As a little side project, I have been creating content and managing the social media for the newly published children’s book ‘The Tooth And The Sixpence.” This project is special to me because the book’s author is indeed my wonderful Grandmother, Eillea Mayfield.
Grandma is now 89 and whilst she is a whiz talking on Skype building websites and posting photo’s on Facebook is not really her forte, so I thought I’d help out. Just between you and me, I love doing it for so many reasons but the main being, it’s for family.
Tonight, I was up late, tea in hand and setting the keyboard on fire as I was writing up a bio of Grandma for her books website. It was challenging condensing 89 years of life into a few paragraphs and keeping it in the theme of the website. What was even more challenging was my urge to start doing even more research on my family and learning more about the incredible journeys and lives of these people I have the privilege of calling my family and ancestors.
I did get a chance to have a look at a few of the branches in the family tree when my Mum let me borrow their copy of The Mayfield Family. This book was compiled by the very dedicated Pat Uppill and spans over a history of thirteen generations of the Mayfield family. Mayfield is my maiden name and one that I was particularly sad to let go on my wedding day but proud to see it continue in strength through amazing individuals like my Grandma who wrote the book and my little sister whom is responsible for getting it published.
Enough of the nostalgic ramblings . . .
Here’s 5 reasons why finding out some family history will make you a better writer:
- Writers need to be able to research – this is good practice.
- It will reconnect you with your family past and present.
- You will gain a better understanding of where your inspiration as a writer comes from.
- It gives you a real life understanding of timelines – this is good for script writing and novels
- You may find a hidden treasure – royalty, celebrity, pioneer – you just never know which influential individual you may be related to.
Make your words count. KM.
It never ceases to amaze me how stories find me. Last night I was embarking on clearing up the spare room of our house which had inadvertently turned into a dumping ground. I needed some background noise to help complete this colossal task so I switched on some talk-back radio for a change of pace and was thrilled by what I had found.
ABC Radio was broadcasting the BBC Radio 4 Bookclub program in which an audience has the opportunity to speak directly with an author. Much to my delight, today’s author was the fascinating Judith Kerr. Judith was responsible for one of the most famous – and one of my personal favourites – children’s books of all time, The Tiger Who Came To Tea.
Instead of a conversation about children’s literature, which is what I was fully expecting, the content of the interview took an intriguing turn. Born in Germany, Judith Kerr was the daughter of a prominent theater critic and essayist, Alfred Kerr. Through his participation of drama and literary criticism, his open hostility towards the Nazi regime forced his family to flee Germany in 1933. After several years in exile in Europe, her family finally settleddown in London.
Although her most successful book-to-date is still The Tiger Who Came To Tea, it was another one of Judith Kerr’s books which was the focal point for today’s discussion, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. I felt ashamed that I had never heard of this book but I can assure you after listening to the humble and reflective words of Judith Kerr, I will be buying it. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is Ms. Kerr’s accounts of growing up in Berlin at the beginning of the Nazi occupation. Her narration in this book, as described in the BBC interview, is written from the eyes of innocence, in-experience and the ignorant bliss of an 8-year-old child.
Judith mentioned in the interview that the book was written from her own personal observations as a somewhat oblivious child. However, as the years have passed her appreciation of the magnitude of what she survived has caused for much reflection. She spoke how she often wonders how she would have dealt with raising and protecting her children in that environment. In addition, an admiration for her parents for how well they protected her and her brother from the atrocities surrounding them, still continues to grow to this very day.
What we can learn from Judith Kerr: Ms Kerr stated that firstly and foremost, she is an illustrator and she purely wrote stories in order to create a space to draw. Her affair with writing has had it’s high and lows and her change in direction from children’s books to young adult novels such as When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, came from an interest from her own grown-up children about her past.
Whether it be the fact that my Grandmother is German or the nostalgic affection I hold for reading The Tiger Who Came To Tea to my own children, Judith Kerr has most definitely led a life of intent. She commented that she is fully aware she is a living a life that millions of her countrymen did not get the chance to live and respects that. The discussion in this BBC Radio 4 Bookclub sitting also instigated a curiosity of wanting to know more about her father who’s literature was part of the infamous book burning in 1933.
