Shelley McAlister

Shelley McAlister

I grew up in the stunning landscapes of Alaska, Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Nevada, Montana. But I am not a writer inspired by a mountain or a sunset; I'm more likely to steal a snippet of conversation overheard in a Las Vegas casino or a story told online by one of my social science students.

Though I love writing, the hardest thing for me is finding a starting point; sometimes this takes years. In Southern California in the 1970s I occasionally read poetry in places like The Peanut Gallery (peanut shells chucked at performers) and published in university publications like Nausea (gagging mouth on the cover). After that I settled down in London and turned my writing efforts to short stories, travel articles, academic work and teaching plans. It was not until 1996 when I moved to the Isle of Wight that poetry came into my life again.

On the island I joined Shore Women, a group of writers who support each other in producing work to read, publish and perform. Encouraged by their English-teacher knowledge and positive feedback, I pressed on producing poems to read and critique. In 2001 I joined an experienced poet as a writer-in-healthcare for Healing Arts on the Isle of Wight. In this work I had a steep learning curve but now, more pressing than ever, a reason to write and a constant stream of starting points. Day in, day out, poems and topics for poems were needed to inspire clients to write. This writing-once-removed was for me the strongest inspiration of all.

I've never seen writing as a solitary business. I'm all for pulling those yellow poems and manuscripts out of the drawer, reworking them, and after taking a deep breath, putting them out there for other people to love or hate.

Published work:

Poems published in Magma, iota, Rialto and the Vane Women/Shore Women publication Rewriting the Map (2003). Short stories in The Interpreter's House, Waterlog, and a variety of commercial magazines. A series on Downshifting broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Ten Ferry Stories published separately, now looking for a home as a whole collection.

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Last modified: March 28th 2005