Monday 17 September 2012

Writing Britain

British Library
Yesterday I met up with a great friend who had done her MA in Writing for Children at the same time as me. We don't often get together as she lives in Cambridge but when we do there is an awful lot of talking going on. The reason for our latest get together was because a few weeks ago I won tickets for the Writing Britain Wastelands to Wonderlands exhibition at the British Library. (Many thanks to the Tall Tales & Short Stories blog).

It was a joyous exhibition, there were some wonderful books, in particular a beautifully illustrated manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (c. 1410), which was just incredible to look at it.....the work - it must have taken hours. But for me, as a writer, the best parts were the handwritten manuscripts whether in books or loose leaf paper. It was seeing how they wrote, how they edited, what their processes were. It was all about the creative practice for me. There were manuscripts from Austen, Emily Bronte, James Joyce (how he reads his edits goodness knows), Dickens, J.G.Ballard (he uses a fascinating method of different coloued pens, writes in black, then edits first in red then in blue), Katherine Mansfield, Angela Carter (a personal hero), Philip Larkin, Virginia Woolf (another hero), William Blake, to name but a few. But I have to say I was delighted to see so many children's books too - Lewis Carrol's handwritten and illustrated book that he gave to Alice, Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows, right up to a JK Rowlings hand written 'The Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters' chapter from Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone. I was previously lucky enough to see a handwritten manuscript by Philip Pullman, which is held at Seven Stories in Newcastle.As I said as a writer it is a real thrill to see these things. It is not only good to see how they do things and how they approach the process but also it might give you new ideas and it might even mean you have your methods affirmed as their approach to editing is the same as yours.

The exhibition is only on until the 25th September, but if you get a chance to go, do so. It is well worth it.

On a different matter it was ten years ago that I started as a very tentative mature student at the University of Winchester. Little did I know all these years later I would be teaching at the same place. If I am honest at that stage it was the last thing on my mind but am so glad I was brave enough to do it because it changed my life in so many ways. But that is history and now I am looking forward so here is 'History's Door' by Husky to celebrate the fact:


  1. Thanks for this. I keep meaning to go but haven't managed it yet. I'd better hurry up!

  2. Yeah it finishes on the 25th I think. Definitely worth a trip but be grateful I am not there this time. It was all very quiet and I was clunking around on my crutches, I am sure everyone loved me ;-)