Author Sue Reed writes for Northern Soul about her inspirations, literary passions, and becoming a published writer.

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I have always wanted to be a writer.

At the age of six, I would sew pages together in order to write stories, illustrated with drawings done in crayon. Later, I wrote sensory dramas and curricula in my job as a teacher, helping students with learning difficulties to understand and explore a world that was difficult to reach. I blogged and wrote essays on sustainable living, growing food and seasonal eating as The Bridge Cottage Way, helping folk to understand how to reduce the drain on our planet’s precious resources. As The Woolly Pedlar, I was an upcycler of waste wool knitwear.

However, at the age of 58, I discovered that, up to the age of 60, you could get a student loan, attend university, and undertake an MA in Creative Writing. It was now or never. I wrote two short stories and applied to Newcastle University. To my amazement, I got in.

At first, I found the return to academia hard. My first degree, a B.Ed in what was then termed The Education of the Mentally Handicapped, was back in 1984. To be honest, I spent most of those three years in the student bar. So it was with great excitement that I caught the train from the sleepy halt at Bardon Mill, went up to town proudly swinging my Newcastle University student lanyard from my neck, and walked through the iconic arches and across the quadrangle to the English Department. I soon learned that what I lacked in recent academic exposure, I made up for in life experience and had many stories to bring to the table.

It was during the first semester, in the Writing for Children and Young Adults module led by Berwick author and playwright Ann Coburn, that the idea for my novel The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn was formed. I wanted to write a book which included my love of nature and sustainable living, and was about daring to be different. It wasn’t long before I had a character in Molly, someone who needed to learn that you don’t have to create a false self in order to fit in. Molly learns the value of true friendship and reinvents herself, finding the courage to stand up for what is right when she meets Martha, homeless and on the run from the 1649 Newcastle Witch Trials.

Although the novel is set in 2020 at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, Martha has come through a portal fleeing from the witchfinder who has sent her mother, Ann Watson, to prison. Ann was among the 14 women and one man hung on Newcastle’s Town Moor in 1650 for being a ‘wych’. 

The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn is the first in a planned series. In this first book, Molly has been rewilded, turned on to sustainable living thanks to the example set by her grandparents. In subsequent novels, she will take on specific environmental challenges, but each with a time flip where Molly meets people from the past who help her come to terms with personal issues.

You’ll find The Rewilding of Molly McFlynn on Young Adult bookshelves. But I am happy to say that it’s finding its audience with readers of all ages. It has found its tribe.

By Sue Reed

 

Alnwick Story Fest takes place February 16-18, 2024.

You can buy Sue Reed’s book at various outlets, including here.