Teaching is a major part of my practice as a writer, and I am pleased to work on some of the finest university writing programmes in the country.

Between September and December 2019 I am  working  at Birmingham City University teaching on the BA and MA Creative writing courses.

Last year I worked   UEA Creative Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia, working as one of the supervisors of the new MFA in Creative Writing.

In 2016 I was a Creative Fellow at the University of Birmingham within The School of English, Drama and American and Canadian studies. I then continued my work in the department as a Teaching Fellow

3564_10151632010965719_1468471324_nIn 2012 I became a Fellow of The Institute of Creative and Critical Writing at Birmingham City University. Led by Dr Gregory Leadbetter, The Institute is an exciting new venture devoted to cultivating the creative imagination, the life of ideas, and the literary arts.  I recently worked at the University as Radio-Writer-in-Residence developing the Birmingham Radio Project.



I worked for ten years as  Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing at Leeds Beckett University, in the Leeds School of Art Architecture and DesignHere I am reading a short story to celebrate International Women’s Day at the Leeds Gallery in March 2014.





imagesIn January 2007 I traveled to India to be the British Council’s Writer-in-Residence at The University of Mumbai .  It was a privilege to create the University’s first writing group for some wonderful students, all of whom had no previous experience of creative writing. This is cartoon of me and my daughters, which  illustrated an article I wrote for The Times of India.



I run lots of courses in the community to help people develop their writing.  In 2019 I am working with WriteHereuk  running two seven-week creative writing courses. The next  will take place on Wednesday evenings in October and November – and will feature expert tuition, one-to-one tutorials, dedicated weekly workshops that focus on students’ novels, and a visit from literary agent Carrie Plitt of Felicity Bryan Associates.

I will also be running a course with Writing West Midlands about the variety and complexity of STORY structures in 2020.


I run regular courses for school students, and for trainee teacher. I recently ran a six week course with Writing West Midlands for teachers who wish to develop their own skills as writers, and as teachers of writing.  I also work regularly with BEd students at Birmingham City University, and Newman University,  to share new approaches to teaching writing.

I’ve worked extensively as a creative writing teacher for some super schools-based creative writing organisations including Everybody Writes, Write On! and Creative Partnerships.


I was part of  Bath Literature Festival’s The Write Team a bold initiative to create writing workshops for ‘shy’ children across seven Bath schools.   I became Lead Writer for the The Write Team working closely with the project’s inspiring founder, Emma Metcalf.

Between 2009 and 2010 I worked for the wonderful  First Story as Writer-in-Residence at Cheney School in Oxford.

I’m passionate about writing in education and the importance of creative writing in schools. You can read a recent article about my hopes and fears in the Times Educational Supplement here.


I visit schools, colleges, universities, libraries and reading groups regularly to speak to children, young people and adults about my work.


I teach regularly for the Arvon Foundation on both courses for adults and for young people.

My next course will be a Fiction & Tutored Retreat
Lumb Bank in Yorkshire. The course is now Sold Out but you can be added to the waiting list.

You can read a blog about the Arvon experience on the last course I taught with Andrew Miller, written by Anthea Morrison, one of our students, here

‘Just to say thanks for today . The workshop that I attended was fantastic and the girls got loads out of it.’

– Juliette Biddle-Mogg, Manchester Creative and Media Academy


‘You really re-lit a fire that had been dwindling for a while, and writing is something I’ve always enjoyed, so I’m very grateful.’
– Yr 12 student at St Anne’s Academy, Manchester

‘Helen forged a great relationship with the pupils and they responded with enthusiasm to her ideas. She was very adept at changing her techniques according to the group she was working with’– Simon Stringfellow, Archbishop Temple School, Preston


‘Thank you so much for the workshop on Thursday – it was excellent. I and all the students/staff that I spoke to enjoyed it immensely. I was very impressed with how much you managed to get into the workshop and got everyone writing and thinking hard without the day being over busy. Pitched perfectly I think.’– Dr Janet Smith, Senior Lecturer & PG Training officer, School of Biosciences University of Birmingham 2011



  1. Deborah Fance

    Hi Helen,
    I would like to contact you to see if you could come into school and share your knowledge of writing with the teachers and children. I met you and your father at his brother’s funeral. I am a head teacher in Balsall Heath in Birmingham and we are very focused on improving our writing in school. Have you time to help us?

