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Writer – In Other Words

Jen McDerra is a writer from Bristol. She began her career at Barefoot Books in Bath, where her commitment to sharing stories found its first home.

Jen read English at the University of Nottingham and has an MA in Migration from the University of Sussex. She is particularly interested in notions of identity, belonging and home. Her research in this area was published as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Keeping Memories project, and the resulting book is a collection of narratives by Rwandan refugees living in the UK who wanted to tell their asylum stories themselves.

Jen recently co-ordinated a two-year project with Commonwealth Writers to identify inequalities in access to publishing for emerging writers worldwide. This lead to the formation of CaribLit, a publishing infrastructure across the Caribbean in partnership with cultural practitioners from the region supported by the British Council, BOCAS Literature Festival, and GRANTA. Jen returned to the South West in 2013 to manage The Reader Organisation’s regional team who work to address problems with mental health and social integration through the experience of shared reading. There are now groups in community, clinical, criminal justice, and care settings which are free at point of access and open to all.

Jen currently leads the Spark to Flame project in Launceston, an Arts Council funded residency programme in the home of the late Cornish poet, Charles Causley. Together with Plymouth University, Literature Works and Cornwall Council a literary legacy will be established which will provide development opportunities for writers and creative practitioners in the spirit of generosity for which Causley was famous. You can find out more about the Spark to Flame project and associated opportunities at:

‘This is the first time I’ve written for the stage and I’m glad that it’s part of both a personal and professional venture. The opportunity to connect my writing with the lives of people from Plymouth has grounded me here. The stories in the archive and the people they belong to have made me think about the ways in which I choose to be open with people about my life. It is a brave thing In Other Words and We’ll Meet in Moscow are doing, and I like how it has made me want to stretch out and be brave and unapologetic and joyful.’