When I was ten, in my last year at primary school, I experienced what it would be like to be a writer for the first time. Over a period of a few weeks, I wrote a 30 page retelling of the Aladdin story. When I was finished, I handed it to my teacher (Mrs Hays – lovely Mrs Hays), and instead of praising me for writing a long story and scrawling over my work in red pen, she just asked if she could read it out to the rest of the class over a few days in our storytime
This experience is probably the most vividly remembered I have of what it is like to be a writer (more so than my first front page, my first by-line or seeing my first magazine in print). The reason it was so important was my school had given me the space and the time to develop my work pretty much undisturbed. Following this space and time (and some helpful guidance along the way from an enthusiastic teacher), I was given an audience. I experienced what it was like to be published.
I believe all children should have the opportunity to discover what it is like to write for extended periods and to be given the time and space to develop as writers. I believe all children should have the opportunity to publish their work and find an audience for it – after all, the success of most writing is in the effect it has on the reader – whether that’s in print or online.
I still learn about writing by sitting and writing. There’s more to it than that of course – there’s all the reading I do, the support of other knowledgeable writers, but for the most part it’s me, a pen and paper, time and space. The more I sit and write, the more I feel able to tell the difference between a sentence or phrase that works and one that falls flat.
Currently reading: Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.
Currently listening to: A Murder of Quality by John le Carre (The Radio 4 version from a couple of years ago)