Tanya's Story...

In residence at the Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature (Switzerland)

“Absorbing…robust, declarative even, but there is also something disquieting in this memoir… for Shadrick, to be a woman, an artist and a mother still seems something not quite of this world: a fairy tale that puzzles her even though – or perhaps because – it came true.” Times Literary Supplement

A former hospice life-story scribe, Tanya embarked on her first public work after forty with The Wild Patience Scrolls: a mile of writing composed pen on paper beside England’s oldest outdoor pool and then completed on a month-long residency at the Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing & Literature in Switzerland.

You can listen to Tanya discuss that undertaking with her mentor, sculptor David Nash, in the BBC Radio 4 show Pursuit of Beauty: a celebration of slow art which features both Tanya’s mile of writing and Nash’s forty-year old living sculpture Ash Dome. Since her first performance piece, Tanya has been a writer-in-residence at many other extraordinary locations, including the Jan Michalski Foundation in Switzerland, a tiny Grade-II listed National Trust former artists’ cabin on a cliffside in Devon, and Virginia Woolf’s garden on the Sussex Downs.

All of her work seeks to call forth creative responses in others – a practice which earned her Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts in 2018. Coming from a rural, working class background - the first in her extended family to ‘go away’ from North Devon for a higher education - she is particularly committed to mentoring underrepresented writers.

“Tanya creates intriguing space in public places where the curious find themselves engaging in a writer’s practice and volunteering their own stories to be wove into her work” Sculptor David Nash RA (Mentor)

As founder of The Selkie Press, Tanya is the editor of Wild Woman Swimming – a journal of west country waters longlisted for the 2019 Wainwright Prize: a book she promised to make after a single meeting with its dying author, Lynne Roper.

The Cure for Sleep (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) - Tanya’s first book - was both a Waterstones and Evening Standard non-fiction book for 2022. It is an open invitation for others to begin (or return to) their own creative journeys…

Instagram | Website

about the book

“A sublimely written account of refusing to be defined by social constructs and embracing life-enhancing change, The Cure for Sleep is a poignant and inspiring slice of literary memoir” A Waterstones Non-Fiction Book of 2022

What happens when you realise that you must change your life?

When - after years of hiding in routine, shrinking from opportunity, and sleepwalking through your days - you know you want more?

How do you remake your life without breaking it?

The Cure for Sleep is the stunning memoir of a smalltown wife and mother who returns from sudden near-death determined to live her second life on a larger, braver scale - whatever it takes, or costs.

Paperback | Audiobook | Kindle

reader praise

‘A brilliant exploration of one woman’s driving need to punch through the constraints society puts upon her . . . This is a passionate hymn to the need to nurture the creative life inside of you’ Waterstones bookseller

‘A life-changing read. Rare are the books of which you can say they have changed your vision of life. This is one of them’ Waterstones bookseller

‘This book changes lives . . . Read it and wake up to making the most of your life’ Independent bookseller

‘This book could actually be life-changing . . . raw, honest, beautiful, heart-breaking, inspiring’

‘Calling all women. Get a copy of this book . . . It’s the most honest, fearless and insightful work I’ve ever read’

‘I’m in love with this book . . . Creative women – you will feel seen and so inspired. Add it to your list’

‘I feel as though a light has been shone into my soul, and I am resolved now to stride forth’

‘Every page of this book is medicine’

‘This book cracked me in two. So raw, so powerful, so inspiring’

‘Exquisite, nuanced, almost poetic in its intimacy . . . I am changed. You cannot possibly read and experience this and not be’

‘Comforting, revealing, provoking . . . one of the most important books I’ve ever read. A gift to the world, but especially women’

‘Just read it, especially if you’re a mother making any kind of art’

‘I know I will return to this beautifully written book again and again . . . So much that resonated about class, small towns, work, family life and motherhood – and the overwhelming need, through it all, to be ambitious for your own inner life’

