Christine Broughton is 57, is from Liverpool and has cerebral palsy. She first gained paid employment at the age of 42, and has just finished studying for a Masters Degree in Creative Writing.
In 2016, she attendeed one of three WriteNow Insight Days alongside 149 other writers, and was subsequently chosen to be one of 12 authors chosen to take part in a year-long editorial mentorship scheme with Penguin Random House.
She is currently writing a memoir about her own life growing up with cerebral palsy, called The Girl With The Woman Behind Her Eyes.
As a child I heard our family history passed down by female storytellers: literacy was largely a male domain. This gradually changed as school teachers encouraged me to write my stories and enter them into competitions. Since then I’ve had a spasmodic relationship with writing, dictated by varying demands on my time and energy. However, the need to write never completely disappeared and now has a central role.
Writers are often asked, “Why is writing important to you?” My rather glib response recently has been, “I write to remain sane.” This is true because writing has helped me heal following a nervous breakdown. However, writing is also important because it fulfils my artistic side by enabling me to paint pictures with words.
I resisted including disability in my fiction, if my characters contained aspects of myself, it was as non-disabled versions. This was partly because I didn’t want to become known as a disabled writer who wrote about disability, but also because my non-disabled alter egos provided me with a fantasy world in which I could lead a life denied me by social, environmental and institutional barriers. The trouble was that my writing lacked authenticity in important areas because I overreached my experience.
Upon reflection, I think this avoidance contributed to the periods when I felt unable to write. Once I included a disability perspective in my work, I discovered an engaging narrative voice that had previously only been glimpsed. I’m not saying that experiences are not transferable, rather, I’ve discovered that I had to write from my reality before I could successfully use my experiences to inform my fiction.
My book is essentially about not giving up on oneself just because you feel disadvantaged by society. So, in those terms I think its message will apply to many readers in varying circumstances. However, I hope that my story will help society to see disabled people as ordinary folk and contribute an individual’s perspective to the body of knowledge that already exists in relation to disability issues.
I’ve completed a MA in Creative Writing at Edge Hill University, which taught me a great deal and boosted my confidence in my abilities as a writer. However, I still lack confidence regarding publishing and hope the WriteNow experience will provide an opportunity to become more self-assured in this area.
Through conversations with my editor I’ve learnt that the relationship between writer and editor is more of a “partnership” than I envisaged. I’ve found my editor to be a supportive, understanding and enthusiastic person who is willing to listen and work with me.
The most reassuring aspect of my WriteNow experience so far has been to see the publishing industry showing more interest in social diversity. If the industry continues in this direction, it could provide an important platform from which writers like the mentees can demonstrate the validity of lives less ordinary. I don’t regard myself as an exceptional person; thousands of people are in a similar position as me. I simply have the skills and opportunity to tell one of life’s stories.