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Mark Lowery

Mark Lowery


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Biography

​Primary Education alumnus and award-winning chil​dren's author, Mark Lowery, is celebrating after his third book was published this September. 

Mark arrived at Leeds Trinity in​1998 to study Primary Education with Subject Studies in English (Junior Years). He was also the President of the Students' Union during the 2001-2002 academic year, before graduating in 2003.   

Mark's passion for writing children's books was ignited at Leeds Trinity after studying two creative writing modules and a children's literature module. His dissertation was also about children's fiction. After graduating from Leeds Trinity, Mark taught at Lower Wortley Primary School in Leeds for a few years and during his time there, he wrote poems, stories and plays for the children in his class.   

Mark then went on to study an MA in Writing for Children at the University of Winchester. This was followed by spells of teaching at schools at Ipswich and Italy, whilst writing in his spare time. His enthusiasm and persistence for writing eventually paid off in 2011, when his debut book, Socks Are Not Enough, was published. 

The rest is history. Mark is now an award-winning author, after winning the Calderdale Children's Book of the Year in 2012 and the Leeds Book of the Year in 2013 for Socks Are Not Enough. This book was also shortlisted for a Roald Dahl Funny Prize in 2012. His second book, Pants Are Everything, was released in 2013, and his third book,The Jam Doughnut That Ruined My Life, was released on 3 September 2015.  

Alumni Relations Officer, Brett Arnall, recently caught up with Mark to find out more his writing career, as well as his experiences at Leeds Trinity. 

What are your fondest memories from your time at Leeds Trinity?

Well, I met my very wonderful wife there which was definitely a highlight. Other than that, I just had a terrific time - meeting loads of brilliant people, exploring Leeds' sophisticated nightlife (!), working behind the bar for three years. I was also lucky enough to do a sabbatical year in the Students' Union which was a lot of fun. And, actually, I LOVED the food in the canteen as well; perhaps a bit too much in fact... I turned up with a svelte swimmer's physique in September 1998, and went home at Christmas looking like I'd been mainlining gravy for the past four months.

What made Leeds Trinity special to you?

It had a real community feel to it and everyone was so friendly - staff and students. You could go anywhere on campus or in Leeds and you'd find people you knew. There was a proper sense of belonging to something; I'm not sure that people who go to massive universities get that quite so much.

What was the highlight of your time as Students' Union President?

Like most Students' Union Presidents, I don't remember a great deal of it! Luckily, I had my very good pal Darren Bowen as my Vice-President. He did all the hard work, so I spent a lot of the time sitting about drinking tea and eating biscuits. We loved the event organising side of things and we had some great nights over in the Base (which I was gutted to see had been demolished recently), although it didn't even have a proper bar in those days. 

Also, one of our main priorities was to develop the relationship between the Students' Union and University management. Through doing this, we were able to negotiate an increase the annual subvention and get some extra money for the sports teams. I'd like to think that we helped to lay a bit of the ground work for some closer co-operation between the two parties over the following years. 

How did your course prepare you for our career?

The Primary Education course at Leeds Trinity was first-class and prepared me superbly for life in schools. I wasn't quite so keen on getting up at six to catch the bus to Bradford for my placement, but it was worth it in the end. As far as the English course was concerned, the lecturers were lovely and there was enough flexibility to allow me to pursue the areas I was really interested in. During my course, I did two creative writing modules and a children's literature module, and I wrote my dissertation about children's fiction. Looking back, these experiences were absolutely vital in helping me to become an author.

When did you become an author and how did you make your break through?

After I left Leeds Trinity, I taught for a few years at Lower Wortley Primary in Leeds. I found myself writing poems, stories and plays for the kids in my class (mainly because I was too lazy to search for what I wanted in the library!). Anyhow, I came to a bit of a crossroads in my life and decided to jack it all in and go down to Winchester to study an MA in Writing for Children (this was before Leeds Trinity started offering creative writing courses). It was a bit of a gamble I guess, but turned out to be one of the best things I'd ever done. In actual fact, I'd first found out about the MA course from the wonderful Joyce Simpson, who was one of my English lecturers at Leeds Trinity.  She was really supportive of my writing and planted a seed in my brain about the course back in the first year. When I told her I was applying for the MA, she really encouraged me to go for it.

From there, I wrote for a few years in my spare time (whilst teaching in various places in the UK and Italy) to produce my first book, Socks Are Not Enough, which is about a boy who comes home to find out that his parents are nudists. With a lot of hard work, some very kind interventions from other people, and a fair number of rejections, I eventually found a magnificent agent and it was published in 2011. The follow-up, Pants Are Everything, came out in 2013. My third book The Jam Doughnut That Ruined My Life, has just been published. It's all about, well, a jam doughnut that ruins this kid's life - it's not really a clever title...

Your books have won awards. How does that feel?

Socks Are Not Enough won a couple of local awards, including the Leeds Book of the Year, which was fantastic. It's very nice to have your hard work recognised. It's still very weird for me to meet people who've read my books, and even weirder when they tell me they thought they were half-decent. Malorie Blackman and Michael Rosen both told me they'd enjoyed my books, which was pretty awesome. I was nominated for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize a couple of times, although I didn't win. Not that I'm bitter about it now, of course...  

You also do school visits – what does a typical one entail?

I do an interactive talk involving wigs, games, a safe and a whole bunch of other stuff. The idea I guess is to entertain the students and get them to think, whilst also putting across my ideas about reading and writing. I don't think anyone would enjoy listening to me drone on about my craft or my tortured soul for an hour, so I try to make it as light and enjoyable as possible. Lugging the safe around on the tube isn't exactly fun though. It weighs an absolute ton!