The founder of a disability-focused magazine is hoping to encourage more Cumbrian writers to get involved with it.
Hollie Warren, 26, has osteogenesis imperfecta – a genetic disorder also known as brittle bone disease – but has never let it get in the way of achieving her dreams.
Last year she graduated from The University of Cumbria, having completed a Creative Writing course. This proved to be the inspiration for her business venture Wishbone Words, which is now going from strength to strength.
Hollie, who lives in Carlisle, said: “I found doing a writing course was quite therapeutic. It can be hard to articulate how it is to be disabled, and the course was really good for me.
“During the last year in lockdown I was starting to think about what I could do when I finished, and I wanted to make a student magazine which people could submit to.
“Then I thought, ‘why not do it for someone with chronic illnesses or disabilities’?
“When I’ve submitted pieces to magazines or websites it’s not always been understood or accepted; it’s quite a niche subject. I thought maybe I needed to be the one to set it up.”
She continued: “One of my favourite tutors was really helpful, and the university has been really supportive.
“I had one tutor with a chronic illness, who was a very inspirational person.”
And so, in May 2021, the zine Wishbone Words was launched, specifically targeting contributors who are living with chronic illnesses or disabilities.
Hollie initially created her own website and then took to Twitter and Instagram to make connections and share her endeavour with like-minded people.
“It made more sense to me to create an online magazine, because we have people from around the world that read and contribute,” she explained. “It is also a lot more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly.”
The zine recently published its ninth edition and was proud to boast contributions from 154 freelancers last year.
It was originally a bi-monthly publication, but is gradually being shifted to a quarterly schedule, with Hollie now helped with production by some of her regular contributors.
Since launching more than 18 months ago, Hollie admits she has had to learn a multitude of new skills, particularly focusing on running a business.
However, her efforts have paid off, and she now proudly boasts a dedicated community of like-minded people – offering them not only an outlet for their work, but a shared space to read about others’ experiences.
“I don’t do it for the profit – I do it because I love it,” she said. “I just wanted it to be a small community to help people, and a lot of people say it’s helped them to be heard.
“Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s about giving people a platform to share their experiences.
“There are so many people who have been through so much and now they feel heard, seen or understood. I get comments and emails from people saying they are not alone. It does people’s mental health a lot of good.”
Hollie, who also works at Carlisle Library, continued: “It’s really important to have representation as well. A lot of mainstream literary magazines don’t have people who are more diverse.”
The zine’s content isn’t always focused on chronic illness or disabilities, it is whatever the contributor wants to express – and in recent editions the variety has expanded hugely.
Hollie will accept submissions of art, photography, poetry, short stories, news articles and even play extracts or song lyrics.
Joanne Watson, Careers Team Manager at the University of Cumbria, supported Hollie’s writing aspirations through the university’s careers service which advises students and recent graduates on future careers and new business start-ups.
She said: “Hollie’s story is an inspiration to us all. She spotted a gap in the market and turned a passion of hers into a viable business proposition. I am delighted at her success and encourage more people to contribute to her online zine.”
Meanwhile, as Wishbone Words continues to grow in success, its founder is now hoping to get more Cumbrians to contribute.
“I want to get more local people involved,” she said, “both as contributors and subscribers. Everyone is welcome.
“We want to do something positive, and it would be wonderful to have support from the county. It’s important to support local talent. We are a small place and there’s not enough of us!”
To find out more, visit https://wishbonewords.com/ or follow it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or TikTok.