About

SophyDale-1

Hello, I’m Sophy.

Here’s the short version of my about page:

I help people tell stories.

Telling stories may seem like a ‘nice to have’ activity, but I think it’s crucial. As Brene Brown says:

Owning our story, owning what we believe, and loving ourselves is the bravest thing we’ll ever do. Do the world a favour: speak your truth. Follow your wild heart.”

Whether your story is fiction, your memoir or the story behind the business you’ve built or the mission you want to share with the world, it’s important. It matters. Helping people to tell their stories is the ultimate purpose behind Spark Writing Studio.

A longer version of my about page is:

I am a writer, editor, coach and mentor, based in Edinburgh. I’ve worked with a huge range of writers, including Margaret Atwood, Ian Rankin, Janice Galloway, Ali Smith, John Burnside, Jackie Kay and Naomi Alderman.

I’ve worked for publishers including Canongate Books and Frances Lincoln, for the Scottish Book Trust and Scottish Poetry Library and run the BBC Short Story Award. Along with the novelist Alan Warner, I set up Long Lunch Press, which published Irvine Welsh, James Meek, Elizabeth Reeder and Jen Hadfield.

I’ve also interviewed authors including Lionel Shriver, Faye Weldon, Will Self, Tony Parsons, Jenny Eclair and Maggie O’Farrell on stage for the Edinburgh International Book Festival and Gliterary Lunches.

I was one of the youngest ever editors of the venerable Edinburgh Review literary magazine (and only its second ever female editor since its inception in 1802). I was also the founding Manager of the Edinburgh UNESCO World City of Literature Trust. I’ve run book events at racecourses and on trains and in supermarkets and have worked for bookshops and libraries as well as publishers and literary organisations.

In 2012, I set up the Spark Writing Studio, in order to work 1:1 with writers as an editor, mentor and guide to the often mysterious and closed ‘books world’.

This is the ‘official’ version of my about page, the formal version that I would use for a job application. However, the official version never tells the full story, does it?

The behind the scenes version is:

I am first and foremost an editor. I love working closely with writers and helping them to shape their stories, to strengthen what’s already there, and to cut whatever is taking away from the story they really want to tell.

I think all writers need two skills: creating and then editing. We all learn to create before we even learn language – but some of us almost have that inborn skill educated out of us. Others hold on to it, but need to learn – or at least to hone – the skill of editing: being able to step back from what you have created, to get enough distance to see how to make it better. As Terry Pratchett says,

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

The gift of editing is learning how to move beyond telling yourself the story to telling your story in the best possible way.

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. – Philip Pullman

Have a look at how you can work with me here.

And of course, get in touch – I’d love to hear your story. Email me at sparkforwriters[at]outlook[dot]com.