It seems like we’re all finding nature more and more important at the moment. In a time when we are hemmed in by our own homes and streets, many have turned to the outside world to calm themselves and find solace. But for some people, this has been going on for a while. Back in 2009, Hannah Powell started experiencing symptoms she couldn’t explain. Worse than that, she was told that there was ‘nothing wrong with her’ by medical professionals.
On her long and difficult journey to diagnosis with FND (Functional Neurological Disorder) and recovery, she turned to the natural world around her for comfort. You can read her e-book ‘My Green Recovery’ to get a taster of her upcoming non-fiction book which is out in Autumn 2021.
I wanted to know more about her fascinating tale and how writing influenced her recovery.
In your book you talk about how important nature was to you while you were struggling with getting a diagnosis for your symptoms. In what way did nature help you during those difficult times?
It gave me a focus, and a reason to leave the flat every day. It also gave me something positive to reflect on, to talk about with friends and family.
There’s a strong sense of place and description in your work. How did you go about writing these descriptive passages?
I got some advice a couple of months ago from a wonderful editor, who suggested I include more descriptive writing. I read a lot of memoirs with nature themes including Josie George, Katherine May, Alice Vincent and Kerri ni Dochartaigh.I looked back at photos, maps (including street views) and re-read an old blog – these sparked feelings from which the writing naturally flowed.
To what extent was writing beneficial when you were experiencing this difficult time?
I started a blog when I was ill because I couldn’t find very much information to help me, and wanted to record what was happening to me. It was written for me, rather than anyone else and wasn’t written particularly well if I’m honest. I used the blog to inform this e-book but most of it has been written in the last four months!
In terms of plotting, how did you go about creating a structured narrative for your non-fiction book?
Some of it just happened! I have always had a clear sense of a narrative from my 20+ years of writing press releases, blogs and website pages. In this e-book there was one structural change suggested by my copy editor, which helped it to flow better.
What advice would you give to writers starting out?
Go for it! Find a way to learn from others and improve as you go along. I’ve been part of the Michael Heppel ‘Write That Book Masterclass’, which has given me the tools and confidence I needed to write. We’ve watched interviews with writers, agents and publishers as well as having the support of other authors in the group – which has been invaluable! The best advice Michael gives us is to read, write, edit, repeat. Reading other books in the genre you want to write in is really powerful. Don’t get too caught up in your own critique – get other people to read your work and give feedback. Investing money in an editor to get professional feedback really propelled my writing forward. I am a busy mum and director of two companies so I don’t have the luxury of time.
Hannah has been writing for more than 20 years in PR and marketing. Two years ago she self-published a children’s book called A Prickly Tale, about a cactus who wanted to dance. My Green Recovery is a short e-book to coincide with FND Awareness Month. It’s taken from Hannah’s full memoir, The Cactus Surgeon; using nature to repair a faulty brain, which will be published in Autumn 2021. The Cactus Surgeon is a career Hannah wanted when she was six years old, living next to a garden centre.
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