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Jill Dawson

Jill Dawson

Areas of Interest

Media, International

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of the University, 2006


Jill Dawson's writing career began with poetry and now spans eight novels, non-fiction, short stories, poetry, journalism, screenwriting and editing. She has won a Fiction Uncovered Award, several Arts Council Awards, an Eric Gregory Award for poetry, and several short story competitions, as well as being nominated for the Whitbread, The IMPAC, The Orange Prize (twice) and a British Academy Award. She has taught creative writing for over twenty years both in the UK and internationally and held fellowships at the Amherst College Massachusetts and the University of East Anglia Norwich, where she taught on the MA in writing. She has read from her fiction all over the world - most recently in Russia, Singapore, China, Chicago, Bali, Tahiti and Australia. Her fiction has been studied in Russian and Belgian Universities and at the National University of Singapore. Jill is an Advisory Fellow to the Royal Literary Fund and a patron of WriteIdea Festival (London), Cambridge Literary Festival and the Maya Centre. Her interest in supporting new writers led her to set up Writers Pool and Gold Dust, both mentoring schemes for emerging writers and she was instrumental in the founding of Escalator, a similar project for the Arts Council.

www.jilldawson.co.uk | www.gold-dust.org.uk


"The Senate of Anglia Ruskin University has great pleasure in recommending the award of an Honorary Doctorate of the University to Jill Dawson, BA, MA in acknowledgement of her significant contribution as an eminent writer and her support for emerging writers. She is a local author with an international reputation across an enormous range of writing contexts, including novels, poetry, non-fiction, short stories, radio, journalism and screen-writing. She has also taught creative writing at universities in Britain and the USA, where she was the British Council Writing Fellow at Amherst College, Massachusetts in 1997, one of her six different fellowships over the last nine years, including tutoring on the well known Creative Writing MA at UEA.

Jill was born in Durham, England and spent her childhood in Staffordshire, Essex and Yorkshire before going up to the University of Nottingham where she obtained an MA in American Studies (which included a term in Wisconsin, USA). Some years later, she was awarded an MA with distinction in Writing, by Sheffield Hallam University. Although Jill has always wanted to be a writer and even as a child of nine years old she sent a story to Hodder & Stoughton, she did not yearn for success or even publication, she is simply a compulsive communicator!

Following graduation, Jill moved to London where she undertook a variety of short-term jobs including a fascinating, but brief, term as au pair to the grandson of the poets Elizabeth Smart and George Baker. However, it was her winning first prize in a City Limits short story competition in 1984, that provided the pivotal impetus for her writing career. Her poetry was already published in many small publications and her short stories in teenage magazines. It was in 1989 that she edited her first book - School Tales - an anthology of short stories by young writers for The Women's Press imprint "Livewire." Then in 1990, publishers Virago Upstarts published her non-fiction book for teenagers on self image: How Do I Look?, which includes two very differing interviews with young Muslim women on wearing the veil, a subject which remains highly topical today.

It was in 1992, that Jill won the Eric Gregory Award for poetry (she used the prize money to live in America for six months and whilst she was there, bought seven acres of Washington State woodland and a log cabin, about which she later wrote her first novel). Also in 1992, she edited the poetic anthology: The Virago Book of Wicked Verse and in 1994 the non-fiction volume The Virago Book of Love Letters, whilst Sceptre published her first novel: Trick of the Light in 1996 and her second novel Magpie in 1998.

Jill co-edited Wild Ways with Margo Daly, an unusual anthology of women's travelogue short stories, which was published by Sceptre in 1999 and her third novel Fred & Edie was published by Sceptre in 2000 and was short-listed for the Orange Prize, the Whitbread Prize and has been translated into nine foreign languages.

In 2002 Gas & Air, another co-edited volume with Margo Daly was published by Bloomsbury, an anthology of stories of birth, pregnancy and beyond. Jill's fourth novel, Wild Boy is an historical tale based on the story of the Wild Boy of Aveyron. This spring saw the publication by Sceptre of Watch Me Disappear, described by the Sunday Telegraph as having 'a powerful moral backbone'. Jill is currently adapting this novel for film. Even as we speak, a new short story (Swimming with whales in the Dominican Republic) is planned to appear in the Sunday Express in January 2008 and a further novel entitled The Great Lover has been bought by Sceptre and is due for publication in 2009.

Apart from her six novels, two non-fiction works, two books of poetry and various poems published in another half dozen books, other short stories for radio, almost all the major UK newspapers and women's magazines and several screen-plays, Jill Dawson has also been the recipient of a number of more than a dozen prizes and awards. This year, her novel Watch Me Disappear was long-listed for the Orange Prize and awarded an Arts Council Award for Research, in 2005.

Recently, Jill has turned her attention to individual mentoring. Five years ago she researched and founded a writers mentoring scheme for the Royal Literary Fund which she co-ran with the writer Sally Cline. She also helped set up the writers Escalator scheme with the Arts Council and project managed it for two years. She is on the Board of New Writing Partnership and has been active for years in a number of initiatives for new writers and writers in the community. She has taught Creative Writing for the Arvon foundation for eleven years and has been a writer in residence in schools, libraries, youth offender institutes and women's groups.

Indeed, Jill Dawson is a phenomenon of our time, whose reputation in connection with writing in all its contexts is internationally renowned. She also epitomizes the thesis that, perhaps the "greatness" of any writer is reflected in the quantity of words published about them, rather than how much they, personally, have written. For example, on the worldwide web, the major search engine Google lists 1.96 million entries for "Jill Dawson." She is truly a name to be remembered.

It is for these reasons, therefore, that I invite you, Mr Chairman, to confer on Jill Dawson, BA, MA, an Honorary Doctorate of this University."