In April 2012 Dear Dylan, my first novel for young adults was published. Dear Dylan tells the story of a 14-year-old girl who starts emailing her favourite actor. The novel charts the resulting online friendship, and follows the heroine as she refuses to give up on her dream, despite the difficulties she faces at home. Within a week of it coming out something really magical happened. Readers started emailing me and – as if inspired by the confidential nature and themes of the book – telling me all about their own dreams and fears. It’s as if something that began life in the book is now spilling over into real life – and I feel extremely honoured and privileged to be in this position. So I decided to do something about it.
As many of the girls who write to me dream of one day becoming writers, I decided to set up an online off-shoot of Dear Dylan, called Dear Writer. The Dear Writer artwork above is by the wonderful illustrator Michael Hill and is actually taken from the very first cover for Dear Dylan.
Dear Writer is a weekly blog written from me to young readers and writers, giving tips, competition opportunities and advice. And, although the blog will be writing-based, I’ll also be using my experience as a life coach to show how writing can help with the issues that are all too common during the school years – issues such as friendship, confidence, bullying, exam stress and, of course, first love (for more details see the Dream it, Write it, Live it page on this blog).
When I was a teenager it was my dream to one day become a writer. I worked really hard to get a place at university to study English Literature, but once I got to uni I suffered from a massive crisis of confidence. Coming from a council estate in North London, I felt really out of place amongst people from much wealthier backgrounds, and I couldn’t stand the financial pressure of getting deeper and deeper in debt. So I dropped out.
|My dream of being an author finally came true...|
It took me ten years to finally pluck up the confidence to pursue my dream and become a writer. I really regret the years I wasted due to my lack of confidence and so, now I’m a published author, it’s really important to me to encourage young people in their own writing and to help them have confidence in their abilities.
I’ve been running writing workshops for young people since 2003. During that time I’ve been a Writer in Residence for a London High School and have worked in partnership with many London Councils, libraries, theatres, charities and youth groups.