Patricia Duncker & Julian Unthank at HWS February Meeting


Patricia Duncker [The Deadly Space Between, James Miranda Barry, The Strange Case of the Composer and the Judge and others], novelist and Professor of Contemporary Literature at Manchester University, told us why she feels so many writers opt to write in English when it may not be their first language.


Patricia was born in Jamaica and her strict English teacher taught the class to learn the classics by rote, restrict imagination and emotion when writing English composition and to remember that women do not write poetry!  When Patricia reached the UK she discovered literary freedom, particularly the joys of female poets such as Emily Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti. 

She discovered that when the author Leila Aboulela [Minaret, The Translator] described a house in Arabic [her mother tongue], it appeared very different from Patricia’s description of a similar house.  This was due to the layers and richness of the English language, fed by many other languages, which can create a “gorgeousness without meaning”.  Aboulela chooses to write in English, as do many other authors for whom English is a second language, for the breadth it gives them to convey what they feel.

Her key influence in her own writing is Shakespeare as she admires how he unites poetry and plot and delivers big scenes that grab your attention.  She draws different elements from his works to inform her own writing and uses anger and intrigue in her own works preferring to give the reader an ending that may have some unresolved components.  She believes people should be active readers - anxious and engaged by what they read and writes accordingly.


Julian Unthank [BBC Robin Hood, ITV The Bill] showed us a short film he has written, Love at First Sight, which was long-listed for the BAFTAs and was short-listed for the Oscar nominations.  It was a poignant but uplifting tale set in a home for the elderly starring John Hurt and Phyllida Law. 

Julian also selected the winning love letters for the February competition and our Chair, Hilary Gregory was runner up and received a bunch of red roses which matched her dress!  Her fabulous letter can be found in the Spotlight section. 


There is a HWS Pitstop Writing Weekend in Shawford across the weekend of March 23-25.  Topics cover writing for children to editing/revising work.  Interested parties can check out the HWS website and contact Barbara Large for more information.

Photograph: Own Portrait © Patricia Duncker

Photograph: Own Portrait © Julian Unthank

Photograph Arabic Lamp © IntDesigns