There is a saying that you should never meet your idol as you will be disappointed. After having ‘met’ 92-year old Judith Kerr last night in the chaos of tidying up my spare room, I can safely say I was far from disappointed. In fact, it was an honor to be in the same room as her wonderful life and story-telling, even if we were half way across the world from each other.
Make your words count. KM.
Today J.K Rowling turns 50. So I thought I would pay tribute to this wonderful lady on her birthday because we all owe a lot to Joanne ‘Kathleen’ Rowling.
Happy Birthday JK Rowling from little kids and big kids who have fallen in love with books again.
This amazing woman single-handedly changed the world for the better. When I decided to write this article I visited Ms. Rowling’s website to get more of an idea of the mind behind the magic. As I tapped her name into the Google search bar the suggested searches that appeared in the drop down menu, confirmed the many channels of affection and fascination for this inspiring lady.
Joanne Rowling’s life reads like movie script with love, loss and self-discovery all contributing to the shaping of one of the world’s most famous authors. Raised in the English country-side with her sister Dianne, Rowling had a pretty standard upbringing . After attending the University of Exeter, her love for travel took her to Paris for a year of study before returning to London and working for Amnesty International. It was love which then swept Rowling off to Manchester to live with her boyfriend. This change in postcode is what the world needs to thank for the ‘birth’ of Harry Potter.
It was while J.K was stuck on a four-hour train commute to Manchester that she heard a mystical whisper of Platform 9 3/4. A boy with glasses. A boy who didn’t know he was a magician. These whispers of this lost boy gradually turned into a an exciting shout throughout the course of her train journey. She had no pen or paper and laptops weren’t openly accessible or affordable back then. Thus J.K got to spend an intimate and interrupted one-on-one time getting to know Mr Potter. From that day on, she would ‘write’ daily on an old fashioned type writer.
During this time, she suffered the loss of her beloved mother who passed away after a ten year battle of Multiple Sclerosis. Joanne had a difficult time dealing with her mothers passing especially since she had never formally ‘introduced’ her to Harry. The loss of her mother added another dimension to Harry with the loss of his parents.
After this personal tragedy, J.K was desperate for a change of scenery and travelled to Portgual to work as an English teacher. Here she met her first husband and later gave birth to a baby girl. 5 months later, Rowling and her little girl moved back to the United Kingdom to Edinburgh to be near her younger sister and leaving her husband behind. The first three chapters of Harry Potter were snuggled protectively into her suitcase with the little personal belongings she had.
The next few years were a struggle for Joanne as she found herself living off welfare. However, thankfully her connection to Harry Potter continued to grow. She would take her daughter to the warmth of local cafe’s and as her little girl slept contently in her pram, Rowling would write and write and write.
Her loyalty to Harry saw her manually type out dozens of chapter manuscripts and send them with hope to numerous literary agents. Finally after countless rejections, she received the letter she had been waiting for. Christopher Little Literary Agents agreed to represent J.K. in her quest to have her book published. The book was sent and rejected by all twelve publishing houses and then one year later, the wind changed and the bells of Hogwarts were one step closer to ringing. Bloomsbury committed to publishing 1,000 copies. Five months after the books hit the shelves, the flood gates opened and J.K. Rowling began not only winning awards but the book sales went through the roof. Gone were the days of living pay cheque to pay cheque, Joanne Rowling gave Harry his broomstick and finally, he was flying!
What I love the most about J.K is how through her storytelling of a boy named Harry, she made children – and adults – fall in love with reading. How refreshing it was to see images of little ones lining up outside a bookstore rather than a computer shop. Through her gift of enchanting her readers by leading them through a journey of wonder and wizardry she captured the imagination of generations. She gave us all a reminder on how ageless storytelling really is and how important it is to feed our imagination with words and not images on a computer screen.
She gave us a world away from the often dreary reality we live in. A world that was untouched by the brutality we see on the news every night. She gave us a way to escape. She gave us a reason to fall in love again with amazingly unique characters. She gave us a reason to pick up a book, to look at the cover and to feel a jolt of excitement as we turned to the first page.
On behalf of a book-lover, a story-teller and a mother who’s little boy loves wizards, I would like to thank J.K Rowling for allowing her imagination to flow in a direction that was not burdened by mundane reality and for listening to that little whisper on the train in Manchester.