Chorlton Library

29 11 2009

On Thursday 19th November I was lucky enough to be invited to give a talk as part of Chorlton Book Week  -Readers and Writers event.

15 people turned up in the back room of the library; many of them were young people with a few grown ups thrown in. I had a great time and hope others did too.

We talked about the process of writing, growing ideas and the confidence to believe in them. I was heartened to hear that so many young people want to write. One lovely young girl who is in year 10 at Chorlton High school, showed me two note books that she carried in her bag; she called them her ‘ideas books.’ They were pretty full and Lorraine (that was her name) explained to me that she had many others at home. I was very impressed and encouraged her to continue with her writing throughout her life. ‘Never give up’ is what I said. ‘Life may get busy and school/college work will get more demanding in terms of your time and committment, but always nurture your imagination.’ I wish someone had given me such advice when I was 14/15.

She was a lovely, talented, warm and intelligent young girl and I wish her all the best. I have every confidence that Chorlton High School, a school that nurtures the Arts, will not only encourage her to continue but will create opportunities for her to do so. The English department is great there, as are the library staff.

So 15 people in the small back room of the Library. Now that brought back memories for me. I used to be in that room every Monday for five years or so, when my eldest two children were small. There used to be a mums and toddlers group (or should I say ‘parents’….this is Chorlton after all, and there were a couple of dads who attended) held in that back room. Monday morning 9.30- 11.45am or there-abouts and we loved it. Lots of games, painting, songs and best of all, someone else to make a cup of coffee for you. I made some life-long friends through that group.

But it made me think of something else…reminded me of how far I have travelled. In my writers group (South Manchester Writers) there has been a recent and dare I say, very heated discussion regarding the inequalities in the publishing world. You see, despite the fact that more women than men write, men still receive the lions share of prizes, contracts and awards. Theatre is even worse for this than the world of the Novel. Some people in our writers group disagree with this analysis and say things are no longer like that. I argue that the facts prove differently.

Virginia Wolfe once said that all a woman needs in order to write is a room of her own and a little money.

Chorlton Library provided me with a ‘room of my own.’  When my children were small and finding the time, space and energy to write was almost impossible, Saturday mornings from about 10-12pm was allocated to me. My husband would mind the kids whilst I eloped to Chorlton Library to write. There amongst the smell of books and newspapers, I would find a quiet corner (usually in the far right hand corner), open my note book and like Lorraine today, scribble down my ideas, write snatches of dialogue, construct scenes and create characters to populate them. I did not have the dexterity then to flesh any of these thoughts and ideas into full blown stories, but that didn’t matter. It was an important time for me. I was engaging in the writing process. Natalie Goldman in her wonderful book, ‘Writing Down the Bones,’ calls this process, ‘composting.’ From compost great things can grow. It may take time but without fertilisation nothing will blososm.

So I owe two thanks to Chorlton Library. One for inviting me on Thursday but an even bigger thanks is due; for being there when I needed them all those years ago;  providing me with a room of my own when I had no other.