4. Global hackette
Back in the UK, I wrote about that initiation for the Guardian, joined a women’s group, co-founded a housing co-operative – and started working at New Internationalist, an award-winning magazine about social issues, based in Oxford.
I was there for six years, working on the magazine itself, but also researching third world issues for the BBC and Channel 4, and compiling accessible ‘global reports’ for United Nations organisations such as UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO – one of which was published as a book, Women: A World Report (Methuen).
Though my brain tumour novel had been abandoned, I started experimenting with ‘new journalism’, applying fictional techniques to non-fiction. So when commissioned to write a factual reports about Thailand and Zimbabwe for WHO, I delivered a book of short stories (A Tale of Two Villages, WHO/New Internationalist) and my debut novel, The Children who Sleep by the River (Allison and Busby) – both based on true events and painstaking fieldwork and written in a genre I think of as ‘documentary fiction’.
I wrote the novel living alone in a rented house, inaccessible by car, on the Greek island of Karpathos, where I learned to gut fish, apply gesso, and communicate in a mixture of wild gestures, Greek and Italian.