This spring I was awarded full funding by the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities to study a practice-based PhD in the School of English at the University of Leeds (beginning October 2022).
This means I will be paid to write stories and read books for three years and to ask questions I would be asking anyway, only with more support and within an intellectual community.
I will be writing new stories and developing my thinking on sex writing, extending this thinking with the help of Disability Studies, a completely new field to me but one which is already bringing huge benefits to my work and writing. My first supervisor is Dr Clare Barker and my creative supervisor is Dr Campbell Edinborough.
I applied to a number of universities simultaneously in an attempt to increase my chances of being awarded funding, and I want to include a big thank you to Naomi Booth, who was my proposed first supervisor at the University of Durham and whose ideas and questions on my initial proposal really helped shape it into the one it became.
You can read my full proposal here.
‘Wan’s intriguing mystery of loss, told in crisp, sparse prose, is a narrative for our age of environmental destruction.' - Vesna Main
My story ‘This Must Be Earth’ is a new Nightjar release, alongside Ailsa Cox's 'Cocky Watchman’.
They're both published in a limited-edition print run of 200 signed chapbooks. I first wrote a (terrible) version of this story in 2017 and it went through a number of serious drafts until, last year, it finally found its best expression.
And, yes, for those of you wondering if Mark Murphy had anything to do with it, you guessed correctly - it was his fantastic song, 'This Must Be Earth' which helped me get there.
I'm so pleased the story has found its home with Nightjar - big thanks to Nicholas Royle and John Oakey of John Oakey Design.
You can buy the titles here or visit @nightjarpress for news of special offers.
I've been collaborating on a memoir project with Sarah Ezekiel, a leading eye-gaze artist who turned to painting with her eyes when the technology became available in 2012. At that point she'd been living with motor neurone disease (MND) for twelve years, significantly longer than is usual (most often it kills a third of people within a year, and more than half within two years of diagnosis).
I first met Sarah towards the end of 2019. During our meeting Sarah mentioned she had a memoir she'd started to write years ago using a chin switch, and which she'd been wanting to revisit. I went away and read it and with the first lockdown in March 2020, we started working seriously on her memoir together.
Sarah and I communicate by email more or less daily and work on shared Google Drive documents. Together we've done a lot of reworking of her original material and Sarah has written lots of new things, doubling her original word count and creating a number of new artworks to accompany additional chapters.
Sarah is the reason I took on the project. She is open, generous and full of life, and it's been a privilege to be able to work with her so closely. We kept each other sane during the chaos of 2020, which also came with a diagnosis of my own disease: multiple sclerosis. MS shares a lot of the same early symptoms with ALS (Sarah's kind of MND) and her support at that time was really invaluable, and her friendship continues to be.
Alongside work on her memoir, Sarah has also been in talks with playwright, screenwriter and theatre director Josh Azouz, who is pitching a TV series about Sarah's life, taking its inspiration in part from an advert Sarah starred in for the MND Association, banned from being broadcast on TV for being too shocking. 'Sarah's Story' aims to give viewers an insight into what an MND diagnosis feels like and to raise awareness about this disease which still has no cure. To this day, it's still banned from being shown on our TVs.
In 2021, we're persevering with more drafts of her memoir until we get it to the point it's ready to send to publishers... Watch this space.
Find out more about Sarah, visit her art shop and read the synopsis of 'The White Room' in the attached document below.
In 2019, I was chosen as one of five English-speaking Fellows to take part in the Sozopol Fiction Seminars.
The seminar took place from 13 - 17 June, 2019, in Sozopol, Bulgaria - an intense few days of workshops, one-on-one consultations, panels, lectures and readings - followed by a program of events held in Sofia as part of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation's eleventh annual edition of CapitaLiterature.
Here you can watch the International Literary Performance in which I read alongside my fellow writers at the Peroto Literary Club in Sofia. In English and Bulgarian.
My story 'San Salvador' is from 15:00 - 18:45.
During my time as an MA student at the University of East Anglia, I organised a conference with a fellow student, James Smart, on the subject of writing sex in literature.
'I'll Show You Mine: A Sex-Writing Symposium' came from a desire to interrogate the culture for writing sex in contemporary literature. Do we do it and how? As students of creative writing, we were particularly interested in the technicalities
of writing sex – which words to use, point of view, the use of metaphor, and so on.
The symposium took place at the National Centre for Writing's Dragon Hall in Norwich on Thursday 6 June, 2019.
The speakers included students within the Literature, Drama and Creative Writing department at UEA, alongside contemporary writers engaged with the writing of sex - across literary fiction, poetry, memoir and the romance genre. Speakers included Monique Roffey, Sarah Hall, Pippa Roscoe, Rachel Connor, V.C. Lancaster, Lucy-Anne Holmes and Rachel Long, some of whom also led creative writing seminars on the day.
The day's discussions are available to listen to here, and you can visit our Twitter page here.
The conference was supported by the department of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, the National Centre for Writing and we raised money to pay our speakers via ticket sales on our Crowdfunder.