FORMER school dinner lady Wendy Niles has just published her first novel, thanks to a university writing course.
The 66-year-old has always loved writing since her own school days and has started countless novels over the years, but never finished them.
Then she started a creative writing course at Springthorpe, linked to Hull University, and it gave her the kick-start she needed.
Wendy, of Swallow Close, Gainsborough, said: “I’ve always written stuff and I’ve had short stories and poems published in magazines, but I’ve never managed to finish a novel before.”
Called The Boy From Nowhere, it is based partly on Wendy’s own childhood on a council estate in Grimsby and she got permission from family and friends to use some real names in it.
She has also included pictures at the back of the house she lived in, the school she went to and the remains of the woods where she and her friends used to play.
Wendy said: “The books is about a 10-year-old girl moving into a newly-built council house on Grimsby’s Grange Estate in 1954, which is what we did.”
“It was a nice estate but then it got a bit of a reputation.”
“I think the book will appeal to anyone who was a child during those years and to teenagers who are interested in the ‘olden’ days before computers, mobile phones and Facebook.”
Wendy, who has five children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild, handwrites her stories and then types them up on the computer.
“I have dozens of stories waiting to go to print. My biggest downfall is my slow typing and spelling. Thank goodness for spell check.”
“My family read the first draft for me and said they enjoyed it.”
She left Chelmsford secondary girls school in Grimsby in 1959 with no qualifications and worked first at the Findus frozen food factory and then Kemps biscuit factory before moving to Gainsborough in 1969, by which time she was married.
She retired recently from St George’s School where she worked for 32 years, first as a dinner lady and then as caretaker.
“I look back on my life and think how lucky I have been. You learn and draw from experiences, no one goes through life without making mistakes. It’s all part of growing up and learning from your mistakes is what counts.”
Wendy said that doing the university writing course for the past three years had helped and encouraged her, while also earning her credits towards studying further courses if she chooses.
She is still in touch with four of the five pals from her own childhood who feature in the novel.
She said: “Friendship is a very important part of people’s lives. Friendships built on trust, give and take and sharing opinions without being critical. And most of all laughter.”
Wendy said her plans for the future were to enjoy her retirement and continue with her writing.
She is going to donate £1 from the sale of every book to Gainsborough Adventure Playground Association on Riseholme Road.
*Boy From Nowhere is priced £5.99 and can be bought directly from Wendy by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.