Interview with Jim Doyle - Teacher and children’s author/writer for children’s magazine, ‘Scoop’
PGCE Geography, Coleraine
- Can you tell me a little bit about what you do?
I am a teacher of Geography at Our Lady & St Patrick’s College in Belfast. I am also a children’s author and writer for children’s magazine, ‘Scoop’.
- What aspect of your role do you most enjoy?
All of my roles have the same central theme which is helping children to learn to become better readers and to grow.
- Did you plan out your career or has it evolved along the way?
I planned to go into teaching but I never ever thought I would be a children’s author.
- When/how did you decide this is what you wanted to do and what helped you decide?
Believe it or not the idea for my first book came to me in the book asle in Tescos, and the rest is history as they say.
- What has been your biggest challenge to date?
Trying to be patient, which I’m not very good at. Before I was first published I had no idea of the process and how long it actually takes from first pitching a proposal to finally seeing it appear on book shelves. My current book ‘The Superhero Handbook’ was written three years ago and my tenth book ‘Why can’t I feel the earth spinning?’ is out in October but was written more than 18 months ago.
- What is the most extraordinary thing that has happened to you in your career or your greatest achievement?
There have been a few extraordinary things in the last few years. Particularly last summer when the editor of 'Scoop' the magazine, Sarah Odedina asked me to write for them, I knew I was in rarified territory. I will never forget my wife, Oonagh saying ‘Have you Googled Sarah Odedina?’ To which I replied ‘No’. We later found out that she had worked as JK Rowling’s editor on all the Harry Potter books. It was surreal really. Now I am published each month alongside the likes of Michael Morpurgo, Neil Gaiman and Jacqueline Wilson. Achievement-wise, I guess winning the 'International Reading Award in 2013' was a great milestone. It meant that I became the only person from Northern Ireland to ever win the award and the ceremony was held in San Antonio in Texas.
- Most importantly, do you love what you do? Would you ever give it up?
As a teacher, I get a great buzz out of working with my students every day. I am proud that they feel they can come to me and ask for my help, but I don’t really see a distinction between me as a teacher and me as an author. My writing simply allows me to work with a wider audience. You are still helping kids learn and grow, except for the fact that they could live in London, New York or Beijing. I don’t think I want to give either up.
- Do you think it is important to love what you do in order to excel and be successful or extraordinary at it? Why?
I think when you love doing something, you end up putting everything you have into it and that can bring extraordinary results.
- What inspires you? Do you have any mottos or people who have inspired you along the way?
I have a friend and former colleague who is one of Northern Ireland’s most successful business people – Gerry McKernan. He sat me down one day and said ‘Jimbo’ (that’s his nickname for me) ‘It’s taken me 15 years to become an overnight success’ I knew exactly the point he was making, that people often see just the successes and that they just sort of happen to people when really behind every success is a long road of very hard work and persistence.
- What is your best memory of Ulster University?
I always remember the level of support you received from all staff there and they were interested in not just your studies but you as a person.
- Who or what at the University influenced you most?
Professor Linda Clarke, my tutor. She was extremely thorough and on our PGCE she was determined to make us all into the best teachers she could.
- If you could give any advice to someone just starting out or even to your younger self, what would it be?
Keep going, never give up. It might take longer than you think but you’ll get there in the end.
- What are your top tips for Ulster University students to get the most out of their time at University?
Join in and get involved. The facilities and clubs are all there. It is only you who will bring life to them.
- What do you think makes a person ‘extraordinary’ or successful at what they do?
Again, determination, a desire to succeed or maybe it is just bloody-mindedness.
- Do you have dreams or goals that you have yet to fulfil?
Yes, one of them is my first picture book which is in the very early stages. I also have ideas for a comic and the development of characters for children’s television.