Monday, 2 August 2021

Unearthing a maths poem By Steve Way

Amongst other things – including writing! – I currently teach Spanish adults English via the internet. When we’ve been talking about their children preparing for university, they have been surprised to learn that the UK children begin to specialise from the age of 16 (indeed in reality often sooner) whereas in Spain all subjects are studied up until they do their entrance exam and then specialise when they get to university.

Given that there isn’t an obvious deficit either way in the end result, with Spanish graduates seemingly doing as well as UK graduates, I wonder whether there would be more options for some UK students to gain an broader rather than a deeper education up until the age of 18? More ‘Jack of All Trades’ than ‘Master of a Few’.

I say this as a bit of a rule breaker myself. Although maths and science subjects seemed the most obvious choice for me at 16, I didn’t want to give up studying English Literature - I dreamed of being a writer after all! – and so ended up doing so alongside maths and two sciences. To their credit the staff at the comprehensive I went to in Swindon tried to partly organise the sixth form timetable around me – as you can imagine science subjects were generally taught at the same time as arts/humanities subjects. They managed it perfectly in the first year but in a fascinating duality – that might have interested both quantum physicists and fantasy writers – I was supposed to be in a physics lesson at the same time as in an English lesson. (What was it that Hermione had in Harry Potter? I could have done with that!)

The rapid switching from studying physics to English was pretty mind-blowing (when this overlap occurred, I was always half way through a physics lesson and figured that zipping over to the English class was the best compromise) and emphasised something I noticed even at that relatively young age. It was the marked degree to which the thinking and outlook of my classmates studying science subjects was rapidly diverging from that of those studying arts subjects. I did often feel that I was existing in parallel worlds – none of my classmates in the English class were the same as those in my science classes.

I experienced a similar pronounced dichotomy in my first year at university. I’d registered to study biology but in our first year we were obliged to study two additional subjects. Whilst most of my fellow biologists studied other science subjects, I think I became the first – and as far as I know un until I left – only student to pick the combination of biology, psychology and theatre studies.

I loved it! Of course, there was a similar challenge with timetabling – after a two-hour theatre studies workshop I had to run down the length of the campus to get to a biology lecture! I was heartbroken that I couldn’t continue with a similar combination in my second and third years. I was forced to specialise.

Not surprisingly in that first year I once again mixed with two completely different groups of students, who thought in completely different ways. I also became aware as I completed my biology degree that if I wanted to continue my studies I would have to become even more of a specialist, which you can probably imagine didn’t appeal, and that there was no room for taking a broad approach and attempting to forge links and connections between the different branches of biology. I’d noticed for example that many of our lecturers – who’s fields differed greatly – often (briefly) noted intriguing effects of particular wavelengths of blue light on the diverse life-forms or functions they studied but there seemed no place for someone who might want to draw these observations together.

The catalyst that let to me wanting to explore my experience of this apparently British focus on specialism was rediscovering some maths-poems I’d written. Just before Covid struck my main computer broke down and I’ve only just been able to get it repaired. When I dug down into my reopened files I discovered ideas, poems and parts of poems that I’d completely forgotten about.

The enforced passage of time in which these pieces were buried enabled me to objectively realise which piece needed to stay buried – but also allowed me to appreciate some others that I’m really pleased with. It’s odd to think that I once had an idea that I now think might have been worth having – and which I might not ever have had again, since I’m so surprised by it now! It’s a bit like reading something you wrote a very long time ago and barely remember and feeling like you didn’t do such a bad a job after all!

I want to share a maths poem that was unearthed along with the others. In this case I knew about the first part of the poem, it’s even been published, but I had totally forgotten that I’d added two extra verses.

Now if you’re reading this on the ABBA blog, I know you’re more like to be in (to have been steered towards at an early age?) the arts/humanities camp but I hope you will enjoy it… could it even be a small rebellious step away from specialism! Even if you don’t it may be useful for any teenagers in your orbit who may be on a trajectory towards maths exams and battling with different graphs and would find an alternative way of considering them useful.

PS knowing that we either have a love or hate relationship with maths*, I’ve come across a few people who’ve found the idea of writing about maths or science creatively surprising. I invite you to consider, given my modest attempt to do so, what you might achieve in bringing these subjects to life in an original way!

