I started writing when I was in infants’ school – short plays in which, as I recall, I always had the starring role – and I’ve not stopped since. (Not stopped seeking life’s elusive starring role either, if truth be told!) I had the great good fortune to have an inspirational English teacher in secondary school and she encouraged my reading and writing. This was in Warwick and she took her classes on regular visits to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon, so my enthusiasm for plays, and particularly those of the Elizabethan and Jacobean period, was also well-nourished.
I left school at 16 and worked as a journalist on newspapers in the Midlands. Special features ‘for women’ which explored social and political issues rather than purely domestic matters were appearing in national papers and I had an enlightened editor who allocated me a whole ‘Woman’s Page’ to fill each week. I soon discovered that the domestic was also social and political and so put all this together – following the exciting lead of journalists such as Mary Stott and Katharine Whitehorn.
As a journalist I felt I knew a little about a lot of subjects but not a lot about my particular areas of interest – literature, drama and history. So I plunged into university life as a mature student and after achieving a BA at the University of East Anglia moved on to join the university’s Creative Writing MA course. My supervisor was the author Malcolm Bradbury. His teaching methods – encouraging reading as well as writing and combining a completely serious application to the hard graft of writing with the fun of sharing ideas with other writers – have influenced the way I run Creative Writing Workshops. Since then I’ve taught adult students through Adult Education provision, and in Colleges and Universities, including the OU, and have run distance learning and online courses. My teaching has included Literature, History and Drama but also a range of courses and workshops in writing fiction and non-fiction. I currently run a Creative Writing Group for Saltash U3A (University of the Third Age). I am U3A national Literature Subject Advisor.
In 2002 I completed a part-time research project on The Portrayal of Older Women on the Elizabethan and Jacobean Stage, at the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon (back to my old haunts!) and was awarded a Doctorate by Birmingham University. This research fed into an essay the staging of ageing female rulers, which was published in Representations of Elizabeth 1st in Early Modern Culture, edited by Alessandra Petrina and Laura Tosi (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). A book focusing on my research, Old, Bold and Won’t Be Told: Shakespeare’s Amazing Ageing Ladies is to be published by Thames River Press in January 2013.
Alongside my writing I also give talks and presentations here and abroad to groups interested in literature, history or drama – or combinations of these! From 2008 to 2010 I lived in Spain, where I’d holidayed for many years, and was able to experience everyday life and the unrolling of the seasons in Andalusia and explore the culture of another country in some details. Now I’m settled back in Cornwall, where the unrolling of the seasons seems increasingly unseasonable! However, the culture of our country is as fascinating as ever. There’s always something to write about: so I’m still writing.
Yvonne Oram – July 2012