LAURA Napran is lucky enough to have one of the ten best jobs in the world. When broadcaster, CNN, asked people to tell them, in no more than 140 characters, how they’d found their dream job, Laura was quick off the keyboard and her tweet was chosen from contributions around the world. 

“There must have been tens of thousands of tweets and they decided that Writing For Wellbeing was one of the ten best,” she declares proudly.

It’s also surely a tribute to Laura’s own way with words as anyone who tweets will tell you that it’s not always easy to convey your message in such a short soundbite. 

Laura, who was born in Canada, but is now a British national, says she can’t remember a time when she didn’t write.

 “My mother was educated in the late 1920s when they had people memorise poetry and when I was a child she would be going round the house doing housework and she would recite it.

 “She would be doing a ballad but perhaps only get half way through so I would go to the library and try and find out what happened. 

“It became just natural for me as a child to write stories and poetry.” 

It was this love of the written word that drew her to Hexham two years ago. 

“I came to the Hexham Book Festival, I looked around and thought, ‘I think this is it’. A week later I rented a house.” 

Having moved to England from Canada 16 years previously to do a doctorate in history at Cambridge, she had gradually been edging northwards, first to Robin Hoods Bay where she worked for the National Trust in the visitors centre alongside working as an academic editor and indexer; then to Durham and finally here. 

She now lives in Gibson Fields with her two cats, Boggle and Pooka and runs Writing for Wellbeing workshops around the North and Scotland. Last weekend Laura led a workshop at Dilston Physic Garden between Hexham and Corbridge called ‘Balance and Perspective’. 

So just what is Writing for Wellbeing and how come it’s one of the world’s ‘dream jobs’? 

Well, aside from her academic work, Laura has won awards internationally for her short stories and poems. She has also taught for more than 20 years at varying levels from university to primary school to community groups.

She was on a poetry workshop in Helmsley run by the writer, Simon Armitage, when she realised that “whatever it was I was doing led me to greater self awareness”. 

“This is where I learned that whatever you write is the right thing and the fact that he didn’t tell us how to write, but just guided us, meant that we found what we needed to write on that day and that might have been the genesis of me wanting to do Writing for Wellbeing.”

Laura found Lapidus, an organisation promoting the practice of writing for wellbeing and the benefits it brings. According to Lapidus, there is an increasing body of research which points to the positive effects of writing for physical and emotional health and wellbeing. 

The US social psychologist Professor James Pennebaker has undertaken studies showing that expressive writing can make you healthier and happier while in the UK Dr Gillie Bolton, research fellow in Medical Humanities at Sheffield University, has written a book, ‘The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing’ in which she says, "Writing is a means of making sense of experience, and of arriving at a deeper understanding of the self." 

Laura firmly believes that guided writing activities can calm the mind and emotions and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing. 

“The workshop last weekend was to learn how to look at our lives a bit differently - to try and step outside ourselves and get a new perspective on how we come at problems,” she says. 

Participants were asked to consider an emotional time in their lives - either positive or negative - and think about where it happened. “I then ask them to choose an object in the room where it took place and then we write about the experience from the point of view of the object.

 “It really makes you get outside yourself and see things from a whole new angle. Objects are not judgemental. 

“When we come at things sideways, using creativity, we aren’t using the same kind of thinking we usually do. You find out you have a lot of inner wisdom but with a busy mind you don’t always get through to it.” 

Reassuringly for those who haven't written before or are under-confident about doing so, there is no requirement to read aloud what you write. “That’s important because then you can write whatever you want,” Laura says. “But we do discuss how we felt about the activity and people can choose to talk about what they wrote or what they brought out of it." 

Another popular workshop she offers is ‘Storytelling for Self-Exploration’ and the next one is at Newcastle’s Lit and Phil on Saturday June 4. 

“That’s working with your own life story and with myths,” Laura says. 

She begins this workshop by telling the Indian myth of the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic.

Participants then write from the point of view of one of the characters in the myth. The workshop goes on to work with people’s own life stories.

 “I put people in pairs and say they have two minutes to tell the other person their life story. You choose what you put in and what you leave out. 

“Then you write your life story but instead of using ‘I’ you use ‘She’ or ‘He’ so it’s as if you are writing abut someone else. 

“You might add in magic or talking animals or unicorns! People can fly or they might have super powers. It’s your own life story based on what you told the person but you add mythical elements to turn it into a great epic. “It makes really good things seem so much better and after writing about obstacles - perhaps they use magic to overcome them - it seems like a major accomplishment and they feel really good about themselves afterwards.” 

As the people in her workshops scribble away, Laura does too. “It’s stimulating and helps my own writing as well,” she says. 

“It’s about releasing limitations and finding your own teacher. By writing in a mythic manner, you let go of the idea of how things should be and take on ideas about how you might like to change or do things differently.” 

Laura says that Writing for Wellbeing has helped her make changes in her own life.

 “Last year I decided to take a six month hiatus (from her academic job) and tell people I was not available so that I could build this up. It was obviously a financial risk. It’s so easy to stay in your comfort zone doing what you know you can do, especially as I had secure work coming in all the time. But I decided to take that risk.”

She has also signed up to do a wildlife survey in Mongolia this September. “I’ve learned that what I really value most is experience rather than things or prestige,” she says. 

However, Laura underlines that her workshops aren’t necessarily going to have such a dramatic effect on everyone. 

“It doesn’t encourage people to go off and run away from their life but it brings you into the present and makes you more aware.” 

* For details of all Laura's courses visit