Working Class Writers’ Week: Julie Noble

A single parent, struggling to rebuild her life, can start to take control if she holds a pen.

Writing has been my mainstay, throughout five children and two divorces. It has given me a place of safety and a chance for a new future. When things were tough, it was an outlet. Not for anyone else to see, but as a way to escape and to be free.

A written record is a valuable thing, particularly when your views are undermined or when people play games with your mind. Contemporaneous notes you can quote to confirm this is what happened here, both for your own reassurance, and if needed, to show others.

I found writing a source of strength, especially when a feisty barrister stood over me when I was alone at court, and when my ex made threats in a meeting. The scribing of the notes became a shield for my emotions. I didn’t cry in front of opponents.

Growing up the daughter of a bus driver, my writing was not valued as it would never bring in a wage. I was not allowed to do English for an A-Level, there was no real gain in writing word after word on a page. Neither parent has read my piece in the Common People, neither of them will buy the book to show it proudly to friends. That’s a blunt fact, but it was a blessing in a way – I wrote only for myself and no one else and that’s a good way to develop an original voice.

I’ve written pieces that people have expressed admiration for – an alternative Jane Austen ending that won a Writing Magazine competition, a YA novel about the Brontës written to raise the profile of dyspraxia in Talli’s Secret and work in Mslexia, including a piece about the memories brought by the sound of Maltesers rolling in the box.

Yet I wasn’t sure anybody would want to read my opinions or dreams or anything about my sine curve, working-class life. And until now, I’ve never written so deeply from the pain within my body.

I was elated when New Writing North selected ‘Detail’ to put forward and then terrified when Kit de Waal chose it. Week after week I awoke anxious from sleep. My throat tense, my abdomen tight, thinking: people are going to read this. Early one morning I read it through again, my brain stuck on the line:

“Nobody can hear you if you don’t speak.”

 And I realised that people needed to hear it.

Since then there’s been wonderful support from the staff at New Writing North, feedback from my fabulous mentor Carolyn Jess-Cooke, and great interaction with other contributors. The mentoring gives me a better sense of what my writing needs to reach readers. I’m determined to make my work the best I can to make the most of this chance.

‘Nobody can hear you if you don’t speak.” I was told.

Well I’m speaking now.

Thank you New Writing North.

Julie Noble is one of 33 writers behind the Common People anthology. We’ll be celebrating the publication of Common People at Waterstones Newcastle on Friday 17 May – join us and buy your ticket here.