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Addiction, physical and mental illness and its aftermath: a collection of stories and poetry from writers in recovery.

Want to help writers in recovery get their words into print? Join authors Lily Dunn and Zoe Gilbert, and their contributors to give exciting new, emerging, and established writers a platform.

What’s this book about?

What is recovery? We’ll all experience it at some point in our lives, whether from addiction, physical illness, mental health issues or loss. Many of us heal, and we may discover ways to live with our changed selves, to reclaim a life. We may find a new voice, or unearth a voice that has been submerged.

All lives are precious; some are wild. For some of us, that wildness becomes a memory, a story to be told. For others, it springs from ordinary things: the change of seasons or reuniting with loved ones. Mary Oliver asks: ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ This kind of wildness takes courage and self-preservation.

Vitally, recovery can mean community. We recognise our specialness in our similarity. This anthology represents a community of writers – new, unheard voices alongside emerging and established authors. Stories from the dark back alleys, the deep crevices of the mind, and from the wild, ecstatic heights of life before, during and after recovery. These are voices that urgently need to be heard, in all their funny, painful, powerful variety.

Its beginnings:

This project began in a small classroom on Mare Street, Hackney, with a group of recovering addicts keen to learn creative writing. Their teacher, Lily Dunn, was a writer in her own recovery from grief after her father’s premature death from alcoholism. Three months voluntary teaching became a year of Arts Council-funded sessions. The group grew, wrote, shared, and kept returning to tell their stories. Lily and her teaching partner, Zoe Gilbert, made a national callout, broadening the remit to include tales of recovery from physical and mental illness, as well as addiction: this anthology is the result.

Almost two years later, the creative writing classes at Hackney Recovery Service are still going strong.

Why is this book important?

Many of the students in the Hackney Recovery Service group wrote every day, yet didn’t consider themselves writers. But with the chance to develop their craft, and with the prospect of seeing their work in print, they improved hugely. This anthology started as a literary venture, to mentor writers and help them reach a high standard and feel at ease alongside more established voices.

What they all have in common are extraordinary stories, explored through fiction, poetry and life writing. What also unites them is the recognition that writing is part of their recovery. This book celebrates that. But it also celebrates their right to see their work in print, and our passionate belief that these stories are important.

These are tales from the underground, by mostly underrepresented voices, that deserve recognition in our community.

Recovery can be a humbling experience. Most of us have been touched by addiction or mental or physical illness. What better medium to explore this concept than an anthology, where all stand together.

The stories:

A Scottish family who laughs its way through destitution and debauchery
A song to an addict, now passed
The power of words to destroy and to heal
Beaten but not yet dead
A girl waking up in her hospital bed ready to face her anorexia
The devil in a Safeway car park
And many more.

The poetry and prose in this anthology have been selected by authors and poets, not only for the importance of their subjects, but for their literary value. With such a huge range of submissions, the editors were able to choose pieces that tackled recovery from an oblique angle. This creates a space between the story told and its teller, through exploration of language, surprising humour, or psychological enquiry.

Why you should support this book

Because many of our contributors have either stood at the brink of death, and made it back again; or witnessed someone they love do the same. To read their work is affirming of the preciousness of life. Writing for them has been a huge part of that recovery, and your support of that is validating.

Contributors:

Alexander Ali, Francesca Baker, Julia Bell, Astra Bloom, Kate Brown, Gary Bryan, Eileen Carnell, Tory Creyton, Ford Dagenham, Claire Dean, Emily Devane, Jamie Guiney, J L Hall, Polly Hall, Lois L Hambleton, Ellen Hardy, Nada Holland, Kerry Hudson, Stephanie Hutton, Anthony James, Angela Jameson, Nicola Jones, Peter Jordon, Adam Kelly Morton, Angie Kenny, Michele Kirsch, Michael Loveday, Scott Manley Hadley, Deborah Martin, Alan McCormick, John Mercer, Andy Moore, Joe Moriss, Robin Mukherjee, Sadie Nott, John O’Donoghue, James O’Leary, John Pearson, Laura Pearson, Helen Rye, TK Saeed, Maggie Sawkins, Lane Shipsey, Victoria Shropshire, Tabatha Stirling, Rob True, Garry Vass, Susannah Vernon-Hunt, Annie Vincent, Katie Watson.

