People They Ain’t No Good

I came across this heartfelt cover of Nick Cave’s ‘People Ain’t No Good’ on the end credits of ‘Damned’ – Jo Brand’s very dark comedy about social workers. I had to add it to the tracklist for my WIP, ‘Emmet and Me’, about children’s homes in Ireland in the 1960s. It’s ideal for creating the right atmosphere to write by.

And ten-year-old Emmet and his friend Claire would definitely agree with the sentiment of the song’s title.

Camille O’Sullivan & ‘People Ain’t No Good’ Live Version  

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of five-year-old Tomos – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from bookshops.

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#MusicTherapyThursday

I’ll be taking part in the Big Green Bookshop’s Not the Booker discussion event in London this evening, so today, in need of a little relaxation, I thought I’d turn to the music of Kate Bush. I’ve chosen ‘Moments of Pleasure’.

This is the song I played when I wanted to get into the mood for writing as Tomos. I don’t really know why this song came to epitomise Tomos for me – the lyrics don’t relate to the theme of Not Thomas at all – but something in the tone of the music just worked. I think the music has a sadness but also hope. 

And the vulnerability of Kate’s voice never failed to trigger the right emotions in me. Now I only need to hear the opening couple of notes to be right back there with Tomos, in that decrepit house, in the dark, up on his high sleeper bed, under the jumpers and towels, with Mammy’s pink tee shirt…

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider voting for Not Thomas on the Guardian’s online Not the Booker prize page – voting closes on Sunday night and the winner will be announced on Monday, 16th October. Thank you!

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of five-year-old Tomos – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from bookshops.

Not the Booker Final Public Vote

A huge thank you and diolch yn fawr to everyone who voted ‘Not Thomas’ onto the shortlist of the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize.

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The final public vote has just opened to help decide the winner. I know the original vote was fraught with problems because of the Guardian’s fiendishly difficult website, but if you’d like to vote for Not Thomas and have the energy to tackle that voting page again, this is the link.

Hopefully, having navigated the page once, second time around it won’t be quite so horrendous. 

Of course, you’re still able to vote even if you didn’t vote in the first round. Click in the box that says ‘join the discussion’ near the bottom of the voting page. 

The Guardian would like your vote to start with the word VOTE then the title and author of the book and a 50 word review. Your previous review should still be online, and if you click on your username it should take you to it.

It’s been a weird couple of months on the shortlist

and I have yet to take part in the Big Green Bookshop event, where I’ll meet some of the other authors, which I’m really looking forward to, and my scathing reviewer, Sam Jordison, which should be rather interesting. I’ll be reporting back when I get the chance!

In the meantime, thank you so much for your support of Not T and me – I appreciate it very much indeed.

Bye for now & diolch o galon,

Sara x

P.S. Here’s that voting link again

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ – a story of child neglect, love and hope, shown through the eyes of five-year-old Tomos – is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy direct from the publisher, from Amazon and from bookshops.

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Separation Anxiety

Recently I’ve been waking up in the night, heart pounding, mouth dry, with a searing flash of worry in my brain.

My first thought is that I’ve misplaced something important, forgotten something vital. It’s that ‘I’ve left the baby on the bus’ feeling.

It takes me only a few seconds to realise that both my babies grew up long ago. Then I remember, thankfully, that they’re fine – they’re old enough to look after themselves and, mercifully, they’re safe.

Finally the problem dawns on me. I’m a writer. The baby I think I’ve left on the bus is one I’ve created. Not real, not flesh and blood. He’s fictitious. But somehow that fact doesn’t make me feel any better.

I’ve had this feeling before.

When my newest book was a manuscript, waiting on my editor’s desk to have its fate decided, I spent night after night waking up in a cold sweat.

It’s not that the novel feels like my baby (I wouldn’t usually feel this anxious about a new book). No, it’s because I’ve been writing about Tomos, the main character, for almost 14 years now. He’s been my pet project – tucked away in a file on my laptop and scribblings in notebooks – and he’s seen me out of my forties and into my fifties, while I get on with my other, more cheerful writing.

My real-life children have grown up in that time. Tomos has not. He’s still five. He’s still scared, hungry and alone.

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And now my novel’s been published. It’s out of the safety of my laptop and in the hands of other people. Some of them will be people I know, but most of them will be people I’ve never met.

And that’s the whole point of writing and publishing a book. As authors, we want our books to be read by as many people as possible. But Tomos, he’s five. He’s like my child. And I’ve just abandoned him.

If you can remember the first time you left your child at nursery, or the first time they walked through the gates of that huge comp, or when you drove off and left them at their college hall of res, you’ll understand how I’m feeling.

Tomos. He’s out there. He’s at the mercy of others. I can’t tell him it’ll be OK anymore.

