Winning the Exeter story prize in 2017 for my story The Improbable Yarn of Clark Curtis was such a fantastic boost. Winning a prize, being published and (not insignificantly) being paid. At the time I had just finished my MA in Creative Writing from Chichester University and like many people found the transition away from having the input of tutors and peers really difficult. I was encouraged by the course and my feedback to begin sending off some of my work but I never thought that it would win.
The validation and feeling of elation that it gave me knowing that other people had enjoyed my work is hard to describe. The same story was also nominated for the Trisha Ashley award for humour – this also meant a great deal. I am drawn to the silly and comical and love work that manages to be both funny and moving.
When the anthology arrived, I greedily read the other stories and was delighted by the company I was keeping. I think without having this boost I would have drifted along a bit, lacking the confidence to share my work. As it was, I started sending off everything I had. I was shortlisted both for the Cambridge story prize making their anthology of stories across 2017 and 2018 and for the Myriad First draft awards.
My background is in theatre and puppetry, mostly as a performer and sometimes director. On the back of my writing successes I managed to gain a commission from Get Lost and Found Theatre Company to to write a theatre show for the Southbank Centre in connection with their Moomin Installation as part of the celebration of Finnish Independence. I co-wrote the piece with Emma Edwards and it has toured nationally for the last 3 years and enjoyed two runs at Southbank.
Recently I co-founded a company called Puppetbox which provides puppets for education, training and performance and this has been absorbing most of my creative energy. A lot of my writing has been channelled into creating education packs, copy for website and newsletters. It has been really exciting launching a company from scratch and I am immensely proud of it.
I do however have a few short stories on the go and a third of a novel that needs some attention. That’s the plan for 2021! More importantly being a writer has become part of my identity, something that I can say that I am, that I do. Winning the Exeter story prize was the first big step on that journey.
As a performer Sophie works frequently with Long Nose Puppets amongst others. A regular teacher at Rose Bruford Drama College she has also taught at Central School of Speech and Drama, Northbrook College and in many community settings.
You can find her on Instagram @apinchofsaltsophie and @puppet_box and on twitter @SophiePowell
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