The Cure for Sleep lays down a powerful but loving gauntlet to live creatively, passionately and honouring what it means to be fully alive’

‘A precious reference to a life lived well, with love and gusto . . . something to return to when we need reassurance we’re not alone in our desire for a different destiny. A lighthouse in be- tween two covers’

‘Raw, poetic, powerful, deeply intelligent . . . it will resonate with many people who feel that their authentic voice has been stifled by social expectations’

‘Lyrical, beautiful, unusual and haunting. I loved the premise of trying to find creative artistry in the everyday’

‘A wondrous book . . . I am left wanting to write and to be brave’

‘This memoir just totally captivated my soul . . . a woman on a quest of rebirth and sovereignty . . . You will cry for her. You will cry for yourself, and you will grow’

other praise for The Cure for Sleep

‘A sublimely written account of refusing to be defined by social constructs and embracing life-enhancing change, The Cure for Sleep is a poignant and inspiring slice of literary memoir’ Waterstones, Non-Fiction Books of 2022

‘A hypnotically written debut memoir, all about claiming a bolder, more risk-taking life’ Jessie Thompson, Evening Standard, The best non-fiction books to look out for in 2022

‘A tender but ferocious memoir... to awaken, to see the world with such freshness, to “become an explorer of the everyday and break new ground in it” – we could all do with a bit more of that’ Marianne Levy, The i Paper

‘Thoughtful, poetically articulate . . . ambitious in its scope, a memoir telling her journey from rural working-class Devon to where she is today’ Boudicca Fox-Leonard, Telegraph

The Cure for Sleep is a book that, from the outset, subverts expectations . . . The result is a memoir that reads like a fable and invites us, however late in life, to step out of the confines we have made for ourselves . . . Every woman will see something of herself in the clinical dissection Shadrick performs on her own history, and in the cultivation of the woman she strives to become’ Anna Galbraith, The Mail On Sunday

‘This brave and beautifully written book describes the painstaking, painful process of transformation . . . the courageous story of a woman expanding the narrow confines of her old life for a generous, expansive, compassionate future’ Eithne Farry, Daily Mirror

‘A viscerally honest account of two lives, the second lived more fully, more fearlessly, as wife, mother, friend, feminist, risk-taker, hospice scribe, consummate writer – and completely, impressively her own person’ Rose Shepherd, Saga

‘Honest, raw, powerful – in mesmerising prose Shadrick has produced a profound exposition of how a woman might fully inhabit her own life, even while attending to wider family ties and responsibilities. Personal yet universal, a truly thought provoking read’ Sussex Life

‘A daring and enchantingly written blend of memoir and self- help, which urges us to consider, at any age, breaking the spell of our inherited longings for love, approval, safety and rescue, and doing what we are actually called to do with our one wild and precious life’ Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller, Editor’s Choice

‘Absolutely gorgeous. If you like lyrical, beautiful, searching non-fiction, then you’ll love The Cure for Sleep’ Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood

‘A story about struggle, class, opportunity (taken and wasted), art, sex and desire. About how to live, once you’ve faced down death, and how to love. The writing is direct and meaningful, open and heart-felt; Tanya is fearless in her integrity and honesty.’ Jenny Landreth, author of Swell

‘I love this book. Tanya’s story is moving and inspiring. Her thoughts and writing are well considered, courageous & true: real art’ Amy Liptrot, author of The Outrun

‘In beautiful prose, Tanya Shadrick writes her own fairy tale of becoming. She is fearless in her depiction of female desire’ Katherine May, author of Wintering

‘I finished this wonderful book with tears in my eyes. A book about daring to be, daring to head out, to encounter truths and to understand what place desire must have and must not have in a life. It is beautifully written, both careful and passionate, both slight and strong in its gestures like the best of art, and astonish- ingly, heartrendingly open. Intensity, beauty, subtlety, pain and courage – all are here’ Adam Nicolson, author of The Making of Poetry