* I used to privately tutor children and adults in maths. Without exception when first arriving to teach an adult they would declare, ‘I can’t do maths’. Two of them were accounts for large companies! (‘Well, what I do doesn’t count’) Another lovely lady became my wife – so I can easily recall her first words when we met!

~~~~~

Y equals mx plus C.

Y equals mx plus C,

How great can an equation be?

 

m is the gradient, you see,

I don’t know why, don’t ask me!

There’s no “m” in gradient I know…

But this was agreed years ago!

(You may think I’m old, grumpy and weak

But this maths was made up by a Greek!)

 

A gradient of one-in-four,

Means one up and four ‘long the floor.

The line rises from the left to the right,

Just as in the direction we write.

Minus gradients fall from the left side,

As downwardly negative they slide.

A gradient of minus three,

Is one along, three down – do you see?

 

The “intercept” it’s known as “C”,

Describing where on the y-axis it be.

So as I hope you will agree,

It’s located at zero, then C.*     

 

Y equals mx plus C,

How great can an equation be?

All straight lines fall into its realm,

So now you can plot all of them!

 

* (0,C)

 

Square graphs are different as you’ll see,

By rising exponentially.

If a number’s squared, (as you may know…)

Its value it does quickly grow.

As x goes up a little bit,

Y shoots up like a rocket!

Since negatives all square as plus,

Symmetrical graphs are made for us.

 

Cube graphs go quickly up and down,

As if wanting to both fly, then drown!

Cubes change much faster than do squares,

Like changing to a lift from stairs!

Three minuses in a cube do give,

A result that comes out negative.

 ~~~~~

‘Y equals mx plus C’ in an earlier form was published in Using stories to teach Maths Ages 9 to 11 (High Achievers Supplement) by Hopscotch Educational publishing ISBN 978-1-909860-00-1

If you enjoyed my poem you might enjoy others that I have recorded on YouTube under the title Steve Way Writer such as my poem about flat shapes.

 

The link is; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Koo5U4eLDss

Sunday, 1 August 2021

YORKSHIRE DAY GREETINGS & READINGS! by Penny Dolan

Today is Yorkshire Day when the White Rose flag flutters freely from flagpoles all across God's Own County, especially in tourist spots like York and I enjoy seeing them.

Yorkshire Nylon Flag | Buy Nylon Flag of Yorkshire | The ...

Yorkshire Day began as a response to the 1974 governmental reorganisation that, in Yorkshire, removed its three traditional administrative areas, which had existed since 1100, when the Danes divided the land into "Thirdings",  allowing each representation at the "Thing",  the parliamentary gathering in York.  The term Thirdings gradually shifted to become "The Ridings", and they were simply known as the West Riding, the North Riding, and East Riding., which was given its name back at later date.

 However, there is a purely fictitious"South Riding".

                             Read the Book: South Riding: An Unexpected Book with an ...

South Riding is an influential "farm and school" novel by Winifred Holtby, who wrote for the Manchester Guardian in the 1920's & 30's. The book is about Sarah Burton, a modernising schoolteacher trying to develop the lives of her pupils, the romantic interest of a Yorkshire farmer and other characters, including an older woman councillor, supposedly based on Holtby's mother, the first female Alderman on the County Council.

Holtby's nominal South Riding is the area south of the market town of Beverley, down towards Hull, and offers a picture of the changes brought about in provincial life after First World War. The writing reflects both her progressive politics and love of the Yorkshire countryside, and the novel was adapted for the small screen in 2011.

             South Riding TV Show - Season 1 Episodes List - Next Episode

After Holtby's early death, her friend Vera Brittain saw the manuscript of South Riding to publication in 1936. and its triumphant reception.

Holtby's novel reads almost like a historical novel now, as do those famous Yorkshire children's classics: The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  

So, as Awfully Big Blog Adventure is about children's books, I've looked for a few writers from or living in Yorkshire whose books are inspiring and interesting children today. Here's what - or who -  I found.

Steve Weatherill and Stephen Waterhouse areboth illustrators, creating picture books, from cute geese through to non-fiction.. 

Steve Weatherill | Authors Aloud

Steve Weatherill | Authors Aloud 
Stephen Waterhouse - The AOI 
 
Poet and writer Em Lyn as and illustrator Matt Hunt have created  thsi newly published The Cat and the Rat and the Hat book.

Em Lynas - The Witch School series - Funny Poems

 

 Saviour Pirotta writes books and series based on myths & legends, taking his enthusiastic young readers into past times and historical adventures.

The Stolen Spear by Saviour Pirotta, illustrated by Davide ...

Among Hilary Robinson's recent picture books for little ones are the Gregory Goose, series illustrated with Mandy Stanley, as well as her WWI picture books

Gregory Goose is on the Loose! : In the Jungle: Hilary ...

