Room 204 Participants 2013

Here are the writers who were part of our Room 204 Writer Development Programme 2013/14.

Richard StokesRichard Stokes

Richard Stokes was born decades ago in 1978 but he doesn’t look it and has no intention of having a mid-life crisis just yet. He won first prize in the Birmingham Book Festival Short Fiction Competition 2012. He has had work published by Writing West Midlands, One Title, What’s On, Music News, Structo Magazine and the delightfully named Soul Vomit Anthology. He sings for indie-rock band Aquila, whose latest album is called Guilt Brings Out The Best In You. He is also an occasional actor, stand-up comedian and storyteller. He likes reading, eating and arguing; he likes most things really. His ambitions include becoming fluent in French and Italian, to teach himself the piano, and to build a kite. A really big one.

He keeps a daily blog, Blue On Blue, which was recently featured on the Curtis Brown website. He is currently finishing his first novel and a collection of short stories.


Nadia KingsleyNadia Kingsley

Nadia Kingsley is a poet, artist and publisher. She is interested in closely observing nature, and in both science and art. Her poems have been published in Orbis, Brand, Wenlock Poetry Festival Anthology 2011& 2012, Poetry Cornwall, We’re all in this together environment anthology, Shropshire Butterflies, Road Kill. Her short stories have won prizes. Her brick sculpture, and photography have been exhibited.

She set up Fair Acre Press in 2011. Her first four publications are:

SHROPSHIRE BUTTERFLIES – A poetic and artistic guide to the butterflies of Shropshire – “This is one of the most delightful ’green’ poetry projects I have heard of in recent years.” – Carol Ann Duffy

Three Poets on the Life and Works of William Penny Brookes – “These revelatory poems give more of the man and his milieu than any full scale biography.” – Katherine Swift

Road Kill – “By concentrating on the small things, really looking at them, they have managed to articulate something enormous.” – Katrina Porteous

Lawn Lore – “The premise for Lawn Lore is startlingly imagined and lovingly executed in a manner that will delight poets and botanists alike, as it did me.” – Gary Longden


Jeff PhelpsJeff Phelps

Jeff Phelps’s poems and short stories have been widely published and anthologised. His two novels, Painter Man and Box of Tricks were published by Tindal Street Press. He is working on a third novel, set in Shropshire. He was first prize winner of the Mail on Sunday novel award in 1991. Sea View, the play he wrote with Nick Daws was staged in Stellenbosch, SA. Since leaving work as an architect in autumn 1991 he has written poetry, been a judge for the Rubery Prize and spoken and read at festivals and readers’ / writers’ groups.  In 2012 he was one of six writers commissioned to produce a short story in response to a brief from a readers‘ group.  His poetry for the artists’ collective, Rednile, was a response to building development in Burton-on-Trent.    

River Passage, the poem which won second prize in the Stand Open Poetry competition in 2000 was produced as a CD by Offa’s Press, with original piano music by his son Dan. In summer 2013 he will be co-editing a book of Shropshire Poetry for Offa’s Press with the poet Simon Fletcher. He lives in Bridgnorth, Shropshire and attends the writers’ group he founded there in 1992. /  @jeff_phelps   


Jean AtkinJean Atkin

Jean Atkin works as a poet, writer and educator, and lives in Shropshire. Her first collection Not Lost Since Last Time was published by Oversteps Books in spring 2013. Jean moved to Shropshire in late 2012 after over a decade living on a smallholding in windiest Dumfries and Galloway.  She has written about ruined farms, the ghosts of sheep and herring and how long it takes to leave an island. Previous pamphlets include The Treeless Region (Ravenglass Poetry Press 2010), Lost at Sea (Roncadora Press 2011) and The Dark Farms (Roncadora Press 2012).  She is widely published and has been a winner in several competitions including Magma, the Torbay Prize, the Elmet Prize and the Mirehouse Prize. 

Jean has experience of working as a poet with a wide range of school and community projects, including Poet in Residence for Dumfries & Galloway Science Festival.  She worked for a year on the Viewpoint Voices project with groups of different ages on the Solway coast, walking and writing short poems with them, which were spoken by the participants and posted online as short videos.  She is completing another project in Galloway, an intergenerational celebration of the Woods of Cree. She is now employed by The Courtyard Theatre in Hereford as part of an award-winning project using poetry to work with people with dementia. She has just been appointed Poet in Residence at Logan Botanic Garden during August 2013. / @wordsparks


Cindy GeorgeCindy George

Cindy George is originally from the north-east, but has worked all over the country as a copywriter for radio stations and advertising agencies.  She was first published as a writer of short stories for Just Seventeen magazine in the late eighties, and as a music journalist for the NME and others in the fallow period between acid house and Britpop.  She has also worked as a press officer, a market researcher, and a farmhand on a banana plantation.  In 2011, after ten years at a London advertising agency, she sold her small flat in Hackney and moved to Coventry in order to study for an MA in Writing at Warwick University and buy an entire three-bedroomed house with a garden.