I want to pull him back. I want to hold him to me and never let him go.

But it’s too late. He’s off into the big wide world and there’s no reversing that.

All I can do is ask – if you find Tomos, scared and alone, somewhere out there on your travels, please take care of him for me.

 

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Thank you,

Sara x

P.S. I wrote this after very little sleep and a large glass of wine – I think it shows! Not feeling quite so worried about my little boy now that I’ve had lovely feedback from some wonderful people who, it turns out, care about Tomos almost as much as I do.  

Sara’s debut novel for adults ‘Not Thomas’ is published by Honno Press in paperback and on Kindle and is available to pre-order now at £8.99 on Amazon.

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Finding that writer’s voice – and losing it again

If, like me, you’ve attended lots of courses on creative writing and read stacks of self-help books on the subject, you’ll be well used to the phrase ‘finding your writer’s voice’. It’s that one thing every writer simply MUST do.

But what’s never clear, when you’re new to writing, is exactly how you do it. A writer’s voice seems something elusive at best, ethereal at worst. It’s enough to stop the faint-hearted at the first hurdle.

I have to admit, it’s taken me a long time to find a comfortable writer’s voice. I set off on this writing trek many years ago, via a creative writing course. And then another. And another. They were wonderful and pretty addictive. They were the ideal place to test out ideas with other people just starting out on their own writing journey too (sorry for using the ‘j’ word there).

Looking back at some of the early pieces I wrote for those courses, I realise that I made finding my writing voice harder than necessary. Instead of simply writing freely, and despite the advice from my excellent tutors, I was often trying to copy a formula.

At one stage, I was quite attracted to writing short stories for women’s magazines. I’d had a couple of poems accepted by one of the popular publications, and the prospect of being paid to write short fiction was very appealing.

Sadly, my attempts at writing uplifting stories were pretty dire. I did send off a couple to the magazine that had accepted my poems, and to some other well-known publications too. But while their replies were politely encouraging – “enjoyable but not quite what we’re looking for” – I didn’t have the know-how to work at improving the stories, and so I soon gave up.

Reading those attempts after many years have passed, I can see plenty of problems with them. An obvious one was that I simply wasn’t writing as ‘me’. I was trying to use a manufactured writing voice, and the stories suffered as a result. Forcing a voice just doesn’t work.

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So how do you find that elusive voice without forcing it? Well, another of the reasons those stories were rejected was because I hadn’t done my research. I’d read a few stories in women’s magazines but I hadn’t read anywhere near enough. It was more than a bit presumptuous to think I could write an acceptable story without immersing myself in the form beforehand. I thought I knew the formula so I could just go ahead and write. Very wrong.

I didn’t have the dedication to read enough short stories to improve my ability to write them. That says to me now that I was barking up the wrong tree all along. I was looking for my writer’s voice in the wrong place. And perhaps I’d have found one, but it wouldn’t have been mine.

When I gave up trying to write those short stories, I discovered I quite enjoyed writing for children. As a teacher and parent, I was reading lots and lots of children’s books anyway, so when I stopped to think about it I already knew the kind of writing I wanted to emulate. Once I started concentrating on children’s stories, my writing voice began to form naturally.

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I started to write stories about children too, and in those stories my central character was a little neglected boy called Tomos. I was much more comfortable writing about him than trying to write uplifting stories for magazines. I had found my topic and, as with my children’s books, the voice came naturally. Finally I understood what it meant to ‘find your writer’s voice’.

Weirdly, though, I couldn’t keep that voice. Very quickly I realised Tomos’s story would have more impact in his own words – and he was a frightened five-year-old who spoke in short sentences and used very simple terms. The moment I’d found my comfortable writer’s voice, I had to get rid of it again. I re-wrote my stories about Tomos and changed them from third to first person – I didn’t mind; I felt I had to keep writing in Tomos’s voice. The stories turned into a novel, and happily I’ll be having my pre-publication book launch for ‘Not Thomas’ this month.

I’m planning my next novel now, with the help of some lovely notebooks.

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Again it has a child as the central character – no surprises there – but this time that child is quite a bit older than five. Just like ‘Not Thomas’, it’ll be written in the first person. So will I be using my own writer’s voice? I guess I’ll just have to start tapping away on the laptop and see.

But it’s just occurred to me that maybe writing in the voice of a child is my writer’s voice.

Are you searching for your writer’s voice, or have you found it? What tips could you give a new writer to help them find theirs?

Thanks for reading – I’m working on finding my ‘blogging voice’ at the moment!

Please leave me a comment if you have the time,

Sara xx

(aka children’s writer, Wendy White!)

Sara’s debut novel ‘Not Thomas’ is published by Honno Press in paperback and on Kindle and is available to pre-order now on Amazon.

