Jane Mitchell

Award-winning writer of books for young people

About me

Childhood

photo of author

I was born in London after my parents emigrated to England from Ireland. We lived there until I was five, when my family moved to Northern Ireland. We moved south to Dublin, Ireland, when I was seven years of age and I have lived in Ireland since.

Hobbies

Travelling is my favourite hobby. I spent a year travelling around the world a number of years ago. Since I started independent travel, I have been fortunate enough to visit many amazing places in the Americas, Asia, Africa, Australasia and Europe.

I love music. I studied classical flute for many years as a teenager and now I play traditional Irish flute, which is very different to classical flute. Ireland has a rich cultural heritage and music plays a large part of Irish life. I have a piano, which I love, but it would be a stretch of the imagination to say that I can play piano: I just have fun with it.

I like to swim, run and go to the gym. I ran the Dublin City Marathon twice, in 2011 and 2012. Although I found it very challenging, I enjoyed the experience immensely and am very proud for having completed the 26 mile (42km!) distance twice.

I also hill-walk. I have climbed through the Sun Gate overlooking the ancient Incan city of Macchu Pichu in Peru. I’ve hiked through the foothills of the Anna Purna range in Nepal, crossed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand and climbed Table Mountain in South Africa. I also climbed snow-capped mountains in Argentina and visited hill tribes in the secretive and isolated country of Burma.

I enjoy cooking and dining out. My favourite cuisine is Middle Eastern, followed closely by Italian or Mediterranean food.

Education and employment

I studied Education in Trinity College, Dublin, and taught primary (elementary) school children before working in the community with at-risk teenagers who had dropped out of formal education. I also worked with young people with physical disabilities.

I studied for a Masters in Disability Management in London, UK, then completed a postgraduate diploma in statistics in Trinity College, Dublin. As if I hadn't enough study, I studied for a Masters in Business Management. I'm finished studying now.

My writing

I have enjoyed writing since I was small — I wrote my first ‘Book of Poems’ when I was six years old, complete with binding and illustrations. I wrote about my friends, my dog Scruffy and my family. I still have it. I also have my creative writing copybooks from when I was 12 and 13 years-old, and it’s funny to read them now. Lots of young people ask me about how to make their writing better so check out my writing tips on this page.

Writing Tips

I am often asked what aspiring writers should do to improve their writing skills and to tell better stories. Here are the main things I believe you need to work on to really strengthen your writing.

1. Write

You have to keep practising, every day if possible. Writing is like any skill—the more you practise, the better you will become. Think of great footballers or musicians or dancers. They practise for hours and hours, with drills and exercises and routines. Writing skills are the same—you have to become ‘writing-fit.’ Try to put some time aside every day to practise your writing. Homework time or school work don’t count!

2. Read

Read anything and everything — books, short stories, essays. Good books, bad books, okay books. long books, short books, exciting books, dull books. Read them all and see what works and what doesn’t. Try to see how experienced writers write about something exciting or sad or emotional or active. If you can’t read fluently and critique what doesn't work, you will never be able to write well.

With your favourite books, try to work out what you like about them and why. What makes the writing good? Why do you like it? What does the writer tackle well, or badly? If something is not good, try to understand why. This will help you write better, because you will understand what makes good writing. You will also learn how other writers tackle difficult or challenging subjects.

3. Rewrite

This is something many new writers struggle with. You must look critically at your own work. Nothing is perfect the first time round. Everyone’s writing can improve when it is reviewed and rewritten. This might sound boring and hard work and tiresome, and yes, it often is. But it makes a big difference to your final work.

When you rewrite your work, think especially of the following: