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About Me – Grace Jolliffe

book cover of Piggy Monk Square illustrating an article about the writer, Grace JolliffeGROWING 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 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!

DANGEROUS MAYPOLES

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.

Kids on maypole in 1970s Liverpool illustrating an article about the Liverpool born writer Grace Jolliffe

Photography courtesy of Dot Carter

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.’

LIVERPOOL RIOTS

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.

COUNTY WICKLOW

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.

beach view illustrating an article about the writer, Grace JolliffeI found it hard and began to write in my spare time.

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.

NOVELS

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.


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 MOVING ON – GALWAY

Galway bayI 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 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.

BALLYYAHOO

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.

Grace


PRACTICAL CREATIVE WRITING EXERCISES

Banish your writer’s block with beautiful and inspiring exercises.

Book cover - Practical Creative Writing Exercises by Grace Jolliffe illustrating an article about illustrating an article about the writer.

Never Be Stuck Again!

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18 Responses to About Me – Grace Jolliffe

  1. Stephanie March 7, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    Hi Grace!

    I just want to say that I am so happy to have found your site 🙂 I was born in Dublin and lived in NewtownMountKennedy – Co. Wicklow until my family emigrated to the United States. I love writing – though after starting a family – my passion was lost.
    Thank you for the inspiration and guidance to get myself started again! 🙂 All the best to you and yours! Happy writing!!

    • Grace March 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

      Hi Stephanie
      I am really happy to hear from you. NewtownMountKennedy is not far from where I used to live in Greystones!
      I am so glad to hear that you are inspired to start writing again. I would love to hear how you get on.
      Best of luck – keep in touch.
      Grace

  2. Daryl May 14, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    Hello Grace,

    I’m glad to have found your site!

    I’ve been writing for years, but remain unpublished. I’m okay with that, actually. I’d rather write for myself than for a particular market, and my focus and direction are both in disarray at the moment. Writing remains the way I sort through those things, even when my more creative elements are on strike. My story well may be bone dry, but I still try to write at least two to three pages a day.

    It was, in fact, my desire for more creativity and imagination that led me to your web site. I’m afraid that 30 years as a mechanical engineer in the corporate world did those aspects of my mind no favors. I hope, with practice, to knock the rust off my imagination’s gears and get them moving again.

    Anyway, I wanted to say hello, and to add that I, too, love nature and am a nature photography addict. I’m rarely happier than when I’m outdoors, surrounded by trees, flowers, or open fields, camera in hand, wondering what will next catch my attention. I love shooting anything from fungi to bobcats, and from macros to scenic vistas.

    Thank you for posting your web site (which I’ve only begun to explore), and the creative writing exercises and all.

    Best wishes,

    Daryl

    • Grace May 14, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

      Hi Daryl,
      Thanks so much for getting in touch. I am so glad you did. It sounds like you are doing the right things with your creative life. Two to three pages a day is great – most people don’t manage that. If you did that for a year you would have a book in no time – if you ever wanted!
      I do think loving nature helps as well. I find walking in nature very inspiring.
      I hope you continue with your writing and trying the different exercises. If you need any help just ask.
      Bye the way I have a gardening website at http://www.gracelikestogarden.com if you feel like dropping in there.
      Best wishes
      Grace

  3. Daryl May 15, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

    Hi Grace,

    Thank you for the offer of advice. I appreciate that. It feels like I just need to stumble around until I find the next right path, but there are times when I would love to adopt a guide dog for the creatively blind!

    I enjoyed your gardening page, too — thanks for the link.

    I like growing vegetables, but even though I’ve been at it on and off since childhood, I’m far from an expert. The soil at our house isn’t cooperative, either: it’s adobe/clay, and nearly impossible to dig in. I grow all of my vegetables in containers. There may be an added benefit to that this year. We’re in a drought here in Southern California, and we will probably be on water rationing before long.

    Your photo revealed a key ingredient that my garden doesn’t have: an audience of cows, peering over the fence. That’s great!

    Best wishes,

    Daryl

    • Grace May 15, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

      The best guide dog for the creatively blind is one that tells you to write regularly! I enjoyed your articles and your photographs so keep it up. Our soil is bad too. There isn’t very much and what there is rocky and limey. I add soil to the places I want to grow stuff and I also collect seaweed to top it up as we are very close to a bay.
      Best wishes
      Grace

  4. Daryl May 15, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    By the way, Grace, if you have the time and patience to visit my blog, there are many photos once you get below the latest (not-very-recent) entry. You can enlarge them by clicking on them, if you’re interested.

    Daryl

    • Grace May 15, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

      Hi again, I am just back from a quick visit to your blog and really enjoyed it. I will definitely visit again.
      All the best
      Grace

  5. Daryl May 15, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

    Hi Grace,

    Thanks for the visit to my blog! I’m glad you enjoyed it. The poor thing has been neglected for some time, especially by me.

    I was just looking back through some old files. Daily Writing Dog and I have been hanging out together for over ten years. It’s probably been longer, actually; that’s just the amount of time that I’ve been keeping most of my daily writing on a computer. There are uncatalogued, cluttery stacks of spiral-bound notebooks that are older, but I’d hate to have to find them, let alone look through them. Lots of whining back then about being on the treadmill in “corporate day prison” (i.e., my day job).

