SIX WEEKS after she was born, the hospital consultant told Karen Gallacher’s mum that her daughter’s ability to participate in a “full” life would be limited.

“Do not expect too much from your daughter and you will not be disappointed,” he said, coolly, as Mary Gallacher’s heart broke.

Fifty-five years on, Karen – who is now a published author - has captured that devastating moment, and many more besides, in her writing.

“I wrote a story called Pieces of Time, which is based on my life,” she says. “My story, my experiences go into a lot of my writing. It’s my escapism – joining this group changed my life.”

Karen attends Cardonald Library’s creative writing sessions, run by Glasgow Life’s adult learning and literacy programme.

Every Tuesday morning, she and a bunch of like-minded writers meet to work on a variety of projects. It is the latest in a string of writers’ groups Karen has attended, and her moving, funny and interesting poems and stories have now appeared in several anthologies.

“My writing journey began in 2011 when I participated in a writing course run by the Glasgow Disability Alliance, in conjunction with Glasgow Life,” says Karen, who grew up on the south side of the city.

“The work we produced went on display at the Aye Write festival in the Mitchell Library and was then published in a book, which was amazing.”

She adds: “I didn’t want to stop, so I did a creative writing course at Strathclyde University.

“I had always been interested in writing, but I had just lacked the courage to share my work. Thanks to the guidance and encouragement from the Glasgow Life tutors and classes, I have been able to fulfil my dream of becoming a writer.”

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The Cardonald group’s most recent project has involved updating fairytales.

Karen’s story, Cindy, is a contemporary and personal take on Cinderella.

“I wanted to include all the old fairytale ideas of good versus evil, but look at the idea of inclusion, and overcoming adversity too,” says Karen. “It’s about being different, and why that is okay.”

She adds: “It is a bit about me too. When you are born with a spastic condition – in my case, I had deformities of the feet and I had to have lots of corrective surgery – life can be difficult, especially when you are a child. I had a tough time, growing up.”

In her story Pieces of Time, Karen wanted to show what life is like living with a disability.

“I learned to walk through the skilful hands of orthopaedic surgeons, and I was blessed to be born with loving parents, grandparents and great-grandparents to love and guide me,” she writes.

Karen recalls playing the ugly ducking in a play version of the famous Hans Christian Andersen story, her leg stookies from a recent operation covered in orange crepe paper as she waddled around a silver foil lake; tomboy exploits with her brother John which resulted in many visits to A&E; and trying desperately to fit in when she started high school.

“ ‘All the other girls wear brogues with ecru tights,’ I’d tell her, looking down at my surgical footwear,” writes Karen about a conversation she had with her mother.

“She wrote a letter on my behalf and asked if I could wear trousers, that way my shoes would be partially disguised.”

Throughout all the challenges she has faced, Karen’s mother Mary has been a strong figure by her side.

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“She is a big force in my life, she has fought for me ever since that first day in the hospital,” says Karen. “She was told not to put me in a mainstream school, but she did.

“Now my mum has Alzheimer’s, and we are facing a different challenge but I’ll be with her now, every step of the way.”

For more information about Glasgow Life’s adult learning programmes visit