An Edge Hill Creative Writing tutor and her partner have collected 100 powerful stories and poems from people all over the world and put them into a new book, 100 Words of Solitude: Global Voices in Lockdown 2020, which is being sold to raise money for UNICEF and other humanitarian charities.
Dr Philippa Holloway, Associate Tutor in Creative Writing, was inspired by the sacrifices of NHS staff and charity workers on the front lines during the pandemic and wanted to do something to help people.
She put out a call for people to write literary responses to the isolation caused by the pandemic, with the aim of publishing the 100 most impactful pieces. It didn’t take long for the callout to go viral on social media, attracting stories and poems from all over the world.
Philippa said: ‘This project started in March as the UK lockdown got underway, my husband and I were thinking about how we could help the community. We’re not doctors or nurses, so how could we help?
‘We’d both previously taught creative writing for Mind and know writing can help people with their mental health, help people feel less alone and to express themselves.
‘For me, a great example of how the project gave people a voice is a piece by an 11-year-old Pakistani boy. He wrote a really moving, revealing story and thanks to this project his story is now published alongside world-renowned writers and poets.’
As writers, Philippa and her husband, Dr Simon Holloway, Lecturer in Creative Writing at Bolton University, understand that when work is sent to publishers it sometimes gets rejected without any feedback or discussion. They decided their project needed to be about more than just publishing the stories and that they wanted to make a connection.
As a result, Philippa made sure that everyone who sent work in got a personal response and feedback even if their work wasn’t selected for publication.
‘We wanted to throw the project open to anyone and give everyone a chance to have their words heard,’ Philippa explained. ‘We had nearly 600 submissions. It was an honour to read and feel what all these people from all over the world were feeling. I lost my own grandma to COVID-19 so a lot of the stories really hit home.
‘Once I started to give feedback to the authors, I ended up talking to all kinds of people. It was very emotional and moving, some people really needed to connect, and I did my best to be there for them.
‘It was humbling to read the range of subjects addressed, from domestic violence and people losing loved ones, to a vignette about no longer needing to wear shoes. Each day I’d be reading emails and laughing and crying and wanting to find out more about all the people who’d written in.’
Philippa and her partner had hoped to remain anonymous but after being contacted by a publisher in Switzerland she jumped at the chance to have the authors’ work shared with a wider audience. Now the stories will be published in a curated print collection with all the profits going to support UNICEF and other humanitarian charities so that the project can contribute towards aid efforts to tackle the consequences of the pandemic.
Follow 100 Words of Solitude on social media for updates and information on how to get your own copy.
Creative writing course at Edge Hill University helps students learn and develop as writers, working with professional poets, novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, and short-story writers. To find out more about their undergraduate BA (Hons) Creative Writing course and others, visit the website, or for postgraduate studies take a look at MA Creative Writing.