Personal profile

Academic Biography

I am a best-selling novelist and award-winning poet with 25 years experience in teaching creative writing and facilitating work in writing and health. I am a Principal Fellow of Advance HE (PFHEA) and a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management (FInstLM).

My current work involves developing creative approaches to the challenges that we currently face: climate change, equity and social justice, and wellbeing; and researching the connections between writing and wellbeing and arts and health. 

My novels, The Dress, Miss Mary's Book of Dreams and The Glass have been translated into eight languages and explore themes of identity, belonging and community. My poetry collection Refugee was partly informed by my previous work as a writing mentor with Freedom from Torture.

I have designed, developed and facilitated learning, training and CPD programmes for a wide range of organisations and institutions including universities, medical schools, governmental, nonprofits and corporations, both nationally and internationally.   



Summary of Research Interests

My work takes an interdisciplinary and pragmatic approach, informed by my previous industry experience as a learning consultant at Reuters Group, my own creative practice, my ongoing interest in integrative psychodynamic therapies and my passion for making creativity and creative wellbeing accessible to everyone. Projects include: 

  • Feeling Planet: A toolkit for creative climate change engagement
    Funded by DSIT (£207,000) and working in partnership with University of British Columbia, Vancouver, this project involves scoping, designing and evaluating a emotions-focused creative engagement framework for technological solutions and climate justice.

  • Creative writing in health and wellbeing
    Since 2000, I have helped to shape teaching and research in the field of writing and wellbeing, developing 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. 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). In 2019, I designed Teesside's MA in Writing and Wellbeing (Online).

  • Creative practice-based research, creative-critical inquiry and research-led teaching
    I have contributed to shaping approaches to creative-critical research and teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, including developing approaches to doctoral research and supervision.

  • Creative digital and hybrid pedagogies 
    Before rejoining academia, I worked as a learning consultant for Reuters Group where I led transformational change projects and designed and implemented new learning technologies and online learning programmes for staff and clients. I have continued to develop my interest in digital and hybrid pedagogies, 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. I developed the first wholly online MA at Teesside (Creative Writing). Recent projects include working with UBC/ UC3 Climate Change Coalition to develop an online community for knowledge exchange. 

PhD and Research Opportunities

At Teesside, I have 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:

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.

Linda Stannard. A Practice Based Research into the Effects of Modernism and Modernity on the Lives of the Inhabitants of the Jewel Streets in Middlesbrough between 1886 to 2016.


External Roles and Professional Activities

Member of the QAA Creative Writing Subject Benchmark Review Committee, 2023-4. 

Co-Director, Teesside University, Northern Bridge Doctoral Consortium. 2018-2020.

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

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

Education/Academic qualification

PFHEA (Principal Fellow of Advance HE)

Award Date: 15 Jun 2021

DPhil Creative Writing, University of Sussex

Award Date: 6 Jan 2006

Postgraduate Diploma Creative Writing and Personal Development, University of Sussex

Award Date: 14 Jul 2000

MA English Language, University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 15 Jul 1994


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