We are delighted to introduce our Room 204 Writers Development Programme 2022/2023 intake, which met in person at the Writing West Midlands offices in April 2022:
Emily Abdeni-Holman is a British-Lebanese writer interested in how our imaginations are made up of geographical and physical landscapes and landmarks. Her writing is concerned with the interrelations of language, time, land, spirituality, body, class, and culture. She generally writes poetry and creative nonfiction but is soon beginning a novel project using family archival material.
Zen Cho is the author of Black Water Sister, the Sorcerer to the Crown novels, The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water and Spirits Abroad. Zen is a Hugo, Crawford and British Fantasy Award winner, and a finalist for the Bradbury, Lambda, Locus and Astounding Awards. She was born and raised in Malaysia but now lives in Birmingham, and her writing is often set in either one country.
Chris Fewings’ poetry and prose grapples with serious questions and plays games with form and language. His book, A Place to Keep My Shadow, is a selection of poems addressing solitude and sharing, growing up and growing old, what it means to be human, and the sixth mass extinction. His performances of ‘page poetry’ are widely appreciated and he is currently working on a collection of short fiction.
Wes Finch is a Coventry-born writer and musician who works with various charity arts organisations in the Midlands, as a freelance sound designer and a tree planter at a local natural burial ground. After a self-directed period of Arts Council DYCP funded study exploring poetry writing, Wes spent some time exploring folk and fairy tales and writing creatively around that subject. He continues to write, record music, explore and enjoy creativity.
Hayley Frances is a poet whose work explores the psychology of poetry and its use as a therapeutic medium. She is the resident poet for the rehabilitation charity Lindale Recovery and the founder of Odeheart. Her poems have featured at Glastonbury, The National Poetry Library and a few indie publications, and she has previously been shortlisted for Birmingham Poet Laureate. Hayley’s debut collection of poetry, Administer the Laughing Gas, presents the reality of baby loss through poems that translate a mother’s emotional strife alongside her lived experience.
Aysar Ghassan teaches Automotive and Transport Design and was a ‘core poet’ at BBC Contains Strong Language, 2021. His poems feature in journals and anthologies including, Under The Radar, Ambit, Magma, Poetry Birmingham, The Interpreter’s House, The Lampeter Review, Strix, The Scores, Here Comes Everyone, DW Cities Coventry (Dostoyevsky Wannabe – In Press), Footprints (Broken Sleep Books – In Press) and To Coventry By Sun (Nine Arches Press). Aysar has been a Dynamo mentee with Nine Arches Press, and in 2021, he wrote and narrated a talk on Automotive Design for the BBC Radio 3 program, ‘The Essay’.
Robert Harper has an MA in creative writing from Manchester Metropolitan University and was the founder and editor of the literary magazine, Bare Fiction, which ran for 5 years, publishing poetry, fiction, and short plays. His poetry has been published widely in magazines and anthologies, and he has performed at venues across the country. He has a fondness for the Theatre of the Absurd and finds his work plays with the intersection between poetry and theatre.
Scott J Hurley is a musical theatre writer, director, composer, and screenwriter who focuses on stories about disability and LGBT+ identity. His most recent project, Stoma: The Musical (which he completed from a hospital bed after stoma surgery) was commissioned by BBC Arts and Calling the Shots, Bristol and has been broadcast on BBC Radio. Scott’s debut screenplay, The Contest, was part of The London Film Awards selection and was awarded at New Renaissance, Amsterdam.
Navkiran Kaur Mann is a bilingual spoken word artist, poet, writer, and creative producer. She has worked internationally for the Commonwealth Games, representing the UK and India. Navkiran is passionate about creating and collaborating with others and has co-curated Coventry first spoken word festival, called “Presence” developing paid talent pipelines and platforms for other poets.
Toba Marison is an aspiring author based in Birmingham who dabbles in surreal and literary themes, at times satirical. Through writing, Toba aims to push the boundaries of literature, entertain readers, as well as provide a story that is, at its core, emotionally moving. When Toba is not writing, they are either programming, drawing, or going down a Wikipedia rabbit hole.
Loraine Masiya Mponela is a mother, writer, public speaker, community organiser and migrant’s rights campaigner. She is originally from Malawi and now lives in Coventry. Her poems have been published in several online and physical Anthologies including Liquid Amber Press, Civic Leicester, the other side of hope and various YouTube platforms.
Rachel Sambrooks is a writer/performer, community arts facilitator and parent/carer based in Birmingham. Her past work includes a solo show which she adapted to a podcast series, poetry published in the Shoreline of Infinity magazine, comedy and monologues for BBC Radio, and she has won short story competition City of Stories for Merton. Her first pamphlet of poetry, Harpy, was published in 2020, and she completed her first novel after attending the Writing a Novel course at the Faber Academy in 2019.
Scarlett Ward Bennett is a poet, workshop facilitator and director of a small independent publisher called Fawn Press. You can find her recent work in Nine Arches’ Under The Radar, fourteen poems, and Broken Sleep’s Ecopoetry anthology. She was runner up in The Verve Community Competition in 2019 as judged by Joelle Taylor, and in the same year placed third in the Wolverhampton Literature Prize as judged by Roy McFarlane
Maya Wasowicz worked as an actor in theatre, film, and television for ten years before re-locating to the Midlands and re-training as a social worker. Her theatre company, Into the Wolf, commissioned Wretch (2017), based on interviews with vulnerably housed women. She has written a novel, Hang the White Washing, a story of intergenerational trauma through the eyes of a mother and daughter through the fall-out of Soviet-control in Poland, exploring divorce, mental breakdowns, and religious fervour.
Cat Weatherill has been a performance storyteller for twenty years, working internationally with both adults and children. She has appeared at some of the world’s most prestigious festivals but will still perform at village fetes for tuppence and a cream tea. As an author, her debut novel Barkbelly was shortlisted for the Branford Boase award and Where Magic Hides was shortlisted for the Tir Na n-Og Prize 2020, and she is currently writing a book about women’s motorcycling and midlife.