Personal History

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


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