From literature festivals and radio shows to open-mic story-telling and writing events, Yvonne Battle-Felton has used her expertise to start up community projects while working towards her PhD at Lancaster University.
The former voice-over actor and Public Relations director has just graduated with a PhD in Creative Writing, and has her sights set on a Pulitzer Prize for her first novel Remembered.
“I want it to be a book people fall in love with”, said Yvonne, speaking about the novel which explores reuniting the Black American family after the Emancipation, and the power of stories to build community. “I want it to be on every bookshelf, coffee table and reading list”. An extract from the novel has already won the Northern Writers Award.
While pursuing her PhD, Yvonne has created and directed public events and projects including the award-winning Stories at the Storey: A true story open mic night held at the Storey in Lancaster. She said: “It is building communities through their stories. Everybody is just who they are. We don’t introduce anyone, we don’t know if somebody is a dentist or a plumber, it doesn’t matter, it’s just their story. Stories do connect people and that’s the premise of my PhD, that stories can build communities and save lives.”
Yvonne, 46, also worked as part of the team that created Lancaster Words, a literature festival which took place in July this year and was visited by more than 1,000 people. She created The Writing Life radio show and, along with colleague, friend and fellow Lancaster graduate Naomi Kruger, began the North West Literary Salon: a monthly event in which two local writers read engaging stories. They are now launching North West Literary Arts, which is a literary organisation based in Lancaster. Yvonne said: “Our aim is to diversify publishing and to make it more accessible for people in the North West. We want to empower people to share their stories.”
She is also creator and co-director of Off the Page, which is a project where professional actors bring new writing to life.
Yvonne, originally from New Jersey, said: “I’ve spent the last four years studying for the PhD and it was so much fun.
“I can’t stress the importance of studying for a PhD in a subject you love. For me, doing a PhD in creative writing that was research-based was the best decision, and coming to Lancaster rather than doing it online was another best decision.”