At Warwick, she began work on the novel which is her current project. She also discovered a talent for performance, presumably honed during her years in radio and lurking unsuspected ever since. Alongside the novel, she is currently working on a collection of ghost stories as well as a novella for young adults and a series of poems about the many exasperations of being a Morrissey fan. Her stories and articles can be found in such diverse publications as The Fiction Desk’s literary anthologies and online women’s interest magazines. /  @tartrazine


Sarah JamesSarah James

Sarah James is a widely-published and award-winning journalist, fiction writer and poet, whose first poetry collection, Into the Yell (Circaidy Gregory Press, 2010), won third prize in the International Rubery Book Awards 2011. Her second, Be[yond], is published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press (July 2013). The University of Oxford modern languages and linguistics graduate has been placed in numerous competitions and published in magazines and anthologies including The RialtoMagmaPoetry Newsunder the radar,  Ink Sweat and TearsSculpted: Poetry of the North-WestA Complicated Way of Being Ignored: The Grist anthology of the best poetry of 2012 and Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam.

Sarah was twice shortlisted for Worcestershire Poet Laureate, has been a guest poet at numerous festival and spoken word events, including reading alongside Bernard O’Donoghue at Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2013 and performing at Ledbury Poetry Festival 2013. She has been chosen for the 2013 Coventry-Cork O’Bheal twin city poets exchange and has poems on the Polesworth Poets’ Trail in Warwickshire, a café wall mural and Worcestershire buses. Other writing roles have included writer in residence at Worcester Oxfam Bookshop and leading creative writing workshops.

She is in the final year of an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and enjoys collaborations, mixing artforms and poetryfilm. Currently based in Worcestershire, she runs the Poetry Society’s Worcestershire Stanza and is secretary of Droitwich Arts Network. She is a poetry editor at V. Press (


William GallagherWilliam Gallagher

William Gallagher is a scriptwriter, performer and author of the British Film Institute book BFI TV Classics: The Beiderbecke Affair. He’s a performer on the spoken-word cabaret circuit in Birmingham and writes Doctor Who audio dramas for BBC/Big Finish that have been called spooky, disturbing and yet “would warm the heart of an Ice Warrior”. His work has appeared extensively in Radio Times and BBC News Online plus The Independent, the Los Angeles Times and on BBC local and national radio. He’s developing TV series with Red Planet, has won awards for his stage drama and his photography has been published in international jewellery books. He is currently writing a series of books on British TV drama history and the definitive coffee-table reference guide to Blake’s 7. He once had afternoon tea on a Russian nuclear submarine and regrets calling the place a dive. /  @WGallagher


Nik Sakaria

Nik Sakaria is Midlands born and raised. She has previously had short stories published in anthologies by Serpents Tail and Birkbeck. She writes short fiction immersed in modern society with a growing side-line in borderline sci-fi strange. Alongside writing she has been working in outreach and participation projects for hard to reach audiences and marginalised groups as well as running workshops and mentoring vulnerable women in health-related projects.  She is currently working on a novel populated by a mix of down but not out Midlanders. 


Yasmin AliYasmin Ali

Yasmin Ali has been writing non-fiction for publication for many years, turning more recently to her first love, fiction. She has written for magazines and newspapers including The New Statesman and The Western Mail, book chapters on social and public policy, as well as editing a consumer website. Yasmin has had short stories published in anthologies: Written In Blood edited by Lindsay Ashford and Caroline Oakley, Honno 2009; and Cut on The Bias, edited by Stephanie Tillotson, Honno 2010. A short stage play received a reading by a professional cast at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2011, and was turned into a radio play for BBC Wales in 2013. Yasmin is currently completing a novel. She is a member of the Tindal Street Fiction Group. /  @YasminAli

