A Brief History
Like most writers, my writing journey began as a small child and has been long and convoluted. My love of scribbling began at a young age but by the time I was a teenager, I’d been diverted into academic pursuits and scrutiny of text. It was only when I became an English teacher (in my early twenties) that I remembered my love of writing and realised that my only aspiration as a teacher was to kindle this love in my students. Realising that school wasn’t the right place for me, I spent the next decade working with disadvantaged groups as a youth and community worker, always with a focus on inspiring client groups to find their voices and express their truth through words.
In the late 1990s I enrolled on a WEA Creative Writing course and quickly moved onto the MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam University as a poet, where I received a distinction for my burgeoning novel. Like many writers, I decided to give up my day job to pursue fame and fortune but, even though the first agent I sent my novel to proclaimed that it “could be a bestseller making hundreds of thousands of pounds”, twenty years later, I was still chasing the elusive book deal and had long-since gone back to work!
Since then, I have continued on my journey towards finding my own voice, whilst also working to inspire and support other writers along the way. In 2013, I won a Northern Writers Award for my young adult novel, Straight on till Morning (based on my experience of working with homeless young people and heroin users) and in 2015, I was commissioned by the Donor Conception Network to write the book that became Archie Nolan: Family Detective. Three weeks after the book launch, my mother died of cancer and twelve weeks after this, my new partner, Blacksmith Paul died suddenly and traumatically.
As a natural reaction, I turned to writing to support myself through the years that followed, posting my poems and reflections on grief on a blog which became Swimming through Clouds. Through writing the blog, I helped myself to come to terms with loss and found myself, inadvertently, helping other people who had experienced bereavements. The blog has been read 150,000 times and has lead to me writing on grief for The Huffington Post. The book of the blog, Dear Blacksmith will be released by Valley Press on January 31st 2020.
In the meantime, I have always worked with literature, both in Sheffield and beyond, often using my own experiences as the catalyst for new projects and initiatives to help other writers. In 2004, I founded the Sheffield Young Writers, a pioneering young writers’ project and later, worked with Signposts South Yorkshire to lay the foundations for further young writers’ provision. In addition, I worked for several years as a project manager for Signposts / Writing Yorkshire and as a consultant for The Reading Agency, Booktrust, The National Literacy Trust and Arts Council England, helping to shape policy for young writers and readers.
Later, I co-founded the Sheffield Novelists and established Bank Street Writers (now Blank Street Writers) to provide a home for emerging writers who had graduated from young writers’ projects. I was also instrumental in initiating the Sheffield Novel Slam, an event which arose out of my jealousy towards aspiring poets who seemed to have more limelight!
Since 2014, I have been facilitating my much-loved writing Get Writing workshops and running Children’s Writing Clubs on a freelance basis whilst supporting other writers as a coach and mentor. As a self-employed, single parent and writer, I am very familiar with the struggles of writers and creatives and the isolation that comes from working alone, from home, on projects which require nurture and support.
Creating a Hub for writers has been a long-held aspiration for me, arising out of my desire to reduce this isolation and to provide writers with the community and resources they need in order to flourish. Since the demise of Writing Yorkshire, I have been looking for a partner to make this dream a reality and I am delighted to have found this partner in Kurious. The Writers Hub launches on October 12th. You can find out more about it here: www.kurious.art I look forward to welcoming you into the new space and to helping you along your own writing journey, wherever it may take you.
Why I Write
A piece I wrote a few years ago as a writing exercise.
I write because what else is there but the flow of ink on paper?
Because, sitting here with this pen in my hand,
hearing the pens of neighbours pouring forth, I feel at home.
I feel whole. I feel this is where I belong.
And sometimes, all of life feels a distraction from this motion of pen on paper, of fingers on keyboard.
I write to give voice to the secrets of my heart,
to be voluble and free like a babbling brook flowing
out into the endless ocean.
I write to heal, to hear, to be understood.
Maybe I write to be loved.
I write to explore, to travel, to wander and wonder
into the places that others can't reach,
that others fear to go.
I write to jump naked into the abyss, knowing that words will catch me.
You say my life has been interesting,
Yes, I say, but not happy.
I follow the interest and it leads me to places a wiser person would not go.
But it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Better to say it, do it, live it, than regret it.
Better to pick daisies while we still can.
And maybe happiness is not something to strive for anyway.
Maybe interesting is enough.
Maybe life provides the spark, the food, the material.
And writing is my joy.