GROWING UP IN LIVERPOOL
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 Grandmother delivered me, just a few hours after my mother (who didn’t believe babies should be born in 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 at a whim and that swinging too fast round 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 published 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 and access to the well-stocked Lodge Lane and also Picton Road Library.
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.
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.
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 11pm to about 3am.
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 doing so I learned how to improve. Slowly, I began to get my stories published.
My first publication was in a magazine called SEAM. I began to write regularly for that until it went the way of most magazines at that time and joined the great paper pile in the sky! After that my published record expanded to include:
- STINGING FLY
- WOMAN’S WAY
- EDUCATION MATTERS
- IRELAND’S OWN
- EDUCATION MATTERS
- RAYMOND CARVER MAGAZINE
I also won some prizes including: 1st PRIZES in the following competitions: NEW WRITERS – BOOKSTOP, EDUCATION MATTERS, and the WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF IRELAND, as well as 2nd and 3rd prizes in various Irish Literary Festivals.
I am pretty sure winning a few competitions infected me with the writing virus and I simply could not stop. I kept on writing and writing and writing. Places to send short stories were few and far between in Ireland so when I heard a story being read out on radio one day I just had to send one in.
Soon I was writing short fiction for RTE RADIO 1 and became a Regular contributor to their weekly children’s short story series FICTION 15. I also contributed non-fiction personal pieces to RTE’s 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.
My Novel, PIGGY MONK SQUARE was published by Tindal Street Press and went on to be optioned by Willy Russell (Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine.) I adapted it for Radio and it was broadcast on RTE’s THE BOOK ON ONE.
Piggy Monk Square was shortlisted for the COMMONWEALTH WRITER’S PRIZE and was on BBC’s Raw Read’s recommended list. Later, Willy Russell commissioned me to adapt and write a full-length feature film script of Piggy Monk Square.
Piggy Monk Square is available at the following outlets:
I have also written for television, including drama, documentary, comedy and animation and am continuing to work on a number of projects, including a selection of children’s stories from my RTE Radio days which I have adapted as Kindle books.
I moved to Galway in 2007 and I have to admit the years since then have been eventful. Shortly after moving I lost my mother to cancer, had a serious accident where I broke my leg and ankle and then in December 2012 I had another accident and am currently still recovering from the multiple leg fractures I sustained then.
However, despite these setbacks, great things have happened. I got married to my wonderful husband and we found a great place to live on Galway Bay.
Galway Bay has proved a real source of inspiration to me and I am now developing a new 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 writing about Ballyyahoo and the world I have created is the one I would have loved to live in as a child. It has proved so popular that it now has its own website www.ballyyahoo.com.
Ballyyahoo provides a great deal of scope me as a writer, and I love the fact that its rural environment is the ideal location to introduce witches, ghosts and even the much-dreaded banshee.
I love nature and being out and about. I walk every day and take photographs all the time. I draw inspiration directly from these. The stories I write for the Ballyyahoo series are a blend of fact and fiction and some are narrated by a young blogger from Ballyyahoo called Lucy.
Lucy’s blog has proved very popular with young children and their parents alike and the stories are also available on www.wildatlanticstories.com
I love to encourage writers and 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.