Novel approach to adversity

A woman with rosie cheeks and pigtails outdoors in a flat cap.
By James Woollen

Story by Katie Hobson

Local resident Julia Woollen has recently finished the first part of a trilogy inspired by the Burngreave community. Julia has faced many challenges in her life, including bipolar disorder and feelings of isolation even within her own family, but says that writing has helped her to deal with different issues and struggles.

 “Being accepted into the Burngreave community has made me feel capable and successful. It is the first place I have ever fit in since being a child, because people care.”

 Julia started her novel when she was just 14 years old and, despite urging from her grandmother to finish it, she never planned the beginning, middle or end, which  is why it has become a trilogy. The as yet unnamed book was mainly influenced by the people who she lived with on Hinde House Lane and those who she has met in the wider area. Burngreave groups and cafés have been key places for her to pen her ideas. She sees a part of herself in each of the characters and enjoys getting to know them. Her main character (who remains nameless throughout the first book) lives an isolated life in America until she moves to England to set up a hotel with her friends, reflecting how camaraderie has helped Julia in her own life.

A woman with rosie cheeks and pigtails outdoors in a flat cap.
By James Woollen

Her favourite author is Dame Catherine Cookson, whose well-known story ‘The Dwelling Place’ mirrors Julia’s main theme of journeying towards success through adversity. Cookson took up writing to cope with her depression, resembling Julia’s own struggle with bipolar disorder.

Julia’s literary ancestry is notable. Her great grandmother’s cousin was William Holt, a writer and war correspondent who wrote novels and autobiographical works, such as ‘Trigger in Europe.’ A staunch Communist, he was sent to Wakefield prison for his opposition to means testing in the twenties.

Julia advises other potential writers to “just go for it!” and not to worry about acceptance or rejection. She suggests that writing with bipolar disorder is a good way to lift your mood when you are down, adding that art and literature are lifelines for people with mental health problems as they provide an escape and an outlet for creativity.

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