Sally Cline, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts , Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge, previously a Hawthornden Fellow and Advisory Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund, is an award winning biographer and short fiction writer. She has published 10 nonfiction books, two fiction, and her 13th book After Agatha : Top Women Crime Writers Survey the Scene will be published by No Exit Press in 2020.
Her biography Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Named John now a classic, was shortlisted for a LAMBDA prize. Her study Lifting The Taboo: Women Death and Dying won the Arts Council Prize for Non Fiction. Her biography Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise was a best seller in the UK and USA and preceded the landmark biography Dashiell Hammett: Man of Mystery.
She was 2013 Judge for the HW Fisher Prize for First Published Biographies. She is co-Series Editor for Bloomsbury’s nine-volume Writers’ and Artists’ Companions about writing and has co-authored 2 of the volumes on Life Writing and Literary Non-Fiction.
Formerly Director of The Royal Literary Fund Writers Pool Mentoring Scheme and mentor for the Arts Council Escalator programme , she has taught at Cambridge University, on City University London ’s Creative Writing programme , was Writer in Residence and mentor for the MA in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin University Cambridge, holds degrees and Masters from Durham and Lancaster University and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters in International Writing. She has also run Creative Writing workshops for the Guardian Master Classes at Stratford upon Avon .
She lives and writes in Cambridge and Sennen Cove Cornwall
'I want to thank you very much, Sally, for your wonderful guidance and support over the time that we have worked together under the Gold Dust umbrella. It has been just what I needed as a writer – exactly the right combination of honest criticism and honest encouragement from another writer who is highly skilled and experienced. I also want to thank Jill Dawson and Gold Dust for making it possible for us to work as we have done, helping to move my novel to the stage that it has reached – almost ready to be sent to prospective agents. I am so glad I kept the leaflet about Gold Dust that Jill left with me after she came to talk to students on the MA Creative Writing course I was attending back then. I wish I’d had the confidence to apply to Gold Dust at that time as it was so clearly what I wanted and needed to be doing.' – Catriona Jarvis.
‘I am honoured and delighted that two of my poems have been selected in such quick succession to win competitions. It can sometimes be a drag to go and hammer away at my keyboard after a long day of working and parenting, but these wins have given me a real boost to keep going, both with my poetry and of course with my novel, which I’m writing under the expert guidance of Sally Cline. Sally is brilliant at knowing when to give me space to get on with other things and when to get tough about deadlines. For a journalist hardwired to deadlines, this has been completely invaluable. I’m currently writing the last few chapters of my novel, and although it’s not quite finished I can already say I’m indebted to both Gold Dust and Sally. Throughout the process Sally has challenged, advised, motivated and encouraged me. Without her shrewd advice and forensic eye for language and character, I know my novel would still be just another idea in my head. Instead I have 80,000 words on the page. I look forward to finishing it over the coming months, and having my final session and cuppa with Sally at the British Library to give me the last bit of courage to send it off.’ – Rae Howells
‘I was lucky enough to be mentored by Sally Cline during the winter of 06/07 and found the process transformative, challenging and utterly essential. I took a first novel to her which had become bogged in bad habits and ignorance of good technique and with her guidance and firm resistance to all things clichéd I produced a manuscript which has won me a literary agent. Not only am I now further along the path to being published, I have learnt how to write and how not to write. The insight Sally brought to my work was impossible for me to see alone. I doubt such strides could have been achieved without her. She was a joy to work with; fierce, kind and unfailingly positive. I always left our tutorials feeling buoyed up by her ability to combine honesty with encouragement. She refused to let standards drop. As a result I have discovered it is always possible to find the right word and impossible to hide a wrong one. I would encourage all first time novelists to work with a mentor. The worst that can happen is that you will have to rewrite your novel. The best that can happen is that you will have to rewrite your novel.’ – Ella Anstruther
