Gail Aldwin, who is about to see her first novel published, attributes much of her creative stamina to being a runner. Joanna Davis finds out more.

A PUBLIC sector worker who was made redundant is enjoying a new lease of life as a full-time writer - and part-time runner.

Gail Aldwin of Dorchester was let go from Dorset County Council in 2014.

Since then she has gone on to see her first poetry pamphlet and debut novel The String Games published in quick succession - and has completed her second half marathon.

Gail says that endurance running and creative writing are a great combination, with each enhancing the other.

She added: "The stamina needed to compete in a half marathon is similar to the creative stamina required to deliver two writing projects in rapid succession. Training for an endurance event such as a half marathon requires regular runs and cross training. Undertaking different types of activity during half marathon training such as swimming or dancing develops overall strength and conditioning."

Gail says she applies the same principle to her creative writing practice.

She added: "By changing creative writing activities, particularly in the pressurised pre-publication phase, I'm able to build strength and confidence across the creative writing disciplines."

After Gail was made redundant from the county council she joined the University of South Wales, where she completed her novel The String Games and academic studies leading to the award of a PhD.

She started running in 2016 and completed her first half marathon in Salisbury the following year. She regularly joins weekly parkrun sessions in Weymouth and supports local open-mic evenings where she shares her poetry and short fiction.

"Running and creative writing are an excellent combination," says Gail. "One gives freedom to the mind and the other provides freedom for the body."

Ideas often come to her when she's on a run, Gail says.

"Sometimes I'm on a run and I'll have an idea and think 'when I come back I'm going to write that down'. Sometimes it's good for clearing your head and writing down your problems."

Nomadic Gail settled in Dorset in 2006 with her husband David after previously living in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Spain.

She finds Dorset to be an inspirational area for creativity and is chairman of the Dorset Writers' Network. Gail works with the steering group to inspire writers and connect creative communities. She supports undergraduates on the creative writing BA (Hons) at Art University Bournemouth as a visiting tutor. She is also part of a collaborative writing group called 3-She, which will be taking a show to Shaftesbury Fringe in July.

Gail said: "I was travelling a lot as a young woman, I was always looking for something new. Then I came to Dorset and I love the creativity of the county.

"I've never been happier. The creative work is really important. I think creativity can come in many forms like gardening, cooking and winemaking.

"As long as you have some form of creativity it can enhance your life."

Success hasn't come easily to Gail, she said when she started writing she penned 'several unpublishable novels'. But she went on to see her short fiction collection Paisley Shirt longlisted in the best short story collection in the best short story category of the Saboteur Awards 2018.

The String Games, Gail's debut novel, will be released on Tuesday, May 28 by Victorina Press. She is hosting a book launch at Waterstones in Dorchester on Thursday, May 30 from 6.30pm to 8pm. Readers will have the chance to meet Gail and listen to excerpts read by her and enjoy some refreshments.

The novel is about suspected paedophilia from a child's point of view. When four-year-old Josh is abducted and murdered during a family holiday in France, Nim, aged ten, becomes an only child. To cope with tragedy, Nim reinvents herself but continues to carry a burden of unresolved grief. As an adult, she returns to France determined to find out more about the circumstances of Josh's death. How will she deal with this new information and what are the implications for her future?

Author Jacquelyn Mitchard, who wrote bestseller The Deep End of the Ocean, which was made into a Hollywood film, has endorsed The String Games.

Gail said: "I'm using the perspective of writing as a child in quite a haunting way.

"I had a lot of fun writing from a child's perspective because the character is quite a joker."

Gail's poetry pamphlet 'adversaries/comrades' is based upon the theme of siblings. Her poems have been described by author Ian Stephen as 'felt but honest'.

Gail would encourage anyone with an interest in writing to take up running to spark their creativity.

She said: "I started off doing long walks. I started running quite slowly - there's no need to run fast. You can go as slow as you like. In the beginning it was about covering the distance and not about speed and from there I was determined to complete my first half marathon. My family came to support me and it was such a special day."

*The String Games by Gail Aldwin will be released by Victorina Press on May 28. See for more information.