Helen Barrett Bright Ideas: Martha’s stories

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Martha, 34, tells us about her dream to become a professional writer

I'm Martha Lane and I'm 34 years old. I grew up right in the middle of the country, but I moved to the North East for university and I never left. I now see the sea every day and that makes me extremely happy. After a lifetime of mystery symptoms, I was eventually referred to a chest clinic and diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) aged 21.Martha and her partner

I have always been well with my CF, but I certainly felt its impact when we wanted to start a family. My partner is a carrier, so some difficult discussions were had. The strain of being pregnant was a lot too, and I ended up in the CF unit for a week and had an emergency C-section a few weeks earlier than planned! The pandemic definitely changed the relationship I've got with my condition. For the first time people saw me as 'vulnerable' and different. I haven't enjoyed that at all. 

I thought I’d missed my chance – but I realised I don’t need to publish novels to be a writer 

I always wanted to write, and always had jobs that were related to writing in some way. I completed an MA in Creative Writing in 2013 and immediately had a YA novel longlisted/shortlisted all over the place but it never got picked up by an agent or publisher. So, I packed away my pencils and thought I'd missed my chance. I didn't really see how I could balance kids, work, my health and writing.  

When I was made redundant during the pandemic, after an initial panic I suddenly had time to fit in all that writing I wanted to do. I have quickly realised that I don't need to publish novels to be a writer. I've had around 60 stories published online and in print now. I've won writing competitions and even judged them.  

I now have time to follow my dream Martha

The HBBI money is going to help me to professionalise myself. Building a website, signing up to writing organisations, attending events where I get to network and hobnob (mmmm, hobnobs). Some of the money will also be used to enter those high-profile competitions which can be expensive to enter - but you have to be in it to win it, as they say. The rest will be used to market my novella (a tale about grief and sharks, due out in 2023).  

I need to thank my sister for sending me the link to the HBBI, I follow all the Trust's social media and somehow I'd missed it. So thank you Billie! The HBBI has bought me more time to follow my dream. Winning was such a surprise. I was reading about last year's winners who all had these incredible ideas. I felt like such an imposter sending my little stories about bikes and dolphins. I was obviously thrilled that the judges saw something worth supporting in my application. Like all writers, the dream of writing a bestselling novel is never far from my thoughts, but realistically my hope is that I can earn a living from writing. This boost from HBBI and the Trust at this early juncture will be so helpful. 

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition which causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system. It affects more than 10,800 people in the UK. One in 25 of us carries the faulty gene that causes it, usually without knowing. 

The Helen Barrett Bright Ideas Awards are available for anyone with CF over the age of 18 to help support your dream career or hobby. Whatever you need to make your lightbulb moment a reality, a Helen Barrett Bright Ideas Award can help you on your way.

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