Reading, Writing and the World of Work

Last Wednesday, I spent the morning at Dalmarnock Primary School in the east end of Glasgow. This wasn’t my first visit to the school as I was there earlier this academic session to deliver training for the teachers in the Reflective Reading programme. But this time, I was there to meet the P7 pupils as part of their World of Work event.
I’d been invited along to chat to the pupils about my ‘job’ as an author. Like most authors, I don’t earn a living from my writing and do other jobs too so I don’t list my main occupation as ‘writer’. But for the purposes of suggesting a diverse range of options to the pupils I was very happy to represent writing as a career choice. I was also keen to take part in the event as Dalmarnock PS is a fabulous school which recently benefited from the Pupil Equity Fund to receive additional support, to help them close the poverty related attainment gap in their school.


As a writer, I feel passionately about challenging social class barriers and representing working class voices in fiction, particularly from a female point of view. When I was in P7, the only professional people I knew in person were my teachers, the doctor and the priest. I never ever dreamed of being an author, this was a job that didn’t seem possible for someone like me who lived in a council house.

I was an avid reader (thank you Falkirk libraries!) but despite my love of books filling my mind with stories, to picture myself as an author was beyond my imagination. To set this scenario in context, from the 18 pupils in my P7 class, I was the only one who went on to further education to train as a primary school teacher. One of the reasons I believe that influenced my career choice (and the fact I failed to get in to Art School!) was that it was one of the only professional jobs I had encountered in real life.

Willow the star attraction!

In the school hall, I met the excited pupils in groups of three and asked each one what they wanted to be when they grew up. Not surprisingly, the most popular answer from the boys was footballer. The top choice of the girls was beautician. I did my best to be a cheerleader for authors but my ‘stall’ had to compete with the fluffy ball of cuteness that was Willow on the Therapet stand.
I also took the chance to talk to the pupils about their favourite authors. David Walliams scored highly with his books Gangsta Granny and Ratburger mentioned often along with The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. The importance of reading for pleasure is a key message when I deliver reflective reading training so it was great to hear the pupils talking positively about books.

 
“When children, particularly the poorest, have fallen behind in reading by 11, the impact can last for the rest of their lives. They are less likely to go on to secure good qualifications. Their chances of getting a good job and pulling themselves out of poverty are severely diminished.” Read on, Get on.

The P7s I met might not pursue writing as a career but it was a brilliant opportunity to share my love of books and reading with them. Here’s hoping that whatever job they end up doing, it’ll not be all work and no play, and that their downtime will involve enjoying a good book, especially one written by an author they once met at school!

Wearing Bimbo’s sunglasses featured on the cover of Talk of the Toun.

Having fun with a Buy Buy Baby bookmark.

 

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A Writer’s Ego


Dear Santa,

I’ve been a good girl during my first semester at uni. I didn’t miss a single class and I handed all my assignments in on time. So I was wondering if there was any chance of getting my dream Christmas present this year?

On Christmas morning, I’d like to wake up without a hangover AND also the confidence to actually call myself a writer, out loud in public. I’ve accumulated a fair amount of titles in my adult years- student, teacher, wife (no1 and no2),mother, Training Officer and student again but I’ve yet to feel that I’veearned the title ‘Writer’.

In the winter edition of the Society of Author’s journal, ‘The Author’, Robert Hull has written a great piece on ‘Am I an author?’ where he states that“somehow one can be a writer without publishing anything, the term paradoxically seems also to imply a route to authordom.” So, what’s my problem?That could be me he’s talking about, I write.  So I am a writer. But I also paint watercolours and I don’t call myself an artist.  I pull weeds in my garden but I don’t call myself a gardener. You get the idea.  For me, the problem with choosing the title,‘writer’ over any other title, is one of ego.

To be a writer, I think you need to have a big enough ego to put your work out there.  You need to believe that people will be interested enough in what you write to want to invest the time (and possibly hard earned money) to want to read it. You need to believe that you’vesomething really worthwhile to say in a world where there are already too many books and more creative writing graduates than you can shake a pen at.  My ego was big enough to make me quit my job so that I could call myself a student, but not big enough to call myself a writer.  Not yet. It’s my personal work in progress.
Oscar Wilde said, “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” Now that’s an ego! I’m notgreedy. I don’t want an unhealthy supersized McEgo, just a regular ego with fries and a diet coke.

But don’tworry Santa, if asking for a bigger ego is too much, I totally understand that this is something I will probably have to find myself or search for it on eBay.  If your elves can’t sort out a writer’s egofor me, then here are a couple of ideas for substitute gifts.




P.S. Another bottle of double strength ‘Patience-of-a-Saint’ tablets would also be very much appreciated for my long-suffering hubby- he’ll need them for next semester!