Phoebe Coghlan is an intensive care nurse working in a Central London Major Trauma Hospital. She is also a much-loved contributing writer at Storyberries – to date, she’s written more than twenty poems and stories!

With topics ranging from monsters on Neptune to hungry parrots and missing chocolates, she’s a versatile writer with a unique talent for capturing the sweet as well as the mischievous side of life for little ones. She says she often sits down with a cup of tea to write after one of her busy twelve-hour shifts.

We asked her to tell us a little bit more about her love of words, and what it means to be a children’s writer.

1. When did you first pick up a pen? What inspired you to start writing?

Nurses are busy bees! I absolutely love the job, but you’re on your feet, bustling with adrenaline, for twelve hours straight – day or night. After a run of non-stop shifts, I find that writing a page of rhyming nonsense helps me unwind. It’s therapy – it takes my head to a different space and sometimes I just need an escape from the responsible, serious world of adults.

2. What was your first poem or story about?

A carousel. When I was a child I used to visit an outdoor museum called Bressingham (in Norfolk, UK). Spending an afternoon there felt like stepping back in time; you could ride vintage steam trains, pick blackberries in their gardens, and take a ride on the Victorian carousel. For me, that was the highlight of the day; the first poem I wrote tried to capture that simple childhood excitement of riding round a merry-go-round.

3. What do you think is valuable about writing and sharing words?

String words and sentences together and you’ve got a story. And stories provide gateways into exciting adventures that steer you away from your own world and comfort zone. They can be all sorts of things; fun, inspiring, thrilling and thoughtful.

4. Where do you find your inspiration?

I can’t think of anything that particularly inspires me to write. An idea either pops into my head, or it doesn’t!

5. Where do you live? Describe a typical day for you.

I live in London. On a working day I take the tube to my hospital. Sometimes I work on the intensive care unit as a bedside nurse, and other days I’ll be in the office working on research studies. On my days off, I love exploring all the nooks and crannies of London with my friends. Recently we’ve taken a lot of walks along the River Thames which is just the most wonderful place when the sun sets!

6. What was the most powerful piece of writing you ever read?

Gosh, that’s difficult. I’m currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama and am awed by her positive energy and overflowing compassion. There are far too many injustices in the world and as a human family we need to revolutionise the way we think and act. Reading Becoming makes change and progression seem possible; it’s a book that gives me hope.

When I was a child, the most powerful story I read was Froggy’s Little Brother which follows two orphans as they navigate the streets of Victorian England with their puppet show. Both devastating and heart-warming, it was the first piece of literature that really struck and stayed with me.

7. What’s your favourite poem or story that you’ve published at Storyberries?

The Vanishing Cheese!! 

I also like Visiting Hospital – I originally wrote it as part of a children’s project for my ICU, and unlike my other poems, this one felt important to get right. So many children will spend time in hospital, either because they themselves are sick, or because they are visiting a loved one. Either way, it’s a tough experience. And one that isn’t covered much in children’s literature. I am very grateful to Kseniya Shagivea for illustrating it so beautifully.

8. What are you reading at the moment?

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge. The story is set in The Myriad where old and terrible Gods once lurked in the undersea, and like all of Hardinge’s novels, the complexity of her invented world amazes me!

You can read all of Phoebe’s collection at Storyberries by clicking here 

You can also follow her on social media:

Phoebe’s Twitter

Phoebe’s Instagram