Debut children’s book published by Winchester academic

7 Sep 2018

A disabled academic at the University of Winchester has overcome all obstacles to become a published children’s author.

Flight (Firefly Press) is the debut novel of Dr Vanessa Harbour, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing. Aimed at 8-12 year olds, the novel is inspired by the true story of the rescue of the Spanish Riding School’s Lipizzaner horses during the Second World War, known as Operation Cowboy. It follows the gripping adventures of two children and their guardian as they battle to transport the horses through the Austrian mountains and Nazi territory to safety.

Vanessa said: “When I was growing up, my parents used to tell me stories about the Second World War. Consequently, this time period has always stirred my imagination. Flight combines my fascination with this era with my love of horses, creating a great adventure story for animal lovers and history enthusiasts of all ages.”

The novel is the culmination of a journey which started over 15 years ago at the University of Winchester. After nine years running her own business in PR and management consultancy, Vanessa became disabled and was unable to continue her business. As a consequence, she decided to study English at the University. It was here that Vanessa found her passion for writing for children. As a result, Vanessa went on to do a Masters and PhD in Creative Writing and she now lectures on the subject at the University.

“The University of Winchester was instrumental in my development as a writer,” Vanessa said, “When I came to the University, I had a very set idea of what kind of writer I wanted to be. However, my studies at Winchester encouraged me to experiment and inspired me to try writing for children. This support has led me to my dream career as an academic, writer and, now, an author.”

Flight was launched at P&G Wells Bookshop in Winchester. The book has already garnered good reviews and was announced as one of the New Stateman’s ‘Best children’s books of summer 2018’.

Vanessa added: “Having this book published means a huge amount to me, especially as a disabled author. I feel this is particularly important as the industry pushes for more diversity in children’s books. I hope that my achievements will show both children and adults alike that anyone can be an author.”

Flight is available to purchase in paperback and e-book format from

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