Theresa Tomlinson has re-issued her 7th century historical novel about Hild, the Abbess of Whitby and Fridgyth, a herb-wife. Adult and older readers.

A Swarming of Bees by Theresa Tomlinson — Reviews ...

Sally Nicholls, originally from Yorkshire, usually writes for teens and early teens, and here is her historical novel about the arrival of the Plague.

All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls | Buy Books at ... 
 

Meanwhile, for football fans,, it's worth searching for books by Helena Pielichaty and by Tom Palmer., as well as Tom's war novels.

Helena-pielichaty | Summer Reading Challenge 
 
Football Academy: Captain Fantastic: Amazon.co.uk: Tom ...

 Or there are several powerful Phil Earle titles to choose from:

Fifteen Days without a Head and other stories


Or fearsome fantasy from Liz Flanagan: 

Blog — Liz Flanagan

I tracked down all the "Yorkshire" children's authors above, but there are others such as Melvin Burgess,  Andy Seed, Emma Barnes, Kate Pankhurst, Teresa Flavin  and more. . . 

But, please, do YOU have any Yorkshire authors, illustrators or book titles to suggest? Do add them in the comments!


And there's this book too, still around , or so I've heard . . .

A Boy Called MOUSE | Penny Dolan | 9781408801376

 

Have a Great Yorkshire Day today!

Penny Dolan 

@pennydolan1


Thursday, 29 July 2021

The Research Demon

I wish I liked research. 

I do try. I really do. One of the stories I’m working on is set in Texas in the Great Depression. And to help me with it, I’ve accumulated several tomes to provide me with background details about everything from the Dust Bowl to carnivals to riding the rails, as well as various collections of photographs taken in the 1930s.

But whenever I take them out, determined to get down to work and learn about the subject, it isn’t long before my eyes glaze over and I’m looking at the dust that’s accumulated on a knickknack beside my PC and deciding that that really has to be taken of. Right now!

 

 Worse still, if I do manage to concentrate for more than a few minutes and take notes about interesting details, I can guarantee that I’ll forget just about everything I’ve learned. Yes, it’ll all be there in the notes, and in the books I took the notes from, but whenever I open up either it’ll be as if I’d never seen them before. ‘That’s interesting,’ I’ll think to myself. And then promptly forget it all.

 

Or almost all. There will always be one little nugget, one strange details that sticks in my mind. And which when I put it into a story lights it up like a candle in a darkened cellar. To give just one example from my Texas research, I learned that people without refrigerators – let alone the electricity to power them – would dig a hole in the floor of their cabin and store food in jars in its cool, dry darkness. It’s a detail that all my friends who’ve read a draft remember. They say it really brought the time to life.

So I’ll keep on researching. I know it has benefits. But I do wish I liked it.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

A Sea Full of Selkies by Steve Gladwin and Co - "I Speak Animal" - with storyteller Sharon Jacksties.


 


 

 

I hope everyone has enjoyed this series of blogs on the theme of Selkies as much as I have, but I think I've saved the best until last. Sharon Jacksties is a Somerset based storyteller, pratitioner, teacher and writer, who - along with her partner Jem Dick I have known for a number of years, beginning on the famous Ty Newydd storytelling retreats and leading to a collaboration with them both on 'Spintales' double CD adaptation of John Matthews marvellous collection of stories 'The Song of Taliesin' (many copies of which are still available from my garage!). Sharon is an active community storyteller who also runs workshops and residentials. She has recently been made English Ambasssador for FEST, (the Federation of European Storytelling Organisations), where her role involves promoting oral storytelling and networking between organisations. Her books, 'Somerset Folk Tales', 'Somerset Folk Tales for Children' and 'Animal Tales of Britain and Ireland' are all published by 'The History Press'.

Sharon was an obvious person to talk to about selkies, but in a wide-ranging chat I was haunted by one particular anecdote of hers. Before this extract from the interview we were laughing about Sharon's love of David Thompson's famous book about seals, 'The People of the Sea, which Sharon thinks of as her bible

 'If you cut me', 'I would bleed that book.'

Then we moved on to her love of swimming and her need to find a place to swim wherever she could.

Jem and I used to go to Cornwall quite a lot. If I can continue to be swimming around in the water, I will. So there I was in Cornwall and Cornwall's very cold for me to swim in. I'm very spoilt. So it was really cold, and the day had turned and I thought I'm not going to swim. I'm not going to sunbathe. I'm going to get a soggy English day, get dressed and go back to the car.

