Dr Sally Cline

Sally Cline

Areas of Interest

Arts, Literature

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of Letters, 2004


Sally Cline is a groundbreaking biographer and short story writer. She has now completed her 11th book The Arvon Book of Life Writing (with Carole Angier) published by A and C Black (June 2010), the first stand-alone book in the UK on biography, autobiography and memoir. It is to be the first in a new Arvon series of books on writing (short stories, creative non-fiction, novels, poetry etc) which Sally will co-edit. Her previous award winning literary biographies include Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John (1997), Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise (2002) and Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett: Memories or Myths (forthcoming 2011 with Black Apollo Press). She is now researching the first American woman publisher Blanche Knopf for her next biography.

Her first novel The Visitor is awaiting publication, but chapter 5 has already been published on the internet within the art and literature magazine International Literacy Quarterly, Issue 11.

In 2004 she was the recipient of the Hawthornden Fellowship for Writing. That year she also won the Hosking houses Trust Fellowship for a Woman Writer over 40. Her short fiction for both print and radio have been shortlisted for the Asham Short Story Award, won a Raconteur Fiction Prize, several Arts Council bursaries and the BBC Short Story Contest. She was a prize winner in the UK New London Radio Playwriting Contest and has scripted, co-produced and presented three documentaries based on her own books for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Born in London, she has lived for 30 years in Cambridge, taught for many years at Cambridge University, read English and Philosophy at Durham University, gained her Masters in Social Science and Women's Studies from Lancaster University, and in 2004 was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge for her internationally known writing. In 2006 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She was Anglia Ruskin's first Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow, a position she held for three years. She then became one of the Royal Literary Fund's Advisory Fellows as well as Writer in Residence at Anglia Ruskin where she mentors the creative and academic writing of academic and administrative staff and postgraduates from most University faculties. She was Director of the RLF's innovative mentoring scheme The Writers' Pool between 2004-2006, has been a judge and mentor on the Arts Council's Escalator programme to help talented emerging writers, and currently teaches Lifewriting at the Arvon Foundation and is a judge and mentor for the prestigious Gold Dust Mentoring Scheme.

Early in her life she was a Fleet St journalist, a TV critic, and an international stage director and concert manager.

Her work with both experienced and new writers, and in particular with those without either a literary background or scholarly achievements, has always enabled many to achieve literary success.

In 2004 Sally Cline was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.


"Vice Chancellor,

The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University is pleased to confer on Dr. Sally Cline the honorary award of Doctor of Letters in recognition of her contributions to literary research, to the fields of biography and fiction to disadvantaged groups in their literary endeavours, especially informed by feminist perspectives; and to the development of the arts and literature in Eastern England.

APU has rightly gained a pre-eminent national position in the field often referred to as "Creative Writing". This has been due in no small measure to Anglia's first Royal Literary Fund Writer's Fellow, Dr. Sally Cline, who has attained the unique distinction of three consecutive annual awards to ply her craft at APU, and has just been appointed as Director of the new Royal Literary Fund Scheme for Writing Mentorships on the strength of her innovative work with APU.

Dr. Cline's craft is essentially concerned with helping experienced and inexperienced writers to develop their writing styles imaginatively and to release their creative potential to produce unique and innovative work, and develop their literary skills. Her work with APU encompasses staff and under- and postgraduate students on the English Development's MA course. This is achieved through one-to-one on the spot, eyeball to eyeball counselling, aimed at instant improvement. In the work with her Cambridge Creative Consultancy, she assists up and coming writers to gain recognition and experienced and well established novelists, overcome serious blockages.

She arrived at her profession of a biographer and fiction writer, via very broad, but intensive preparations. This commenced with multi-disciplinary academic training in English and Philosophy (1st Class BA) at Durham (1957-1960) and Social Sciences (MLitt with distinction) at Lancaster (1982); and she progressed to extensive full time and freelance journalist experience with most of the national and Sunday dailies and principal literary journals. Her career also encompassed a vast radio and television broadcasting output in Britain and North America. In addition, she obtained valuable experience in three further domains: stage direction in major London, Australian and US theatres; in theatrical script writing and direction with leading icons like Dankworth and Laine, Larry Adler and Ned Sherrin, and in concert management with some of the principal British orchestras.

Throughout this period from 1970-1993, (if the above was not enough), she produced a steady stream of books (biographies and non-fiction); novellas; short stories; poems; radio plays; scripts and a list of academic publications and papers which most university professors would die for. To list this galaxy of literary outputs would take rather a long time. Suffice it to say that her works encompass several distinct, but interrelated threads. One is the examination of remarkable individuals and the deconstructing of the myths and legends which have grown up around them, thus creating both a compelling biography and a commentary on the periodic and social setting in which they had their being and the social issues with which they were associated. Works on the Fitzgeralds and the Jazz Age and the US 20th century writers, Lillian Helman and Radcliffe Hall, fall into this category. A second thread is what she calls "lifting the taboo". This includes writings on hitherto shunned subjects such as death, bereavement, suicide, relationships between couples etc. A third is a focus on the so-called "under-classes" and those with difficult backgrounds and low personal esteem. It is no surprise to discover she has helped these individuals significantly in their writing endeavours and her strong feminist insights have been a major motivating force in her writing. Finally, a fourth emerging theme is the juxtaposition of memory and reality and how recollected facts tend to be replaced by accretions of imagination: this has all the prospects of being a fascinating contribution to both literature and personal understanding.

Her career is also punctuated by a regular tattoo of research and literary awards, which as she says, bring very welcome professional recognition, but also much needed cash to sustain the cause of this remarkable "jobbing writer".

She is very much a Cambridge person: this city is her community and this is reflected in the work she undertakes in her chosen vocation for local authorities; Eastern Arts; her own Cambridge Creative Consultancy; and, of course, this University.

For all these reasons therefore, Vice Chancellor, may I invite you to confer the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters upon Sally Cline."