About Claire

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Hi, I’m Claire Askew, and I provide all of the services available through Bookworm. You probably want to find out a bit more about me before you decide to book a course or sign up for a service, and fair enough! Read on, check out my FAQs, and if in doubt, email me via info@bookwormtutors.co.uk with any questions.

I’ve always been a bookworm, even as a very small child. I grew up in the rural Scottish Borders and attended Kelso High School, where I was a pretty bookish student — I attained A grades in all my Highers, and my subjects were English, German, French, History and Art. I’ve never liked to be idle, so I also crammed in plenty of extra-curricular activities: I volunteered as a campaign manager in the school elections and won two awards as Press Officer for my school’s team in the 2004 Bar National Mock Trial Competition. As a sixth former, I also single-handedly ran the school’s after-school drama club and volunteered as a Young Leader for Guiding UK. These two experiences taught me that working with young people and helping them to realise their potential was pretty fantastic.

In 2004 I received an unconditional offer to study English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. I spent four very happy years haunting the Main Library, running a literary magazine (and later a poetry micropress) and learning tons about literature — especially poetry. To help finance my studies, I started teaching for the first time: I worked for a small, Edinburgh-based tutoring agency, giving one-to-one tutorials in English, Creative Writing and Drama. I also started to take my writing — which I’d been messing about with for several years — seriously. In 2008 I won all three of the University of Edinburgh’s creative writing prizes: the Grierson Verse Prize, the Sloan Prize for Writing in Lowland Scots Vernacular, and the Lewis Edwards Award for Poetry. I also graduated in 2008, with a high 2:1.

Stopping my studies there just didn’t seem like an option for me, so I signed up for the University of Edinburgh’s MSc in Creative Writing (Poetry), and was accepted. In fact, the University awarded me the 2008 William Sharpe Hunter Memorial Scholarship to help me fund my Masters! The course saw me writing furiously — I began to have my poems published in amazing places like Poetry Scotland, The Edinburgh Review, The Herald and The Guardian, and I was even brave enough to enter a slam — the 2009 Scottish Poetry Library Sotto Voce Slam — and coming in first place only made me hungry for more!

In February 2009, I became a Lecturer in Literature and Communication at Edinburgh’s Telford College (now Edinburgh College, Granton). Soon after, I graduated from my MSc summa cum laude, with a final mark of 85% and a glowing write up from my external examiner, Sean O’Brien. My lovely MSc tutors were keen for me to consider their Creative Writing PhD, which I signed up to in late 2009. My PhD is in Creative Writing and Contemporary Women’s Poetry, and my thesis focusses on the work of Sharon Olds, Liz Lochhead, Kerry Hardie, Patricia Young and Sapphire.

As I moved through my PhD, my creative writing went from strength to strength. In 2010, my then-unpublished pamphlet The Mermaid and the Sailors was shortlisted for an Eric Gregory Award, and a poem from it won the 2010 Virginia Warbey Poetry Prize. I defended my title as University of Edinburgh LitSoc Poetry Slam champion, and was invited to compete in the Scottish Poetry Slam Championship finals at the Aye Write! Festival in Glasgow. In early 2011, Red Squirrel Press published The Mermaid and the Sailors, with an unofficial launch at StAnza Festival — it sold out its first printing within six months! You can see some of the nice things people said about the book if you click here.

As well as lecturing at Edinburgh College, during my PhD I also worked as a tutor for the University of Edinburgh’s Scottish Universities International Summer School, where I formulated and delivering creative writing courses to students from all over the world. My poetry was published in more cool places, including Dark Horse, Popshot and PANK (you can see a full list of publications right here), and I became a regular contributor to The Edinburgh Review. I wrote articles for Anon, The Scottish Review of Books, The Skinny, xoJane and others. I continued to compete in slams and do pretty well — in 2011 I won the StAnza/Risk-a-Verse Slam, and in 2012 I became a Literary Death Match champion!

I am still in post at Edinburgh College, and have loved the four years I have spent, so far, working with my amazing students. Though I mostly deliver Communication units (most often, Communication 4), and specialise in Literature, I have also taught Employability courses like Jobseeking Skills and Enterprise Activity. During my time at Edinburgh College, I have completed a PDA in Adult Teaching (2010), and received in-depth training in Curriculum for Excellence, More Choices More Chances and Equality and Diversity. I hold a full, clean Enhanced Disclosure Scotland certificate, and regularly receive great feedback from my students (see my Testimonals!) In 2012 I also trained up to become a Scottish Women’s Aid Community Champion, which gave me an additional understanding of the challenges involved in working with vulnerable individuals.

My most recent achievements? For the past few months I have been working as a Creative Facilitator with Women Supporting Women (part of the Pilton Community Health Project), helping a group of amazing women as they’ve moved through the Making It Home Project (please do click and read all about it — it’s great, even if I say so myself!). I recently received a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award, including a programme of mentoring from the wonderful Sarah Ream. I’m using this opportunity to put together a first full-length collection of poetry, which I hope to begin sending to publishers soon. In early 2013 I was awarded the inaugural International Salt Prize for Poetry, which was extremely exciting! My blog, onenightstanzas.com, which is designed to offer helpful hints and resources for young writers (OK, there are also some pictures of cake) is coming up to its fifth birthday. And through Bookworm, I’m working with some incredibly smart and interesting folks, helping them to make their studies, their scribblings, and their futures better and brighter!

Would you like to join them? Just email me via info@bookwormtutors.co.uk!