A Writer, Developer and Poet Walk Into a Bar…

I don’t know who I am. More precisely, I know that I am (or want to be) a bunch of different things at once — and this is giving me a bit of a crisis of confidence.

Here’s what I know:

I’m a fantasy writer.

I’m a poet.

I’m interested in technology, software and design.

Here’s what I don’t know:

I’m a fantasy writer. Well, sort of, maybe. I’m really into surrealism right now, and the novel I’m writing doesn’t employ any of the ‘traditional’ fantasy tropes — it’s kind of Steampunk but there’s electricity and it’s really a soap opera set in a stately Scottish home (think: Downtown Abbey with magic).

I’m a poet. I think. I mean, I write poems every once in a while. I publish poetry more than I publish my short fiction. Does that make me a poet? Probably.

I’m interested in technology, software and design. I worked as a project manager installing medical software for three years, but I have no formal training in computer science. I’ve never taken a design course. I took an introduction to Python course and made a little choose-your-own-adventure story out of it, but that’s about it.

Here’s the situation:

I love stories.

I’m interested in building a career in either: front end web development, digital design or video games.


I have no formal education is computer science.

I have no formal education in design.

The Conflict

For a long time, these two ‘buts’ have been holding me back from pursuing a career as a developer. I felt (and still do often feel!) that without a formal education in coding and design, there is no way I can break into a career in programming. Isn’t tech for early 20-somethings who have been coding for years? Shouldn’t professional designers have taken more than one Introduction to Art class in university?

I don’t know.

But right now is the time for me to find out. As a PhD student, I have access to university resources, and as a volunteer with a digital social enterprise I have a good platform for exploration. If not now, when?


Here’s my plan for how I’m going to break into tech without years of relevant education under my belt.


Learn What’s Out there

Learn to Code

Showcase What I’ve Already Done

Learn What’s Out There


Let’s start right here, right now. I’ve subscribed to relevant tags (Art, Creativity, Design, Gaming) on Medium, sending inspiring, interesting and education articles to my inbox every morning. Even when I don’t know exactly what the article is about (I’m such a noob), I always learn something. I’ve already learned about digital product design, style guides and FreeCode Camp.

I’ve also subscribed to Code Pen’s Podcast (Code Pen Radio). Code Pen is a social development environment for front-end designers and developers.’ …

Learn to Code


… and since I’ve started FreeCodeCamp, I’m starting to better understand how things are made on Code Pen, using HTML and CSS. (Java Script is still a mystery to me). I’ve been squeezing in the odd hour before work to practice coding on FreeCodeCamp — not as much as I’d like (my coding practice has to compete with my novel) but it’s been really gratifying.

Showcase What I’ve Already Done


I already have a personal writer’s website that’ll do for now and I’ve redesigned the online shop for the social enterprise Uncovered Artistry (they sell the artisan work of domestic and sexual abuse survivors).

Hopefully one of my first coding projects will be to develop a portfolio website.

I’ve got to remember that I have years of professional and educational experience under my belt. A Masters in Creative Writing might seem useless compared to a degree in computer science, but I’ve been honing my storytelling skills for years now; without a doubt I’ll bring a unique perspective to whatever I create.


Okay, so here I go!

Please share your advice and suggestions 🙂

Note: The GIFs I use in this post are from Laura Salaberry. Check her out here.

Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet. Writers who inspire her include Angela Carter, Leonora Carrington, and Ursua Le Guin. Her most recent endeavours include a lyrical essay about her Italian family, a horror fairy tale, and a novel about grief.

Keep Panicking

America has a new president, and I keep writing out it. Not in a direct way, but in the way that I’ve pretty much always written about my fears. Take a look at 2016. That was the year where much of my writing involved either slugs or self-mutilation (of the eyes in particular). Slugs (or, more accurately, soft amorphous bodies) and objects inserted into the eye are two pretty major fears of mine. And without even knowing it, I wrote about them and more than once. They cropped up in my surrealist prose and my poetry and in my horror fiction. Sometimes I wrote about them with affection. Sometimes with fairly obvious disgust. Always with fear.

This past week, I attended Edinburgh’s Fantasy & Folklore conference whose theme was fear. The attendees and participants comprised perhaps the largest group of self-proclaimed fantasy nerds I’ve ever had the honour of being a member of. Everyone I spoke to was passionate, genuine, kind. I’m not going to make some wild sweeping statement that all fantasy lovers are wonderful people, but… The presentations, on everything from Harry Potter to the Lord of the Rings to pirates and witches and vampires, were thought-provoking. I was inspired.

I also presented my first-ever conference paper. It was a brilliant experience. I got to read a little-known surrealist woman writer’s (Gisele Prassinos) horror fairy story to a captive audience. There was a worm, and brains were eaten. I think it went over well.

For the final hours of the conference, I attended back-to-back creative writing workshops hosted by Harriet MacMillan (@harrietta3), one of the conference organisers, and Kirsty Logan (@kirstylogan), a local horror/fairy tale writer who I greatly admire. We talked about our fears. We wrote about them. I’ve never done this before — putting my fears onto paper and reading them aloud to a kind group of strangers and then actively writing about them. I was surprised by what I uncovered.

This year, buoyed by a fantastic writing group and Pret’s 99p filter coffees (goodbye, Starbucks! A new cheap coffee alternative is in town, and it won’t cauterise my intestines, ha!), I’m still writing my fears. I’ve written about Trump’s ‘alternative facts’, his bullying tactics, his gaslighting. Yes, I’ve written about slugs (again), but this time, as a thick slug-like rain threatens to immobilise a town, the townspeople strap shovels onto their backs, tighten the laces of their spiked boots, and get ready for the resistance.


Angie Spoto is an American fiction writer and poet. Writers who inspire her include Angela Carter, Leonora Carrington, and Ursua Le Guin. Her most recent endeavours include a lyrical essay about her Italian family, a horror fairy tale, and a supernatural crime novel.