My name is Grace Jolliffe and I am a writer. I was born in the front bedroom of my home in Toxteth which is in the city centre of Liverpool.
My own grandmother delivered me, just a few hours after my mother (who didn’t believe babies should be born in a hospital) had finished cleaning the upstairs windows.
At that time, the women in Toxteth cleaned their windows every single week and despite being nine months pregnant, the pigeon droppings on the outside of the window were driving my mother mad!
I went to the local school where I learned that school dinners all taste like chicken-soup mixed with gutter water and cabbage.
I also learned that teachers could turn into cane-wielding psychopaths on a whim and that swinging too fast around a maypole can skin your knees to the bone.
Oh… and somehow I also managed to learn how to read and write.
Besides its clean windows, Toxteth was also noted for its red-brick houses with windowsills painted in the Everton or Liverpool football team’s colours – depending on which foot you kicked with.
PIGGY MONK SQUARE
My first novel, Piggy Monk Square, was based in Toxteth, although of course, all the characters were fictional.
When I wasn’t out playing, I was indoors reading.
Liverpool was a tough place to grow up in and we were skint especially when my Dad was on strike – which during the 1970’s was quite often.
We were lucky enough to have a few books in the house.
I also had access to the well-stocked Lodge Lane and also Picton Road Library and used to visit every week after a swim in Lodge Lane ‘baths.’
In the early seventies, due to the infamous ‘stop and search’ tactics employed by the Merseyside Police a growing atmosphere of mutual hostility emerged between some of the residents and some of the police.
Stop and search was infamous because the police had the power to stop and search anyone – even if you just happened to be walking up the street.
Imagine coming home from school or work and being stopped, forced to spread your legs, place your hands on the wall and be roughly searched by the police – for no reason!
It’s no wonder there was such hostility towards the police.
Later, in 1981, Toxteth became famous for its violent riots and the subsequent destruction of many of its buildings and landmarks including, I believe, my beloved Lodge Lane Library and my favourite shop the ‘Pic n Pay.’
But when I was a little girl we had no inkling that one day there would be riots. Back then our street was a playground, never a battleground.
At the time of the riots my family returned to my father’s home place of Greystones, County Wicklow in Ireland and so I moved from the inner city to a little village by the sea – quite a culture shock.
I mostly wrote just to record events in my life and only occasionally did I write the odd fictional story.
Confidence was a problem for me and I was never pleased with my stories.
Although I enjoyed writing them I tended to judge my own work as not good enough for human consumption and kept it hidden under my bed.
However, the loneliness of marital separation drove me to pick up the pen again and this time I really started to move it.
I wrote mostly late at night. From about 11 pm to about 3 am. I can’t do that now but at the time I was younger and had more energy.
I wrote short stories, lots of them, submitting them to magazines, and for competitions… everywhere I could think of.
At first most of them were N.F.G (I’ll let you work it out!) as an old teacher of mine lovingly referred to them. But I learned not to give up and keep going.
By writing regularly and being determined I began to improve. Slowly, I began to get my stories published. Firstly in local magazines but later in national magazines.
I also won began to win some prizes and I am pretty sure it was winning a few competitions that infected me with the writing virus and I simply could not stop.
I kept on writing and writing and writing and eventually began to write for Ireland’s Radio One, becoming a regular contributor to Fiction 15 and Sunday Miscellany.
Later I returned to education and studied Film and Television in Ireland’s National Film School. This resulted in my writing and directing several award-winning short films.
Eventually, (and I mean eventually – it took a few years and many rewrites – so never give up! ) Piggy Monk Square was published by Tindal Street Press and went on to be optioned by Willy Russell (Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine.)
Piggy Monk Square was shortlisted for the Commonwealth New Writer’s Prize, The Waverton Good Reads. and was on BBC’s Raw Read’s recommended list.
As well as buying the film option Willy Russell also commissioned me to adapt and write a full-length feature film script of Piggy Monk Square. Sadly the film never happened but it was nice all the same and when RTE Radio One decided to broadcast it on their book of the week show I was very happy.
I also wrote for television, including drama, documentary, comedy and animation – I enjoy writing in any form.
MOVING ON – GALWAY
Shortly after moving I lost my mother to cancer, had a serious accident that resulted in leg injuries.
Not being able to walk is devastating for anyone but for someone who loves hill walking and gardening, I have to admit it was horrible.
After going through multiple leg, foot and ankle surgeries I am happy to say I have recovered enough to go back out hill walking and gardening again.
This sunset picture you see here is my local pier and I walk here every day with my dog.
However, despite these setbacks, great things have happened. I got married to my wonderful husband, Maurice and we found a great place to live on Galway Bay.
Galway Bay has proved a real source of inspiration to me and I developed a series of children’s stories set in the fictional town of Ballyyahoo in Galway which, by sheer coincidence is where I now live.
I love nature and being out and about and I also love writing about Ballyyahoo, probably because the world I have created is the one I would have loved to live in as a child.
As well as children’s stories I have added lots of photographs and information about the nature and wildlife around where I live and if you are interested you will find it here.
I remember what it was like starting out as a beginning writer and enjoy encouraging others to write. I created this site to make contact with other writers as well as to encourage and if you are a writer I hope you find the information on this site useful.
If you have any writing questions or, if there is any particular writing subject you are interested in please let me know. I will do my very best to help.
If you are new to this site and new to creative writing I suggest you start here with this page about how to be a writer.
Wishing you the very best of luck with your writing.
Banish your writer’s block with beautiful and inspiring exercises.
Never Be Stuck Again!