Ellen Phethean runs Diamond Twig Press, which she founded with Julia Darling. She also works as a poet, playwright and editor.
Ellen began performing her poetry and plays on radio and stage with The Poetry Virgins, a women's performance poetry group. Her work appears in Sauce (Bloodaxe Books).
Her first full collection, Breath, is published by Flambard Press, and was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award, 2009. This work is largely the result of her part-time creative writing MA at Newcastle University, which helped her through the last few years, after the death of her husband Keith Morris, and Julia, within two months of each other in 2005. To quote the book cover: "These poems explore love, loss and the life that insists we carry on", but Ellen says they also contain candid observation and humour.
She was writer in residence for Seven Stories, The Centre for The Children's Book, Ouseburn, and Writing On the Wall project. This inspired Wall, a novel in poems, telling the story of troubled teenager Kylie, and published by Smokestack Books in February 2007: a poem from Wall, Down the Dene, was our March 2007 Poem of the Month. Ellen was recorded by The Poetry Channel at the Aldeburgh Festival, talking about Wall, and her podcast is still available in the archives.
She finished a second novel in similar form, Hom, dealing with a teenaged lad from the West End of Newcastle. Unfortunately, the cross-genre form is not popular with publishers, so it is languishing in her bottom drawer. Undeterred, she is now on the third novel. This is for children, set in a fictional past and is a completely new subject matter. Ellen is just enjoying herself, learning how to write prose.
In August 2009 she was commissioned by Gala Theatre, Durham to write a new play for the Mystery Cycle, performed in May 2010. Along with her 22 year old Musician/rapper son Fred, she proposed Cain and Abel in Hiphop style. Cain and Abel was a triumph - all the dancers and actors upped their performance 200% and all the technical wizardry worked - so there were flames for the offering and the Tag mysteriously creating itself on the LED screen. Ellen says: "My son Fred and I wrote the words, and my son Johnny created all the music - we are the Von Rap family. We are told there will be a DVD available of the Mysteries - contact the Gala Theatre for more details. We hope to perform it again at a festival or suitable venue - watch this space."
2011 ended with two pieces of good news for Ellen: following her success in winning second prize in the Jitegemee Poetry competition, she learned that her unpublished book, Mulberry & the Blue Hands, has been longlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2012. See the full longlist on the Chicken House website; extracts from the longlisted entries are also published in the Times Online (subscribers only).
In summer 2012, Ellen came third in the Inpress 'Indian Summer' poetry competition, held to celebrate Inpress's 10th birthday. You can read Ellen's poem, Late Song, here.
She also teaches Writing for Children to adults at The North East Centre for Lifelong Learning and runs workshops. Ellen writes the Diamond Twig Diary and likes to keep everyone waiting for it.