Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

QUB Graduations December 2009: Life does begin at 40 in Sheena’s new chapter

International statesman His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, who was installed as the ninth Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast, with his wife Babli, at Queen's University Belfast
His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma,Secretary-General of the Commonwealth,who was installed as Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast at a ceremony last night with University's President and Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson .
Toni McCaul (left) and Florence Herbert, who received degrees in midwifery at the Queen’s University winter graduations yesterday

Some say life begins at 40 and for Co Down woman Sheena Wilkinson — who is about to have her first novel published — the statement certainly has more than a grain of truth.

She graduates today with a Masters with Distinction in Creative Writing from Queen’s and her book entitled Taking Flight, which she describes as “a coming of age novel set In Belfast”, will soon be on the shelves.

Sheena had always loved writing and won the Brian Moore short story award competition in 2006. As an English teacher in Belfast’s Methodist College she was able to enjoy literature on a daily basis, but when several people mentioned the MA in Creative Writing at Queen’s, she knew that it could be the perfect opportunity to further develop her passion for writing.

The month after she turned 40 she took a one-year career break from her teaching post to start the full-time course, which is run through the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry in the School of English.

Sheena, who lives in Castlewellan, said: “I had heard about the course’s excellent reputation and didn’t want to look back and regret not applying and I’m so glad I did.

“Being taught by award-winning writers like Glenn Patterson, Sinead Morrissey, Ian Sansom and Carlo Gebler was amazing and the feeling of being nurtured in a writing community was a great help to me.

“A top Dublin literary agent came to speak to my class and in August she took me on and has since received an offer for my first novel.

“The teaching and support of the staff at the Seamus Heaney Centre played a huge part in my success.”

During the Queen’s course Sheena continued her success in short story writing, winning first prize in the Writers’ Bureau Short Story Award and coming runner-up in the Sean O’Faolain Competition.

Sheena’s proud mother Poppy and stepfather John watched her graduate.

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