Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre

Project Items

Writers in Residence

Our writers worked with:

The aim was to improve the communication skills of doctors, and to help lay people engage with the new genetics.

We have had two Writers in Residence

Lisa Matthews, 2002-2004

Lisa Matthews is a poet and novelist. Her first collection of poetry 'Postcard from a Waterless Lake' was published by Diamond Twig Press in October 2002. She is co-founder and organizer of PROUDWORDS, the UK's only creative writing festival run by and for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. Lisa was born and has lived all her life in Newcastle and is proud of her Geordie roots.

Lisa Matthews began her residency in March 2002. Since then she has taught Novels, Poetry and Medicine' to third year students at Newcastle University Medical School and has led a variety of writing workshops in the North East region.

She has also been exploring ideas about innovation, progress, identity and the new genetics with children through her workshops. The children have written poems, stories and have initiated highly complex debates about the origin of both our species and the universe itself. Challenging stuff and inspirational for a working writer.

Lisa also taught 'Imaginative Writing' to third year medical students at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. She worked with students to look at the shared language of both doctor and patient, encouraging trainee clinicians to unpack ideas like pain and fear.

The concept of narrative was explored and the relationship between doctor/patient and author/reader was considered. If patients are books that doctors must read they need to be aware of the variety and complexity of patient-narratives and the tricks we all employ as story-tellers.

Carol Clewlow, 2000-2002

Carol Clewlow was the first PEALS Writer in Residence, from Autumn 2000 to Spring 2002. She has this to say about her time at PEALS.

'I wanted the Peal's writer-in-residence job pretty much more than I've wanted any job in my life. Not because I had any facility for science but because I was so lousy at it. (I'm not about to quote you my O level results - it's too embarrassing).

I wanted the job because of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which is more than anything else a gut expression of the way science and fiction need to walk hand in hand together. Because Frankenstein is not an aberration and neither is the PEALS writers' residency. Neither is there anything studiously trendy or cosmetic about having a fiction writer work in a scientific environment.

In fact it's vital, a necessity. Because without the arts, and most of all fiction, science is mute, unable to express itself or make itself comprehensible to the world. It needs the imagery and the metaphors of fiction and without them becomes sterile, quite possibly dangerous.

It's no accident that good science writing is littered with examples from literature. Because the fiction writer's job, the poet's too, is to deal with the human heart, with the expression of feelings and emotions, and that includes both the admiration, fear and horror which are the human responses to scientific discovery.

At the same time, it's a two-way street this one labelled Science and Art. Maybe the most important thing I took away from the placement was the realisation that if we claim the whole of human life to be our remit as fiction writers, then to know nothing of science or worse to be disinterested - particularly in the age in which we live - is a gross dereliction of duty.'