Wendy had a wonderful English teacher in primary school.
“An afternoon each week was dedicated to story writing. She would put up a picture to inspire us, and bring in mars bars for us to eat.”
After university, Wendy taught English at a school in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. She worked there for four years before returning to Belfast in 1997. She joined Strathearn Grammar School, and has taught English to A ‘Level there ever since.
Writing came late.
“I tried to write a novel in my early twenties, and sent it to three places. I felt my writing was no good, and I didn’t try again.”
In 2015, all that changed.
“I joined a six month Stinging Fly fiction course in Dublin, on my free afternoon. I arrived not knowing what I would write, and wrote a short story. It was published in The Stinging Fly, and Declan Meade said he was interested in a collection.”
Her father was thrilled for her.
“When the story was published, he said, ‘Now, you are making something of your life!”
Who is Wendy Erskine.
Date of birth: 1968, in Belfast.
Education: Belfast High School; Glasgow University, English. Post Grad in Teaching.
Home: East Belfast
Family: Husband Paul. “He’s an art teacher.” Niamh 21, Matilda 1 6, Bobby 13.
The Day Job: Head of English at Strathearn Grammar School.
In Another Life: “I’d be a beautician. I love having treatments, and the way you fast forward to a feeling of intimacy. I find that really interesting.”
Favourite Writers: Gordon Burn; William Faulkner; Anton Chekhov; Maggie Nelson; Danielle McLaughlin.
Second Book: “I’m always working on short stories, but I also have written a bit of a novel.”
Top Tip: “You can nearly always scrap your first paragraph. It often becomes too stylised.”
The Debut: Sweet Home. The Stinging Fly: €12.95.
It’s Belfast post troubles, and the inhabitants of are coping with the vagaries of life. Whether it’s the loss of a child, a stagnant marriage, threats from local thugs, or curiosity about neighbours, these interconnecting lives always fascinate and engage.
The stories show Belfast in a refreshingly new light.
The Verdict: An acutely observed, diverse and altogether impressive collection from a writer to reckon with.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 15th September.
© Sue Leonard. 2018.