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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > December 2017 > The style & technique of HELEN DUNMORE

The style & technique of HELEN DUNMORE

Tony Rossiter examines the work of an acclaimed poet and novelist who was hugely supportive of younger writers


Helen Dunmore, who died in June, was a distinguished novelist, poet and children’s author. She began her writing career as a poet, but here I’ll concentrate on three of her bestknown novels. According to the obituary in The Times, she wrote historical novels ‘not to understand the past, but the future’.

Beginnings and

She read a lot as a child and always wanted to write. As a teenager she read a lot of Russian fiction and poetry; and she wrote poetry and short stories. She later said that Tolstoy and Osip Mandelstam, the Polish-Jewish poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after the revolution, were strong influences. After reading English at York University she trained as a teacher and spent two years teaching in Finland – experience that helped to explain her lifelong affinity with winter. In her early to mid-twenties she wrote two autobiographical novels which remained unpublished in her bottom drawer. These, she later said, were not much good: ‘Too inhibited. Not enough freedom and scope. I think I moved on through writing short stories.’ She started submitting stories to magazines (later collected as Love of Fat Men (1997).

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Free your mind! In the new issue of Writing Magazine we look at finding new ways to expand your creative horizons. We also take a look at editing, and offer a practical plan to take your work from messy manuscript to a clean draft that will impress editors. In our star interview, Joanne Harris talks about folklore, fairy tales and sprinkling magic into your fiction. Plus inspiring ideas, practical exercises, success stories, writing prizes to win and much, much more!

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