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Room 204

2023-24 Cohort

We are delighted to introduce our Room 204 Writers Development Programme 2023/2024 intake, which met in person at the Writing West Midlands offices in April 2023:

Oluwaseun Oluwatosin Akinsiku is a reader and a traveller. Born in Nigeria and now based in the West Midlands, she was a Writer-in-Residence at the Ebedi International Writers’ Residency and her work has been shortlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2022 and the Grow Your Story Programme by THRIVE and Hachette UK.

When she’s not reading or writing, she would be found in the hospital working as a doctor, travelling the world ticking off her bucket list or training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She has visited all seven continents of the world. 

Karen Arnold is a writer and child psychotherapist. She came to writing  later in life, but is busy making up for lost time. She is endlessly fascinated by the way we use narratives and story telling to make sense of our human experience, and in the way the unconscious speaks through symbol and metaphor in the most unexpected ways. She won the Mslexia prize for flash fiction and the Women on Writing (Spring) competition in 2022. She has work in The Waxed Lemon, The Martello, Roi Faineant and Ram Eye Press amongst others. Her work will also appear in the forth coming anthology Digbeth Stories.

Twitter: @aroomofonesown_4

Emily Barker is an English/Dutch writer. She did a BA and MA in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham, where she dipped her toe in every discipline, but particularly loved experimental poetry. Her poems have been published in the UK and abroad.

Recently, she has been working on a collection about lockdown life, but is also moving into the realm of speculative fiction. Her biggest writing goal is to have a novel adapted into a film, and to write the screenplay herself.

Dr Charley Barnes is an author, academic and poet from Worcestershire. Charley lectures in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. However, she is currently on a 12-month period of leave while she writes her first academic monograph, which is forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan. Charley is also working on her twelfth novel.

Under Charlotte Barnes, Charley has published a number of psychological thrillers, most recently Penance (Bloodhound Books, 2023). Her eleventh novel, The Good Child, is forthcoming this August. Alongside this, Charley will be publishing a new novella, Your Body is a House Stripped, with Broken Sleep Books in May 2023, and a new poetry pamphlet, Unfaithful, with Salo Press, also in May 2023.

Jo Dutton lives in Staffordshire with excitable children and pets who inspire and distract her writing in equal measure. She works on highways telecoms projects in her day job.

Jo writes crime novels for younger readers. Her first middle grade book, written with the support of an Arts Council DYCP grant, was shortlisted for the Yeovil Children’s Novel Prize in 2022 and highly commended in the WriteMentor Novel-In-Development Award 2022.

She also enjoys writing flash fiction and won the Stafford Lit Fest first prize in 2020.

Dan Gutteridge’s writing attempts to make nonsense of the world, looking beyond normative conceptions of society and poetry. Dan attempts to query these, writing at the juncture of culture and philosophy. Producing poetic experiments that aim to percolate conversation. Dan is often scribbling whilst stumbling along the Birmingham canal network or sitting on New Street’s latest scaffolding. Dan has little publication experience and therefore can’t evidence the quality of his work through a proven discography, the hope is that will come. He did, however, recently finish a Masters in Outdoor and Experiential Learning.

Sayan Kent is a playwright, librettist and composer. She has worked with the RSC, Belgrade Theatre, Birmingham Rep, Kali Theatre, Liverpool Royal Court, New Victoria Newcastle-under-Lyme, Unicorn, Arcola and London Bubble amongst others. She recently wrote the libretto for It Takes a City, performed with a chorus of over 2000 at the Royal Albert Hall and composed the music for a new opera Her Day which premiered during Coventry City of Culture. Her play Another Paradise is published by Bloomsbury/Methuen and extracts from her plays are published in 30 Monologues and Duologues for South Asian Actors by Methuen Drama.

Liz Lefroy won the 2011 Roy Fisher Prize for new work in poetry, resulting in the publication of her first pamphlet, Pretending the Weather. Three further pamphlets – The Gathering (2012), Mending the Ordinary (2014), and GREAT MASTER/small boy (2021) – followed.

A senior lecturer in social care, and an enthusiastic blogger, Liz also enjoys prose writing. In her work at Wrexham Glyndŵr University, she explores the links between creativity and coproduction. Her most recent chapters are published in Social Work in Wales (Policy Press, June 2023). At home, Liz has turned her attention to prose fiction, embarking on her first novel.

Natalie Linh Bolderston is a poet from the Midlands. She won the third prize of the National Poetry Competition 2019. In 2020, she received an Eric Gregory Award and co-won the Rebecca Swift Women Poets’ Prize. She won the silver Creative Future Writers’ Award in 2018 and was a runner-up in the 2019 BBC Proms Poetry Competition. Her pamphlet, The Protection of Ghosts, is published with V. Press.

Jo Murch is an aspiring novelist who lives in Stone, Staffordshire, but hails from Bedworth, Warwickshire with a good stint in Birmingham in-between. A true Midlander if you will! Having dabbled in journalism and children’s writing she is currently focused on contemporary fiction and is working on her first novel. As a journalist, she’s been published in the Independent and various Birmingham based publications, even interviewing local legend Joan Armatrading. Her day-job is as a Volunteer Co-ordinator for a health charity.

Temitayo Olofinlua is a creative writer and editor who calls herself a general content busybody. Her work has been published in Sarabamag, African Arguments, Omenana, among others. Her short story ‘Metal Feet’, set in a futuristic Lagos, was published in Italian as part of Futuri Uniti d’Africa, the first African anthology of Science Fiction from the continent in the language. Her essays have won several awards including the Peter Drucker Challenge.


Sallyanne Rock is a poet from the Black Country. She recently founded Glass Pen Studios, after leaving a corporate career to pursue professional writing. Her poetry has been published widely in various journals and anthologies, and she was awarded the gold prize for poetry in the Creative Future Writers’ Awards 2019. In 2022, she published her debut poetry pamphlet, Salt & Metal, with Fawn Press. Sallyanne writes autobiographically about surviving domestic abuse, and she is currently working on a new collection, exploring growing up in the Pentecostal church, and the effects on the self of those who subsequently leave.

Jamie Russell began his career as a film journalist with the BBC and Total Film magazine, before writing a series of non-fiction books on cinema and videogames. Later he worked for a major US tech company as a speechwriter and narrative consultant; became a screenwriter; and a children’s author. His books include the SKYWAKE trilogy, an action-packed story of aliens and videogames published by Walker Books for readers aged 9-12.

Based in Shrewsbury, Jamie is a passionate environmental activist and is currently working on a project about the future of climate protests.

Bethany Wheeler is an aspiring novelist from the West Midlands, where she lives with her husband and two children. Bethany works in learning support, where she is often identified as ‘the one who wears rainbows’, and spends her evenings writing fiction for children and young adults. She draws inspiration from her family, her students, and the literary heroes of her own childhood. Her co-authored Young Adult fantasy novel was longlisted for The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2022.

Bethany enjoys musicals, long baths, recreational running, and trips to the seaside.

Daniel Williams is a working-class playwright and digital theatre maker from the West Midlands, UK. He has created work for the Edinburgh Horror Festival and was a finalist for London Horror Festival’s Script Writing Competition.  During lockdowns he became a member of The New Works Playhouse, a global digital theatre company, and self-produced scratch nights of new writing. In 2022 he was a recipient of Creative Access x McLaren Racing Career Development Bursary for creatives from under-represented backgrounds.