Vanessa Altin, who has written her first book The Pomegranate Tree about the Syrian conflict.

The Pomegranate Tree, is a book shedding light on the plight of youngsters affected by the Syria conflict. Vanessa Altin and her family divide their time between England, where she has lived for 50 years, and Turkey where her Kurdish husband Adnan, 44, is from. It was while in Turkey, near the Kurdish border, that Vanessa met the children who would change her perspective.

Vanessa, who worked at the News of the World and The Sun among other national titles. was shocked when she came across the youngsters who had fled the violence and were left with nothing – including any knowledge of whether the rest of their family was dead or alive.

Vanessa, 52, did what she could to help – raising more £2,500 in just a night after a heartfelt plea on Facebook and spending the money on food, sweets and toys for the children. But she knew this was not enough, either for them or to satisfy her need to act on what she had witnessed. Not convinced traditional reporting would get the message across, she decided to turn her hand to writing and pen a book aimed at teenagers to make them aware of what was happening to their peers 3,000 miles away.

The Pomegranate Tree, written in a half-diary half-first person book form, pulls no punches. It is hard-hitting from the get-go, and Vanessa makes no apologies for that. In the opening chapter the reader hears how the central character Dilvan has seen one sister and her assaulted mother put in a truck and driven away, while her baby sister was on the verge of being beheaded before a missile strike plunged the area into chaos. Her father and brothers are away fighting ISIS with Kurdish fighters elsewhere in the country.

While the book is fictionalised, it is all based on stories told to Vanessa while in Turkey, prompting her to describe the book as “faction”.

Some proceeds from the book are being donated by both Vanessa and the publisher to Heyva Sor, the Kurdish Red Crescent (Red Cross equivalent).

We are very excited about Vanessa’s visit to Elgin Academy on 8 February.

She will meet all of our S3. We are also offering a second session with Vanessa, to other schools in Moray.

  • The Pomegranate Tree (Blanket Press, £6.99), is available to buy now from bookshops, including a number of local independent stores, or online.