Jill Dawson is the award-winning author of ten novels. Her most recent, The Language of Birds, about the nanny murdered in the Lucan case of 1974, was published in 2019, and described by the Daily Mail as ‘timely, devastating and beautifully realised’. Other books include Fred & Edie (shortlisted for the Whitbread and Orange prizes) Watch Me Disappear (long-listed for the Orange and optioned by ITV) The Great Lover, about the poet Rupert Brooke: a best-seller and Richard and Judy Summer Read, Lucky Bunny, winner of a Fiction Uncovered award and Telegraph book of the year, The Tell-Tale Heart, nominated for the Folio prize and The Crime Writer (about Patricia Highsmith), winner of the East Anglian Fiction Award and East Anglian Book of the Year. She has also won an Eric Gregory award for poetry and has held many fellowships, including the British Council Fellowship at Amherst, USA and Royal Literary Fund Fellowship and Creative Writing Fellowship at UEA, where she taught on the MA for a number of years. In addition she is the editor of six collections of poetry and short-stories, and has an exceptional track record in discovering, nurturing and supporting new writers.
In the first anthology she edited, at the age of 28, School Tales, she chose a story by the new and unpublished writer Malorie Blackman (who went on to become the Children’s Laureate) as well as a story by a young Joanna Briscoe. In The Virago Book of Wicked Verse (1992) she was the first to publish poet Patience Agbabi. Writers who are now published and acknowledge her help on that journey include Jane Rusbridge, Susan Fletcher, Emma Claire Sweeney, Alicia Drake, Miranda Doyle, Deborah Meyler, Alex Hourston, Rosalind Stopps, Ruby Speechly, Rosie Nixon and many more.
‘I wanted to write and thank you for all your support. I can’t tell you how much I have learned from you – every single session gave me a new insight about my work, the process of writing and the industry itself. And it made it seem doable, less frightening and lonely!’ – Alex Hourston, author of In My House, Faber.
‘What did Gold Dust do for me? Everything. Before I met Jill Dawson I had totally lost confidence in my writing ability. Jill not only got me back on track – her warmth, encouragement and guidance during our sessions helped me to hone and shape my novel. Her intuitive approach showed me how to bring my characters alive – and to recognise when a paragraph, or even a sentence, detracted from what I was trying to convey. From our first session, I knew I could trust Jill to be completely honest about my work, and to be critical in the most constructive way. Her belief in my book never wavered – despite my snail-like progress!
‘I now have a New York agent and my book is two thirds completed. Gold Dust is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. A million thanks to dear Jill. Without her, this novel would never be flying. ‘ – Rita Dallas
‘As a first-time writer, I have found Jill Dawson’s input over the course of a year invaluable. Jill very quickly helped me to get to grips with a number of stylistic issues in my writing and I now feel much more confident. I have come away with a sense of direction both for my current project and for all my future writing. Thank you very much!’ – Fiona Dunford
‘I am indebted to my Mentor, Jill Dawson. Our sessions have provided me with a real sense of purpose, and the feedback I have received at each one has been invaluable: constructive, focused and tactful. My Mentor has truly inspired me, and given me the confidence to pursue writing as a career.’ – Stephanie Cross, London
‘I just wanted to thank you again for all your help over the past year. I certainly would not have produced such a focused and consistent piece of work without you. I think at the outset I said that I felt it would be good to have someone to challenge me, someone whose work I respected but who wrote differently from myself. I think it worked, and I have really appreciated your professionalism as a mentor and your interest in me as a developing writer.’ – Jon Chapman
‘Jill’s intuition on every level is astounding. Her delicately balanced comments have given me the confidence I’d always hoped for. More than anything, she has made me believe that there is an audience out there ready and waiting to enjoy my writing.’ – Ruby Speechley
‘Having just completed my year with a mentor, I can honestly say that there is no way I would have been able to produce a 60,000 word novel in twelve months without her. The experience was exactly what I needed and had hoped for. Whilst regretting that this amazing creative period has come to an end, I do now feel energised and ready to engage with the literary world. If you are serious about writing, and about becoming ‘a writer’, then you owe it to yourself to sign up.’ – Helen Bettinson
‘I heard Jill Dawson speak at a writers’ event, and knew instantly that here was the woman who could coax my rambling scribblings into something approaching a book. Thankfully she took on the challenge, and together we immersed ourselves in the world of fraud in 1840s. The structure that Jill gave to my writing – with deadline and tasks – was invaluable in keeping me on track, while her insightful questions and laser-like pinpointing of holes in the plot made my book a thousand times better than I could have managed alone. But perhaps the most valuable thing she gave me was confidence: she referred to me as a writer, so I started to believe that I was a writer, and this gave me permission to ignore the ironing and get on with “my job”. Whether or not the resulting book is ever published (and we have hopes), I shall consider my Gold Dust experience an investment in myself that has been worth every single penny.’ – Susan Grossey
