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Personal profile

Academic Biography

Sophie Nicholls is a novelist and poet and Associate Professor - Learning and Teaching in Creative Writing. She is a Principal Fellow of Advance HE (PFHEA) and a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management (FInstLM).

Sophie received her First Class MA Hons in English Language from the University of Edinburgh and her DPhil from the University of Sussex. Her AHRC-funded doctoral thesis (supervised by Celia Hunt) developed a model for using writing in education, personal and professional development and health care contexts.

Sophie's novel, The Dress, was an Amazon Top 5 bestseller in 2011-12. A new bestselling edition of The Dress was published in paperback and e-book by Twenty7 Books (Bonnier Zaffre) in July 2016. Her second novel, Miss Mary's Book of Dreams (Bonnier Zaffre), was published in March 2017. Her novels have now been translated into eight languages. 

Sophie’s poems have been published widely in poetry journals and magazines and her poetry collection Refugee (2011), partly inspired by her work with the organisation Freedom from Torture, is published by Salt.

Summary of Research Interests

Since 2000, Sophie has helped to establish Creative Writing as a creative-critical discipline and has pioneered work in writing and wellbeing. She has developed courses, workshops and protocols in writing in wellbeing contexts across a wide range of settings, including medical schools, universities, community and professional therapy organisations and private companies.

Her current project is funded by BEIS and involves scoping an engagement framework that uses creative writing to address climate emotions in the adoption of technological solutions (£84,754). Recent work includes using creative writing to promote wellbeing and prevent burnout in surgeons engaged in high-risk 'only eye' surgery (Birmingham Institute of Glaucoma Prevention/ Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust); and work with UBC/ UC3 Climate Change Coalition to develop an online community for knowledge exchange. 

Sophie joined Teesside in January 2014 and designed and launched the University's first wholly online degree course, the MA Creative Writing (Distance Learning) in 2015. Before rejoining academia, she worked as a learning consultant for Reuters Group where she led transformational change projects and designed and implemented new learning technologies and online learning programmes for staff and clients. She has continued to develop her interest in digital and hybrid pedagogies and her passion for making the study of creative writing accessible and equitable for everyone,  leading on a number of learning and teaching projects including chairing the University's Online Learning & Teaching Working Group and co-leading the Learning for the 21st Century Grand Challenge. 

PhD and Research Opportunities

At Teesside, Sophie has established a community of doctoral students researching creative practice-based and writing and wellbeing projects based in the US, Canada and across the UK. Find out more at: https://www.sophienicholls.com/creative-writing-lab

Recent completions as Director of Studies:

Eve Darwood. 2023. Numb is Not the Opposite of Pain: Ways in which creative writing can help to reintegrate a disconnected sense of self. 

Victoria Bailey. 2023. Telling: Using creative writing and motherline stories to reclaim herstory and Petals: A Novel.

Megan C Hayes. 2018. Wording the Self: A Positive Psychological Approach to Creative Writing as "Becoming More." 

Patience Ezinwoke. 2018. Iwaha: A novel of the transatlantic slave trade. 

Current PhD students as Director of Studies:
Jessica Wortley. Writing Nature: Ways in which writing in response to nature might be beneficial to us as writers and as selves.

Bryan Nyary. Dreaming in the Mother Tongue: Re-visitation and Experience Reinterpretation in Memoir.

Martin Smith. Videogame development as immersive storytelling: New narrative dynamics and models of practice in videogame screenwriting and script development. NECAH funded.

Russell Pollard. The Taste of Sweat and Sand:  An exploration of military trauma through poetry and performance.

Caroline Hadley.
Opening the Box – an exploration of family stories through psychodynamic theory and creative writing for wellbeing.

Current PhD students as second supervisor: 
Christina Wilson. Systemic Inclusion: Representation and Diversity in UK Literary Festivals. Northern Bridge funded.

Sam Rose. Writing Our Way Out Of Fear: Poetry for Cancer Survivors.

Diane Shughart. Looted Memory, a novel, and Divided Memory, a critical reflection on how contested history is transposed into fiction through the creative writing process.

External Roles and Professional Activities

External Examiner, BA Creative Writing, Birkbeck, University of London (2018-21).

Reviewer, Medical Humanities (BMJ)
Reviewer, Psychological Reports.


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