Actually, no! I’ve always loved to write, but my first love has always been writing fantasy stories for young children. I wrote poetry at school, of course, and every so often when I was on holiday, but it wasn’t a regular thing.
Well, I’ve been a teacher for many years and some years ago, when I was on holiday at a beautiful place in the country, I was inspired to write some poetry, and when I came home, I had the idea to write some more poems about my life as a teacher.
Each poem would concentrate on a different aspect of school life, such as the lessons, what went on in the staffroom, school trips, exams, report writing, and so on. I also wanted to pay tribute to some of the support staff who do so much to keep a school running, but are often forgotten e.g. the cook, the caretaker, the nurse, the school secretary – the unsung heroes of life is what I call them.
No, I can’t say I’ve got a favourite. Each one is written from the heart and it’s impossible for me to single one out in particular.
I had the idea one day whilst driving to work. I was just thinking about my family and other people in my life who’ve had a big influence on me, one way or the other, and suddenly the idea popped into my head that I could write a second collection of poems about them and the lessons I’ve learnt from them.
That’s got a lot to do with the fact that my mother was German and my father English, and I just couldn’t get my head round the fact that, had I been born a few years earlier, all my German relatives would have been my ‘enemies’. To me they could never have been ‘enemies’, just ‘family’. It got me thinking about how futile it is to talk about so-called national divisions.
I was walking home one evening – it was already dark – and I looked up at the sky which was filled with stars. Suddenly, I thought ‘What if one of those stars just disappeared from view because it suddenly lost its shine? Who or what would be around in space to help a star that had lost its shine?’ And then the answer came to me – spaceships, of course! And that’s how the story of ‘Pep, Polish and Paint’ was born!
Just writing the poems and the stories – I’m totally absorbed by the process and really enjoy it.
Easy-to-read, easily accessible free verse. I want people to be able to read and understand what I’m writing about from the word go. I don’t like things to be hidden in obscurity. I write simply as I’m inspired to write. The poems I’ve had published in my two collections are really stories and character sketches that just happen to be in verse. One of the reviews on Amazon talks about me developing a new form of poetry, called the ‘anecdotal poem’, and I think that describes my style of poetry very well.
When I write poetry, I can concentrate on the rhythm and sound of the words and use vocabulary I wouldn’t be able to use in my children’s stories. It’s a marvellous linguistic challenge – the sound of words has always been something that’s fascinated me. It’s one of the reasons I studied modern languages. When I write my children’s stories, it’s more about escaping into a wonderful world of fantasy, leaving the mundane ‘real’ world behind – I find it wonderfully exciting and liberating.
When I was a child, I loved reading Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh. And now Julia Donaldson books are amongst my favourite, for example the Gruffalo story, which is one of the best selling books in the UK for children. ‘Room on the Broom’ is another Julia Donaldson book that is a favourite of mine. I love the imagination in the Gruffalo story and ‘Room on the Broom’ – and the ending in the latter is one of my all time favourites. I think the idea of a 5 star deluxe witch’s broom is just inspired! No wonder then that both of these stories are amongst the best selling children’s books in the UK!
Now that my second picture book has been published (Speedy & Splash Have a Race) – which features a raindrop race like no other – and celebrates the theme of working together, achieving together and feeling good together, I hope to develop the idea into a series of books, where Speedy and Splash have all kinds of adventures! I already have several ideas in mind. If readers are interested, they can read extracts from Speedy & Splash on Amazon, and they can listen to the whole of ‘Pep, Polish and Paint’ here and they can read the first part of the story here. And all my books are, of course, available from the bookshop.