  2. Lynne Jackson

    Hi Helen,
    I attended the training last week at Peter’s, it was wonderful to hear all the ideas and we have enjoyed having a go in Year 1 this week.
    As a school we are currently looking at how we can evidence and provide opportunities for our more able writers. Do you have any ideas or advice that could inspire us to get the best out of our writers?

    • HelenCross

      Thanks for your message, Lynne, and sorry for the delay getting back to you. I’m glad you enjoyed the teacher training session. When I read your comment I was reminded of some work I did a few years ago in an infant school, which I think might be suitable. As I was working with a group of high ability children, I used a scheme of work around the theme of Home, which I usually only follow with KS2. The lesson plans were was devised as part of a residency I undertook with Bath Festivals and you can look at them here:


      You might need to adapt it slightly for KS1, but the ideas worked well when I treid them out with Years 1 and 2.

      Good luck. Let me know how you get on.

      Best wishes

  3. GeeBee

    Hello – I’d love a look at your lesson plans, but neither of the links mentioned are live….. is there an alternative please?

  4. Jess Thompson

    Hi Helen,

    You came to Birmingham city university a couple of months ago to work on some literacy sessions with us. You did the seashell activity and the boxes with artifacts. I really want to use the boxes with artefacts in for a teaching interview. How could I use this with a year 1 class for 20-30 mins also ensuring that the pace of the lesson is snappy? Thank you!

    • HelenCross

      Hi Jess

      Thanks for your message, and good to hear from you. For a group that young I would choose just a few simple objects, say a shell, a tiny pair of doll’s trousers, a tea bag (you will think of better things!), and model one box first in a circle (10 mins), always stressing that we are looking for is a story (the connections between the objects). Why might that tiny lady have a tea bag? Why might a lady have a shell? Then give out six boxes to the group to work on together (10 minutes). Ask them to think who the objects belong to, and what is their story. Then ask someone from each group to share their story. Then end wth everyone writing the beginning of their own version of the story (10 mins) You could even tell them that it has to start ‘Once Upon a Time…’ as this is a good way of speeding up the writing.

      Good luck. I hope you get the job!

  5. Tom Bishop

    Hi Helen

    I’ve been recommended you by a friend for a creative writing training day at our primary school in Kings Heath, Birmingham.

    Please could you contact me to discuss this opportunity further? The date would be Tuesday January 3rd 2017.



  6. Steve Hobbs

    I am the Events Secretary for Leeds Writers Circle and, as such, am writing to enquire whether you would consider taking a workshop for us. Our workshops take place on Saturdays at The Carriageworks in Leeds, between 11am and 3pm, with a break over lunchtime. The Circle would normally pay a fee of £100 (plus reasonable expenses) on such an occasion and I hope this would be acceptable to you. We have four different professional workshops a year, which usually take place in October, January, March and June so are able to be a little flexible should you require it.
    I look forward to hearing from you. If you should have any questions, please let me know.
    Kind regards,
    Steve Hobbs
    Events Secretary, Leeds Writers Circle

  7. Alex

    Hi Helen,
    I have to lead a 45 minute session to a year five class with a writing focus on Tuesday. I attended your session at BCU and really enjoyed the activity of having boxes with items in them, and thinking about the person who owned them and what their story was. Do you think this would be successful for a year five class in 45 minutes? Is there a way to turn this into a writing session? Do you have any advice on how to deliver the session? Thank you

  8. Charlotte Hannah Drury

    Hi Helen,
    I really enjoyed my session with you at Birmingham City University on ‘Creative Writing’. I have an interview on Thursday for 20 minutes with a mixed ability Year 1 class (8 pupils).
    Any ideas/suggestions would be highly appreciated!
    Charlotte Hannah Drury

    • HelenCross

      Hi Charlotte, I would go outside into the playground and have a go with the viewfinders, writing words about things observed on the paper. Depending on how long you have got, you can then come inside and write out the words as a little poem. That’s usually a super lesson. I hope you get the job.

