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Room 204

2019-20 Cohort

Michael Amherst is the author of Go the Way Your Blood Beats, a meditation on truth and desire, for which he received an award from Arts Council England and won the American Library Association 2019 Stonewall Israel Fishman Award for Nonfiction. His essay, ‘Does a Silhouette Have a Shadow?’, which examines the relationship between mind and body through the lens of chronic illness, is published in anthology On Bodies. His short fiction has appeared in publications including The White Review and Contrappasso and been longlisted for BBC Opening Lines and Bath Short Story Prize, and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. His essays and reviews have appeared in the Guardian, New Statesman, Attitude, the Spectator and The London Magazine, among others. He is currently working on a novel.

Helen Brady has been telling herself stories since she was knee-high to a gooseberry bush, but it wasn’t until taking a theatre and film degree as a mature student, she realised she could tell stories to other people.   She continued with a Masters Feature Film Screenwriting, and has received Film Council bursaries to develop scripts including: high concept sci-fi, present day Gothic horror, and psychological drama. Alas, the film business is notoriously difficult to break into and after a few ‘almosts’, Helen decided to channel her story-telling abilities into literature. She’s currently enjoying writing short stories – and has nine completed scripts waiting to become novels… or plays.

Facebook: Helen Brady

Annabel Brightling is a Scriptwriter and Director, based in Solihull. Originally from London, she attended Jigsaw Performing Arts School for five years, before she relocated to the Midlands in 2015. Since then, Annabel has been a DA Films Script 2 Screen Finalist for her short film For the Grammar Boys (2018) and selected for the Finish Line Script competition for her TV Pilot Educating the Youth (2018). Recently she directed the 2018 Back-In short film comedy Hell is a Place Called Home. Annabel writes short films and TV Drama scripts that focus on classism, personal relationships and mental health.

Twitter: @ACABrightling

Nellie Cole began writing poetry while studying Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham. Her work has appeared in anthologies such as This is Not Your Final Form (The Emma Press, 2017), and The Poetry of the Black Country (Offa’s Press, 2017). Her debut pamphlet, Bella (Offa’s Press, 2018), has been described as having ‘a mature and compassionate sensibility and an enviable gift for language’. She currently leads the monthly writing workshop ‘Pen to Paper’ at Birmingham Museum, and works freelance as a poetry mentor. Her second manuscript, a wider exploration of themes touched upon in Bella, is in the pipeline.

Twitter: @nelliefayecole


Chloe Garner writes poetry and has started a novel, which might become a theatre piece. Her poems are published in Poetry Wales Magazine and forthcoming in Under the Radar

She used to work in museums including Dove Cottage, Wordsworth Trust and The Charleston Trust and is now artistic director for Ledbury Poetry Festival. Chloe interviews poets for events including Ledbury Poetry Salons, hosts open mics and writing groups, runs a poetry club for primary school children. 

She attends a Poetry School seminar with Philip Gross and has done their online courses, including on writing multilingual poetry.

Shaun Hill is a queer poet exploring the idea of ‘radical intimacy’. He is a Dynamo Mentee with Nine Arches Press, a Hippodrome Young Poet, and a member of the Worcester Poetry Film Collective. He has read his work across the country at festivals like WOMAD and UK Young Artists’ City Takeover 2019; and recently featured in the anthology Eighty-Four: Poems on Male Suicide (Verve).

Instagram: @warmbloodedthing

Andy Hollyhead is an academic and writer of fiction in all its forms.  His most recent short story will be included in a newsletter by Manifold Press, specialising in LGBTQ+ romantic fiction. 

Following creative writing courses with the Open University, and having had short stories published in anthologies from a well-known writers website (without his knowledge or permission it has to be said), he has dabbled in many forms of writing over the last ten years. Andy’s partner of fourteen years is amazingly tolerant of him disappearing for hours upon end to his study.  Their cat is less so.

Twitter: @HollyheadAndy


Rupinder Kaur is a poet, spoken word performer, workshop facilitator and blogger.

Birmingham-born, Rupinder has a strong love and connection to her Panjabi roots which is shown in her work.

