The poet whose inspiring poems have earned her fame through closure is the mother of two children from Tilic Poultry, Clackmanshire.
Before her words went wide, Donna Ashworth hid behind her social media page.
But once they were discovered by the likes of TV presenters Vern Cotton, Cat Daily and Lisa Snowdon, and actresses Lisa Faulkner and Samia Longchampon, they stepped forward to claim the glory.
The 47-year-old said, “I started sharing inspirational quotes written by other people. Then I thought, with some of these quotes, I’m sure I could write them. And if I didn’t put my name on them, I wouldn’t be embarrassed.”
“It’s embarrassing to start sharing small parts of yourself. So I wrote some poems and didn’t put my name on them. Then, of course, the moment they went wide, I said it was mine.”
Now Donna’s fans are telling the world about their favorite poet. Snowdon recently posted a clip of her embracing Donna’s book. Kelsey, the widow of wanted star Tom Parker, has quoted Donna’s poem I Wish I Knew and her name was double-checked in Cotton’s new book, Bigger Than Us.
Donna has not yet met any of her famous fans. At the start of the lockdown, she, her husband Robert and their two sons Felix and Brody moved to Scotland from Manchester. And plans to sell their business, the baby soft play center, have failed in the face of the pandemic.
She said, “I did what everyone else did — I thought, ‘What am I going to do to keep my sanity?’ I decided to write every day and try to keep everyone afloat.
“I was really worried. We moved here. My husband no longer has a job. I had a Facebook page with a few thousand followers. I had to monetize that.
“I put myself completely in lockdown and it just got worse and worse.”
So Donna put all of her feelings — confusion and isolation but also optimism that we’ll get out of this horrific experience better — in poetry.
Her first major viral hit was the poem, History Will Remember When the World Stopped. Performed by Michael Sheen, Griff Rhys Jones and Vicki McClure, they honor the Welsh heroes during
When that first closure ended, she produced her first set of verses.
“I quickly put the lock words together in a book,” Donna said. “I wanted to do something to remember. So I published a little book on Amazon called History Will Remember When the World Stopped.”
Then it all went on for two years after that. There was no need to rush.” She said she was “too perfect.”
She added, “Remember how nice we were? We would have gotten out of this better. Then it all went on and we got a little angry and fed up.”
Mental health began to suffer as it continued. So I took the opportunity to make another book with my favorites off the page. They are sold as hot cakes. It still sells hundreds of copies every day.”
Donna’s handmade books—which don’t look attractive or professional, as she describes them as “beautiful bullshit”—have sold 175,000 copies so far. They have wandered all over the English-speaking world.
She said, “I went to #1 in the US and Canada. I’ve been #1 in the UK hair section three times. That was incredible.”
Now Donna is taking it to the next level. Signed with Scottish publishers Black and White. The first set of I Wish I Knew hardcover, £9.99, is in bookstores now. This way she hopes her words will reach a wider audience, including teenagers.
She said: “With mental health, as with young people at the moment, I am particularly concerned.
“My previous book was aimed at middle-aged women and mothers, with a lot about aging, body image, and what we do with our lives.
“I’m back to basics with this tool so teens can learn it. I’m back to the roots of what you need for good mental health – self-esteem and self-confidence.
“I cover body image and how we look, health, and all the stress that is on children today. Grief, family, relationships, all of these things are dealt with in bite-sized portions.”
This shape is intentional. Donna said, “That means you don’t have to sit down to face a book. If your mental health is poor, the last thing you want to do is read a book.”
“The idea is that you can open it anywhere and make the ball roll on some kind of emotional thinking
Donna is very sympathetic, feels the pain of others very sharply.
She said, “I’ve always had a gloomy demeanor. When I go low, I go very low. Even as a child, I worried for the world. I’ve been called hypersensitive and emotional. For years I didn’t read a newspaper or watch the news.”
“Jimmy Bolger died when I was in university. At the same time someone killed himself in my dorm rooms. I had a complete mental breakdown. I left the university and never came back.”
It was a bleak time for Donna. She remembers: “I slept several days in the apartment halls. I remember opening my big giant window and wondering if I could freeze to death.
“I never got to that point, but I remember very vividly my desire to get off this planet.”
After years of focusing on her excessive empathy, Donna is now channeling that into her writing.
“Over the years, people have criticized me, saying I would never make it through life if I kept feeling everyone’s pain,” she said.
However, her poems about grief were some of her most successful. Donna gets about 10 emails a day from people asking to read them at funerals.
She said, “We’ve all lost some people. I lost my family members, my best friend’s mother I grew up with as a second mother and a friend to suicide. When my grandmother died, we were so close. It hit me hard.”
But it doesn’t have to be her family to inspire Donna. I open a newspaper, she said, and go away and write something. I see people who have lost children. I write a lot about losing parents because I can see what is happening with the people who are left.”
Thanks to the internet, these poems have been linked to people all over the world. Donna added, “It’s all because of Facebook. I had no professional contacts, never paid for an ad, it was all completely organic through the social media gods.
“Now I have a lot of followers. This is an opportunity to change something.”
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