The back-story to “writing tips”
The little girl who couldn’t stop reading
I want to share with you my qualifications for offering writing tips. My mother told me that I taught myself to read. Apparently, I just started pointing out signs, identifying words in the newspaper, and reading stories to myself. I could hardly wait for birthdays and Christmas with their promise of Penguin and Puffin books. My mother tightly curated my collection, so no comics, no Enid Blyton, no Disney. (This turned out to be a social drawback when I started school.)
My repertoire comprised princesses, dalmations, lions/witches/wardrobes, Winnie the Pooh, Teddy Robinson. In my fictional journey, I accompanied Alice into her Wonderland and Through her Looking Glass, and I travelled with Mary Poppins across thre volumes of stories.
I lovingly read each book from cover to cover – feeling the crisp, new paper between my fingers, inhaling the distinctive smell of new book, earnestly exploring the blurb on the back. As a sickly little girl, I had lots of bed-time, also known as reading opportunities. I read under the covers with my torch, until it was confiscated; I read in the toilet, until that was outlawed (too long in there!)
I even read each side of the sauce bottle at the table. Did you know that HP Sauce used to have its blurb written in three languages? English on one side, French and German on the adjacent sides. So by turning the bottle back and forth, I had a go at translating words across the three languages. When toilet-reading was banned, I challenged the system by taking my Bible with me – mother could hardly say no – and I became very familiar with the first three books of the Old Testament!
At school, I romped through Dick, Dora, Nip and Fluff pretty quickly. I loved to read aloud in class and couldn’t understand why everybody didn’t find this a joy. (My maths skills, however, were atrocious!)
The adolescent girl who wouldn’t read
Then I hit teenage-hood and lost all interest in books. My father introduced to me to some YA fiction, sci-fi, historical fiction, but to no avail. My mother scorned me for not even reading the newspaper – how could I possibly understand current affairs? (I didn’t) At my expensive private all-girls school, my English teachers prescribed set texts that I read under duress. In upper high school, I was taught how to analyse novels, plays, poems – you know, theme, characterisation, plot, imagery. It was gruelling but fortunately for me something ‘clicked’ in that final year and I ‘kissed and made up’ with reading.
The adult girl who had to read
I vowed I wouldn’t attend uni and cost my parents any more tuition fees unless I won a Commonwealth Scholarship. (This was the era of PAYG uni) Blow me down, along came the ‘Comm Schol’ and with it a whole lot more reading for an undergrad degree in (wait for it) literature! English, French and Italian, followed by human services (Social Work), teaching (TESOL), business, management and public policy, all of which required substantial reading.
Was it all useful?
Was it! Subsequent careers saw me proof reading for the WA daily newspaper, teaching English to overseas workers in a manganese mine, supporting high school students with disabilities in their English classes, and creating a local playgroup newsletter in a remote region. As my children grew older, I moved into full time work where I had the chance to compose procedure manuals, write policy papers, compose politicians’ media releases, edit letters to aggrieved members of the public on behalf of pollies, develop business manuals, and on it goes.
So what to do with all this language-love?
When you really enjoy something as much as I enjoy playing around with words, you can’t just leave it all behind. I enjoy writing, but even more than this, I love supporting others to express themselves well. So it has been a natural transition into freelance editing. I am an associate member of the national editing organsiation (IPed) and continue my professional development which I fund through my editing earnings from a local publisher. I also volunteer for a regional writing group (Gold Coast Writers’ Assn), and offer free structural and copy editing to emerging authors. I am proud to be ‘the editor you cannot see’ in your writing.
What has this to do with Classic Women?
I write, I edit, so why wouldn’t I bring the two together and share some writing tips here? I’ll tag each article with ‘writing’ so you can locate the tips and hints easily.