And then - I don't know what drew my attention- I looked back and it wasn't even a bay. It was a gully. A gully on the beath that reached into the sea. There was a huge bull-seal, really massive, swimming with a man and they were playing together. And I thought, if he could do it, I could do it. It's like this thing of people swimming with dolphins. I'd love to swim with dolphins, but I have always had this thing about swimming with seals.

So, I tore my clothes off. Getting into the water was an ordeal. Because it was a gully and not an open beach. It was really horrible to get into the water and ten-foot deep, like slimy tentacles, you know. And that's normally the sort of thing I'd tolerate for about two and half seconds, but I thought it's now or never, Sharon. This is your chance. So, I did get in the water and the man came out. Jem, (Sharon's partner) - not a water person- was walking along the rocks towards the seal. I swam I would say maybe within fifteen feet of the seal and - we played together, and yet he would only let me get so close. 

 


 

 

And then Jem started whistling to the seal and the seal swam up to the rocks - and you have to remember these huge whiskers, because this was a huge male seal - quite walrus-like, and they started this conversation and the seal was sort of making these whistling sounds through his whiskers and Jem was whistling, I mean, he's a flautist. (NB I'm also a flautist, so I know the skill of both blowing deep into the flute, as well as across the top, which is more likely to be the sound that Jem was making!)  And I had this encounter and I played with the seal for a bit longer and eventually I had to get out because I was so cold. And I went to the car-park and in the car-park was the man who had been playing with him originally. And he was egg-shaped. He was like an egg-shaped person. He had these huge brown eyes and his hair was just plastered to his head. I mean, yours and mine have got texture. But his was just plastered to his head and feet were like in that shape on the ground, (Sharon indicates splayed feet).

I said "Are you the person who was swimming with the seal" and he sort of looked at me and said. "Oh, yes, I swim with him every day". And he told me how the seal is always there and -it's not a beach there, it's more like rocks - and he comes to swim with the seal every day. And then he kind of waddled into his car and I thought who was that. (Laughs)


How extraordinary.


I thought you'd like that.

 


 


So reflectively then, when you got back home and were able to look back on all that, what did you think was going on.


I think that he was like me. He has a thing about seals and the sea. I, I don't know what was going on for him?


That's what I was wondering. I mean what did he see when he saw you, for example?


You mean swimming in the sea.


No, I mean in the-park. When you saw him you thought of him as having that anthropomorphic shape. But what did he see when he saw you? Did he perhaps see you as kin of that type? It's an interesting thought.


Mm. I, I don't know! There was some quality. When he spoke! It seemed to come from a long way away. Not in the way it sounded, but from deep inside itself. It wasn't - There was something otherworldly about our conversation.


There's something that's quite eerie about it - hearing you tell it - and I'd imagine it would be something which would really stay with you.


Well it has! Because this was years ago, and at the time I thought this was so wonderful because this had happened in a car-park. I mean what could be more mundane than a car-park. That magic, that can survive in that environment.


There are so many aspects to that encounter and one of them is Jem the flute player. He's almost adding his own very distinctive non-swimmer but air thread to your encounter and he'd obviously at the same time communicating with the seal in a completely different way.


I'm so glad you said that, Steve, because we have all the elements there. I mean the air, and blowing through his whiskers and it was such a conversation. Creatures from outer space could have recognised that as a conversation. I was doing it physically through playing with that distance between us.


I tell you what I didn't do!  I was too scared to do. And this is again a little bit selkie-ish. I don't know whether you know this, but when you dive you can quite often swim more quickly underwater. I was very tempted to dive and swim up to him underwater. But I was too frightened to because I would be totally in his element. I didn't know how to react to that. I didn't know whether he would see that as a threat because, you know, I speak animal. I'm good with animals and I didn't know if that would become something else for him. I would have to have done it on his terms. I mean you would never put yourself in a position where a seal would feel threatened by you. I mean one bite and you're gone!

You've sort of brought all the elements together for me, because we've got the air, we've got the water, we've got the rocks for the earth. And the fire I think is the communication. The awen!


Thank you, Sharon. That is an amazing story.


My pleasure!


Everything else that Sharon and I talked about will be included in the book 'Land in Mind'. 

This is the end of this series of blogs on the figure of the selkie, and I'd like to thank Sharon, Sophia Carr-Gomm, Kath Langrish, and especially Kevin Crossley-Holland, without whom I would never have discovered the selkies!

