Joining us in the midst of the first lockdown in the UK due to Covid-19 restrictions, and with a very different kick-off meeting than any other year, we are delighted to introduce our Room 204 Writers Development Programme 2020/2021 intake, which met online via Zoom in April 2020:
Originally from London, Sara Amanda is an emerging film maker and writer who now resides in Birmingham with her cat, Leo. Sara has had her poetry work published in the Big Issue and more recently worked behind the scenes on a variety of short films across the City including the ‘Commonwealth’ film by Daniel Alexander and ‘Stranded’ by Tenisha White. Her most recent work is ‘Where is God now?’ which is her directorial debut and has been selected for the Lift Off film festival 2020.
Ania Bas is an artist, writer and arts project programmer who works across text, performance, publishing and social engagement. Her work has been commissioned by the Tate, Whitechapel Gallery, Art on the Underground, Whitstable Biennale, Eastside Projects. Bas is a co-founder of The Walking Reading Group. She is Open School East Alumni (2013- 2014) and Faber Academy Alumni (2018). Originally from Poland and now based in the Midlands.
Born and raised in Coventry, Raef Boylan is a writer whose short stories and poetry explore social realism. Some of these have been published in magazines and anthologies. Raef has headlined at several local gigs and festivals, and recently his spoken word was commissioned for the show Sphere at the Shopfront Theatre.
In 2019 he was selected to represent Coventry as part of an international poetry exchange in Cork (Ireland). Alongside his role as lead editor of arts magazine Here Comes Everyone, Raef also organises Coventry’s monthly poetry event ‘Fire & Dust’.
Emma Finlayson-Palmer lives and works in Wolverhampton with a multitude of children, cats and chickens. Emma’s first published writing was at the age of eight on CeeFax.
After completing a degree in Fine Art: Painting with Printmaking Emma rediscovered her love of words and has since had her writing featured in a variety of competitions and publications.
Emma mainly writes for children, particularly for the 5-9 age range, but she is also a writer of flash fiction and won the NAWG (National Association for Writers’ Groups) 100 Word Tale in 2019. Emma’s MG Thriller inspired by The Birds was longlisted in the 2019 Mslexia Children’s Novel Award.
She also runs a writing chat on Twitter called #ukteenchat and helps behind the scenes for writing organisations such as Retreat West, and SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (UK).
Elizabeth Inniss writes digital copywriting, video scripts and brand voice guidance to award-winning businesses across the UK and beyond in her day job.
Elizabeth’s personal projects include two TV pilot screenplays, one of which was shortlisted in the BBC’s Heartlands competition, and articles published in HuffPost UK.
Elizabeth lives in Bearwood with her partner and twin boys.
Nicola Jones has written for stage, screen, and radio, and has recently started to write fiction. Her work has been produced on BBC Radio 4, Radio 4 Extra, and Radio 3, and at venues including the Birmingham Rep (BOLDtext Playwrights), Southwark Playhouse (Little Pieces of Gold), Arts Theatre West End (Paperback Pictures), and the Edinburgh Fringe (Pentabus). She’s been a Red Planet Prize screenwriting finalist, and a BBC Writersroom tv drama competition winner.
Nicola is a member of West Midlands collective BOLDtext Playwrights and is now writing her first novel.
Sumaya Kassim is writer, curator and critic. Her work has appeared in The Good Journal, Media Diversified, and many zines.
Writing fiction is her passion and she is currently writing her first novel.
She is also working on a set of essays with topics ranging from whiteness in institutions to the power of Lana Del Rey’s unapologetic romanticism.
She speaks regularly at universities, art galleries and museums about decolonising histories and the power of storytelling. She has an essay forthcoming in the collection Cut From The Same Cloth (Unbound). For fun she plays videogames.
Derek Littlewood was born in Birmingham, living in Bearwood, just outside the city, for thirty years. He held an Arts Studentship at the Open University and obtained his doctorate in Dickens and literary theory. Subsequently he trained as a Further Education lecturer and has taught at Birmingham City University for almost thirty years, where he currently teaches literature and creative writing.
Longlisted in the National Poetry Competition 2015, he has published poetry in various anthologies including The Emma Press collection, Second Place Rosette: Poems about Britain.
He has started to write a fragmentary auto-fiction which represents the world we have lost, ghosts of the past, but also aspects of the new vibrant city of many cultures which is contemporary Birmingham to imagine speculative futures.
Andrea Mbarushima writes poetry, short stories and non-fiction and has been published in Under the Radar and The Curlew. Her short collection of poetry and prose The Africa in my House was published by Silhouette Press in 2017 and in 2019 she won the inaugural V20 poetry pamphlet prize with Air Show.
Andrea is a #HumansOfCov commissioned writer and a Coventry/Cork poetry exchange alumni.
A mum, Community Connector, artist and #AskMe Ambassador for Women’s Aid, Andrea is currently working towards a full length poetry collection and experimenting with genre fiction.
Elizabeth O’Connor recently received her PhD in modernist literature from the University of Birmingham, where she focussed on the poet H.D. and coastal landscapes and ecologies.
Her short stories have been longlisted for the Berlin Writing Prize and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and her poetry has been published by Guillemot Press, Verve Poetry Press and SPAM zine.
She now works at the University of Birmingham, and is working on her first novel.
Bethany Rivers was shortlisted for the Overton Poetry Prize and the Snowdrop Poetry Competition in 2019. She has two poetry pamphlets: Off the wall from Indigo Dreams (2016) and the sea refuses no river from Fly on the Wall Press (2019). Victorina Press published her book, Fountain of Creativity: ways to nourish your writing (2019).
She is Editor of As Above So Below online poetry magazine. She has taught creative writing for 14 years and continues to mentor writers.
Originally from Bath, Alix Scott-Martin has lived in Warwickshire for 4 years with her husband and 2 sons. She is an English teacher at Rugby School, where she runs a creative writing group and open mic nights for young writers. She is on the panel of judges for the Rugby-wide Rupert Brooke Literary Prize for 10-18 year olds.
In 2019, she was shortlisted for the Arvon/Jerwood Mentorship Programme and her poems have been published in various literary magazines, including Magma, Birmingham Literary Journal and Lighthouse.
She is currently working on a pamphlet.
Daniel Shooter is a stay-at-home dad and part-time High School Music teacher in the UK, who has been writing seriously for about three years.
His short fiction has been published in Spadina Literary Review (Canada), The Fiction Pool (UK), Lunate (UK), Emerge Literary Journal (USA) and in a forthcoming issue of Reality Break magazine (USA). Although he has started a novel or two, he writes mostly short fiction.
He is inspired by the quirks and darker side of real life.
Alex Smith teaches sociology at Warwick University. Born and bred in Adelaide, South Australia, he came to the UK in 1999 to study a PhD in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh University.
Alex has an MA in Creative Writing from Warwick and is currently working on an experimental project in creative non-fiction, which interweaves elements of the autobiographical novel and personal memoir with family mythology, ethnography, post-military history and a psycho-geographical journey through some of England’s forgotten wartime airfields.
He is the author of academic books and articles and also edits the New Ethnographies book series for Manchester University Press.
Michael Toolan has taught English language and literature at university in Birmingham for many years, and before that in Singapore and Seattle.
He is working on a second novel, and has also written half a dozen stories and a few poems in the last year.
He has been a member of the Tindal Street Fiction Group for several years.