Jane Campion HoyeJane Campion Hoye

Following an early career as a professional actor in London, Jane discovered a passion for writing and research at Bristol University. She subsequently trained as a business journalist, working as a professional copywriter and features writer. Relocating to the West Midlands a few years ago, Jane took the opportunity to marry her first love of theatre with her writing skills on the University of Birmingham’s flagship playwriting course.  Since graduating with an MPhil in Playwriting at the end of 2009, she has specialised in scriptwriting and storytelling. A couple of her short plays have won competitions or “audience favourite” votes. She is now working to get her first full-length play,Cover Up, into professional development. In the last year, the play has attracted attention from mainstream theatres and festivals, including High Tide Festival and Manchester Royal Exchange. After an extract was showcased at Theatre Exchange at The Old Joint Stock, director Jouvan Fuccini wanted to take the play further and recently showcased a rehearsed reading of the whole play for Space2Develop at The Edge in Birmingham.  Meanwhile Jane has been honing her skills on The Birmingham Rep’s Write Away course for new and emerging writers in the region. /


Justina HartJustina Hart

Justina Hart is a novelist, poet, short story writer, copywriter and former journalist, who enjoys a creative challenge – writing a 62-word screenplay about Tufty the road safety squirrel for the V&A Museum of Childhood didn’t fox her for long. Her books include The Rhythm of Stones, a collection of her poems and photographs, and an art book, Angels: millennial messengers. She’s written a children’s picture book about underpants and a play about centenarians. She was invited to do the first course for writers over 26 at the Royal Court, which described her first play as ‘moving, informative and shocking’. A creative non-fiction essay about Will Self and the M40 made its way into Common Ground: around Britain in 30 writers and she contributed a chapter to The Rough Guide to First-Time Africa.

Justina worked for ten years as a features writer for national newspapers, her mornings spent interviewing film stars and afternoons questioning recovering alcoholics. In-house, she worked her way down from the Guardian to the Daily Express, holding commissioning editor roles at both. She’s had poems on London buses, been on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service and taught inner city kids podcasting and poetry. Her short stories have been described by poet, critic and poker player, Al Alvarez, as ‘Stylish, beady eyed, wildly inventive and very funny’ and have won the Ian St James Award and been short listed for the Asham Award. She was previously represented by Kate Jones at ICM Books.


Lindsy AndersonLindsy Anderson

Lindsy Anderson grew up in Herefordshire and has recently returned back to the county permanently after several years working away. Her degree was a BEng in Electronic Engineering with Southampton University fourteen years ago. More recently she has completed a BA English Language and Literature with the Open University and followed that up with a MA in Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University. As part of the MA she completed an internship with New Welsh Review and was part of a team that published a short story anthology Different Worlds

She has had numerous short stories and articles published in magazines and a short story published in the Australian anthology Damnation and Dames. Last year she organised and lead a Creative Writing Group for Carers in conjunction with the charity Herefordshire Carers Support, working with a small group of carers to help improve their creative writing, both poetry and short stories as a respite from their caring activities.

Currently she works full time as a web developer for a Herefordshire company when not working on writing more short stories across a variety of genres in her spare time. In addition to this Lindsy has also started work on her first novel. / @Lindsy_26and1

Liam BrownLiam Brown

Liam Brown was born when he was quite young and has been living in Birmingham ever since. Liam’s writing has been described as ‘dark, dirty and desperate’, with short stories appearing in various places online and in print, including Straight from the Fridge, Beat the Dust and BRAND magazine while his plays have been performed at the Greenwich Playhouse and the Woolwich Drama Festival. He is currently working on his first full-length novel. Liam dislikes crowds and feels uncomfortable referring to himself in third person.



Naomi de la TourNaomi Alsop

Naomi de la Tour teaches writing at the University of Warwick, in school and community settings and supports writers in developing their own creative teaching practice. Her writing explores the ways perceptions, stories and ideas can change the way we experience the world around us and ourselves and she enjoys finding new ways of connecting with readers and audiences. She lives and writes in the gap between Birmingham and Coventry.


Elisabeth CharisElisabeth Charis

Elisabeth Charis (AKA Betty Rivers and other aliases) is a thinker, writer, teacher and permaculturalist currently living in England on her boat. She has travelled extensively and lived in China, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and, most recently, Syria until political unrest forced her to return to the UK.

She has a first class honours degree in English Language and Literature and is a qualified teacher (QTS and TESOL) with many years of experience teaching young people and adults in a variety of educational contexts. Elisabeth currently teaches English in a Birmingham grammar school and runs Creative Writing workshops. She enjoys the challenge of all kinds of writing though has two longer term projects in process at present – a novel and a collection of poetry.

‘My writing explores our relationship with time and place; nature; freedom and responsibility; that good old fashioned notion, ‘love’; the journey we are all on within ourselves and what it means to be a woman, in our world, now. This last is also called feminism but, like the other themes, it is really just a questioning of the world from the only perspective I know. Most importantly, I try to be honest, though that can be the hardest thing.’