‘The mentoring scheme’s frequent (and much needed) deadlines provided me with stability and focus, as I juggled lecturing, research trips, funding applications, administration work and housing concerns with the main business of writing itself. I looked to both Sally Cline (my mentor) and Jill Dawson (my tutor at UEA who recommended the scheme) as examples of established writers who had managed to balance such issues. ‘When Sally Cline and I drew up our contract during the first mentoring session, we agreed to redraft the first section of my three-part novel, The Gossamer Year, to a publishable standard. We also aimed to rework the climactic scenes at the beginning of part three. Each session involved two elements: a critique of a twenty page novel extract, submitted chronologically; and a chance to reflect on a previous submission, redrafted in light of the last mentor meeting. ‘Certainly, the first part of my novel has now reached a much higher standard. Sally was both an exacting and supportive influence throughout this rigorous process of reworking. We will redraft the climactic scenes during the last two hours of mentoring. The mentoring has further developed my own critical faculties. I now feel more confident about working alone to improve and complete the rest of my novel. Sally’s advice was particularly useful in encouraging me to concentrate not only on each individual line, but to look more closely at plot, pace, character and overarching structure. ‘Sally’s generosity, with both her time and experience, provided me with insights into commercial as well as artistic considerations. I now feel better equipped to create and maintain a compelling narrative – although this still remains one of my greatest challenges. She also provided invaluable and patient advice about the synopsis of my novel, helping me to create, eventually, a document that makes The Gossamer Year sound both commercially viable and literary. The mentoring process has ended with me having approached literary agents. Claire Alexander of Gillon Aitken and Kate Jones of ICM have expressed interest and have asked to read the full manuscript once it is completed – a task I aim to achieve by February.’ – Emma Claire Sweeney, author of Owl Song at Dawn (Legend Press).
‘I have valued the opportunity of this mentorship immensely and found it an extremely useful process. Sally’s and my goal for our work together was to take what were essentially poetic vignettes rather than true short stories, and turn them into stories. The work was challenging but also enjoyable, although sometimes less so when I was at home alone wrestling with an old habit! Sally has a very warm manner and I always found her criticism constructive and illuminating. I very much enjoyed working with her and am sorry the mentorship has now come to an end. ‘Sally and I focused intensively on the mechanics of short story writing, taking my work back to the basics to look at what I do well in my writing and the areas that needed strengthening. Our aim was not to change my writing ‘voice’ but to look at specific elements of my work and improve their effectiveness. We worked on plot, characterisation and including more dialogue. We also focused on structuring my stories and making them less meandering and vague, while constantly looking in detail at the language I was using. ‘I now have a much greater understanding of how a short story works and have applied this knowledge to existing stories as well as writing new pieces. Sally has also helped me to identify the recurrent themes in my work, which I am now able to build on to pull my stories together into a cohesive body of work. From having written a selection of unfinished and unsatisfactory pieces, I now have a small collection of finished stories that I feel confident about sending to competitions and hopefully publishing.’ – Anne Prouse
‘I did not know what to expect from Sally and I found the prospect of someone critiquing my precious work daunting, although her cheery emails put me at great ease. I remember at our first meeting how horrified I was when she told me that she would not, as I had expected, be reading my work first, but that we would dissect it chapter by chapter. However would we finish the book? I wondered. I soon saw sense in her method and as she justly accused me of littering the work with cliches, poor language and 2 dimensional characters I quickly realised that I had been naive to think that I was ready for publication. ‘Halfway through my mentoring period, I decided with Sally’s blessing, that I would take everything that I had learnt from her and that I would come back in a few months time, with something resembling a novel. It was almost eight months later that I sent the manuscript back to Sally but in that time, the one day a week and the odd writing retreat that I devoted to my book enabled me to digest her advice and produce a more accomplished novel. ‘Sally was utterly brilliant; I found her no-nonsense approach exactly what I needed and to have found somebody who appreciated my sense of humour was a wonderful bonus. And I have chosen to continue with her; I have some minor repairs to conduct on my final draft and I shall be seeking her help to write my book proposal. ‘Last but not least, Ruby, I cannot thank you enough for setting up this scheme; you have done a great service to up-and-coming writers and I feel enormously privileged to have been a part of it.’ – Jacqueline Cloake