By pledging your support to this project, you’ll help make this anthology come into being, and your support will also earn you exclusive rewards detailed on this page.

You'll also be supporting St Mungo’s and Hackney Recovery Service. Once the initial subscription has been raised, the editors will be donating 50% of their profits to them.

Lily Dunn
Lily Dunn is an author, mentor and editor. Her first novel was published by Portobello Books and she is currently writing a memoir about the legacy of her father’s various addictions. Her creative nonfiction has been published by Granta, Litro and The Real Story. She is currently studying for a doctorate at Birkbeck, University of London, and is interested in how to integrate the therapeutic power of writing with literature. She teaches creative writing to undergrads and postgrads at Birkbeck and Bath Spa University, and co-runs London Lit Lab, with fellow writer and friend, Zoe Gilbert. They teach private workshops, as well as working for Google, the British Library and RIBA, and run a mentoring and critiquing service.

Zoe Gilbert's first novel, Folk (Bloomsbury), was published in 2018. She is currently writing her second novel, about the history of a South London wood, whilst also completing her Creative Writing PhD on folk tales in new British fiction. You can find her short stories in anthologies from Comma Press and in journals internationally – she was winner of the Costa Short Story Award 2014. She hosts salons for The Word Factory, runs a writers’ critique group, and is an occasional tutor for the Arvon Foundation. As co-founder of London Lit Lab with Lily Dunn, she teaches courses for writers both privately and for other organisations, and regularly mentors budding authors.

Tail of the Donkey
by Ford Dagenham

So I was cutting down wasn't I? Then stop O clock for me in maybe ten days. Cos of the blackness it was, the screaming nerves and the loss of buzz.

So in the daytime supermarket wasn't I? With the fishwives and lonely men in their mum-hemmed jeans.

So I had a basket of steak and onions and those little wines cos I was cutting down PROPERLY wasn't I? Like the doctor said to. No dangerous plummet to nothing all sudden like. Tail off, the doctor said, like I was the donkey in that kids’ game.

But my hands did stuff without me didn't they? Gone and got some whisky too hadn't they?

And at the checkout the orange woman with penciled-in eyebrows was bleeping barcodes super slow wasn't she? Cos of her Disney-painted nails.

So I had time to, if I wanted to, if I could, cos the booze aisle was right close, but I wasn't about to was I? Put it back I mean. Have some last hurrah couldn't I?

So it was whisky with red wine chasers that night wasn't it? And all pleased with myself I christened it the Fuckbrain Hurricane.

I suffered blackness, screaming nerves and a raging howling anti-buzz that became the clearest Moment Of Clarity I had ever ever known.

EVERYTHING was fine. Had always BEEN fine and always WILL be fine. A world in order. Beautiful it was. So stopping would be fine too wouldn't it? It would. It would. It WOULD.

Read more...

A taste of A Wild and Precious Life

Friday, 13 July 2018

Dear supporters,

To those of you who have supported our recovery project: a HUGE thank you. We have had such a great response so far and the pledges are coming in daily. We have raised 15% of our funds in the first couple of weeks, which is good going. And is only possible because of all your support.

We have a way to go yet, so please spread the word if you haven't already. It's amazing how…

Already 6% funded!

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

A huge thank you so all of you who have pledged already for our recovery anthology. We have had such an amazing and generous response, and we are already 6% funded. It is so wonderful that you acted quickly with your pledges, as now we have a firm foundation for others to follow, and it really helps in getting an excitement drummed up around the project. I'm going to post updates on how things are…

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