    These days, though, Writing Dog seems happy to nap under my chair while I dutifully chug out the pages, without offering much creative advice.

    To be honest, I’m more inspired when I’m writing with a close friend or two — not necessarily working on the same thing, but simply tossing around ideas, offering mutual encouragement and support, etc. The past friends have moved on, paused their writing or, saddest of all, passed away.

    Wow, that has me reminiscing. Twelve years ago, two of those friends and I challenged ourselves to write a poem a day for an entire year. We called ourselves “The Dread Poets Society,” because the one and only rule was that you had to write something, even if it was the worst thing ever scribbled in crayon on bathroom tissue. Of course, that freedom to write total garbage also opened us up to some of the best writing we’d done.

    Anyway, thanks again for putting yourself and your blog out here in cyberspace. It is helping.

    Daryl

    • Grace May 16, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

      Hi again Daryl,
      Yes I did enjoy my visit to your blog – keep at it!
      Like you, I used to have loads of old notes books. They followed me around for years. Then one day as I was preparing to move house I went through them realised I was never going to use them and so I threw them out. There was something very refreshing about this 🙂
      Of course now there is even more – virtual notebooks.
      Anyway keep going and mind yourself,
      Grace

  6. Silvia Frassineti May 20, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    Hello Grace,
    I’ve just found your site . It’s Great! I would be a writer, I’ve already written three novels, or maybe I should say three thing I call novels. I am not published of course, so I can’t tell myself a real writer but I do it for my pleasure.
    I’m sorry for my poor English, I’m Italian.
    I read most of your advices and found them very intersting and helpfull.
    I can’t write everyday but I try to sit down at my desk every time I can. When I dont’show up for more than a day or two it so more difficcult go on. Thanks for your site I’ll get in touch

    • Grace May 20, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      Hi Silvia
      So nice to hear from you. You must love writing if you have written three novels. It is great to hear from a writers who enjoys his work as I do.
      I am so glad you found the site helpful. Keep going and let me know how you are getting on.
      Bye for now
      Grace

  7. Hayley July 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    Hi Grace!
    I just happened to stumble upon your website after trailing the internet looking for some words of wisdom from writers etc. I’m so very glad I found your site as I’ve just sat and read everything and I feel a bit less hopeless. I’m 24 in october and I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a pen. To say it’s my passion would be an understatement. I am, however, the Queen of starting something yet never finishing. Reading your own writing feels different than when you read something written by another person.
    I just wanted to say thank you for all the great advice. It’s nice to see an accomplished writer really encourage others.
    So again, thank you. You’ve really helped me!

    All the best, Hayley.

    • Grace July 25, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

      Hi Hayley, I am so glad you wrote. I felt like that many times myself and still do sometimes. In fact it is quite a coincidence you writing today because today I published a post called http://www.practicalcreativewriting.com/books-stories/dont-tell-me-nobody-wants-to-read-my-stories.

      It recalls a time when I felt really hopeless. I kept writing anyway even with no intention of sending it anywhere. I think the only way is to keep writing no matter what. I am sure if you do you will get there in the end – others will have given up.

      By the way your own writing will feel different than reading someone else’s but that’s good isn’t it? That means you are on the way to developing a voice- your own voice.
      Anyway – thanks for saying hello and keep going – time is on your side 🙂 I am so glad you found something here that helped.
      All the best

      Grace

  8. Megan Evans September 3, 2014 at 3:46 am #

    Hi Grace,

    I’m an English teacher in Australia and am running a creative writing group. I’d like to congratulate you on your site; it is simply incredible – a treasure trove of wonders. I’m so impressed I’ve suggested all of my writers use it as both a place of inspiration and a general ‘how to’ guide on writing.

    Thank you! 🙂 Megan

    • Grace September 3, 2014 at 9:02 am #

      Hi Megan,
      Thank you so very much. It is great to hear from you and great to hear from someone so far away, in a place I have never been. I used to teach creative writing and scriptwriting – to adults and young students and I learned from that experience how to get people writing. I love it when an exercise works and a reluctant writer is suddenly scribbling away.
      Of course, not everyone wants to be a professional writer and for many it is a wonderful hobby but I think writing has so many benefits for other aspects of our lives as well.
      I hope your students find my site helpful. If you or your students have any questions I will do my best to help
      Please keep in touch, Megan it would be lovely to hear about a creative writing group in Australia.
      Thanks again, and good luck with all your work.
      Grace

  9. Therese Calegari November 22, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

    Dear Grace,

    Just stumbled on your site today when I was looking for some writing exercises to improve my visualization skills for my own writing. Very much enjoyed reading your thoughts on life, writing and the creative process. You have a wonderful expressiveness that makes the reader (me) feel like I am wandering along an old track in Ireland somewhere. Thank you! 🙂

    • Grace November 25, 2014 at 1:07 am #

      Hi Therese,
      Thanks for commenting. I am really glad you found these exercises helpful and I love the idea of you feeling like you are wandering along an old track in Ireland.
      Best of luck to you.
      Grace

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