Kind Words

Former Spark Writing Studio clients have been published by Penguin Books, Canongate Books, Hodder & Stoughton, Saraband and Harvill Secker and include novelists Helen Sedgwick, Lucy Ribchester, Claire MacLeary, Zoe Venditozzi, Angela Jackson and Booker Prize shortlisted crime writer Graeme Macrae Burnet, plus non-fiction writers Leonie Charlton and Clare Hunter.

Here are some comments and testimonials from clients on working together:

On Mentoring:

“Working with Sophy was a privilege and a pleasure. She kept me on track with deadlines, all the while supporting me with clarity, empathy and depth of experience. During the six months I worked with Sophy I wrote the first draft of a book which is shortly to be published. As I wrote in the acknowledgments, I honestly don’t know if I’d have ever got there without Sophy’s encouragement and expertise.

– Leonie Charlton

“I had the good fortune of being mentored by Sophy for one year as part of the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers’ Award Scheme. I could not have had a better mentor.

During challenging times, it was Sophy’s understanding and belief that bolstered my own and kept me from flagging. Her warmth and approachability is matched by a deep knowledge of her subject, helping her get the best out of people. I feel very lucky to have had her guidance on my writing journey.”

– Kenneth Stephen

“Sophy has been my writing mentor for the past two years as I finished finally a novel I have been working on for years. Could not have done it without her. She seems to know just what to say, making one or two observations or suggestions at a time, each one being what I need to hear. Now we’re into revising and editing.

As much as any work I have ever done, I have enjoyed this writing and this collaboration. Sophy has been my shepherd.”

– Todd Evans

“I was delighted to be chosen by the Scottish Book Trust to receive mentoring from Sophy whilst writing my second novel. It was invaluable to have someone as insightful and supportive as Sophy to help keep me focused and writing.”

– Zoe Venditozzi

On Editorial Feedback:

“Sophy’s response was prompt, thoughtful and reassuring, for it drew clearly on her extensive professional experience; she suggested a fantastic range of relevant reading, made pertinent comments about style and picked up meticulously on detail.  At the same time, I felt that she ‘got’ me, that she was sensitive to what it was that I was trying to achieve and that she wanted to work with me rather than offering a formulaic response.  In those early days of utter uncertainty, Sophy’s warmth and clarity were just what I needed.

– Helene Witcher

“I’ve been through the report a few times and will use your advice to move my MS on. The more I read your report the more I have a clearer view of where I want to go. Thanks Sophy, this has helped a lot.”

– Neil Blair Cairns

“Sophy is both encouraging and plain-speaking, which is a very helpful combination. She listens clearly and responds directly and with understanding. She gave me a lot to think about and the encouragement to carry on. Working with Sophy has been very useful.”

– Peter Mohan


On coaching:

“I found my coaching session with Sophy very valuable. There were a lot of things that came up that I hadn’t considered as options, and many more where it was helpful to have reassurance that I was on the right lines. I got access to expertise and resources that were really useful.”

– Lucy Ribchester

Sophy’s guidance came at just the right time when I had decided to return to the original version of the book but give it a much tighter focus. She agreed with my approach and gave me other pointers which allowed me to critique it more clearly and know what I needed to work on.”

– Clare Hunter

“I had no idea what to expect from a coaching session. If I’m honest I could see no harm but imagined any benefit unlikely. I am happy to report I was utterly wrong.

Because Sophy is so easy to chat to I had, within a few moments of beginning our session, forgotten the overall purpose of our conversation and was just enjoying the chance to talk about my writing, the process and the procrastination. Sophy, however, had not forgotten. With a few precise comments she suggested new ways for me to approach certain aspects of my work environment and also how I might fix some scheduling issues. Her directions made so much sense they seemed obvious as soon as she’d said them. I think that is the measure of her abilities – those solutions seem obvious only because they so perfectly fit the problems. Believe me when I tell you they had previously been as obvious to me as a black cat in a coal cellar.

Since my coaching session the stress and guilt I felt at my lack of progress has entirely lifted and with that fug of emotion removed I am free to get on with the rest. I can thoroughly recommend Sophy’s coaching.”

– Susan Kemp

On “Writing Challenge: Build a Regular Writing Habit”:

“I feel really pleased that that my new writing habit seems ingrained. I can honestly say that over the last few weeks, I have never woke up once and thought ‘shit, I have to write’, it is now literally like brushing your teeth, you don’t even think about it. 

What I like best is that feeling of ‘that’s it done – get on with your day’ and the lack of guilt. Previously I’d write at various times of the day, dependent on what I had on, and the word ‘procrastination’ would whisper nastily in my head all day.

I would definitely recommend it, because it works, and I’d encourage any of my writing friends to try it.

– Frances Ainslie