Thursday, November 22, 2007

First Aid in English

I was chatting to my husband recently about the sad state of primary education - too much testing, too much pressure, no time for creativity or learning by doing, a concentration on literacy basics but no time to read the children a story at the end of the day and give them a passion for stories and reading...and too many other problems to mention here. Eventually we moved on to talking about when we were at primary school in the fifties.

We lived in different places and went to different schools but we both had to work from a book called First Aid in English. I can't speak for the current edition, but in the one I worked from, students were taught standard similes. We weren't taught what a simile was, and then encouraged to make up our own. No, we had to finish the simile they printed on the page, as in As white as... As black as... As cold as ... and so on... If you didn't get the answer right (respectively snow, soot, ice) then you didn't get a mark. How sad is that? How unimaginative, dull and constraining is that?

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I'm still glowing from a recent weekend away up North. The first stop was at the waterfront in Newcastle to see the Millennium Bridge. It's brilliant. Unfortunately there weren't any ships coming up the Tyne that day so we didn't see it swing up to let them through.

For the last ten days, including the weekend away, I've been trying to write the blurb for the back cover of my new book Zuzu's Petals. (For much of the motorway journey I was reading out versions to my family and they nearly left me behind at a service station, just to get some peace.)

It's so hard to write a winning blurb. The book is light, with a serious heart to it and I am trying to get over this fact in the tone of the writing. I have to give a taste of the story and the characters, to lure readers into buying the book, but I can't give the plot away. The language has to be concise and vivid and descriptive which makes the exercise like writing a poem. And I'm not a poet.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

My favourite hat