Sheena Wilkinson was born in Belfast in 1968, and teaches English at Methodist College, Belfast. She studied at University College, Durham, and is an award-winning short story writer, who won the Brian Moore award in 2006 with her first short story, Amputees. For her doctorate, she looked at the common themes of school novels for women, and girls’ school stories, and the results were published by the Bettany Press in 2007, as Friends in the Fourth. She said ‘I used to feel guilty about my enduring love of children's literature, until I hit on the cunning idea of studying the relationship between children's and adults' fiction which made it respectable.’
Her ambition when she was twelve was to write lots of books and have a pony; she did achieve the pony, Songbird, and is on her way with the books. She saw from her own experience in the horse world that boys did like horses: they were not the sole preserve of girls. The horse world now is much more feminised than it was: the commodification and general pinkness surrounding horses and ponies means many boys would run miles before admitting a keenness for horses. The Pony Club’s membership is over 30,000, of whom something over 300 are boys.
Sheena Wilkinson’s hero, Declan, is an out of control teenager from Belfast. His mother is an alcoholic, and his school career is a disaster. He has to shift for himself, and he constantly gets it wrong. Even when things start going right, Declan is still perfectly capable of propelling life from triumph to disaster. The Declan stories, Taking Flight and Grounded, pull no punches. They deal with major themes: disaffected boys; violence and teenage pregnancy. They are extraordinarily good, and Taking Flight has won several prizes. It was one of the Irish Times’s books of the year 2011.
Finding the books
All in print.
Links and sources
Autobiographical informationon Sheena Wilkinson at the Bettany Press
An interview with Sheena Wilkinson, where you can also hear her reading an extract from Taking Flight
Read Sheena Wilkinson’s short story, Holding On
More on Sheena Wilkinson’s short stories