Rome. 

We caught up with Rodge to find out more about his journey to becoming a writer, the inspiration for his new memoir and what advice he would offer to future potential authors.

What inspired you to become a writer? 

A. I was always a reader, it helped me understand the world around me as a child, and it gave me an escape from daily life when I needed it. It still does that! In an often overwhelming, multi-screening, super-digital modern world, the book is still a useful thing because it helps us concentrate on one worthwhile thing, in detail, at a time. But I never thought about the possibility of becoming a writer until I was at university.

The vast majority of writers are passionate readers, and the best way to give yourself a chance of becoming a good writer is to pay attention to the way that others tell stories - in other words, how imagined things are made. So that’s the first step for nearly everyone anyway.

In terms of me seriously considering writing as a career, that started for me when a Writer in Residence at Strathclyde University, a wonderful man called Robert Alan Jamieson (a poet from Shetland in Scotland) encouraged me to get involved in a writing group and to become part of the writing community in the city of Glasgow. Through that, I learned that you don’t need to be old or rich to be a writer! This was a thing you could learn to do. I began to meet other writers who made a living this way, and like any career, once you see other people doing it, you begin to imagine how you might do it yourself.

How did your time at SGS prepare you for your career as a lecturer but also an author?

A. I used to like History at school, and I am still fascinated by histories from around the world, all periods, all places – so that’s something that for me started at SGS. I was really unsure what I was good at while at school – I think a lot of young people are scouting around for something they feel they could excel at while also trying to pass exams, do homework, and have fun too. But almost everyone who becomes a writer says that they once had a really great English teacher who began to show them the possibilities of creative work. I say creative work because for me this isn’t limited to any one genre or form.

When I was at SGS I had a really charismatic teacher who told us stories from his own life in between our studies, which made those studies much more fun. He decorated his school classroom with quotes from literature alongside quotes from what (I now realise) must have been bands he loved in the 90s. I went away and sought out music by those bands and began to think of creative curiosity as something that could make me happy, give me escape, while also showing something I might do in the future.

I should say that I was not a great student! I was impatient and a bit clumsy and unsure, and I didn’t have too many friends. But you can be that way as a teenager while also becoming a confident, secure adult with an exciting job. I love what I do, I really feel I couldn’t be luckier in that respect. In order to get here, I needed to see the possibilities in creative work, and that originally came from my teachers.

What is your preferred genre in terms of both reading and writing?

A. I read really widely and often in my work I get sent all kinds of things, as I often host events with other writers as well as talk about my work. For joy, I still read novels and that’s where I started out, but increasingly I write and read nonfiction, biography, memoir. It’s funny, three of my first four books that I published were novels, but as I’ve got older, I really feel that writing about the lives of other people (as well as my own) is the most satisfying genre for me. I love to write portraits of real people.

What advice would you give to any current pupils looking at a career in creative writing?

A. To keep an open mind, to stay curious, to be humble, to remember that no one on planet Earth knows everything, and that’s okay.

Find a writing community, find others who are interested in developing a career in writing, build relationships honestly, and work on two things at once: firstly, your ability to put one interesting word in front of another, and secondly, to take practical steps to learn how, in practice, the writing industries work.

Learn that, and you can make money from it. Without that, it will remain a mystery – and therefore, you’ll be less likely to succeed in it.

What are your hopes for the future in terms of your writing?

A. Well, lots! I tend not to get writer’s block – it’s more like the opposite. There are too many things I want to do and not enough time.

I have a new memoir out in September called Joshua in the Sky. It’s a mix of autobiography and a biography of my nephew Joshua. He shared the same rare blood condition as me and my family, called HHT – he lived a very short life, but that life has had a long legacy. It’s a sensitive topic and this is the first book published in the UK about experiences of HHT, and I have put it together with the support of Joshua’s parents. It’s the thing I’ve written that I’m most proud of. So I’ll be doing a lot of stuff around the release of that book later this year.

Also, I’m contracted to write a book about a band who I first fell in love with when I was at SGS – I can’t announce it until the book is finished, but that’s very exciting for me. It’s fun and something totally new for me as a writer but also meaningfully connected to what I’ve done before. Writing about the lives of other creative people who make imagined things.

We extend our thanks to Rodge for his time in updating us about where he is now and sharing his wonderful words of wisdom! We wish him the best of luck with his upcoming book launch and journey beyond.

More information about Rodge's work can be found on his website Rodge Glass - Home of the Author

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