‘With the generous advice of my perceptive guide, Jill Dawson, I have completed my novel, ‘Casting Shadows’. Jill has an outstanding level of intuition and instinct, not only for the technical aspects of the writing, but also the creative process with all its uncertainties and detours. This is the best possible way to invest in your talent.’ – Patricia
‘I will always be grateful to Jill Dawson for taking me on as a mentee. Our sessions provided a structure and pace to my writing at a time where I had got quite stuck. ‘I had written about a third of a draft of a novel, and had a rough outline for the rest of the book, when I approached Gold Dust. As someone used to external deadlines, I was finding it hard to create a working rhythm for writing – which has to fit in with demands of work, family, life. I lacked confidence that the writing itself was good enough to justify the sacrifices required to finish that elusive first draft. ‘Our sessions in the British Library café were energizing; she read my work closely and critically, and was an enthusiastic champion. Jill is very generous and open in sharing her own experiences as a writer, and has helped me develop the confidence and discipline I needed to complete that first draft. Gold Dust is not cheap, but looking back at the mentoring experience, I know it has been money well spent – a great investment in my writing life.’ – Rachel Clare
‘I will never forget the Gold Dust experience. Sitting with Jill Dawson at Wicken Fen café, talking with someone who believed in the characters and world I was creating and – as importantly – believed in me as a writer. Focusing tightly on the work but also roving widely over our reading and writing experiences and exploring how they related to our own lives. Jill helped me to capture immediacy in my writing and stay true to my own voice. She is perceptive, direct, energetic, quick to question a character’s dodgy motivation, equally quick to celebrate what works. Thank you Jill.’ – Chris Buckton
‘It’s the end of my year on the gold dust scheme, and I now have the rough first draft of my novel. I will freely admit that without Jill, that would not be the case. Instead, it would have been more like this: start, re-start, delete, re-start, cry, re-start, delete……repeat until dead, really. So I’m very glad that I signed up, and send an inordinately large thank you to Jill for her honesty and encouragement, as well as for lighting fires underneath me every six weeks or so.’ – Nicola Hoskins
‘Working with Jill Dawson was like having an experienced writing friend who provided editorial input, motivation and industry insight in equal and plentiful measure.’ – Paul Daly
‘I have just come to the end of my Gold Dust mentoring year and simultaneously completed the first draft of my first novel. It has been hard work but hugely rewarding, rather like a fast-track MA in Creative Writing only better as the monthly one-to-one feedback and discussion sessions that I had with my mentor could address my specific needs. I have learnt so much and feel so much better equipped to move ahead with my writing. I am eternally grateful to my wonderful mentor and so delighted to have had the “Gold Dust” experience.’ – Lesley Gray
‘I had reached a crossroads in my writing (although it felt more like a dead end!) when I met Jill Dawson and learnt about the Gold Dust mentoring scheme. I knew I could write but had experienced enough knocks to make me wonder whether it was worth continuing. Jill showed me that it was. She has restored my self-belief and rekindled my passion for writing, and that alone is enough for me to be forever indebted to her. The future is still uncertain but I feel much better equipped to deal with the challenges of becoming published. I knew I didn’t need yet another bog-standard writing course teaching me the nuts and bolts, although Jill’s experience was invaluable in helping me iron out some structural issues in my novel, I needed an ally; someone who cared whether or not I sent in a few thousand words a month to read. Having regular deadlines gave my productivity and confidence such a boost that I not only finished my novel during my time with Jill, I started on a second. Jill was warm, patient, constructive and inspiring. I cannot thank her, or Gold Dust enough.’ – Anne Catchpole
‘Without Jill Dawson I would probably still be reading travel books on Iran rather than getting on with writing the novel in which the main character is from Iranian parentage. ‘With Jill’s inspiration I finished a polished first draft of the novel within 8 months. When I applied for a mentor I had written two novels that were not published. What I needed was permission to start a third novel, somebody to tell me that I can write. Jill gave me the necessary encouragement, and most of all, raised my confidence as a writer. ‘I’m a serious writer. My novel is publishable. I deserve your respect,’ were the positive thoughts she gave me as a parting homework during our last session, to keep in mind when writing to agents. ‘If you have been writing for a long time and are losing confidence because of a lack of success, try Gold Dust.’ – Fatima Martin
‘My mentoring experience with Jill Dawson and Gold Dust was fantastic. Jill was honest, positive and extremely supportive and most of all (which surely is what we want from a mentor) has helped me discover the right direction for my novel to go in. I have learnt a huge amount, both about the art of writing and my own writing. It has been a joy to be mentored by her.’ – Joanna Parry-Gokce
‘She has restored my self-belief and rekindled my passion for writing and that alone is enough for me to be forever indebted to her.’ – Anne Catchpole