  9. Geoff Jones

    Hi Helen
    I was one of several people who enjoyed your stimulating writing course during February/March 2014 in The Custard Factory Birmingham.
    At the Blaneau Gwent Heritage Writing Festival 2014 secondary school writing workshop I explored your ‘shell ‘ idea but used Welsh love spoons instead. Same format – ending in 10 minute short stories – amazing results & pleasure & delight from students. Thanks for that and all the other ideas you crammed into such a short course.
    Be grateful if you would have a quick look at my website & offer any appropriate suggestions for meeting the aim of selling books and writing workshops. http://www.poetrymine.co.uk
    Very impressed by your web site and all your achievements esp. your UEA appointment – I’m sure you will enjoy the experience as will the students – must be a great thrill returning to Norwich as a tutor. Well done!
    Geoff Jones

    • HelenCross

      Hi Geoff

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m so pleased your session went well. It’s most rewarding seeing students produce good work, isn’t it? I very much enjoyed your website. It’s full of good advice and ideas, and I like all your moving images. Regarding selling books and writing workshops, I’m not sure I know what to suggest. Perhaps Writing West Midlands might have some advice?

      Thanks for your good wishes for UEA. I’m enjoying it hugely, and have some very talented students in my group. I am of course learning more from them than they are from me!

      Best of luck with everything.

  10. Hannah Keeling

    Hi Helen,

    I am a third year BCU student and really enjoyed the session with had with you on creative writing. I have an interview soon and I am teaching a 30 minute lesson to a year 6 class, I am thinking about doing creative writing with shells as different items then writing a verse of a poem; like you did during the session. Do you think this would be appropriate for year 6?

    Thank you

    Hannah Keeling

    • HelenCross

      Hi Hannah

      Yes, I’ve done so many times with this year group, with some outstanding results – you have a challenge with the time though, as it would usually take me longer than half an hour. I would start with a quick burst of vocabulary gathering with a big shell (5 mins of passing around, or more quickly asking for a few suggestions), the move on to everyone having a different, small shell (giving out the shells rather than letting the children choose will speed things up). Make sure you ask the questions and generate the writing (10 mins), then they can read out as you gather on the board a few of their suggestions for the metaphors (5 minutes), then suggest they ‘quickly’ edit each of these five lines into the strange poetic meditation on shells (5 mins). Make sure that at this point they also come up with an original title for the poem (tell them that it can’t be called ‘The Shell’!) Then ask a few people to read out their odd little metaphor poems, and suggest how they could display the poems (either on photos or drawings of their shell).

      If you think this is too much for half an hour (practice with your friends before hand!), then don’t bother with the big shell (thought it’s impressive and loved by the children so a shame to lose it it you don’t have to) and go straight into the small shells metaphor element. Keep embedding the learning as you are talking the children through the exercise, using words like ‘vocabulary’, ‘metaphors’, ‘descriptions’ etc.

      I hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your interview. Do let me know how you get on.

  11. Natasha Clark

    Dear Helen,
    I am a third year student at Birmingham City University, I had a very inspiring lesson taught by yourself on writing.
    I have been offered an interview at a school and have been asked to teach a lesson on creative writing for an hour. It is for a KS2 class I think year 5? they haven’t let me know as of yet.

    I did want to base my lesson on setting a scene?
    I liked your word association strategies and the use of using a banana to write on? How would you approach this?

    I don’t have much experience in this topic area and would love some support and guidance from yourself,

    Many thanks,
    Natasha Clark

  12. Cherene Joseph

    Hello Helen;
    Similar to the previous comments I would love to use your creative writing ideas for an interview that I have on Friday.
    It is a 30 min session with a Year 2 class (High Attainers) who are looking at the seaside and I was hoping to use your shell idea.
    Would you be able to provide me with any tips or suggestions to help me plan this lesson.
    Thanks in advance

    • HelenCross

      Hi Cherne. I’d suggest you get everyone in a big circle, and start with handing round the big shell – something really impressive with a bit of a wow factor. Gather the suggested words to describe the shell on the board. As they are only year two, encourage any descriptive words and you might have to prompt them by asking for a colour or a texture or a shape word. Then a moment of celebrating the wonderful vocabulary they have generated. Next everyone chooses a small shell from your shell box. Then ask the children five questions about the shell – such as ‘If your shell was a person what kind of person would it be?’ Ask them to try and write their answer in whole sentences if possible. YOu can choose any metaphor but I find that person, weather, place, furniture and vehicle get the best responses. Then at the end a few read out their shell pieces – which are now little original poems. The work is usually quirky and beautifully reflective of the child’s personality. Best of luck with it. Do let me know how you get on!

  13. Lisa Taggart

    Hi Helen,
    I just wanted to let you know that following my use of the boxes for creating mythical creatures- I got the job! Thank you so much for your help and for your wonderful ideas.


