WRITER Holly Jackson has always been a bookworm and could usually be found with her nose in a book as a child. This month she publishes her first collections of poetry and short fiction, Banana and Salted Caramel, with Austin Macauley Publishers.

“I grew up in a very working-class family and we didn’t have a lot of money for fancy toys and computer games, but the library was free,” says Holly, 35, who lives near Willington in County Durham.

“I spent a lot of my childhood with my nose in a book, that progressed naturally, I suppose, to an interest in writing.

“I started writing when I was in my teens, I found poetry a cathartic way of expressing myself and enjoyed the process of putting words together to create something new. That’s still the case.

She says: “I’ve always enjoyed writing stories, but I particularly enjoy the short story format, as I like the challenge of having to get more information across in a succinct way.

“With short fiction you have to say more while writing less, I think that makes short fiction writing a really interesting and beautiful art form.

“In my “normal” life I’m a teaching assistant for children with additional needs, so I don’t do a lot of writing in my job, but I do always enjoy it when the kids have to write stories in their English lessons.

“They all have such amazing imaginations, I love helping them draw this out and seeing their pride when they’ve created something unique to them.

“I joined an excellent online poetry group during lockdown called ‘Choose Poetry Choose Life’ they hold an open mic every other Wednesday evening.

“I’d never performed my poetry before and I was very nervous, but the group were all so welcoming and supportive, it really spurred me on.

After I left school I worked in retail for a few years before training in childcare, so I hadn’t had any formal training in writing aside from online workshops here and there.

“Recently I began a Foundation Degree in Creative Writing from The Open College of the Arts.

“The collection is pretty eclectic, I like to think there’s something for everyone. I write about whatever inspires me in the moment.

“My writing is usually informed by my own experiences, so the overall theme running through the book is around infertility and becoming an adoptive parent. This was something I wrote a lot about during the time that I was going through it and so has obviously become the overriding theme throughout the collection.

“Fertility issues are more common than people realise and I think many women struggle with infertility in silence, my hope is that by sharing my own experiences it might help others not to feel so alone.

“Over the last few years I have submitted writing to a few writing competitions and literary journals and magazines, I’ve gotten a couple of honourable mentions and had several poems published in literary magazines, journals, and anthologies, and had a short story made into a zine by an indie press.

“Banana and Salted Caramel is my first collection and there are pieces in there that were first written over twenty years ago, I feel like it’s a bit of a journey of me as a writer and covers a range of topics.

“Once I knew I wanted to put together a collection I spent about a year or so putting it together, writing more, working on editing and making the pieces as good as I felt they could be without ruining the integrity of the original poem or story.

“Then putting them together in an order which felt natural and like it had a flow to it. Once I felt like the collection was ready, I submitted it to publishers.”

The collection is available online from Waterstones, WHSmith or direct from the publishers. There are links on my social media pages; @hjacksonwrites on Facebook and Instagram.

Holly hopes to have some in person events soon where she can sell signed copies, and she will update her social media with announcements.

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