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Music to Make Me Cry – My Not Thomas Playlist

I love listening to music when I write.

I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’ve met quite a few authors who prefer to write with no distractions, but music works for me. I find it creates a background emotion.

There are some songs I return to, time & time again, when my creativity needs a boost. These are songs I play to remind myself that ordinary people can transform themselves into songwriters and create something fantastically beautiful out of thin air –and lots musical talent, of course. When those songs come on the radio, they make me want to drop everything and write.

Songs like Hozier’s ‘Take Me to Church’ and Stereophonics’ ‘Graffiti on a Train’ make me turn up the radio to full volume and surrender to their inspiring brilliance.

There are other songs, though, that remind me of something I’m already working on. They help ease me back into that piece of writing, and keep me in the mood I’m trying to create. They’re the ones I play quietly in the background while I tap away on my laptop.

I had a playlist when I was writing ‘Not Thomas’.

The most-played song on that list was Kate Bush’s ‘Moments of Pleasure’. In a previous post, What Wuthering Heights did for me – the confessions of a Kate Bush fan, I wrote about how playing that song helped me evoke the feelings of Tomos, the little boy who’s the central character in my book. I’d hear the music and feel the emotion, even if I hadn’t written about Tomos for months. But there were other songs that helped too. Here’s a few of them, thanks to YouTube.

Calon Lân, a well-loved Welsh hymn, was one of my starting points for ‘Not Thomas’.

In fact, for quite some time the working title of ‘Not Thomas’ was ‘A Pure Heart’ – the English meaning of ‘calon lân’. The title eventually (and thankfully) got changed, after I listened to the advice of my writing group. (More about the failure of ‘A Pure Heart’ as a title in What’s in a Name?)

Tomos sings Calon Lân near the start of the book. He’s been taught the words by Nanno – his beloved ‘foster gran’. This version, by Cerys Matthews, is my favourite on YouTube.

It’s the childlike quality of her voice that gets me every time.

In the case of Calon Lân, the lyrics loosely suited the theme of the book, particularly – and rather sadly – the opening line ‘I don’t ask for a life of luxury’, as Tomos is living in terrible poverty.

But most of the songs I listened to didn’t have lyrics that connected to the subject matter. Instead I chose them for the way the music or the tone of the singer’s voice affected me.

It was the emotion the singer conveyed that was important.

Like this one:

I only have to hear the opening chords of ‘Talk to Me of Mendocino’ by Kate & Anna McGarrigle for my eyes to fill with tears. The music and their voices manage to convey, so beautifully, that sense of longing to be somewhere else.

It’s perfect for Tomos, as he constantly longs to be back in the love and safety of his foster parents’ home.

And since I’ve already blogged about how important ‘Moments of Pleasure’ by Kate Bush was to me when I was writing ‘Not Thomas’, I ought to include another song of Kate’s which I played a lot too.

‘This Woman’s Work’ is an obvious choice, I suppose, when you think of songs that conjure up vulnerability – it was used by the NSPCC in one of their TV adverts.

Again, the opening notes get me every time.

And finally:

This last song, ‘Lost Boy’ by Ruth B, is a cheat.

It came out in 2016 and I’d long finished writing ‘Not Thomas’ by then. I was in a dress shop in lovely Llandeilo when I first heard it playing on the shop’s radio. It stopped me in my tracks.

I knew by this time that my book would be published and that Tomos’s story would see the light of day, something I’d thought for so many years would never happen. And the realisation that my novel was actually going to be published hit me.

I grabbed the nearest frock and hid in the changing room until the moment of realisation – and the tears – had passed.

Had Ruth B’s ‘Lost Boy’ come out ten years before, I’d have been playing it as I wrote. It’s Tomos to a tee. I think it’s beautiful.

All these songs have something in common – lots of emotion. One comment from an early reader of ‘Not Thomas’ said it should be printed on plastic to save the paper from tears.

Maybe my playlist explains why.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Sara x

If you’re a writer, do you ever listen to music while you’re working or do you prefer silence?

If you’ve read Not Thomas, can you see any influence from the songs above in the novel? 

Do you have a single piece of music or a song which you always find inspirational?

Sara’s debut novel Not Thomas –  a story of child neglect and hope – is published by Honno Press and is available in paperback and on Kindle directly through the publisher and also from Amazon.

The lady’s here. The lady with the big bag. She’s knocking on the front door. She’s knocking and knocking. I’m not opening the door. I’m not letting her in. I’m behind the black chair. I’m waiting for her to go away.

