Tuesday 4 March 2008

A Leap of Faith

I was at a school yesterday which caters for children who can’t fit into mainstream education, usually because of emotional or mental problems, often associated with a spell in hospital. Here were just five students there – a Year 4 girl and four boys years 7-9, not particularly good readers.

The whole visit was delightfully informal, with me having a coffee first with two of the staff, while they explained how the school worked. Then I sat with the five students and four staff and did my usual talk about “The Lombardy Grotto”. I say usual: it comes out different every time. I talked to them about being a writer and how I came to write “The Lombardy Grotto”. I read them Chapter Five, where Jayne and her brothers and her uncle first meet the wizard. At the end of this chapter, as Jayne eats the most delicious chocolate, her little brother Michael disappears.

Apparently, during break they were speculating about what had happened to Michael. Really, “The Lombardy Grotto” is more suitable for Key Stage 2, but the children here are generally late developers.

After break we sat with drinks and mini chocolate rolls and flapjacks – interestingly, there has been some sort of celebration in every school I’ve been in in the last week, but here the cakes were in my honour. A bonus, I guess.

We had a great discussion about what might have happened to Michael. Then, there were more questions about being a writer. I explained how we are all actually a little bit mad. We spend hours at our computers, never knowing if we’re ever going to be paid, let alone be paid a living wage, even if the manuscript is accepted.

“So, it’s sort of a leap of faith?” suggested one of the boys.

The eyes of the other adults in the room popped. Such touching wisdom from one of these emotionally fragile children.

A leap of faith indeed. I’ll remember that.

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