In the next 'Land in Mind' interview on 8th August, I will be chatting with historian, expert in paganism and TV personality, (although he'd probably hate that!), Professor Ronald Hutton. See you then.


You can find all three of Sharon's books on amazon and the usual places and more details of the latest and a whole lot more on this website.

https://www.sharonjackstories.co.uk/


 

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Promises, Promises by Claire Fayers

 Last week was hot. Not just normally hot but "throw all your clothes off, sit in a bath carved of pure ice and still feel yourself sweating" kind of hot.

I began to gaze longingly at the weather forecast, the little icons of storm clouds across the weekend. When the forecast was confirmed, I jumped for joy (and then had to sit down because I was sweating again.)

On Friday evening, I passed a pair of friendly ladies on a walk. "It will rain tonight," we all said, and smiled. I went to bed, looking forward to waking to the sound of thunder.

It didn't happen. 

I woke at 4am, feeling as if my bed was on oven and I was slowly roasting. By 6am, the sky was grey and obstinately dry. Furious was an understatement. 

It wasn't so much the ongoing heat, as the broken promise. The weather people had promised rain and they'd failed to deliver.

Promises are the currency of fiction. 


As writers, we're constantly making promises. Promises about the kind of book it is, a promise that it will be worth reading, that secrets will be revealed, the murderer will be found, the dragon will be slain, and, in the words of Oscar Wilde, the good will end happily and the bad unhappily for that is what fiction means. As readers, we are trained to spot these promises and, boy, do we get annoyed when the author fails to delivery.


A promise can be undermined, turned on its head, used to set an expectation in order to smash it with something far better, but once given, it cannot be ignored. Think of George R.R. Martin famously breaking the implied promise of fiction that the main character is not going to die before the book ends. Ironically, by breaking that promise, Martin established new ones - that nobody was safe and the body-count would be high.

Lloyd Alexander in The Iron Ring said 'Behind one truth there is always yet another'. That's true of promises in fiction too. If you break one, you better do it deliberately, and have another waiting to take its place.

I promised myself I'd keep this post short today because it's too hot to do much. So, before I retreat back to my bath of ice, I'm going to get out my new work in progress and ask myself: what promises am I making to the reader, and how do I intend keeping them?

Happy writing! (And please, somebody send rain!)


Claire Fayers writes fantasy adventures which promise magic, mystery and laughter. www.clairefayers.com





Sunday, 25 July 2021

Writing filmically, by Holly Race

When I'm not slaving over first drafts or edits, I can usually be found either watching TV or films, or reading scripts. About ten years ago I started working in film and TV development. Development encompasses a variety of jobs, but it’s essentially about finding new ideas and new writers, and working with writers from the inception of an idea right through pitching it to broadcasters or investors, then being a sounding board and editor when they’re writing the script.

In this other life as a script editor, I spend a lot of time thinking about how much crossover there is between the skills of writing novels and writing scripts (if I externalised my scream anytime someone says 'Oh, writing scripts is just about writing dialogue', I would have lost my voice by now).

One of the elements I think we can learn from as novel-writers is the way in which directors and cinematographers use camera angles. Here are a handful of angles commonly used on screen:

Close up!

- Close up & extreme close up – these give us a level of detail into a scene or a character’s expression.

- Montage – this is a sequence of shots that are usually made cohesive by music or a voiceover, and they can be used to give an impression of time passing or to show us what's happening at the same time in multiple settings.



Quick cuts
- Quick cuts – I've popped a shot from Mad Max: Fury Road here because that’s one film where the director uses lots of very fast cuts both to disorientate the audience and to create a frenetic pace. You can equally use the opposite – very long scenes or slow fades between shots to slow the pace and create a smoother storytelling experience.

Zooming in

- Zoom in/ out – This is the smooth transition from a longer shot to a close-up or vice versa. Depending on how quickly you do it, you can create different effects. In this classic shot from Jaws, we get a very fast zoom, which visualises the character’s sudden panic and realisation.

- Long shot (below) is fairly self-explanatory – it gives you an impression of a vast landscape and is used a lot in fantasy.



Long shot

From below
- Shots seen from above and below have very different effects. When the camera is placed above, it can be used to make the characters it looks down on appear small and vulnerable, or it can work in the same way that an omniscient narrator works in prose. When the camera is below, looking up, it makes the audience feel small or threatened.

- Point of view shot is where the audience sees ‘through’ a character’s eyes. It’s the most literal equivalent to a first-person present voice.

