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01st December 2008

Philip Pullman talks of his formative experiences as a writer

Exeter was pleased to welcome back alumnus Philip Pullman (1965, English) to talk to our current students this month. Having been asked by a young student to talk about ‘Writing as a Career’, Philip Pullman began by confessing that he didn’t believe in a career. He pondered the impossibility of teaching creative writing since he couldn’t imagine how it was something that could be taught or learnt, writing being for him an intuitive and personal process and “having to show my writing to anyone before I knew it was ready would completely put me off it”. He went on to describe his formative influences – the hearing and reciting of rhymes and poetry as a child (with Paradise Lost and ‘Hiawatha’ emerging as enduring favourites) – and the discovery of his strengths and weaknesses as a story-teller through years of teaching in middle-school. Although he repeatedly claimed his lack of humour as a shortcoming, the fact that he had most of the audience in chuckles for most of the evening tells another story.

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