AS SHE carved her way through three careers, university courses and motherhood, Helen Cadbury made herself a promise.

She had lived her dreams of being an actor, a drama teacher and a mother, but there was still one thing left to do - write.

"When I was younger, I couldn't decide whether I wanted to be an actor or a writer, and my dad said wait until you've got something to write about," said the 42-year-old mother-of-two from Heworth.

"Twenty years went by without me writing anything, but it was always in the back of my mind that I would do.

"I decided that one day I was going to sit down for long enough to write something down and when I was 40, I did."

Watching her sit happily in her living room holding a copy of her short story, Nature's Way, it is hard to believe she has such a hectic life - or that she gave up her teenage passion for writing at all.

But it was as recently as three years ago when, because her two sons were growing up, she decided to do something for herself.

That led to a place on a creative writing night class at the University of York, followed by an MA at Sheffield Hallam - both of which she is still studying for.

Ultimately, it has led to the writing of Nature's Way, which has been snapped up by the BBC and will be read on Radio 4 on February 21.

Her story is about the thoughts of a woman who has won the lottery but can't decide whether to claim it, and was inspired by a news story about an unclaimed ticket in Doncaster that was only 24-hours away from its deadline.

"I started to think about who might have bought that ticket and what might be going on for that person that might make them not want to claim the money," she said.

"The BBC will hire an actor to read it out and I'm really curious to hear it because I have a real sense of what this woman's voice sounds like and the thoughts going on in this woman's head on this particular day."

There is a children's novel in the pipeline too, about a group of children in East Yorkshire who survive catastrophic floods ten years in the future.

She also writes poetry, and she has been published in an online anthology, and was runner-up at the Ilkley International Poetry Competition.

For all this, writing is still quite a small part of Helen's day, because she also teaches creative writing at Askham Grange Open Prison.

Her job is to develop literacy and reading skills, giving women the confidence to settle into the community when they are released and reduce the risk of re-offending.

"I meet all the women as individuals, I don't ask why they are there because it's none of my business, I just meet them as people," she said.

"I talk to them as readers and writers and there are some very creative people there.

"There are people with very harrowing life stories and if I can help them to write that down in a way that helps them move on, then that's a really enjoyable part of my job. It's a really good release for them and they enjoy doing something constructive."

The women in the family learning group have written a children's story to send home to their own children, called Baked Bean And The Wanderoids.

Many of the women write poetry and Helen has set up a book club at the prison, too.

"The book club is so much fun; 15 women drinking coffee talking about books they like reading and recommending books to each other. You could forget you were in a prison. It was so uplifting, I came away smiling."

Acting is another string to her bow and her experience with companies such as Hull Truck has led to writing resource packs about theatre productions. She compiles the packs for Pilot Theatre, in York, and has been commissioned to write the packs for the West End musical of Flashdance.

With so much work to do, it's amazing she finds time to write all. But that's why writes early in the morning, particularly at weekends.

"My office is so full of clutter that I don't tend to write in there, I tend to wander around my house with my laptop trying to find a corner where the TV isn't on and the PlayStation isn't on," she said.

"I often say I like writing poetry best because it fits in with a busy lifestyle. You can write in short bursts and then go back to it, and it's much harder to do that with prose. I'm really enjoying writing a novel though, because you live with it for a lot longer."

Helen is full of enthusiasm for anyone who longs to write but has never got started.

"I would say join a creative writing class and get used to reading your work out to people and getting feedback.

"You can find inspiration from anything around you. If you keep your eyes and ears open stories are starting all around you all the time. They don't have to be erotic and the beginnings of stories don't have to be dramatic. It's what happens within them that creates the drama."

  • Nature's Way, BBC Radio 4, February 21, 3.30pm

Extract from Nature's Way

"It was on the front page of tonight's evening paper. I saw the headline in the newsagent while I was packing my carton of milk in the pink and white striped plastic bag.

Then, waiting for the lights to change, I had that funny thought I sometimes have: that this would be a bad moment to get run over. The milk would be all over the road and the bag would flutter by my bloodstained body, like an abandoned seaside deck-chair in the breeze.

I mainly think this when carrying chips home on a Friday evening. It would be terrible to be knocked down carrying chips.

They would lie sadly scattered after the emergency services had scooped up my remains.

No one would want their memorial to be a load of squashed chips.

No, it's best to wait for the green man; I'm not built to rush between the traffic."