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Guest Post: Hannah Foley on life as a writer and a nurse

Posted on 11/03/2021 in Authors Books Guest posts

We are immensely proud to be working with Hannah Foley, who is not only an author and illustrator, but is also a district nurse. Her Kelpies Prize-winning debut novel The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle is finally published this month, after a year’s delay due to Covid-19. Below, Hannah talks about her life as a writer and a nurse during the pandemic, and explains how stories have been another form of life support for so many people.


At the beginning of 2020 I was looking forward to the publication of my Kelpies Prize-winning debut children’s novel, The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle. As the early months of the year passed, it quickly became clear that I’d be waiting longer than anticipated. The world was being turned upside down by a vicious virus called Covid-19. The UK went into the first lockdown and bookshops, libraries and schools everywhere closed their doors. The decision was taken to delay publication and my day job went into overdrive…

And the winner is... Hannah Foley!

Hannah Foley receiving her giant cheque from Lari Don at the Kelpies Prize 2018 award ceremony

When I’m not writing children’s novels I work as a district nurse. This involves providing healthcare for housebound patients and care home residents in the community, ranging from dressing wounds, management of long-term conditions, to care of the dying. Every one of my patients fell into the highest risk category for Covid-19. Armed with layers of PPE, even the smallest of tasks now became a major operation. And in the warmest year on record, doing my job gowned up almost head-to-toe in plastic, I sweated more than I’d ever done in my life! But it has been odd too, because, although I have been incredibly proud to be able to use my healthcare skills during the pandemic, my storytelling skills suddenly didn’t seem to matter all that much.

I think a lot of people working in the creative sectors can relate to that feeling. While the nation clapped for carers, the creative sectors were being decimated, and artists were being asked to re-train in the areas of work deemed ‘essential’. For a while it was easy to feel that the only parts of my identity that counted were being a nurse and being a homeschooling mum.

But one of the unexpected things about that first lockdown was that the children’s book market remained buoyant. Just as our ancestors have done for thousands of years, in the darkest of times, we turned to stories to help us through. And while I wasn’t (yet!) celebrating the publication of my first book, stories were keeping my patients and me going too.

It might surprise you to learn that stories are at the core of nursing. It is often through listening to how people got to where they are and what they imagine the future holds that enable nurses to help people.

But, of course, it’s no use sitting down with someone, pen and paper in hand expecting it to all pour out. The most complex and profound stories unfold over time, visit after visit, as a nurse bathes a person’s weeping leg sores, or supports them in the last days of their life.

During the pandemic, as people’s social support dwindle due to the restrictions on mixing households, district nursing teams are often the only other souls a person sees for days. It’s not the same as cranking up a ventilator in an intensive care unit, but taking the time to listen to my patients’ stories – and sometimes sharing my own – has been another form of life support for so many.

So, although my focus changed last year, from launching my debut novel to nursing in my community, stories are still at the heart of what I’m doing.

I hope you enjoy discovering the magical world of Avery Buckle; I certainly could do with borrowing her enchanted tandem bicycle to help me with my rounds!

The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle

This mysterious front door has been appearing and disappearing in unexpected locations across the country. Have you spotted one near you?

Avery Buckle has always been different: part girl, part cat, and entirely confused about where she really belongs. But it turns out her tail isn’t her biggest secret…

Plunged into an extraordinary world of witches, enchanted libraries and fantastical creatures, Avery discovers only she can stop a dark force from being unleashed.

But with a powerful enemy on her tail, can Avery save the magical world and find out who she really is?

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