Berlie Doherty

BORN in Knotty Ash, Liverpool, BERLIE DOHERTY is the youngest of three children. When Berlie was four, she moved to Hoylake, “where my first books were set. I lived in a house pretty much like the one on the front cover of How Green You Are. In fact, it was that exact street. Five minute’s walk away was the sea. It was really nice. I was very lucky.”

“I always wanted to be a writer most, but I can remember when I was little I had a list which I carried everywhere with me in my pocket. I wanted to be a writer, a singer, a ballet dancer, a swimming-pool attendant, an air hostess, or a librarian. I have done some singing, so I’ve achieved two of the things on my list. But I prefer writing.”

“My serious writing started at a university course I went on, to train to be a teacher. We were invited to write a story as part of the course. It was the first real thing I’d started. It was called Requiem. After finishing it recently, I didn’t write again for ten months. I’ve actually been working at it for ten years, on and off.”

“My first job was as a social worker, but writing has been a part of my life since childhood. I used to write for the children’s page of the Liverpool Echo which was our local paper. My dad certainly used to encourage me to do that.”

Berlie’s experiences come very much into her writing. “In GRANNY WAS A BUFFER GIRL there’s a whole chapter about my mum and dad, called ‘Bridie and Jack’. It’s about how they ran away to get married and came back to live with their parents.”

When she actually finishes a book she feels sad. “It’s usually a matter of making myself stop writing rather than making myself start. After I have finished I feel terrible. I feel grieved that I have lost someone close: a great deal of myself is in my books.”

Berlie likes to read all sorts of books, but her ideas come from just about everywhere. “All kinds of things can give you an idea as a starting point. For instance, the idea for GRANNY WAS A BUFFER GIRL came from a painting in Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield. It was a painting of two buffer girls and it was the idea of these girls trapped forever in a painting, at the age of 18, which made me try to imagine what it would be like for them to step out of the painting and live real lives.”

About 15 years ago, she began to write professionally. She was working as an English teacher at Ecclesfield School, Sheffield, at the time, and gradually went part-time as writing took over her life.

She began to test out her stories and ideas on her classes and her own children, who were still fairly young. “Collaborating with my potential readers released me and got lots of ideas going in my head.”

“It seems a bit of a cheek to think that I can write for 12-year-olds, say, if I don’t know how 12-year-olds think. I made a promise to myself that I would always involve children at one stage or another when I was writing.”

Berlie Doherty has been a social worker, a teacher, and a broadcaster and writer for both schools and national radio, as well as a playwright, poet and novelist. She is a popular visitor to schools and libraries and writes across a range of genres. She is also much in demand as a Writer-in-Residence. She enjoys working with children of all ages, reading, answering questions, conducting workshops, or discussing playwriting. Berlie has twice won the prestigious Carnegie Medal, once in 1987 for GRANNY WAS A BUFFER GIRL and once in 1992 for ‘DEAR NOBODY’. She lives in the Derbyshire Peak District.

Books by Berlie Doherty