Neil Blower, the agency’s long-standing client, is set to make literary history after landing a role as Writer in Residence for his local newspaper.
The Royal Tank Regiment veteran, who saw frontline action in Kosovo and Iraq, landed the paid role at SalfordOnline.com last week.
In keeping with literary tradition, the 30-year-old – whose first title ‘Shell Shock: The Diary of Tommy Atkins’ received critical acclaim – will pen a weekly short story exclusively for SalfordOnline.com readers. He is also planning to hold regular writing workshops for school, college and university students.
It is understood to be the first time that a former member of Britain’s Armed Forces has been appointed Writer in Residence for a British newspaper.
Speaking yesterday, Neil, 30, who lives in Salford, admitted that the role was “a little unnerving”, and added: “It goes without saying that I am delighted to be the Writer in Residence at SalfordOnline.com.
“This is an extremely exciting role. But it is also a little unnerving for me, given that I am a self-taught writer.”
Neil began writing seriously in 2006 after being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following the death of a close colleague in Iraq. It is a debilitating condition he still battles with today.
But Neil’s road to recovery was “significantly helped” by creative writing which, he says, “focused his mind” from the negative to the positive.
Shell Shock, his first novel, is described as a “light-hearted, semi-autobiographical story” about a soldier’s battle with PTSD. It became an overnight sensation and leapt to the top of publisher Firestep’s bestseller list.
His eagerly-anticipated second novel, Dividing Lines – also published by Firestep and set for release later this year – has been submitted into this year’s Booker Prize.
Neil, one of the UK’s leading PTSD campaigners and the brainchild behind the government’s ‘Veteran’s Champion’ scheme in local councils, added: “I never set out to be a novelist – it just kind of happened.
“This really is a world away from the frontline, and to say that I’m proud of my achievements would be an understatement.”
At SalfordOnline.com we are delighted that Neil has joined us in this one-of-a-kind position. It will provide our readers with exceptional and unique content from an exceptional writer.
As a not-for-profit news organisation we are always looking for innovative ways to expand our readership and so this 12-month post is extremely exciting for the SalfordOnline.com team.
It is very important for us to represent our local community: Neil not only fought for his country overseas but also lives in Salford and studied creative writing at Salford University.
We are very much looking forward to working with Neil over the coming year.
Neil’s first short story will be published by SalfordOnline.com on Wednesday 3rd July.