‘I brought a third draft of my historical novel and Sal guided me to think about the essential development of my characters, and how to write briefly, but express a great deal. As I re wrote parts of my story her gentle voice “keep the reader located” was and is still important in my further efforts at writing. There were moments too when we did not have strictly the same ideas about how much to cut out….sometimes I was right, but occasionally Sal was. I had become very attached to my eleven years of research in writing this book. ‘With the guidance of Sally Cline’s sessions at the British Library, I finally managed to use some of the skills she taught me to finish the final draft of my book ‘ Flight Home ‘ in 2013. I was aware of the tight time, as the 100 years of WW1 and 70 years of the Battle of Arnhem anniversaries fell in 2014…both those events feature in the overall story. The publishers Aspect Design produced it in April 2014. I have had some excellent reviews and it has also been at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival on 16 October, 2014 with a good audience and many questions at the end, so much so that they had to stop it for the next author presentation. Flight Home is also now on sale at the Museum in Oosterbeek in Holland where I did a book signing in September on the 70th anniversary this year.’ – Vivian Gilliard, published her novel Flight Home in 2015. ‘My Gold Dust mentoring with Sally Cline finished on Thursday and my entry for the Tony Lothian Prize will be ready when I have made the final changes. It has been great to have the opportunity to work on this with the knowledge and support of such an experienced writer. Sally has been a great source of information and encouragement and my memoir has developed and strengthened a great deal over the past year.’ – Lucy Whetman
‘I submitted my book to Gold Dust on the advice of a friend at Random House. Having already spent over a year working on my manuscript, I was immensely relieved to finally have someone to discuss it with. From the first time I met Sally, her combination of ruthless honesty and her unfaltering belief in my book and my ability as a writer, steered me through an extremely productive year. Sally taught me how to self-edit and how to submit my manuscript to agents and publishers. Examining my work through the lens of her experience enabled me to see the strengths and weaknesses of my book and my writing in general in a more objective way. I will miss our sessions in the British Library and I hope to work with Gold Dust again on my next book. I cannot recommend this programme highly enough.’ – Felix Bechtolsheimer
‘Sal Cline is a wonderful mentor – hard working, insightful, trustworthy, generous and wise. I could not have asked for anything more of her. ‘Sal is always honest, yet her candour is sincere and has never once discouraged me. Although she is a demanding tutor, she understands the ups and downs that crafting a readable novel entails, and she remains calm, patient and supportive when doubts, insecurities and pressures threaten to overwhelm me. ‘As a writer, Sal treats me as an equal, and that gives me invaluable and much-needed confidence and self-belief. She has helped me to recognise what sort of writer I am, and to trust my own voice. She respects my story and its characters, and grasps their complexities and predicaments, sometimes better than I do. She has never tried to impose her own ideas upon the novel, yet her remarkable insight has helped me to foresee problems long before they have had chance to thwart my progress. She has drawn attention to plot and character issues that I have been avoiding and helped me to confront and tackle them. ‘Most inspiring of all, Sal has a genuine belief in and compassion for my characters – she wants to see their story in print almost as much as I do. Writing has been a rewarding and much less lonely occupation with her by my side. Although my Gold Dust sessions with her are now over, her frank, clear-eyed advice and insight will stay with me always.’ – Elaine Bishop
‘From the beginning I felt at ease with Sally. She was relaxed, friendly and humorous, essential qualities in a good teacher. ‘I was floundering when Sally agreed to be my mentor, but she achieved the impossible by giving me the resolve to succeed. She combined patience and tolerance with a refusal to accept clichés and inaccuracies, insisting on clear, unambiguous writing. I knew that I would always receive a totally candid appraisal from her, and that she would let no fault go unchecked. It was exactly what I needed. ‘However, there was also the inspirational side of Sally’s teaching. After a lesson with her I would go away, not only with a renewed determination and desire to write, but a new belief in my ability. Sally’s own writing has been another factor in my progress, for not only does she make her subject matter compulsive reading, but she also writes with a moving eloquence. I cannot emulate that but I can learn from it. ‘I will always be grateful for the generous advice and wisdom I have received from Sally and for the privilege of knowing such a warm, gifted, altruistic woman. My one hope is that she will agree to mentor me on my next project.’ – Judy Darby ‘Sal was a real help. The ‘infection of courage’ is her speciality. It is difficult to work without deadlines, critical reading and encouragement – Sal provided all three, the latter, particularly, in bucket loads.’ – Katherine McInnes
