Ha, well I’m being facetious when I say in my spare time.
My full-time job is as a Post-Production editor for television, but between trying to write and having twins aged 2 1/2, work can sometimes feel like the time that’s left over! Glasgow is a good city to work in at the moment for post-production as there are several companies based here, along with STV and BBC Scotland. I work at BBC Scotland, and have done for the last ten years. I started out doing various jobs – photo-copying, runner, camera assistant and eventually worked my way up to editor. The work of an editor involves, at it’s most basic, telling a story with moving pictures and sound. It’s often difficult to describe exactly how that happens and it varies between different types of programs. The basic mechanics involve sitting in front of a computer screen and television monitor, either on my own or with a producer or director and figuring out how the story should unfold. There is a technical side to it, but in relation to my love of writing and story-telling with words, there are a lot of creative similarities.
I have worked on various programs, and as I say, all are different and present their own challenges. A lot of my more recent work has been on Children’s programs, which, with a young family seems quite appropriate. If anyone watches CBeebies or CBBC the chances are they will have seen my name on the credits to something, like Copycats, Comic Relief does Glee Club, Nina and the Neurons and My Pet and Me,
to name just a few. There’s a long list of other shows including The One Show, Trust Me I’m A Doctor, The Secret Life of Books, The Review Show, Sportscene, T in the Park. A couple of things I am most proud of are editing the final interview given by the author Iain Banks that he gave about two weeks before he died – ‘Iain Banks – Raw Spirit’. We literally finished editing the program on a Friday, and he passed away on the Sunday. It was very emotional and touching, especially as I am a big fan of his writing. Another, completely different, thing I worked on, as part of a massive team was the BBC Sport coverage of the London Olympics in 2012. I was based in the Olympic Park for the duration of the games and got to edit some amazing footage and sporting events, as well as experience the Games from a unique perspective. I have just finished a series of special programs of ‘My Pet and Me’ where they went to film wildlife in the Galapagos Islands, with the same cameraman who filmed for ‘Planet Earth’. They will be on CBeebies in March and we’re all really pleased with them – well worth looking out for even if you don’t have preschool kids in the house!
I ignored my Career Guidance Advisor at high school and decided to go to University and study Film & Television Studies at the University of Glasgow because film was something I had always enjoyed. At the time you had to do the course combined with another subject, so I combined my love of film with my love of reading and ended up with a MA degree in English Literature and Film & Television Studies. I loved doing this course, but my Careers Advisor was right on one level because at the end of the course I had no idea what job I wanted to do, or how I was going to turn my love of film and reading into viable employment. After a bit of time working in shops and temping in banks I gave up my flat, moved back in with my Mum and started at the bottom as a runner. There were definitely times when I was delivering mail round offices, doing the tea rounds and photo-copying scripts that I wondered what I was doing with my life and with my degree, but after a lot of long hours and hard work it all worked out in the end. My ‘break’ came while working as the mailroom assistant on BBC Scotland’s soap drama River City. I was able to spend a lot of time with various departments, learn how television was made, and had access to editing equipment – that was when I decided editing was for me.
Well, like I said, I had always enjoyed reading and equally I have always enjoyed writing. From a very young age at primary school I would write little stories. In the years when I was working long hours trying to make my way into a television career I stopped writing for a long time with only occasional half-hearted attempts at starting to write a novel or short story. Partly, in the days before online blogs and self-publishing, there was always a part of me that thought it was a bit pointless because no one would ever read what I had written. Only in the last couple of years have I returned to writing regularly. At the start of last year I finally did an online writing course with Strathclyde University and through that caught the bug again to tell stories with words. With the stories I wrote for that course I decided to start a fiction writing blog and try and get my stories out to an audience rather than leaving them unused and gathering dust.
As part of the writing course and for my blog I have concentrated on short stories. With a blog it is much easier to gain a wider readership with short pieces. I really enjoy the satisfaction of sitting down to write a piece of flash fiction or short story and having it finished either that day or within a short period of time. There is an instant sense of gratification and achievement when something is complete – especially if you know you have written a good one, which doesn’t happen everytime!
The difficulty I find with writing a longer piece is you don’t get that instant gratification and feedback – it’s a long old slog and you have to keep these characters and plot swirling around in your head for a long time without becoming bored by them – something I have always struggled with.