- Pan across/ up/ down – this is a great shot for injecting a feeling of movement and momentum. It can be used as a transition – sometimes you pan the camera up to the sky and when you pan it down the scenery has changed a little to denote the passing of time, for example. Sometimes it’s simply used to follow someone as they move.

As novelists, we have complete control of what we can show to our readers, and there can be a temptation to get a bit lost in describing everything that we see in our head. If you’ve spent a lot of time working out exactly where your characters are standing, exactly what movements they’re making at any given moment or the full layout of the room they’re in, it’s easy to want to convey all of that to your reader in minute detail. But it’s not necessarily serving the story.

Watch any scene from your favourite film or TV show, and note how sparing and deliberate the camera angles are in most of them. Can you imagine how those scenes would come across if the director panned right the way around the space, picking out absolutely every object the art department had put in there? If they had done close-up shots of every character’s blink or cough or hand movement? What do you think that would do to the momentum and pace? Would it make the story clearer? Would it give us any more insight into the characters? I think we can all agree that the answer is: no! It would be confusing and disorientating.

We can apply similar methods to our prose writing. Think very carefully about what you need to convey for the purposes of your story. To have a level of detail in your head about how a scene looks is great, but you don’t need to put all of that down on the page. As writers, we are the camera, and where we place it can make all the difference to the readers' enjoyment and comprehension of our stories.

---

Holly Race worked for many years as a script editor in film and television, before becoming a writer.

Her YA urban fantasies, Midnight's Twins and A Gathering Midnight, are published by Hot Key Books.




Saturday, 24 July 2021

STORIES OF SUMMERS PAST, by Saviour Pirotta

Summer was never my favourite season when I was a kid. That was winter, with its Christmas celebrations, trips to the theatre and long baking sessions with my grandma. I also liked spring, the perfect time of year for nature rambles when I'd fill entire notebooks with notes about the local flora and fauna. 

But summer? In the med? For three endless months? Nope, not for me the blinding sunshine, the intense heat that melted the tarmac on the roads and, worst of all, the trauma of being forced to expose my wobbly tummy on the beach. 



The only good thing about summer as far as I was concerned was the time I could spend reading.  I had no access to a public library, so I begged, borrowed and, yes, stole books whenever I got the chance. The house next door to us was rented to British servicemen with large families. They always moved on to Cyprus or Hong Kong and their kids introduced me to British authors I might never had have discovered otherwise: Malcom Saville, Arthur Ransome, John Aiken, Ursula LeGuin. The list is endless.

There were some books I returned to every year and some of those have shaped the writer I became. Some of those stories I still treasure to this very day. Here' my top three.

TREASURE ISLAND, by R.L. Stevenson  was the perfect summer story. It featured pirates and ships. It told of the sea but not as a benign entity lapping gently against a sandy beach packed with idle holiday makers. In Stevenson's story it was a path to dangerous adventure, a link to an outside world I always dreamt of exploring. I fell in love with Long John Silver, who I much preferred to the pompous Dr. Livesey who reminded me of all the respectable men in our village. (PS. I didn't beg, steal or borrow my copy of this book. It was an end of year prize in Year 4.)



THE SILVER SWORD, by Ian Serallier. I borrowed this from my elder brother who was studying it at school. The version I read was part of the Windmill Classics series so it might have been abridged. Nevertheless, I loved travelling with Ruth, Edik and Bronia as they tried to meet up with their parents at the end of World War II. They befriend a mysterious street boy called Jan who you're never sure if he is on their side or not. He has a little wooden box in which he keeps a secret collection of objects. I still have a similar box, which I show to children during school visits. It's filled with little objects that feature in my own books.




TIME AND THE CONWAYS, by J.B. Priestley. This isn't strictly a book, and certainly not a children's story. It's one of Priestlye's Time Plays. I have no idea where I found a Cassell edition of the script but I devoured it in one afternoon. Most of the themes must have gone right over my head but I was gripped by the story of a snobbish family and what happens to them over the years.  What got me most of all was Priestley's manipulation of the time sequence to make his points. Act 1 takes place during a birthday party in 1919. We meed the young Conways and their friends and learn about their hopes for the future. Act 2 takes place twenty years later and we discover what became of the family. Act 3 goes back to the moment it left off in Act 1, forcing us to witness the Conway's actions in a completely different light.  The idea blew my mind.  It was perhaps one of the reading experiences that wanted me to write my own plays.




Saviour Pirotta's Wolfsong series is set in the Neolithic. The final book, The Wolf's Song comes out in January 2022. Follow him on twitter @spirotta.com.

www.saviourpirotta.com