The official bio

 

Dr Sharon Blackie is an award-winning writer of acclaimed fiction and nonfiction, a psychologist who has specialised both in neuroscience and narrative, and a mythologist with a specialisation in Celtic Studies. Her unique approach to working with myth, fairy tales and folklore highlights the insights these traditions can offer us into authentic and meaningful ways of being which are founded on a deep sense of belonging to place, a rootedness in the land we inhabit. In early 2017 she founded The Hedge School: both an online space and a physical location in Connemara, for teachings in myth, wild mind and enchantment.

Sharon is the author of The Long Delirious Burning Blue, a novel which the Independent on Sunday called ‘hugely potent. A tribute to the art of storytelling that is itself an affecting and inspiring story’, and which The Scotsman called ‘powerful (reminiscent of The English Patient), filmic, and achieving the kind of symmetry that novels often aspire to, but rarely reach.’

Her most recent nonfiction book is If Women Rose Rooted, which offers up a new Heroine’s Journey for this challenging age of social and ecological crisis, described by bestselling novelist Manda Scott as ‘mind-blowing in the most profound and exhilarating sense … an anthem for all we could be. It’s an essential book for this, the most critical of recent times.’ If Women Rose Rooted was a 2016 Nautilus Book Award winner. She is currently working on a new book, The Enchanted Life, planned for publication in in spring 2018.

Sharon’s articles have been published in a wide range of popular and academic magazines and journals. She is an experienced lecturer and workshop leader, and has performed at a number of book and other cultural events and festivals. From 2013 to 2017 she was the founder and editor of EarthLines Magazine, described by Jay Griffiths as ‘a deeply intelligent publication’, by George Monbiot as ‘a rare combination and much needed’, and by Robert Macfarlane as ‘a real point of convergence for many thought-tributaries and philosophical paths’.

After several years as a crofter in the north-west of Scotland and the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Sharon returned to Ireland in 2014 and has recently traded an old stone riverside cottage in Donegal for a house among the hills, lakes and seaweed-strewn tidal inlets of Connemara. Her experiences on the westernmost edges of the Celtic fringe give her a unique perspective on the psychology of belonging, and our relationship with place.

Academic qualifications

BA (1st Class Hons) Psychology, University of Liverpool, 1982
PhD in behavioural neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, University of London, 1985. (Speciialisation: behavioural and brain mechanisms underlying anxiety and panic.)
Diploma Clinical Hypnotherapy, London College of Clinical Hypnosis, 2003
MA (Distinction) Creative Writing, Manchester Metropolitan University, 2007. (Specialisation: the novel; developing a sense of place in fiction; the use of myth and fairy tale to express personal transformation.)
MA Celtic Studies, University of Wales Trinity St David (in progress). (Celtic Studies is the study of the language, literature, history and culture of the Celtic peoples, with, in the case of my postgraduate studies, a focus on mythology and folklore. My specialisations: the Otherworld in early Irish and Welsh literature; women in the Medieval period; the origins of the Grail and Arthurian legends.)

Sharon is represented by Kirsty McLachlan, at David Godwin Associates.

For more information about working with Sharon, please visit her exciting new initiative: The Hedge School.

 

The more personal touch

 

I was born in the north-east of England, a Celt through and through: my family and ancestry is both Scottish and Irish, and I was raised from an early age on an imaginatively rich diet of Irish myth, poetry, music and history. So it was that my fascination with Celtic mythology started young; at the age of ten I was making copious lists comparing the names of the Knights of the Round Table in Sir Thomas Mallory’s work to their equivalents in The Mabinogion and the wider Welsh, French and German Arthurian traditions. I didn’t ever solve the problem, but it’s an obsession that never left me, and although I’ve explored and researched mythological systems from all around the world over the years, it’s my ancestral Northern European traditions that have always drawn me more.

My first degree was in psychology, and I then spent several years as an academic neuroscientist/ psychologist specialising in the field of anxiety and panic, and working at the Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris and the Institute of Neurology at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London. After a few twists and turns, including some unwise years advising a tobacco company on smoking and health and safer cigarettes, some unforgettable years in Connemara, a brief dislocation to America, and the acquisition of a master’s degree in Creative Writing, I moved to a croft in the north-west Highlands of Scotland. There I returned to my roots, in practice as a therapist specialising in narrative psychology, myth- and storytelling, as well as in other creative imagination techniques. These days, I’m deepening my work with myth still further by completing a Master’s degree in Celtic Studies at the University of Wales Trinity St David. I’m immersed in the latest findings and translations of that old Grail mythology, as well as all the other treasures in our ancient (mostly Irish and Welsh) literature, and loving every minute of it.

My husband David Knowles and I founded literary publisher Two Ravens Press (now under new ownership) in 2006, and in 2012 launched EarthLines Magazine, a full-colour print publication for writing about nature, place and the environment.

My first novel The Long Delirious Burning Blue was described by The Independent on Sunday as ‘Hugely potent. A tribute to the art of storytelling that is itself an affecting and inspiring story’ and by The Scotsman as ‘… powerful (reminiscent of The English Patient), filmic, and achieving the kind of symmetry that novels often aspire to, but rarely reach.’ My latest book is If Women Rose Rooted, a narrative nonfiction book about women, Celtic myth, place and belonging, and I’m at work on a new one about enchantment. I regularly write nonfiction essays and contributions to magazines and blogs. My other long-term passion is for the work that I do with myth and storytelling to help people along their individual paths of transformation. (Please visit this page for more information.)

All of my work springs from an intense connection to the land, which is rooted as much in the mything and storying of place as it is in a detailed knowledge of the physical environment. These are acts of creative place-making. For over a decade I was a crofter, both in the far north-west Highlands of Scotland and in the Outer Hebrides, sandwiched between mountains and sea in one of the wildest and most remote places in the country. (On a clear day, we could see St Kilda from our kitchen window.) We produced a large proportion of our own food, keeping sheep, cows, pigs and a miscellany of poultry; a large thriving polytunnel, and a herb garden which allowed me to indulge in my love of ‘weedwifery‘: the amateur practice of herbal medicine in the Celtic traditions. That long, hard work, which required us to be outside in all weathers, as well as a continuing daily need for long walks to explore rocky shoreline, bog and mountain, has given me a deep and nourishing sense of connectedness to place that I feel drawn to share with others.

Bodhrán webIn 2014 we completed a further migration westwards, returning to Ireland where I lived in the 1990s. We now live in Connemara, where we operate The Hedge School: a centre for deep-rooted and transformational teachings in myth, wild mind, and enchantment.

These days, though there are many square miles of mountain, bog and coastal wilderness on our doorstep, we have just a small patch of land, and so I am focused more narrowly on the keeping of bees and hens, and the growing of vegetables and herbs. We share our traditional stone cottage with three border collie dogs, and a tiny black cat called Morrigan. I also love to play the bodhrán …

 

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