Our Square Peg Stories participants took part in an exciting programme of creative writing workshops and mentoring sessions led by published authors. Meet our brilliant team of authors below.
David Mitchell is a British novelist with a son who has autism. He and his wife translated Naoki Higashida'sThe Reason I Jump from Japanese into English: this book about life with a neuroatypical brain has been translated into over 30 languages.
David says of Square Peg Stories: I asked to be involved in the project because I believe in the importance of changing public attitudes to autism, and dispelling ignorance about autism. What better way to prove that people with autism experience emotions and possess imaginations than showcasing their writing?
David has written a foreword to the Square Peg Stories anthology.
Joanne Limburg has published two poetry collections for adults, Femenismo and Paraphernalia, both with Bloodaxe Books. Salt Publishing brought out a collection for children, Bookside Down, in 2013. She has also written a memoir, The Woman Who Thought Too Much, about depression, anxiety and poetry, which Atlantic Books published in 2010. Atlantic also published Joanne’s first novel, A Want of Kindness; this was written with help from the Society of Authors and the Arts Council. Joanne is currently working towards a PhD in Creative Writing at Kingston University. A new poetry collection, The Autistic Alice, is due out from Bloodaxe Books in 2017.
Joanne has taught creative writing for the Open University and worked as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, helping students with their writing skills. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2012, at the rather late age of 42, and looks forward to meeting and mentoring younger writers with ASC.
Joanne led a workshop and a one-to-one mentoring session, and was an e-mentor.
Emma Claire Sweeney
Emma Claire Sweeney has won Arts Council, Royal Literary Fund and Escalator Awards, and has been shortlisted for several others, including the Asham, Wasafiri and Fish.
Emma publishes features and pieces on disability for the likes of the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday and The Times. She teaches creative writing at New York University and co-runs SomethingRhymed.com – a website on female literary friendship.
Owl Song at Dawn, a novel inspired by her autistic sister, was published this year by Legend Press. A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf, which she is co-writing with her own friend, Emily Midorikawa, will come out in 2017 with Aurum Press in the UK and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the USA.
Emma says: My sister, Lou, has autism and cerebral palsy. She has such an exuberant and inventive way with language, and yet voices like hers are too often silenced. Projects such as Square Peg Stories can help us to find new ways to listen with the heart.
Emma led a workshop.
Jonathan Totman is a poet and psychologist living in Ely, Cambridgeshire. In 2015 he won the title of Fenland Poet Laureate, with the opportunity to spend a year promoting poetry in the local area. He continues to run readings and workshops, as well as co-editing a literary magazine, The Fenland Reed.
His poems have been published in various magazines and placed in several competitions, including the 2015 McLellan poetry competition judged by Simon Armitage (third prize). When not writing, editing or running workshops, Jonathan works as a psychologist at Anglia Ruskin University.
Jonathan says: I've always been interested in the connective power of poetry and creative writing, and particularly the workshop group with its coming together of voices and stories. I really admire the work of Mainspring Arts and its mission to improve inclusivity and diversity in the arts, and I can't wait to be part of Square Peg Stories.
Jonathan led a workshop.
Eliza Robertson was born in Vancouver, Canada and grew up on Vancouver Island. She attended the creative writing programmes at the University of Victoria and the University of East Anglia, where she received the 2011 Man Booker Scholarship.
In 2013, she won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her first collection, Wallflowers, was shortlisted for the Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer Award, the Danuta Gleed Short Story Prize, the East Anglia Book Award, and selected as a New York Times Editor's Choice. She was recently named by Joseph Boyden as one of five emerging writers for the Writers' Trust Five x Five programme. She lives in England.
Eliza says: Self-expression is one of the most heartfelt tools for understanding we have. This project facilitates people telling their own stories - that's empowering. The reverse is also true.
Eliza led a workshop and a one-to-one mentoring session, and was an e-mentor.
Adam Feinstein (pictured here with the late, great autism authority, Dr Lorna Wing) is a British writer, poet, translator, Hispanist and autism researcher. His book, A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), received international acclaim (Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre, said it was 'a treasure trove...and a terrific book'). His biography of the Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life, first published by Bloomsbury in 2004 and reissued in an updated edition in 2013, was also widely praised (Harold Pinter called it 'a masterpiece'). His book of translations from Neruda's Canto General, with colour illustrations by the celebrated Brazilian artist Ana Maria Pacheco, was published by Pratt Contemporary in 2013. He also wrote the introduction to the Folio edition of Jorge Luis Borges' Labyrinths, which appeared in 2007. He is currently writing a book on autism and employment and a play on Neruda's friendship with Federico Garcia Lorca.
Adam has given numerous lectures on autism and Neruda around the world, including the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Russia, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. His presentations in the UK include talks at Cambridge and Oxford Universities and at the Royal Society in London. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and writes for the Guardian, the Observer, the Financial Times and the Times Literary Supplement. He has also been Royal Literary Fund Fellow at St George's Medical School in London.
His poems and translations have appeared in many publications. He also writes on the cinema and has interviewed, among many others, Walter Matthau, Jean Renoir's son Alain Renoir, Morgan Freeman and the leading world authority on silent film, Kevin Brownlow.
Adam says: My two decades of working in the autism field (as well as my personal experience of being the father of an autistic son) have taught me how much creativity people on the spectrum have to offer. They often have wonderfully original ways of seeing the world and some of them, like Donna Williams and Wenn Lawson (both of whom I know personally), have been able to express these unique perspectives illuminatingly through their writing. I have taught writing skills for many years and, as a professional author myself, I am looking forward enormously to mentoring writers with autism in producing their Square Peg Stories in this wonderful project.
Adam led a workshop and a one-to-one mentoring session, and was an e-mentor.
A lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels and getting her geek on whenever possible.
Her fantasy YA debut Otherbound won the Bisexual Book Award and received four starred reviews; Kirkus called it “original and compelling; a stunning debut” while the Bulletin praised its “subtle, nuanced examinations of power dynamics and privilege.” Her second book On the Edge of Gone, an apocalyptic YA, was released March 2016 and received three starred reviews. School Library Journal called it “insightful, suspenseful, and unsettling in its plausibility.”
Corinne says: Between getting diagnosed as autistic at the age of 14, being a lifelong reader and writer, and being passionate about representation of disability both on the pages and behind the keyboard, I am excited about anything that helps autistic people find or develop their literary voices.
Corinne led a workshop.
Giancarlo Gemin (G.R. Gemin)
Giancarlo Gemin's children’s book, Cowgirl, won the Tir na n-Og award in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Prize, the UKLA award, and the Branford Boase award.
Cowgirl was re-published by Oxford University Press as part of their Rollercoaster series and was adapted as a play by Mike Kenny for the Oxford University Press Playscripts series.
Before he started writing for a living, Giancarlo has been fortunate to have had many interesting jobs, including a theatre set designer and a film director (he directed a serial for the BBC called Smokescreen and episodes of the children’s soap opera Grange Hill). He has also worked as an advocate in social care, an adoption support worker and an Independent Visitor to children in care.
At school he was not very good at English and found writing particularly difficult, yet he always had a niggling yearning to become an author.
Giancarlo says: Getting a book published is a very privileged thing, but writing isn’t easy. It can be frustrating and challenging, but it can also be exciting and fun. I’m looking forward to supporting someone through the writing process, and if I can manage to get a book published it means that anyone can.
Giancarlo led a one-to-one mentoring session and was an e-mentor.