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Friday Features: What Inspires Me To Write by Mirabel Lavelle

I am a young grandma, a teacher and the eldest daughter of a typical Maltese family. When I turned 20, I married my Sunderland sweetheart and emigrated to the North of England. It was November. I had to re-root in a very different environment to that of the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle. Getting used to the weather, for one! Nestled within me was my deep love for libraries, needlecraft art, home cooking and belonging to a community. Here, the Sunday church coffee morning became my first familiar space.

As a teacher and mother, I was always very enthusiastic about storytelling, writing and books. I especially loved sharing folktales, fairy tales and legends with my children. Every Saturday morning, we visited our local library, discovering a treasury of books that fired up our imaginations, giving us a passport to countless other worlds. Making up our own tales and poems, we could choose to be whoever and wherever we wanted. Even now, this is something that connects me to my children and grandchildren.

It’s not too much of a leap from a love of storytelling into writing. But there was a particular incident that gave me the momentum to make it happen.

My grandson has a potentially life-threatening condition known as IgE Allergy and wherever we go we carry a backpack full of injections and medicines. I was there when, at just six months old, he experienced his first anaphylactic shock.  It was week one of what was supposed to be the weaning adventure but, instead, I watched my daughter holding a very sick baby while the paramedics battled hard to revive him twice as the ambulance raced to the nearest hospital. That day, life as we knew it changed forever. Soon after, I started writing children’s stories.

This was partly because it helped me to cope with being part of the raising of a child with multiple, life-threatening allergies. However, my other reason was to raise awareness and promote inclusivity for children living with a hidden disability, especially allergies. I thought I could use my love of storytelling to create material for schools, allergy hospital units and support groups. I want to encourage as many people as possible, worldwide, to help me in creating a safe world for allergy sufferers.

Of course, it’s not just about the threat to life in itself; it’s also how that threat impacts day-to-day living. Sometimes, for example, he’s not invited to children’s birthday parties, because parents are nervous about the food and providing a safe environment. He’s usually left out when the ice cream van comes outside the house, or when there are Christmas parties, Easter egg hunts and Trick Or Treat events.

Getting people to understand that he’s just another kid who likes the same games as most kids and who needs the same things as them, who loves playing and eating with friends, should not be so difficult. I want my grandchild to be seen as just another child in the school community, and not as the boy with the backpack that’s kept in the special cupboard in the school office.

Being motivated in this way kick-started my writing journey. I set out to write a couple of tales to capture children’s hearts and ended up with two entire collections of short stories aimed at four-to-six-year-olds. One set of stories features a cheeky puppy and a fox cub (with allergies)! They have many escapades together and learn many lessons along the way. Above all, they learn how to be considerate of others. The other collection focuses on a boy with allergies. He has some amazing adventures with those around him who love him.

Apart from the enjoyment value we all get from reading, my stories have a special message. They enable the reader to get a glimpse of what living with allergy as a child is all about. How do these children feel? What are their fears? How do they try and cope?

The characters in my stories deal with the challenges that food allergies present, as well as all the other issues that being a child entails.

One day, I hope these stories will be published, allowing me to educate as well as raise allergy awareness with as many people as possible. My ambitions don’t stop there, though. I want to use my stories to communicate these important messages via workshops, drama, art and many interactive activities as well.

Children possess a magical energy that we adults can sometimes forget about. When I tap into that incredible energy, I lose myself in a world where I create captivating adventure stories for children to enjoy.

It’s also worth remembering schools in this picture. Sadly, allergic disease is on the increase and every school will have children who suffer from different forms of it. It’s essential that the staff not only have access to ongoing training and support, but pupils must also learn about this issue, recognising how serious it can be: both in terms of day-to-day living, and also the life-and-death situation anaphylaxis can lead to. If, by the time children start secondary education, they understand that allergy is a serious medical condition, it will help to eradicate the stigma.

It’s my passion for making my voice heard in order to safeguard children living with allergic disease, that keeps that me writing.

I look for inspiration in many places – nature, visual art and music – and I read as much as I can. Not just in my own genre, but I go out of my comfort zone also, so I don’t stagnate.

In fact, this is how I happened upon Pen to Print on Eventbrite. Through Zoom, I started attending some of the free sessions.  Soon after, I became involved with the Write On! quarterly magazine and the digital Write On! Extra. Not only has this opened up possibilities and opportunities for me, but it’s also given me the confidence to talk publicly about my writing and deal more easily with the inevitable rejection we writers have to face.

Children remember a great story. They’ll probably go back to it and read it again because they enjoy it so much. This, in turn, will raise the profile of living with allergies, because children and grown-ups will find out about it. They can understand what it’s like to be someone living constantly with life-threatening allergies.

So, to sum up from my  perspective:

  • As a story-loving grandma who is concerned for the safety of her grandchild, I would urge people to write to their MPs in order to highlight the importance of taking allergic disease seriously.
  • As a teacher who cares about the welfare of each pupil, I want to be instrumental in bringing about positive change, by ensuring that all UK students understand allergic disease and the effects it has on the classmates who live with it on a daily basis.
  • As a writer, I would encourage everybody to find a platform such as Pen to Print and Write On! From my perspective, it helps me deal with the fear that constantly niggles away at me, as well as giving voice to my work to, hopefully, bring about real positive change.

To finish, I’d like to share an example of my writing with you.  As you can see, I’ve drawn on my grandson’s experience and our relationship.

Lockdown Days For Lexi

Every Thursday, Nanna Anna picked Lexi up from school.

She would have a bag full of games and goodies.

“I can’t wait for Thursday,” Lexi would tell his school friends. “My nanna is the best!”


Nanna always made one of his favourite meals, such as pizza, pasta and ice cream.

They were all made without cow’s milk, cheese or eggs.

Lexi is allergic to these and so he could neither touch nor eat them.

Nanna found a way of making the most delicious pizza, pasta and ice cream with other ingredients.


One day in March, Nanna told Lexi that the schools were closing down because of a bug called Covid.

She would not be able to pick him up from school and hug him.

Lexi felt sad. “Don’t be sad, my dear,” Nanna said. “We shall have new adventures.”

“What adventures?”

“Virtual online ones, of course!” replied Nanna Anna.


Every Thursday afternoon since lockdown started, Nanna and Lexi enjoyed Zoom time.

They played many games. Nanna has taught Lexi some good chess moves.

Lexi has taught Nanna how to play Minecraft and other games.


Every Thursday morning, Nanna baked delicious dairy-free treats.

Lexi and his mum did the same on Zoom.

Lexi’s favourites are the rich dairy and egg-free brownies.

Lexi is proud of Nanna and Nanna is proud of Lexi.

Lockdown was not so bad after all!


You can connect with Mirabel on Twitter: @Mirabel20287342

For those wanting to find out more about allergy research, visit: Natasha Allergy Research Foundation (


Read the latest issue of Write On! magazine (10) online.

It’s not too much of a leap from a love of storytelling into writing. But there was a particular incident that gave me the momentum to make it happen.