Abida Akram was born in Pakistan and was brought over to England by two strangers, her parents, when she was four. As a child living in Greater Manchester, she tried to write poetry and wanted to be a writer. However, it is only after retiring from a long career in local government and higher education, and having moved to Leicestershire, that she has had the time to write short stories, flash fiction, and poetry with some success. She is now finally pursuing her dream of becoming writer, proving it is never too late to follow your passion.
Abida has had poems published by the Writers’ Forum magazine (2021), and been highly commended by Writing Magazine (2023) and shortlisted by the Alzheimer’s Society magazine. Her poems have been published by Space Cat Press in two of their anthologies (2022 and 2023) as well as by Victorina Press (2023). She has also had a short story longlisted by Space Cat Press in 2023 for the anthology ‘Bark & Bone.’ Abida is working on an anthology of her short stories and flash fiction.
Jessica Bell was born and currently lives in Derby. She read English at Oxford, and is working for a refugee charity. She writes literary fiction.
Hongwei Bao (he/him) grew up in China and lives in Nottingham, UK. His first language is Mandarin Chinese, and he writes in English as a second language. He uses short stories, poems, and critical essays to explore queer desire, Asian identity, diasporic positionality and transcultural intimacy. His creative work has appeared in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Messy Misfits Club, Shanghai Literary Review, The AutoEthnographer, The Hooghly Review, The Ponder Review, The Sociological Review Magazine, the other side of hope, The Voice & Verse and Write On. His work has also appeared in anthologies such as Allegheny Nonfiction Anthology, Maria Lazar Poetry From Exile, Queer Reparative Poetry Anthology and The Plaza Prizes Anthology. His flash fiction ‘A Postcard from Berlin’ won the second prize for the Plaza Prize for Microfiction in 2023. He can sometimes be found in Nottingham’s numerous pubs enjoying beer and performing poetry.
Maritsa Grey started writing and performing spoken word in London. She completed a Creative Writing MA from Goldsmiths University in 2020, and was named Project Phakama’s Young Artist of 2021 for an online publication sharing the work of queer poc. She’s been shortlisted for the Jericho Prize (2021) and the HarperCollins Representing Romance Award (2022). She likes funny, surprising, genre-bending stories. Inspired by a lifetime of tripping and falling into triads, she is currently working on her debut novel, a queer polyamorous romance. She is the co-founder of art collective Moonbuns, alongside her wife and best friends.
Nisha Patel is a qualified accountant whose interest in writing started when she got pregnant. While on maternity leave, she started a blog about the trials and tribulations of parenting while trying to find a work-life balance. Over the years, Nisha realised how much she enjoyed writing and pursues it in her spare time.
Nisha writes stories partly in an attempt to make sense of this crazy world, and partly for the joy of writing. Her creative words have appeared in two anthologies, Tales from Garden Street and Small Good Things as well as online at The Drabble, 50 Word Stories and in the National Flash Fiction Day – Flash Flood. When not writing, Nisha is a mum and an accountant. She lives in Leicester with her husband and two young daughters. You can find her on X @NMPATEL
Rumina Parveen is a Muslim British Bangladeshi who loves to read excessively, write when overthinking and draw to relax. She currently resides in Birmingham with her very patient husband, three crazy kids and a cat, who wants to be a dog.
She is currently working on a YA novel, a teenage Muslim girl grappling with her faith and identity in nineties Britain. Rumina likes to write poems and short stories too. Her stories are influenced by faith, politics, identity, and women. She can usually be found either preparing for her art workshops or sitting in a bookshop.
Writer, poet and educator from Nottingham of Jamaican heritage. Ioney Smallhorne is an alumni of Goldsmith College’s MA in Creative Writing & Education, and Obisidan 2023. Shortlisted for the Caribbean Small-Axe prize 2016, long listed for the Jerwood Fellowship 2017. Shortlisted for the Sky Arts/Royal Society of Literature Fiction Award 2021. Winner of the Writing East Midlands/Serendipity Black Ink Writing Competition 2021.
In 2022, Ioney was the New Art Exchange resident artist where she developed her project, Jamaica and Her Daughters a collection of poetry and prose. Her short story, First Flight, appears in the first Black British speculative fiction anthology, Glimpse, 2022, Peepal Tree Press. Ioney was selected to contribute to Joseph Coelho x Ottar Barry Books x Apples and Snakes children’s poetry anthology to be published 2024. She is developing her short story collection, mentored by Leone Ross. Ioney is a part time English teacher in FE, and co-lead facilitator for poetry Gobs Poetry Collective, Nottingham.
Ray Vincent-Mills is a poet, artist, performer and pastry enthusiast based in Birmingham. His practice focuses on discomfort, identity, food and dismantling form at any given opportunity. Ray is working on a satirical exam paper and march scheme under the Middleway mentorship scheme. This will be developed in 2024 under the EOP member project with art gallery eastside projects. Ray is currently pretty happy, finding joy in putting gochujang in everything, crisp mornings and listening to Blanco.
Michelle Wales Throughout thirty years of teaching, I have incorporated the arts wherever possible. Increasingly, I have become disillusioned with the neoliberal policies which impact education and the rigid delivery of the curriculum. I believe that the curriculum and structure of schools have negatively impacted teacher and student well-being. In 2023 these gave me the impetus to seek creative and holistic ways of working. I was accepted onto Birmingham Rep Theatre’s Foundry programme training in workshop facilitation through the practice of co-creation. I spent three months at SAMPAD, a South Asian arts company based at the MAC, as a trainee creative producer. Through these organisations, I engaged in and with many creative projects/facilitators.
Middle Way Mentoring has allowed me to engage with other would-be writers, established authors and creatives and to continue to develop and hone my skills in writing. I hope to use the skills I develop(ed) in bringing spoken word/text/illustrations ‘alive’, particularly through using books for children & YA. I hope to complete at least one substantive piece of work during my time with Middle Way Mentoring. I am also in the second year of my doctorate in education at BCU; My area of interest is representation in children’s/YA literature and racial literacy. I hope that the EdD will provide a useful theoretical framework for all my work. I have a passion for social justice issues and literacy; themes which interest me include mental health, trauma, well-being, and black history.
Imani Wenham is a writer and performer based in Leicester. They are the founder of Apittame arts, an organization dedicated to showcasing stories from marginalized creatives and fostering community. With roots in Barbuda, Nigeria and Dominica, Imani brings a diverse perspective to their work. They have been part of prestigious programs such as Five O Fresh (2019) with Theatre 503 for new writers to get more experience to write a short collaborative script which was then performed. Imani took part in the Old Vic Theatre Makers programme (2020/21) which was a six month course hosted over zoom giving masterclasses in the skills needed for theatre making and culminated in a zoom performance to an audience of over 500 people. Following this, she participated in the National Theatre’s Young Writers Programme (2021/22). She has performed via Zoom as part of There’s no Racism in the UK by Lyla’s Place (2021) and on a podcast with Thrive Theatre (2021).
Whilst growing up in the countryside, reading and writing were a lifeline for Lynsey Willmore’s younger self. Beyond this, she continued to bury herself in books but stopped writing somewhere along the way. Rediscovering writing as an older adult felt like reconnecting with a long-lost favourite friend – a missing link restored! She’s currently working on a Young Adult novel. Lynsey’s academic background is Media and Cultural Studies and she’s a qualified therapeutic counsellor with a special interest in identity. She enjoys listening to jazz and is passionate about quite a few things but especially nature and animals.