Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of reader feedback, is brought to you by multi-genre writer Roger Hurn.
An Author’s Fan Mail
From time to time I receive fan mail. I’m not saying my postman ever risks getting a slipped disk from delivering a bulging bag of it to my door, but it sometimes happens that my writer’s ego gets a modest boost when a small pile of letters from my readers drops onto my doormat. I was reading a batch of them the other day when my daughter walked into my study. She saw what I was doing and said, ‘Do you know why kids write to you, Dad?’
I shook my head and said I didn’t, but I could tell by the look on her face that she was about to enlighten me. I wasn’t wrong.
‘It’s because their teachers make them,’ she said in a tone of voice used by judges when handing down a crushing verdict. ‘It’s just a writing exercise.’
I nodded. I couldn’t really argue with her. The truth is the vast majority of my letters from children do come soon after I’ve made an author visit to a school and this latest batch was no exception. But this doesn’t worry me because, even if they are teacher prompted, they are still always gratefully received and I love to get every single one of them!
‘You may well be right,’ I said. ‘But what do you make of this?’ I handed her a letter I had just read. It was from a Year 5 girl (I’ll call her “Becky”) from a school near Portsmouth and it began as follows:
Dear Roger, it’s been a week since you came to our school and your stories are still alive inside my head. You said the stories were a gift and best way we could say thank you for them was to tell them to our mums and dads and nans, and I’ve done that. But I told them different than you. I hope you don’t mind. Now I’m making up my own stories and telling them. I don’t know if they are any good but I can’t stop thinking them up.
Even my daughter, who sees it as her life’s mission to keep my feet on the ground, had to admit that this letter was special and a lot more than “just a writing exercise”. Indeed, it made me realise once more the incredible power that stories have to ignite children’s imaginations and to inspire them to create new stories.
There is a saying that points out how you can never step into the same river twice. I think it’s the same with stories; they go in through your ears as one tale but when you retell them they come out of your mouth as another – and this is why stories never grow stale.
As it happened, a few weeks before I went to Becky’s school, I had been lucky enough to be in Africa on a storytelling trip and the people I met there also shared their stories with me. ‘When you go back to England,’ they said, ‘tell our stories to the children there and say they are a gift from Africa.’
I promised I would. Then they said, ‘Of course, you will tell them as an Englishman not as a Hausa but that will not matter, they will still be our gift.”
They were right. I told Becky’s class those stories in my own way and Becky told them to her family in her own way. And now Becky was making up her own stories. So, thanks to her “fan mail” letter I now had proof, if it was ever needed, that stories really are a gift that keeps on giving.
Thank you for sharing that with us, Roger. What a wonderful… er, story. 🙂
Roger Hurn is both a writer of crime fiction for adults and a writer of books for reluctant readers. He has had over 90 books published as well as musical plays, CD-Roms and the Oxford English eQuest digital literacy series. His book: The Beast of Hangman’s Hill was selected by The Book Trust for their Bookbuzz List 2012/13 and his collection of folk tales: East of the Sun, West of the Moon was chosen by Scholastic as one of their Great Reads for World Book Day 2009. His first crime book Business is Murder, featuring London based private investigator Ryan Kyd, went to number one on the Amazon Kindle Singles chart. The following two books in the series Hand of Darkness and The Dead of Winter have been equally successful.
Roger is very much involved with the Read to a Million Kids campaign and with The Book Trust’s drive to promote literacy. He is also man who enjoys keeping fit and he has written a book and DVD on fitness and dance for A & C Black, 101 Dance Ideas. He co-authored it with Cush Jumbo a young Olivier Award nominated actress who won the Evening Standard’s Best Newcomer Award 2013. The book is aimed at fighting the obesity epidemic that is plaguing so many of our children but Roger says that even someone with two left feet like himself can use the DVD to have fun and keep in shape!
Back in the dim and distant past, Roger was an actor in the Exploding Trouser Company and he also won The Weakest Link on BBC TV. He was the drummer and chief lyric writer of a band that once had a hit record in Turkey (though sadly nowhere else!) and, on a storytelling trip to West Africa, Roger was given the title Mallam Oga (Wise teacher, Big Boss). Or, at least, that’s what the locals assured him Mallan Oga means!
In his spare time he plays seven-a-side football for a local team and, to the horror of music lovers everywhere, plays guitar in a band!
Most recently, Roger has had another Ryan Kyd novella, ‘Bright Lights, Big City’, published by Endeavour Press. Here’s what one reviewer said: ‘Bright Lights Big City’ is the fifth novella in Roger Hurn’s superb series of Ryan Kyd mysteries, and is, in many ways, the best of the bunch. In it Ryan’s latest case takes him out of his familiar London haunts and into the alien world of New York in pursuit of an invaluable manuscript, the ownership of which leads to murder. I felt the narrative arc of this story was ingenious: the idea of the disputed play script, the authorship of which is inconclusive, was very clever and elegantly worked out. This is a genuine ‘whodunnit’ of the first order and it had me guessing till the very end.’
Bright Lights, Big City is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bright-Lights-Big-City-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00P0I1Z6A or http://www.amazon.com/Bright-Lights-Big-City-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00P0I1Z6A.
- and from this blog, my guests who have written on the topic of readers/reading: Deb Atwood, Graham Smith, Morgen Bailey, Rosie Cochran, Saskia Akyil, and Warren Bull.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.