Self portrait

I was born in 1958, in St Margaret's, near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire.

I was educated at the St John the Baptist Primary School in Amwell, then at Richard Hale School in Hertford, and then Peterhouse, Cambridge. After graduating I came back home and went to work at MMS Publications in Hoddesdon - I think the firm is now defunct, but they used to publish 'advertising freesheets' across Hertfordshire. I worked for them first as a telephone canvasser, then a sales ledger clerk, then a personnel and admin clerk, and eventually personnel and admin manager. After that I went to County Hall in Hertford as an accounts supervisor, but left after a couple of years to go and do a PhD in English Literature at the University of Kent, which I finished in 1990. The title of my thesis was Outcasts from Eden: Ideas of Landscape in British Literature since 1945, and it was eventually published by the Liverpool University Press in 1997. Having completed my PhD, my intention was to get myself a job in higher education, but that never materialised; and because of my background in admin I was offered the post of Practice Manager at a GP's surgery my brother in law Dr David Hindmarsh was just taking over in Kent. I started work there in September 1990, thinking it would do until something better came along, and I've been there ever since.

I started writing stories and doing drawings to accompany them at the age of about five or six, and in one form and another I've been doing the same kind of stuff ever since. Before I went to University I became involved with an amateur poetry group called the Hartforde Poets (the antiquated spelling was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek) and we started publishing our own small-scale photocopied amateur poetry magazine. This was the era of punk with its do-it-yourself ethos, and it was also the era of the fanzine, with cheap printing becoming widely available in schools and offices for the first time, so lots of small-scale rough-and-ready amateur publications were springing up all over the UK and beyond. When the world wide web and HTML came along in the mid to late 1990s, a lot of this activity moved online. I set up my own website in 2000 with the aim of publishing my writing online, but soon became interested in the experimental possibilities of HTML, and before long I had made contact with a whole online community of writers and artists working in the field of new media (as it was then called). I became involved with an organisation called TrAce, which was based at the Nottingham Trent University, and wrote quite a lot of reviews and criticism for them; and later I did the same thing with the Furtherfield/Netbehaviour organisation, based in London, with which I still have strong links.

Partly as a result of my involvement with this online new media community, my creative work has diverged into a lot of different forms over the years. In the early 2000s I wrote a cycle of non-linear short stories under the group-title of Heronsbrook; I then started to make animations in Flash, including an interactive version of Wallace Stevens' poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird; I wrote an interactive magic-and-mystery story for children called The Puzzle Box, which I later republished in book form; and then I started creating puppet-animations on video - first a series of satirical animations about an imaginary GP called Dr Hairy, then a version of the Epic of Gilgamesh called "Gilgamesh", and a puppet-animation version of Punch and Judy, called "The Calamitous Tale of Mr Punch". At the same time I've also produced quite a lot of reviews and criticism, and with my friend and colleague David Hindmarsh I've put together four volumes of Dr Hairy's Research Summaries academic research papers summarised for ease of reference, with added quizzes and jokes to make them more fun.

It's all been very absorbing and inwardly satisfying, but I must admit that none of it has ever made me more than a handful of money. More recently I've moved back into more traditional forms: picture books for children and plays written for the stage. My current projects are The Cake-Maker of Transylvania, a picture-book about a vampire baker who steals women's hearts and bakes them into his cakes to improve the flavour; and The Doubters' Mysteries, a cycle of Biblical mystery-plays, like the ones produced in Medieval times, but written from a sceptical point of view. Both of these projects are ongoing at the time of writing, and you can find out more about them on my blog.

Edward Picot, 2019