‘I approached Gold Dust in 2008 because I had a strong idea for a biography but was unsure of how to proceed. I had been writing for over 20 years (poetry, songs, journalism) but had never thought of writing a biography. ‘I knew I would benefit from Gold Dust mentoring but couldn’t afford the fee. Someone suggested Arts Council funding and within months I had attained a Grants for the Arts Awards enabling entry to the mentoring programme. ‘I was lucky enough to be paired with Sally Cline and our work together started in September 2008. Sally is a talented, successful writer who generously shares her experiences. She gave me heaps of advice about writing, publishing and promoting biographies. ‘Sally boosted my confidence and forced me take both my ideas and talent seriously. I came away from every meeting feeling stretched, supported and inspired by my mentor. She also offered a constant stream of advice and encouragement via email, phone and snail mail. ‘We’re still in touch and I continue to be inspired by her. Sally has more physical, mental and creative energy than anyone I’ve ever met. She is a magical mentor and a wonderful woman.’ – Elaine Cusack
‘I have had a wonderful year with Sally Cline as my mentor. It has been a really exciting process writing the play and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I found her to be very supportive and encouraging and would recommend this scheme to other writers. ‘Many thanks again.’ – Tessa Dixon
‘Being part of this programme has enabled me to acquire a realistic perspective regarding my ability as a writer. It is apparent how far Sally has taken me when I compare a piece of writing from a year ago to any of the last pieces I completed under her mentorship. With Sally’s help, I have developed a better critical eye when examining my own work and I can almost hear her in my head during the editing process. Her feedback was always honest and although sometimes hard to take, was always fair. I am going to miss working with her but look forward to reaping the rewards of the hard work we both invested in the process.’ – Milton
‘Sal has more physical, mental and creative energy than anyone I’ve ever met. She’s a magical mentor and wonderful woman.’ ‘When I applied to Gold Dust I had written a novel and was struggling to find an agent. I didn’t know if my novel was any good, or if I should just put it away and start another. I was accepted in October 2009 and I found an agent in Australia at around the same time so I decided to leave the first novel alone and use the mentorship to progress with a second.’ – Elaine Cusack
‘Since being offered a place on Gold Dust mentoring scheme to develop the rough beginnings of a novel to full manuscript my writing has transformed. I have learned so much about my writing, my self and my story since working with Sally Cline. Her critical and creative skills have inspired me to hone my craft and understand my motivations as a writer. Her enthusiasm and compassion have helped me through some difficult personal experiences during this time, kept me focussed and positive and convinced that I really do have something – my writing skills and story – worth sticking with. Sally Cline’s energy and drive is an inspiration and Gold Dust as a scheme has been instrumental in nurturing the skills and confidence I needed to progress as a writer. This has just been proved by my securing literary representation last week from my first choice agency on my first mail out. I know have an enthusiastic agent in a reputable and established agency who has already been in talks with publishers showing a strong level of interest in the novel. So fingers crossed for a publishing deal later in the year! What more can I say than a deeply felt thank you Gold Dust, thank you Sal.’ – Sarah Gibson Yates
‘It has been a great privilege to work with Sally. Her thoroughness was incredible – and like nothing I had encountered during my MA. Her insight was amazing and always proved correct. She seemed to know my own doubts about a particular character or scene before I knew them myself! ‘ – Jen Morgan
‘Sally Cline’s energy and drive is an inspiration and Gold Dust as a scheme has been instrumental in nurturing the skills and confidence I needed to progress as a writer. This has just been proved by my securing literary representation last week from my first choice agency on my first mail out.’ – Sarah Gibson Yates
‘I have benefited from Sally’s mentoring in ways I could not have imagined. Sally challenged in ways that brought out skills I did not think I possessed and her energy and commitment to me never tired. Her instincts and wisdom were incalculable in the benefits she brought to my writing. I shall always remember our sessions for the clarity and insight that was brought to bear on my inexperienced and nervous attempts to express myself through writing.’ – Angela McPherson
‘I embarked on the Gold Dust adventure with some misgivings, but was immediately reassured on meeting Sal. Her friendly, but rigorous approach was exactly right and under her guidance my manuscript has improved immeasurably. Plot, character and language have all been developed and tightened and I now feel I have a story which is ready for submission. However it fares, the journey to completion has been fruitful and enjoyable and I recommend the course to any would-be Gold Dusters. Thanks, Sal.’ – Liz Hourston
‘Sal was a real help. The ‘infection of courage’ is her speciality. It is difficult to work without deadlines, critical reading and encouragement – Sal provided all three, the latter, particularly, in bucket loads.’ – Katherine McInnes