  14. Hi Helen

    Hi Helen

    i really enjoyed your creative writing session at BCU, and i have an interview where i have to take in an item/artefact in to spark discussion. I was thinking about going down the boxes route for them to discuss possible stories etc like we did, and wondered if you had any ideas for the items as it will be year 2 or year 3 children.


    • HelenCross

      Hi Ellie

      I think for that age group I’d chose some simple and familiar objects – buttons, keys, money, a few tiny items of dolls’ clothes, then add to each box a stranger object that will spark some deeper thinking – perhaps a ring, or a pencil sharper or a clothes peg. Your charity shop should have everything you need. Create one bag to use in the group to demonstrate this kind of original creative thinking. Remember when you are prompting the story thinking to stimulate in terms of questions: ‘who do you think might have this keyring?’, ‘where would they live?’ ‘what job might they do?’ Always encourage the children to fit the objects together to spark an original thought and then a sequence of story. I hope that’s helpful. Best of luck in your interview.

  15. Lisa Taggart

    Hi Helen,
    Similar to Sarah’s comment above, I thoroughly enjoyed your creative writing lesson at BCU and also have an interview where I’d love to use some of your ideas. I am teaching a half an hour literacy lesson which is based on Myths and Legends in Year 3 with particular emphasis on mythical creatures and adjectives. I would like to use the idea of the objects in small boxes to encourage the children to think about and design their own mythical creature- perhaps using small pieces of brightly coloured fur, patterned tissue paper and objects related to where they may live. They would then begin drawing their creature and writing adjectives to describe it. Do you think this would be effective to use the boxes in this way? I also liked the idea of the children feeling more confident with writing if they were holding something and I feel that different materials may work quite nicely with this. Thank you very much!

    • HelenCross

      Hi Lisa

      Thanks for your message, and I’m so pleased you enjoyed the session. It was a pleasure to work with you all. I think the boxes would work really well for a year 3 Myths and Legends session. As well as your fabrics why not put in some unusual objects too? You could include coins, buttons, pages of an old book. They would have to really think how to use these items in the picture. The key is to drive imagination – to direct towards original, unusual thinking. As well as describing their creature, they could also think, where it lives, what it eats, and what it would do in a story. I’m sure it would work well and the children would have great fun. Good luck with it, and let me know how you get on. Best wishes.

  16. Sarah Jellard

    Hi Helen,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your creative writing lesson at BCU last week and it has tied perfectly as I have just been invited for my first job interview and I have to teach a half an hour Literacy lesson! So, I am going to teach the lesson you did with us on Thursday with picking the objects out of the bag and discussing the order etc…..I was wondering, for the L>O for that lesson could you say something like “to be able to use thinking and imagination skills to produce a story?” Thank you so much! Sarah

    • HelenCross

      Hi Sarah

      I’m so pleased you found the session useful, and congratulations on your job interview. Yes that’s a good LO, perhaps add ‘to be able to use speaking, thinking and imagination skills to structure and write an original story.’ This exercise really helps with the structuring, of giving stories a beginning, middle and end.

      I’m around at BCU tomorrow and Tuesday, so if you wanted to chat over anything further do feel free to come and find me in the same room as before. Otherwise, best of luck with your interview, and let me know how you get on.

  17. Lois Maddox

    Dear Helen
    I enjoyed attending one of your courses on Writing for Radio. Would you be interested in running a weekend course May or June 2013.
    Kind regards


    • HelenCross

      Hi Lois Thanks for your message. Did I meet you at Swanwick? Yes, I’d happily do a course for you on Writing for Radio – the only thing I have in my diary for May next year is an Arvon course for one week so I’m sure we can find a weekend. Best wishes Helen

  18. William Shuttleworth

    Thank you Helen for the training you did with the PTI at the end of June. It was really helpful and also extremely practical. I have also been enjoying looking at the scheme of work on the Bath Festival website you did. Lots of useful ideas for a Year 7 Descriptive Writing Scheme we are doing. Thank you for being generous with your resources.

    • HelenCross

      Hi William, thanks for your message. I’m so pleased the Crewe session was useful – it felt very short! I got through what I usually take a day to convey, in an hour. I’m pleased too that the Bath resources were useful, that really was a terrific scheme, and I was glad to put down all the lessons for others to use. I hope your creative writing workshops go well, and that your students flourish. Best wishes.

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