Every superhero has an ‘origin’ story of how they came into being. If applied to myself, How did I begin to be a reader, and eventually a writer?
I have to say, I have loved this challenge, (last week’s Weekly Challenge from WordPress) as it’s one of the most interesting I have attempted. Some of the challenges, especially the daily ones, have become repetitive, thinking about how I began to devour books, and my faltering beginnings as a writer has brought back lots of memories, though not always good ones. Part of the challenge was not simply to answer the eight questions suggested by the writer of the prompt but to put together a tale. Predictably, my notes grew exponentially as I answered each question, never being one to be succinct. My mum said recently ‘why write in 2 what you can write in 22, eh?’
When I told this to a friend who works in fundraising, she laughed and said when they present a pitch to organisations and the like for funding they are told the complete opposite. I am so relieved I am a writer and not a fundraiser, I’d never manage it! Proving this to be true, I’ve had to split this post into two, with the second part scheduled for Wednesday.
Reading was my very favourite hobby
Growing up, I do not remember which books were read to me as a small child. I have lots of early, disability, special nursery and school related memories, but not of books read at bedtime, or other times. Wondering if that reflects differences of experience rather than being a reflection on my upbringing. My mum especially must have read to us lots as she was the one at home with my brother and I.
I remember very clearly being assessed by the Educational Psychologist on reading and maths ability because of my disability, and even at age 7, I remember my reading age being ahead of my actual age. I loved that, I was so pleased… as were my family. It was something that was good progress that was not related to my disability, but showed I had some intellectual ability, especially as I was thought have such a level of learning difficulties when I was born that they questioned whether I could finish primary school, but this proved to be the start of dispelling those fears. (My parents say I was always a couple of years behind my peers in maths though.)
Writing for children wasn’t yet ‘cool’!
Enid Blyton – Classic or Controversial?
The first books I remember reading by myself at home were written by Enid Blyton. Someone gave me ‘The Enchanted Wood’ trilogy for Christmas or a birthday. Now her books are controversial, as some consider them racist. I remember names like ‘Fanny’, ‘Dick’, and ‘Moonface’. I remember the biscuits full of honey which exploded in your mouth, (perhaps an early warning of my sweet tooth!) The tales of faraway lands fuelled my young imagination, though. I was never interested in the Famous Five, oddly, even though I was interested in adventure in other stories. I read the ‘Malory Towers’ books, by Enid Blyton, I think there were several in the series, the main characters a girl called Darrell who goes off to boarding school called (handily!) Malory towers. I read also some of the later books which featured Darrell’s younger sister Felicity. Again, these books were a reflection of the time in which they were written, though for me this was part of the charm.
Roald Dahl – Prolific engaging and inspiring writer or dark and dangerous?
I remember some of the books I read at school too, around the same times as I read lots of Enid Blyton’s books. We read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in primary four, on which we were to write a story using our imaginations to dream up an amazing factory. Unfortunately I got side-tracked, writing ten A4 jotter pages of rubbish. I think we possibly read George’s Marvellous Medicine too, both books by Roald Dahl. I remember too the following year reading Danny the Champion of the World, (Roald Dahl again!!) and Stig of the Dump (Clive King). I must have loved them to remember them over 20 years later.
I went on to read other Roald Dahl books including The B.F.G and Matilda. I remember feeling sorry for both Sophie, the orphan whose life changes when she meets the BFG, and Matilda, who learns to read long complex books from age of four, while sitting in the library, the only place she feels safe. She is also famous for being able to move objects with her eyes, which she uses to her advantage, both with her dysfunctional family and draconian head teacher Miss Trunchbull. I think it was one of the first books I borrowed from a library. I remember numerous trips to the local library, though I do not remember the titles of what I read, just snippets of books.
Classics versus Contemporary
When I was about 11 or 12 I think, Mum wanted me to start reading classics. It would have been good preparation for high school, and University too. However, what I read, and Mum wanted me to read differed widely. I wanted to read what she considered rubbish, namely The Baby Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High.
Children’s literature has grown exponentially since I was young, thanks to the rise and rise of authors like Jacqueline Wilson, JK Rowling, Stephanie Myers and the likes. It would be fun to know what your memories are of reading as a
child especially, too, or maybe there was some other hobby you excelled in?
(P.S. Stay tuned for part 2 on Wednesday this week which will be live at 6am if I remember to schedule it….)
This post was written in response to last week’s Weekly Challenge from WordPress: