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The lady of the college; Land Girls actress publishes first novel after writing course.

Byline: ROZ LAWS

ACTRESS Sophie Ward has revealed how she's made of the write stuff - after going back to college. The TV star, who is about to return in a new series of BBC1's Land Girls, is set to publish her first novel. And it's all thanks to a course she's been on in Birmingham.

The National Academy of Writing was launched at the University of Central England, now Birmingham City University, with the help of Melvyn Bragg.

Sophie went back to the classroom to take the graduate diploma course and now, nearly five years later, she is on the verge of completing her first book.

"It's a crime novel," reveals the 46-year-old, who has a degree from the Open University. "Writing has been a passion of mine for along time. I scribble away while waiting around on sets.

"I took the course in Birmingham for two years and I'm now doing a PhD on the narrative of thought experiments, with classes at Goldsmiths University in London.

"It's part-time, but I still have to go to classes once a week, alongside students in their twenties.

"It's good but involves lots of red pen and criticism! I am quite disciplined, though, which I wasn't when I was at school.

"I won't use my Doctor title when I get my PhD. That's just not the done thing in Britain, is it? "I did play a doctor in Heartbeat and I still have people come up and say 'I wish you were my doctor'."

Sophie is getting to use her screen medical skills again in Land Girls. As Lady Ellen Hoxley, she has to muck in when Hoxley Manor - in real life, Arbury Hall in Nuneaton, Warwickshire - becomes a makeshift military hospital and takes in injured World War Two soldiers.

Sophie hit the headlines when she left her husband for a woman, Rena Brannan. They live together in Gloucestershire with her two sons.

"The older one is a graphic designer and the younger one has just done his A levels and wants to act," says Sophie, the daughter of actor Simon Ward.

"I would discourage him, but that doesn't mean anything. My parents didn't want to act, but I took myself off on the bus to an audition anyway.

"I love acting, so it is hypocritical of me to try to stop him. Who has job security now, anyway? If you're set on it, go for it.

"I've been very fortunate in that there has been work, but you still have to keep reapplying for the job, which is diffi-cult. You can't act until you are asked. Well, you can but you look crazy doing it in your sitting room!" Land Girls is screened from Monday to Friday on BBC1 at 2.15pm.

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ROLE: Sophie Ward as Lady Ellen Hoxley in Land Girls.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 6, 2011
Words:472
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