Living and working in the depths of Dorset, far from any madding crowds is a treat. But it can also make me hard to find. This is my letter to those who wish to find me.
Having taught in and out of schools for many years I am now mostly out of school. But years of working with children, telling them stories, and hearing theirs, has brought me to the stage where I am no longer satisfied simply by telling stories. Now I am writing them down. I write for children of middle school age; they are the children I know best. No longer little enough to need cosseting, and yet not so big that they want adult books and ideas, the children I think of when I’m writing are on the cusp of big, but not yet sure that they are there.
Some of my writing has illustrations, some does not. But it was the children who asked for pictures first. I always checked through books to see if there were pictures before I was prepared to commit to reading them properly, and continued to do so long after I was considered by publishers to be too old for that sort of thing. Even these days I find pictures a treat. This was all reinforced by a girl I taught, who was registered blind. She was so frustrated by the fact that now she was nine the big braille books she was beginning to read no longer had pictures How her hands raced across the pages looking for pictures. She missed them. We had equipment in school which meant that I could make tactile diagrams and illustrations for her. The smile on her face as she enjoyed the images made me realise how much we all take the images we catch so casually, for granted.
When I was young, I was the child no teacher ever wants in their class. Too many questions, too busy with ideas, missing a dead father, frustrated by perfectionist tendencies and with a temper that flared without warning, I longed for a friend who would understand me, who would stand by me and help me be calm. It was a long time coming, and school was a hard place in which to wait. Maybe that was why I taught not only in schools, but also outside schools – children who were either ill, naughty, or whose lives simply didn’t fit into the pattern of school. Somehow we understood each other. As I used to say to children – if you’re in trouble or you’ve done something wrong, come and tell me about it, and I’ll help you find a way through to the other side. It doesn’t matter how bad you think it is, I’ve probably been there myself.
These days if I tell adults about this they are surprised. I am known as being calm, relaxed and endlessly patient. But ask my family… and they will laugh. When I tell children, they just laugh from the beginning.
And where has all this led to these days? My husband always said that we didn’t need a big family because every child I taught was a part of my family. I care about them. So maybe love is the other part of why I write. Looking for, and finding, the light that shines in everyone, nurturing it and watching it grow. Wanting to write about love in its broadest sense; in families, between friends and the goodness that it can bring to us. That, and well-founded trust, with the extraordinary security that it can bring in its wake, to those who give it, as well as to those who receive it. I want to share what I feel is worthwhile and of value.
Since my earliest childhood I have told stories. When I was two on a beach in Cornwall a woman asked who’s little girl I was. I paused and looked at the sea, threw a handful of sand in the air and ran away laughing. As my father said – implying for all the world that I had been blown in on the crest of a wave. He said that the truth and I had yet to make an acquaintance at that stage. Now we are thoroughly at ease in each others company, but stories are still a wonderful other world, full of discovery and experiments. I told them for children in school, during art classes, during ‘wet play’. I made history, science and maths lessons into stories and we were all happy and learned more than I had ever thought possible. For years I have battled not to write these stories down, but now I am.
Every day there are things that I see, people I meet, ideas that cross my path that I want to share with you. This is my opportunity. I shall be in touch with you again soon.