However, as well as keeping my short pieces going, the target over the next few months is to get a novel finished. I have an idea and a rough plot and am literally starting to write the first few pages now.
Getting towards the end of last year I realised I had a good six months worth of short stories and flash fiction pieces that amounted to a reasonably substantial piece of work. There were also enough recurring themes and ideas among them all that I thought they would work together as a collection of stories. Having not self-published before, it also presented a good opportunity to learn about the process involved in doing this. It also meant I could find a new audience for these stories and keep them fresh rather than disappearing on the web and never being read again. I had no great expectations at the start of the process, but I’m really pleased with how it has turned out and I think it stands as a really good selection of my work. I called it ‘Collected Sketches’ because I felt the stories leave a lot for the reader to do, they are in many cases starting points that give you something to think about after reading, to fill in the rest of the story as they want to – that’s a kind of fiction I like to read as well.
It’s been said before by plenty of others more qualified than me but the simplest advice is to keep writing and keep reading. Don’t let doubt get in your way. My other tip would be to not be afraid to get your work out there somehow – whether self-publishing, via a blog, entering competitions – make sure it gets read and take back all the advice and criticism that comes your way – 99% of all the feedback will be constructive and encouraging and it is so fufiling to know that people are taking the time to read your work and respond to it.
I am proudly Scottish, but it’s a very fluid question at the moment with the political situation in the UK and Europe. I support independence in principal for Scotland, but would also like us to remain within the European Union. I have an English mother and other relatives, so I am by no means a hardcore independence campaigner. It has also been a tricky time working for the BBC, which has been seen by some to be biased against the independence campaign and anti-Scottish. From my position on the inside that’s not an argument I agree with particularly, and I try to avoid getting into that particular debate! All the uncertainty in Scotland and more widely round the world does mean there is a lot of fresh material to use as a writer – these are interesting times, and my writing does tend to use real world situations and scenarios (as opposed to fantasy or hard science fiction) In my writing I do like to try and bring a sense of Scottish-ness to my stories, and being born and bred in Glasgow, even a certain Glaswiegian sensibility to my characters – and the novel I am starting just now definitely does that, as well as touching on some of the politics of the day (although it’s never a good idea to get bogged down in too much political debate in a fictional novel).
My film reviews were something I started a few years ago to try and use my education and keep my hand in at studying films. As a film student I always find it difficult to narrow down favourites, but I guess spy films (think Le Carre through to James Bond) would be at the top of my list. However, anything that is a good film I will watch, regardless of genre – which is also true of my reading preferences. If I ever find the time I would like to return to doing more regular film reviews on my blog alongside my fiction writing, but at the moment I’m concentrating on the fiction work.
As I mentioned the target for 2017 is to get a first novel written, edited and out there – whether that’s sending in out to agents and publishers or self-publishing I will decide once I have a finished novel. Alongside that I will continue to write my short pieces and there is always the opportunity to follow up my first collection of stories with further collections if this first one goes well. Keep an eye on my blog for further news. I’m really enjoying the writing and the journey that I’m on at the moment, so hopefully it continues to be fun as well as productive. And I have to do that in as well as carrying on my editing career and chasing after two toddlers with way more energy than I have!!
Collected Sketches is a series of short stories and flash fiction exploring human nature and the world that we inhabit. Sometimes funny, sometimes scary, from the everyday to the imagined future, exploring locations across the globe, these stories reflectt the globalised society we live in today, the recent history that has led us here and the future we may have already created.
Iain Kelly lives in East Kilbride, near Glasgow in Scotland, where he spends almost all my time raising his twin son and daughter. In his spare time he works as an editor of television programmes. Highlights of his work include London Olympics 2012 / Sportscene (BBC Sport), My Pet and Me / Nina and the Neurons / My Story / Same Smile (CBeebies), Copycats / Comic Relief Does Glee Club / Who Let The Dogs Out and About? (CBBC), Time To Remember (BBC4), Trust Me, I’m A Doctor / 2012 – Scotland’s Year to Remember / The Review Show / The Culture Show (BBC2), Iain Banks – Raw Spirit / Question Time / Weakest Link (BBC1) among many others.