In our latest edition of 10Q, we had the pleasure of catching up with former NCC student, Anna Kirkup. Anna’s academic journey began right here, where she pursued English Language, Media Studies, and Psychology at NCC. Afterwards, she went on to complete a degree in English Language at Edge Hill University. Today, we celebrate Anna’s remarkable achievements as a writer, with her debut book, “Through the Hazel Tree,” receiving immense acclaim. Excitingly, Anna also has another book in the works, further solidifying her success in the literary world.
Join us as we delve into Anna’s inspiring story, from her upbringing in Burnley and her time as an English Language student at NCC to her current triumphs as a celebrated writer. Discover the details of Anna’s fascinating journey and gain insight into the experiences that have shaped her into the accomplished author she is today.
- What was growing up in Lancashire like for you and why did you choose to attend Nelson and Colne College?
I was born in Burnley and have lived in the area my whole life. There is definitely a sense of community that comes hand in hand with being from ‘up North’ which gives an undeniable charm to Lancashire.
Nelson and Colne College had always been my first choice for after high school. Originally because it was close to home, but after looking round a few others, I just fell in love with NCC and knew it was the place I was supposed to be. My parents had other plans, but I’m very determined, so I made sure I got my way!
I was tired of the strict regimen and control of high school and saw that NCC was somewhere I could explore my creativity and develop some independence.
- Describe your experience overall at Nelson and Colne College?
I loved my time at college, I can’t believe how fast it went! I got to take part in lessons that aligned with my own interests and passions and had more free time to work on hobbies. I did English Language, Media Studies and Psychology, plus an EPQ, and was part of the Drama group which rehearsed every week. College was a chance for me to get to know myself outside of academia, but also work hard to ensure I got the grades I needed to go to university.
- What has stuck with you the most from college?
My friends. I made friends for life at NCC. I ended up at university with some of them, and I will be a bridesmaid at the wedding of another. I also met my partner at college, and in the four years since we have travelled the world and made the most incredible memories.
- How did college life prepare you for successes further down the line?
College taught me the importance of independence and time management. Keeping on top of my own schedule and managing my work and a social life was difficult at times, however it stood me in good stead for university and holding down a job, as well as still pursuing my passions.
- Tell me a little about life after college? University, work etc.
I ended up at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk after college, doing a degree in English Language with Creative Writing and a module elective in Spanish. I was also a cheerleader during my time at university, and a reader for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize.
I adored university, and whilst I was proud to graduate last year, I miss the exciting social life and my lecturers who were all so supportive and had become more like friends by my third year. I now work at Scruples in Barrowford which is a men’s designer clothing store, within a small, close-knit team. Any spare time is spent promoting my novel, writing book number two, planning book launch parties… and plenty of cocktail nights with friends!
- When did the idea to write a novel first come to mind?
I was always the child in school who was ‘away with the fairies’, and being an only child, I had a vivid imagination. I grew to love reading at a very young age and devoured every book I could get my hands on, from Jacqueline Wilson to Cathy Cassidy. I started writing little stories when I was about six or seven, the first being ‘The True Guide to Being a Fairy’ in which I taught other little children the ins and outs of fantastical etiquette.
Writing a novel had always been in the back of my mind, hoping that one day I would achieve it. I thought maybe when I’m older and retired, with a ton of life experience and time on my hands, and probably a dog to keep me company. I never even dreamed that I could write an entire book before the age of 21 and get it published. Honestly, I’m still waiting for it to set in. Sometimes it feels as though I’m sat on the outside watching someone else take the reins of my life, and every now and then I have to flick through the pages of my book and remind myself that they’re my words. Then I try not to freak out that other people are also reading them and seeing the ins and outs of my busy brain.
- As a fan of literature what are some of your favourite works and what sort of novels do you like to read?
I truly love so many different genres of books. I have a particular fondness for anything fantasy or dystopian, but I also love crime and mystery. ‘One Of Us Is Lying’ and the subsequent series by Karen M. McManus is one of my favourites in terms of a mystery drama, and the ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ series by Sarah J. Maas is an incredible example of high fantasy work. The ‘Wings’ series by Aprilynne Pike also holds a special place in my heart, and I often cite it as one of my inspirations.
- Where did the inspiration for ‘Through the Hazel Tree’ come from?
In college, I had a teacher called Donna who, to this day, is one of the biggest inspirations for me continuing my writing. I had wanted to do Creative Writing as an A Level but was told it wasn’t possible. So Donna, my English Language teacher, included a piece of creative writing as coursework that counted towards our final grade. In her classroom, she had a poster that said; ‘write the book you want to read’ and ever since then, I have done exactly that.
Being born and raised in Pendle, I had always had a fascination with witches, and the idea for my main character Elara Anderson came from wanting to modernise the stories I had heard since I was a child. I wanted to demolish and reclaim the stereotype of witches being cruel old women, hexing and cursing everyone in their path, and instead write about a powerful young witch, creative and kind, who isn’t afraid to stand up for her friends and is proud of her heritage.
- What do you love about books and reading?
For me, reading is an escape from everyday life. You get to live in someone else’s shoes throughout the duration of the novel, and experience new worlds, emotions and relationships all without having to leave your room. I adore the unlimited potential of reading, getting to fall in love a thousand times, live in fifty different countries, or even exist as a pirate or detective, the options are infinite. It is also a great way to bond with other people. My friends and I love exchanging books that we have enjoyed and discussing our crazy obscure theories surrounding the storylines afterwards.
- What would your advice be to students and prospective students who are inspired by your story and want to produce literature of their own?
Don’t wait until you’re older to get stuck in. I assumed I would never have the time as a young adult to write, and if I did that no one would ever take me seriously in the publishing industry. When in fact, you as a young person have a unique outlook on life, and the ability to write towards and relate to your own age group, which is a difficult skill to tap into later on in life.
Of course, being young myself, I still doubt my work and assume others won’t take an interest because of my age. It is also hard to not compare yourself to other authors, though I have a feeling I could ask another writer at any stage in their life whether they feel the same and could probably guess their answer. However, starting so young means I have plenty of time to learn and grow. This novel is only the start, and you will never get the reward if you don’t take the risk!
We would like to express our gratitude to Anna for investing her valuable time and immense effort in this interview. If you’re interested in reading Anna’s book, you can purchase it on Amazon, demonstrating your support for a local NCC alumni. If Anna’s story has inspired you and you’re curious about how NCC can help you achieve your own aspirations, we encourage you to explore our website to discover a course that suits your needs. Alternatively, if you prefer a more personal approach, you can attend one of our Open Evenings or reach out to our friendly admissions team at 01282 440272.