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Write On! Features: Write On The Tyne by Helen Aitchison

By Helen Aitchison

I became a writer four years ago and my debut novel, The Dinner Club was released through Cahill Davis Publishing in March 2022. My second novel with Cahill Davis Publishing, The Life And Love (Attempts) Of Kitty Cook was launched in March 2023, and my third novel, 31 Days Of May is due out next spring.

The released of The Dinner Club in 2022 was the catalyst that changed the trajectory of my career, after 20 years working in social care. A short sabbatical to enjoy the launch, The Dinner Club, led to a massive life reflection and subsequent leap of faith.

As someone who had only ever worked in social care, it was really all I knew and potentially (apart from a new skill of writing), all that I was good at! I had started as a 21-year-old, working in a refuge for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. This had progressed, with a return to university to study social work and a subsequent career working in the field. I was the first IDVA in my local authority, working with high-risk victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence, followed by 15 years working for a national charity, including ten years in senior management. I had a large portfolio of services across the North East of England, supporting multiply disadvantaged adults and young people; homeless people, people fleeing abuse, exploitation and modern slavery, veterans and care leavers.

Then I fell in love with writing, and my world changed. Although my career (along with my personal experience) undoubtedly nourished my writing, my day job allowed little head space for the commitment that writing as a part-time job involved. I originally started writing as a form of stress relief – something for me, but as a job, it would add more stress to my life if I were to remain in my career. I had to make a choice, knowing the chance to get my book and future publications out into the world was in the palm of my hands. I couldn’t let it pass me by!

Me with my two fiction novels – published with Cahill Davis Publishing

Writing wouldn’t provide a sustainable income in those early days (and is still a long way off), but writers don’t really go into writing to make money (as it’s not likely to happen). We write because we love it and want to share our story in the hope it will resonate with people and will bring comfort, laughter and understanding to them. Alongside my writing, I needed an income. I decided to collaborate my old love of working with people and my new love of writing, and so ‘Write On The Tyne’ was born.

Write On The Tyne is a community interest company (CIC). This means it’s not-for-profit and allows me to apply for grants, allowing for free services to people. The aim of the business is to make writing and creative expression inclusive and, in particular, to marginalised, multiply disadvantaged groups of people – those I’d spent 20 years advocating for.

Everyone has a story and I want to help people tell theirs. Setting up a business and leaving the security of a well-paid job was scary. I was travelling into the unknown and was doing it alone, going from an organisation that employed over 600 people to being a lone unicorn, out in the world solo.

I thought to myself many times that it could all go wrong and a complete catastrophe could be just around the corner. But if I didn’t try, I would never know. Instead, I thought about plans B, C, D and E and decided to be kind to myself and gift myself some self-belief, after years of telling people to have faith in themselves and their abilities.

A year down the line and less than a full year since I left my 20-year career, Write On The Tyne is thriving. Just before Write On The Tyne had its first birthday, I was lucky enough to win a business award. Through SuperNetwork North East, I won the Inclusion Innovation award of the year. Sponsored by British Business Bank, this was the first year in SuperNetwork’s ten-year history that the Inclusion category was added – making Write On The Tyne the first-ever winner. It’s an absolute honour that the work and aims of my business have been recognised in the infancy of my community interest company.

Has it been easy? Absolutely not. Many weeks I’ve worked 70 hours, I’ve taken on too much at times and I’ve had to push myself out of my comfort zone on countless occasions. But I’m proud of myself and I’m not frightened to say that. We shy away from self-celebration while celebrating others. I’ve had help from my partner, who is my biggest champion and the calming, methodical influence I often need, and I’m grateful every day for having my business and for all the people and charities I’ve worked with who have believed in me.

Write On The Tyne offers a range of creative writing courses and one-to-one writing mentoring. Alongside this, I offer a ghost-writing service, a course writing service and bid writing for charities. I also offer community commissions and in the last year have published an anthology of stories from local veterans with CIC, Operation Veteran. In September, I’m publishing a book of women’s stories through charity Pottery Bank Community Centre and also editing a collection of poetry and prose from people in substance recovery via the charity Recovery Connections.

I’ve been lucky enough to receive funding from my local council, from EveryTurn mental health support, and from The National Lottery Community Fund. All this has allowed me to work with hundreds of people to help them explore creative writing, meet new people, learn and develop new skills, and build confidence. It’s also allowed me to capture the stories of so many people; their forever legacy. Stories that raise awareness, empower, and bring hope to so many.

With planned future anthologies with charities, teaching planned and exploration of becoming a publishing house for northern voices, I feel positive and thankful for the leap I made. I’m also living proof of someone who never wanted to be a writer until four years ago and someone who never ran their own business, or had even thought about it, that it can be done. And you should always believe it can! Plus, there’s so much help out there for start-up businesses, as well as for writers.

Someone once said to me: “The only failing is never trying.” I absolutely agree.

Me with my SuperNetwork North East business award – Inclusion Innovation Winner, 2023.

For more information about Write On The Tyne please visit:

For more information about Helen Aitchison as a writer, please visit:


Issue 17 of Write On! is out now and you can read it online here. Find it in libraries and other outlets. You can find previous editions of our magazines here.

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We write because we love it and want to share our story in the hope it will resonate with people and will bring comfort, laughter and understanding to them.