I grew up in Devon, France and Sussex. I studied English Literature at university and have taught English in secondary schools for twenty-three years, including fifteen years at an inner-city London comprehensive.
Before writing novels for young adults, my passion was poetry. I was a runner up in the Poetry Book Society poetry competition, judged by one of my heroes, Carol Ann Duffy. My words have been published in Mslexia Magazine, the IRON Book of Trees and the Writers & Artists Yearbook Guide to Getting Published.
My debut novel, 29 Locks, was shortlisted for both the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition and will be published in June 2021.
I now live in Sussex with my partner, three children and a Jack Russell terrier called Little Bear. My family is typical of modern Britain, with tangled roots in England, Trinidad and Scotland.
Set between the violent estates of inner-city London and the rural home counties, 29 Locks tells the story of 15-year-old Donny, an ex-gang member from Hackney who is fostered outside of London after the disappearance of his beloved mother. When, during work experience on the Hertfordshire Union Canal, Donny learns that the waterways lead – via the titular 29 locks – directly back to Hackney, he is presented with a dilemma: Should he stay in the safety of his rural foster home, or return to London to find his mother?
Tackling issues of racial injustice, child poverty, gang violence and knife crime, this powerful coming-of-age novel was inspired by my fifteen years of teaching teenage boys at a comprehensive school in inner-city London. The novel is dedicated to the memory of my former student, Mahad Ali, who was brutally murdered in 2017 at the age of 18.
29 Locks was shortlisted in two prestigious awards: the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition.
It will be published by HopeRoad in June 2021. HopeRoad’s founder, Rosemarie Hudson, said: ‘Nicola is a fantastic new talent, and I’m so proud that HopeRoad will be publishing her debut. Her writing is gritty and gripping but full of compassion, and from the very first page I felt completely invested in Donny’s story. I’m really looking forward to bringing 29 Locks to readers, and to publishing many more stories from Nicola.’
School & Library Talks, Workshops and Events
I’d love to hear from librarians and teachers wanting to plan a talk, event or creative writing workshop. I have 23 years experience working in secondary schools as an English teacher, subject leader and Head of PSHE.
29 Locks is a hard-hitting novel suitable for students over 14 years of age and covers a range of PSHE topics and contemporary socio-political issues, directly relating to the following Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 PSHE curriculum learning goals:
- ‘[to know] about the factors that contribute to young people joining gangs; the social, legal and physical consequences of gang behaviours
- ‘[to develop] strategies to manage pressure to join a gang, exit strategies and how to access appropriate support.’
- ‘motivations, misconceptions and consequences of carrying weapons and strategies for managing pressure to carry a weapon
- ‘to recognise and challenge stereotypes and family or cultural expectations that may limit aspirations’
I would be delighted to deliver a presentation, talk or workshop to large or small groups in your school or library.
Please get in touch to discuss an in-person or online visit.
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Writers & Artists Yearbook Blog
Catch up with my Writers & Artists Yearbook blog to find out more about my journey from novice creative-writer to literary prize shortlisting and publication. Get tips on starting out, querying agents and learn more about the hidden world of publishing.