Katrina Kirkwood Publishes TLC-mentored WWI Biography - The Literary Consultancy

Katrina Kirkwood Publishes TLC-mentored WWI Biography

August 01, 2016 | Other News

We’re delighted for Katrina Kirkwood, who has published her TLC-assessed book The Mystery of Isabella and the String of Beads: A Woman Doctor in WWI. The book tells the story of Isabella Stenhouse, a female doctor in World War One, and Katrina’s grandmother. The publication coincides with the most important centenary of Isabella’s career and we are very pleased to see it out in the world to commemorate her extraordinary life and achievements.

Katrina explains why she chose to bring Isabella’s story to life, and how she was supported along the way by our Chapter and Verse mentoring scheme by her mentor Frankie Bailey:

“Isabella’s story needed telling. Tentatively, I tried a chapter or two. Then I learned that publishers commission non-fiction on proposals rather than full manuscripts, so I sent off my draft. The rejections were encouraging. Proudly, I pasted some to the wall – before I remembered that warm fuzzies were not going to get Isabella’s story the attention I felt it deserved. 

This editor had seen right through me and was pointing out exactly the direction I should go. She seemed to know me better than people I had worked alongside for years.

 

The email from the last agent arrived when I was on the top deck of a London bus after a hard day’s research in the British Library – a stomach-clenching, blood-draining moment. I knew the man’s brutally blunt words were true but, Oh how I wished they weren’t. I needed help. That night I went online, asked TLC to critique the manuscript and began waiting. Was it six long weeks? Or did the response come earlier? I only know that I cried when I read it. This editor had seen right through me and was pointing out exactly the direction I should go. She seemed to know me better than people I had worked alongside for years.  

For six intensive months Frankie put up with me adjusting the goal-posts and completing the first, second, fifth, eighth sections. Always wise, always encouraging, she ‘got’ me, she understood exactly what I was trying to do. Even better, she coaxed me into discovering what my work could become.

 

TLC suggested mentoring. Expensive, I thought. ‘Better than an MA,’ I read on the website. I registered. For six intensive months Frankie put up with me adjusting the goal-posts and completing the first, second, fifth, eighth sections. Always wise, always encouraging, she ‘got’ me, she understood exactly what I was trying to do. Even better, she coaxed me into discovering what my work could become.

Resubmission time arrived, but replies were slow and I couldn’t afford to wait. Nobody would be interested in a WW1 heroine like Isabella come 2019. Confident that the mentoring had enabled me to construct a much better book than I had ever imagined, I joined TLC’s companion in the Free Word Centre, ALLi, learned how to self-publish Isabella’s extraordinary story and chose 25th July 2016, the most significant centenary of Isabella’s war, as the publication date.”

Synopsis:

It was the inscription that made the antique scalpels so tantalising: ‘Isabella Stenhouse’. A woman doctor? A woman doctor who was rumoured to have served in the First World War? Could Isabella have treated wounded men with these very implements? And had a grateful German prisoner of war really given her the strange string of beads that tangled round her stethoscope?

Coaxing clues from archives across Europe, Katrina Kirkwood traces Isabella’s route from medical school to the Western Front, Malta and Egypt, discovering as she travels that Dr Stenhouse was not only one of the first women doctors who worked with the British Army – she was also a woman carrying a tragic secret, torn between ambition and loyalty to her family.

Isabella’s story was selected for the BBC Antiques Roadshow’s WW1 centenary edition, and featured by national, international and local media.


Buy the book on Amazon here


Interested in hearing more? You can connect with Katrina directly:

Website: Katrina Kirkwood, digital and storytelling artist

Blog: Isabella and the string of beads

Twitter: @kkstories