Writer who suffered with severe brain injury after crash is nominated for royal award
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Two decades ago, 31-year-old Gracie Wright might not have imagined she would ever live a normal life, much less be in the running for a royal award.
Ms Wright, from Beccles, has been nominated for the NatWest Enterprise award at The Prince's Trust and TK Maxx and Homesense Celebrate Success Awards, a recognition given to disadvantaged young people across the East of England who have succeeded against the odds.
This description certainly sums up Ms Wright, who suffered a severe brain injury after a near-fatal car accident when she was 11, which lead to post-trauma amnesia.
Ms Wright is now so used to telling her motivational story of childhood trauma to large groups that she has specific references depending on the nationality of her audience.
'I sometimes say what happened to me is like the plot of the movie 50 First Dates. It's similar in that I had to write down notes to myself; sometimes I would remember and sometimes I wouldn't,' she said.
'Everyone knew what has happened to me, but not many people knew that I had lost most of my memories of my childhood. Sometimes I wouldn't remember my family. It was quite a confusing and emotional time growing up, I had an idea of who I was supposed to be but I didn't fully remember.
'Most people thought I was over it, nobody understood what was really going on. It's the weirdest thing to explain: I could function but I didn't feel present, I didn't feel like I was living in my own body.'
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The years that followed were ones of confusion and disorientation for Ms Wright. As she tried to reconnect with her close friends and family and learn to read and write again, other people in her life were less understanding of the challenges she faced.
'Bullying is very common in high school and if you have a weakness of any kind they'll take advantage of that,' she said.
Gradually she began to piece together the past, and in doing so realised her love of being around children. Through working as a nanny she found a connection that was missing in her life.
'I was very sure of how to do that role, I knew kids without a doubt. I've always been a kind of mum figure - very responsible and mature - and because I'd been through trauma before I was aware of dangers out there and was almost giving them what I had lost during my own childhood,' she said.
Writing books specifically for children came next - she started writing at night while the boy she was looking after slept. She quickly began to get interest from editors and publishers.
It was Ms Wright's mum who suggested she get in touch with The Prince's Trust. Through the Enterprise programme, which helps unemployed young people start up in business, she was matched with a business mentor who helped her focus her energy and abilities. The trust also gave her a grant, which helped her publish her first book.
She has now written four children's picture books, runs workshops and school holiday camps for children and is an inspirational speaker for children.
'Honestly I didn't truly understand what the group did at first, I didn't want sympathy. But they really guide you to the next phase and kept me going in the right direction,' Ms Wright said.
'The Prince's Trust was a net which caught me before I fell again. It gave me the confidence and backing to go on at a point when I had hit a wall. When The Trust stepped in I suddenly felt more stable and free to share my ideas with professionals and move forward.'
All of her trials and tribulations have been recognised in her nomination for the NatWest Enterprise award. A winner will be chosen at the ceremony on November 7 at the Craig Gordon Theatre in Stevenage.
'I believe in positive thinking: make your life what you want it to be. Whatever barriers you face, there will always be a path for you,' Ms Wright said.