“Writers live life twice – once when they live it and once when they write it.”
My friendship with literary archivist Dr. Donna Maynard has always been interesting and continues to be fruitful. She was excited when she saw the hundreds of notebooks on the shelves in my little writing room, which go back through my fifty years as a working novelist. As she read through them she realised that they mapped the 20 or so novels and the short stories and poetry which have been my professional preoccupation through that time..
She came to a personal conclusion that these notebooks and the books themselves formed a very interesting literary archive. Since then she has begun to map the relationships between the notebooks and the books, cross-referencing them in a way which somehow reflects the creative process of writing novels. In essence this relationship between the notebooks and the novels would be an essential part of any emerging archive.
This may take a year of so but it will be interesting and the collaboration with Donna is very inspiring.
We began by considering my first published work – Theft, a children’s novel from 1972, published by Corgi Transworld (I wrote a story about this novel here on the blog in an essay entitled ‘The 50 Year Novel.’)
Our consideration of this children’s novel was followed by another so-called young adult novel, The Real Life Of Studs McGuire published by Hodder and Stoughton. Writing the essay about this book focused my emerging understanding of the nature of friendship between boys as I observed the boys in my classes and my own son growing and changing.
Then we focused on Lizza, my first young adult novel, published in 1987 by Hodder Stoughton, later transformed to Headline. At the time it was seen as my "breakthrough” novel, Lizza. And I thought then - I think now that there is little or no difference between young adult and an adult novel.
"Wendy Robertson is senior lecturer in education at Sunderland Polytechnic. She has been writing since she was 16, but because of a full-time career much of the writing remains unpublished. In 1973 her first novel Theft was published in paperback k by Corgi Transworld and for several years she also wrote a weekly article on a variety of subjects for the Northern Echo and she has published and she has had several stories published in magazines.
Wendy Robertson lives in a Victorian house at the centre of Bishop Auckland, County Durham, which he loves because yours is obsessively interested in what she calls “the past in the present. What is reality and what is fantasy can never be disengaged’ she writes. “In my writing I take this a stage further placing my magic imagination at the service of the basic story which may be a well-rehearsed refrain.” She is married with two grown-up children a boy and girl."
Well , dear reader, that was 40 years ago and was very true of my life at the time, which was a combination of a very committed family life and a very intense working life, where my long-term lifetime commitment to writing had to be squashed in around college vacations, transporting children to their schools, visiting museums and art galleries for my interest and for their education.
And so with the publication of Lizza by this major new publisher Headline, I was given permission to acknowledge that I was indeed a writer and this allowed me at last to place the writing of stories to its proper place at the centre of my life This meant tailing off my work in higher education, where I had learnt a lot and which I had really enjoyed. In reality I still sustained my commitment to education in that I transferred it to running workshops and a pattern of mentoring new writers through many years. I wrote about that here:
I could have written or expressed those same feelings this year and all the years since the publication of Lizza. You will find similar sentiments expressed throughout my blog posts here on Life Twice Tasted.
One interesting thing about this 1987 blurb - forgotten by me since then – are my quoted comments on the cover..
“What is reality and what is fantasy can never be disengaged’ and “In my writing I take this a stage further placing my magic imagination at the service of the basic story which may be a well-rehearsed refrain.”
I had forgotten that I had made this declaration on the cover of Lizza, but now must say that I have continued to write and work from these principles in all the decades since. Evidence for this commitment still exists in many of my posts here on Life Twice Tasted. I have also preached these principles in many of my writing workshops. See: http:/http://lifetwicetasted.blogspot.com/search?q=memoir
If you are interested you may read this essay next on the blog.