Behind the stereotype of the ‘tortured artist’ can lie a much more troubling, difficult truth: that many writers (and indeed their readers) have endured dark periods in their lives, for a host of reasons. Many use their writing – or their choice of reading – to sustain them through these periods, clinging to the words like a liferaft.

Our panel talk about their own experiences of being sustained by writing to get through a dark period: for Melinda Salisbury, Harry Potter provided shelter from the storm; for Andrew McMillan it was literary hero Thom Gunn. They join Darryl Cunningham, whose experiences as a health care assistant on a psychiatric ward inform his book ‘Psychiatric Tales’; and Jerry Pinto, whose novel ‘Em and the Big Hoom’ is based on his mother’s depression. Together they’ll discuss how both producing and consuming writing can help us triumph over adversity. The discussion is chaired by journalist Yvette Huddleston.


About The Poet

Andrew McMillan

Andrew McMillan was born in South Yorkshire. His debut collection, ‘physical’, was the first ever poetry collection to win the Guardian First Book Award. The collection also won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, and was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

About The Authors

Jerry Pinto

Jerry Pinto lives and works in Mumbai. He has been a mathematics tutor, school librarian, journalist and columnist. He is now associated with MelJol, an NGO that works in the sphere of child rights. His published works include a book of poems, ‘Asylum’, and ‘Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb’, which won the National Award for the Best Book on Cinema in 2007. ‘Em and the Big Hoom’ is his first novel.

Yvette Huddleston

Yvette Huddleston is an author and journalist specialising in the arts. She has written extensively on film, theatre, literature and visual art for a wide range of national and regional publications.


Melinda Salisbury

Melinda Salisbury lives by the sea in England. As a child she thought Roald Dahl’s Matilda was her biography, in part helped by her grandfather often mistakenly calling her Matilda, and the local library having a pretty cavalier attitude to the books she borrowed. Sadly, she never manifested telekinetic powers. She likes to travel, and have adventures. She also likes medieval castles, non-medieval aquariums, photography, Richard III, and all things Scandinavian.