I was born in Germany, the son of a Nigerian mother and English father, but grew up in the UK. After graduating from Edinburgh University, I roamed the world, stopping to live in Egypt, Lesotho, Colombia, England, Italy, and the United States. I made a living mainly by teaching English as a Foreign Language. In Lesotho I ran a school theatre and did some work for the anti-apartheid movement in neighbouring South Africa, which marked something of an awakening for me.
I didn’t own stuff like cars and houses until I was well into my thirties because I spent all my money on travel and books. To date, I’ve been to about sixty countries, and have about ten zillion books, half of which I still haven’t read.
I’ve always been a writer. I wrote plays for schoolchildren in the UK and Lesotho. In my twenties I began publishing stories about social justice issues in black communities in various journals and anthologies (see here for selected short fiction). The Times, London, described my work thus: “hard-hitting … in the kind of language that packs a serious punch” and “display[s] the precise observational skills, the facility with language, and the ability to make a small tale speak fresh volumes.”
My novel, Damnificados, was published by PM Press in January 2016. It has since won the Independent Publishers Book Award and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award; been a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Foreword INDIES Book Award, and the Eric Hoffer Book Award; been nominated for an American Book Award; and been on Oprah’s Top 10 Books to Read Now List.
In the late nineties, under the name JJ Wilson, I co-authored my first textbook for adult students of English. I wrote it with my friend and colleague Antonia Clare. Several similar books followed, as well as more academic works for teachers. These were published by Longman (later Pearson). For two of my educational books I was honoured at Buckingham Palace in 2008 and 2011.
I have given presentations, plenaries, and workshops in Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Lesotho, Malta, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Poland, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and Venezuela.
I live in Silver City, New Mexico, USA, with my wife, son, and stepdaughter.
Receiving an award for Speakout in Buckingham Palace, 2011. My co-authors were Antonia Clare, Frances Eales, and Steve Oakes.
RECENT AWARDS, HONORS, RECOGNITION
2017 Damnificados was named a finalist for the Hurst/Wright Legacy Award in Debut Fiction and the Eric Hoffer Book Award
2017 Damnificados won the Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction
2017 Damnificados was named a finalist for the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award for Literary Fiction and nominated for an American Book Award.
2016 Damnificados won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Fiction; was named on a Top Ten Picks list in ‘O’, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine; and was named no. 1 on Bookriot’s ‘Books to Read in January’ list.
2016 Appointed as honorary member of Delta Mu Delta
2013 Named a New Mexico Humanities Council Scholar
2012 Speakout was shortlisted for the British Council Innovation in ELT Award
2011 Speakout won the Duke of Edinburgh English Speaking Union Award for Best Book
2010 Appointed writer-in-residence at Western New Mexico University, USA
2008 How to Teach Listening won the Duke of Edinburgh English Speaking Union Award Best Book for Teachers
2008 How to Teach Listening was shortlisted for the Ben Warren Prize
Society of Authors
Academy of American Poets
Delta Mu Delta
Southwest Festival of the Written Word (Festival Coordinator)
Liepman Literary Agency