Her debut poetry collection, Rooh, was released in September 2018 with Verve Poetry Press. She has performed across London and Birmingham and was featured with BBC Asian network.
Twitter : @Rupinderkw

Roya Khatiblou was a finalist for the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Fellowship. Roya’s work has appeared in Hotel Amerika, Passages North, Hayden’s Ferry Review and elsewhere.

She received an MFA in fiction writing from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was Assistant Fiction and Assistant Nonfiction Editor of Ninth Letter, and an MA in fiction writing from Northwestern University.

She moved to England in 2017 and now lives in Birmingham.

Santoshi Mann was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, where she has lived for the last 30 years. She moved to the Midlands in 2012 for marriage and works as an Optometrist.  

Having studied theatre at college, it was her four-year-old son, who triggered her to start storytelling again. She entered a few competitions in 2018 and was successful in joining Belgrade Theatre’s Critical Mass 2018-19 writing programme. Santoshi was also a successful runner-up at the inaugural Lancaster Playwrighting Prize, for which is now part of Tamasha Playwrights group 2018-19.  She was part of Birmingham Rep Theatres 2019 ‘Write Away’ course.

Lou Minns writes speculative fiction,  mostly for children/YA. She grew up with five brothers and loves to write stories featuring strong girls.

After living in Australia and the US, camping with lizards, bears and kangaroos, Lou now lives in a very old creaky house in Shropshire. She enjoys being a bit scared, but also likes to sleep at night and is grateful to science for a rational explanation.

She is Assistant Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (UK), has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester University, and been an Assistant Writer with Spark Young Writers. Lou has taught in high schools across the country and thinks teenagers are actually rather nice if often misunderstood.

Twitter: @LMMinns

Annika Spalding is a writer, born in Birmingham, raised partially in Bradford and now residing in sunny Sandwell.

After self-publishing four books, Annika pursued her interest in education and studied Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton achieving a 2:1 at graduation. She blogged, facilitated workshops, created online writing challenges and wrote a book about writing, all while studying.

Annika believes writing gave her the confidence to speak out about her experiences, and is determined to help others do the same. 
Twitter: @annikaspalding

Susan Stokes-Chapman is a born and bred Midlander and attended Aberystwyth University between 2004-08, studying first for a BA in Education & English Literature and then for an MA in Creative Writing. She now works for the university remotely as a Higher Education advisor.

In her spare time she is studying for professional editorial qualifications, and works as with Writing West Midlands’ Spark Young Writers programme. Susan has a keen interest in Romanticism and Georgian culture having previously completed a novel set in 1820s London.
Twitter: @SStokesChapman

Ros Woolner is a poet and translator. She loves playing with language. Her poems have appeared in MagmaThe Cannon’s Mouth, The Interpreter’s House and Under the Radar and in anthologies published by The Emma Press. She has had poems placed or shortlisted in the Poetry on Loan competition, the Wolverhampton Literature Festival competition, the Verve competition and Cannon Poets’ Sonnet or Not competition. She is an enthusiastic member of Cannon Poets, Bilston Writers and Blakenhall Writers and regularly reads at local spoken word events. Her poetry pamphlet On the Wing was published by Offa’s Press in 2018.
Twitter: @ros_woolner

Dr Shahed Yousaf is a British writer and artist of Pakistani heritage.  He is a GP who works in prisons and with the homeless community and is interested in the therapeutic potential of literature and the arts.  

Shahed is the author of two medical books. His articles have been included in a University of Warwick corpus of academic written English. He is an experienced writer of flash fiction, short stories and plays and is working on a novel which is a medical thriller set in a prison.

He was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Prize 2016 and commended for the Faber & Faber FAB prize 2017.  Shahed won a place on to the Middle Way Mentoring Project 2018 for writers based in the Midlands. He chaired the Stirling Publishing ‘Colours of Madness’ event at Waterstones Birmingham in October 2018 and has a passion for mental health and substance misuse issues.

He follows a long and illustrious tradition of writers who are doctors.

Twitter: @BrownIsNewBlack