Having won various writing prizes and competitions while living in London, Tess became a professional script/sketch writer on several shows, including Smack the Pony, Doctors and Hollyoaks. In 2000, she spent a long spell in hospital following a spinal infection and began writing for the sake of writing; poems, short stories, a journal of thoughts and feelings. She began to research the subject of writing for health and found evidence from researchers showing that expressive writing could be used to benefit health and wellbeing.
In 2005, she completed an MA in creative writing at Newcastle University during which she took Cynthia Fuller’s module in Writing for Health. She then went on to win New Writing North’s Northern Promise Award for a collection of short stories. Tess co-founded Pen and Tonic, a Newcastle-based community organisation that promotes the health benefits of expressive writing. Since the publication of their book, interest in Pen and Tonic has spread nationally.