Get to know… Amber Djemal

I am of Turkish Cypriot heritage, born and raised in North London. I loved creative writing as a young person, especially writing miserable stuff about yearning and loss as a teenager/young adult as well as political poetry in my 20s about Race, Feminism and LGBTQ+ issues. Once I started working full-time, writing went on a back-burner and I hadn’t written anything other than boring reports or essays until about 2019.

As I neared 60, I was getting more and more frustrated that, even though British Cypriots have been here a long time (my own parents since the 1940s) and contributed much to London society and beyond, we were pretty much invisible as a community. I decided I wanted to write something about my parents journey and life in the UK. I googled writing courses and that’s where the Writing Room comes in. I loved that it was local and, being based in North London, I hoped that it attracted diverse people to the classes. I have attended a number of courses at Writing Room such as Inspire Your Writing, the Immersive Summer School, Life Writing & Memoir, Creative Writing Foundation and, most recently, Prioritise Your Writing. The tutors are fantastic at what they do and the students really are from a range of backgrounds and experiences. For some, it is their first time writing and for others, they are experienced and already published but we are all supported and seen. I feel we all learn so much from each other and from the tutors. It is very relaxed and you go at your own pace without huge pressure but a lot of support.

Extract of a novel in progress

Emine was in the scullery, her finger poking about inside the dead rabbit trying to find the bullet that had killed the poor animal when she heard raised voices in the next room. Baba and Elham. She was torn, should she carry on the task of getting dinner ready or go to the door and listen? Her curiosity coupled with the likelihood of watching her older sister get a slap was too hard to resist.

‘Yok, gitmem!/No, I won’t go! The boat will sink and the fish will eat me!’ she heard her sister say. Emine knew that Elham hated fish, loathed them, that their fish stink made Elham retch and she looked uneasy when their dead bulging eyes looked at her from Emine’s plate.

               ‘Gitmem/ I won’t go!’ Elham seemed completely convinced that the ship would sink halfway across the Mediterranean and she would end up in fishy hell forever.

               ‘Hus ol/Shut up Elham. We’ve already paid Ibrahim bey for the ticket. You’re going.’  Emine could hear that baba was less than happy. She peeped around the door but no slap came. And, Elham, as well as hating fish, was totally stubborn. So that was how, instead of her elder sister, Emine ended up on a ship set to arrive in Liverpool docks in April 1947.

She had jumped the queue thanks to Elham’s scaredy-cat nature and she was excited at the prospect of the adventure. Who knows what could happen, she thought. The world was her octopus or something like that.


The Ascania II was the sole passenger ship taking the bright young things of Cyprus, including Emine, from Larnaca harbour to the Motherland. Once on board, she finally took off the hideous white socks that her parents always made her wear and pulled on a pair of grey stockings that she had smuggled into her battered trunk, which was lined with an old kilim that her mother had cut up and used to upholster the inside of Emine’s luggage.   


That is the opening to the book. I have now written about 50,000 words of a novel that tells my parents/community’s stories in fictionalised form. I am writing for myself, I find it therapeutic and cry and laugh at some of the memories from my childhood and the stories I have been handed down. However, the encouragement and support as well as the learning I have got from Writing Room gives me the impetus. That, and the fact that I left work at the beginning of 2020 and then Covid hit, has also helped!

Find out more about our courses here.