Monday, 26 October 2009

Not quite what I expected! - Meg Harper

I am feeling that I am a very privileged writer. Not because I’ve bagged a big writing contract – not on your life. And not because I’ve been short-listed for any awards or even been sent a bundle of bookmarks by a publisher. But because today, at some god-forsaken hour before you begin to read this, I will be off back to the wilds of Bedfordshire for an open day of Queen Anne’s Summerhouse, a newly restored Landmark Trust property. I will be writer in residence, collecting local people’s reminiscences about the place, now that it is about to begin a new life as a holiday let. Earlier in the year, I worked with five Bedfordshire schools, exploring responses to the summerhouse through drama and literacy. When consulted by the Education Officer about ways to display the products of the art, drama and literacy workshops,I suggested – you’ve guessed it – that we made a book. And that, dear readers, is precisely what we have done. I hoped you could view a pdf of the book by following a link at the end - but am failing to get Blogger to accept it. If you're really keen, go to The Landmark Trust's Learning section, by the Queen Anne's Summerhouse project, scroll to the end of click on Schools Book! Tomorrow I'm going to ask about making it more easy to find!

To be honest, when I saw the pdf I went all weepy! I had a great time working with all the kids, some of whom very rarely if ever had trips out of town and I am very moved by the beauty of the resulting book. It feels like a really special thing to have been part of the team which has enabled children to be part of such a lovely project – and not something I ever expected when I decided to start writing for children. These days I am doing more work in schools and other contexts, helping other writers to write, than doing my own writing and I’m not quite getting the balance right! But I am not uncomfortable with it; it gladdens my spirit! It is subtly different from being the teacher. This sort of work is always an event, a special day – there is a buzz even when I’m turning up regularly at a school as a writer in residence. And so there should be. Writing is special. Books are special. If in a small way, I can help give children a sense of that by helping them to create quality writing of their own, then I am well-pleased.

Today will be a special day – it will be work like nothing I’ve done before – but that is one of the joys of being a writer. It certainly isn’t all slaving over a hot computer. Once I thought it would be and longed for it. Now I’ve discovered that it isn’t and I’m glad!


Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Meg what a wonderful opportunity. The burnt-sienna building glowing in the sunshine with its robust towers, is enough to make anyone smile. It must have been perfect there today. Hope you had a marvellous time with lots of people popping to share their experiences. Will look out for 'the book' at the Landmark Trust site.

Meg Harper said...

Yes, it was lovely, thank you Dainne! (Long time, no see btw!) I'm so late commenting here because it was a very long day and I was back late. It is gorgeous inside too - they really ought to patent the kitchen - it's built into one of the towers and you shut the doors and it disappears leaving a wonderfully elegant bed-sit. And the bathroom in the cellar is glorious - a triumph of good taste and a touch of luxury! Will have to save up to go and stay there!