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The view from behind the chair

pexels-photo (1)Children hide behind chairs for all sorts of reasons. Some fun, some not fun at all. When I was setting up my website a couple of months ago, I needed a title for it. Like my Sara Gethin pen name which had been sitting at the back of my mind for years, I had a name in reserve for the blog. It was a name that connected to the five-year-old child in my novel, ‘Not Thomas’, and his habit of hiding behind a big black chair whenever things at home got scary, or when someone unexpectedly knocked on the door. It was ‘The View from behind the Chair’.

I can relate to Tomos’s habit of curling up small behind the big chair. Don’t get me wrong, my childhood was happy and nothing at all like Tomos’s, but at around his age I did spend quite a lot of time behind a chair. I was hiding too – hiding from people who made fun of me.

Well, they didn’t make fun of me  exactly, just the fact that I was still attached to my old bottle at four years old. A baby’s bottle that was never filled. I loved it, that empty plastic bottle. We were inseparable. It was like the dummy I’d never had.

There was once a photo of me with it in my mouth, taken by accident. I was standing at the back of a large family group, peeping through the adults’ legs. And there it was – Bottle – hanging like an oversized cigarette from the corner of my lip. No one realised I had popped it in my mouth.

But when the photos eventually came back from the chemist (it was that long ago) oh, the shame! I still remember it. Here was hard evidence of my odd habit. It was burned in the fireplace – the photo that is, not the bottle (Bottle survived to suffer a different fate at a later date) and he and I ran off once more to our hiding place behind the big chair.

Despite the problems he caused me, Bottle also made me think on my feet. One day, a neighbour came to our open back door while I was playing in the kitchen with my older brother and sister. My bottle, as usual, was firmly clamped between my teeth. As I looked in horror at our ‘Aunty’ Lois standing on the doorstep, I silently and with an ashen-faced whipped the bottle from my mouth and dropped it behind my back into the laundry basket my mother was carrying on her way to our top-loader washing machine.

My family thought it was hilarious, especially as I’d stood there staring at the woman for a good five seconds with the bottle still in my mouth before I’d surreptitiously (or so I’d thought) disposed of it. They were still recounting the story years later. It caused me quite a lot of confusion as a child. I was so proud that I’d done something my family thought very, very funny, but I was also ashamed because Bottle was a part of the story. And I was ashamed of Bottle.

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Of course, I would never have felt Bottle was shameful if other people hadn’t made me feel that way. While my immediate family mostly ignored my habit, I was teased mercilessly by my many uncles whenever they visited, which was often. I spent hours behind that chair in our lounge, waiting for them to go home so Bottle and I could come out.

I can vividly recall the texture of the fabric on the chair’s back, the raised pattern beneath my fingers, the smell of the cloth, and yes, the view, half obscured by the arm of the chair. A section of the TV screen, a glimpse of a programme I’d been looking forward to seeing. And all the time listening for my name to be mentioned, along with a teasing – ‘What have you got behind there? Come out and show us’.

That’s absolutely nowhere near as bad as the problems some people endured in childhood, I know. And it’s nothing like what poor Tomos has to put up with in my novel. But remembering how I felt as a young child back then certainly helped me put myself in Tomos’s place – small and uncomfortable.

My ‘problem’ was easily resolved in the end. Bottle broke. I’d tried to take good care of him, but he was four years old. That’s ancient for a bottle. So he ended up in the dustbin and I cried and cried. But eventually I got over him. Life without him was easier. And there was no reason to hide behind the chair anymore.

Sadly, that’s Tomos’s place now.

And the blog ended up being called ‘Not Me’, like ‘Not Thomas’, because I’m not Sara, I’m Wendy really. What do you reckon, should I have gone for ‘The View from behind the Chair’ instead?

All other views considered.

To launch or not to launch, and what makes a good book launch anyway?

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Well, what does make a good book launch? It’s a question I’ve thought about a lot lately. Some would say the answer is complimentary wine – they’re the people who see the word ‘refreshments’ on the invite and hope it’s not referring to a nice cup of tea. Others would say cake. I most definitely fall into the cake camp. There is no event, bookish or otherwise, that I believe can’t be improved by a hefty slice of Victoria sponge. But I had to admit my theory could be wrong when I attended an amazing book launch the other evening – where there was not a cake crumb in sight.

It was a launch by award-winning Irish writer, Jane Mitchell, hosted at the Irish Writers’ Centre, an atmospheric and historic town house in the heart of Dublin. I was excited to find details of the event on-line, and delighted that it was open to all. I’d been disappointed that I was missing the book launch of Jan Newton for her novel, ‘Remember No More’, while I was away in Ireland. But if I couldn’t support a fellow Honno author on her launch night, then I could support an Irish writer. I saw from Facebook that Jan’s night had gone well and, as it turned out, there were plenty of people supporting Jane’s book too.

My thoughts have been turning (and returning) to launches recently as I’m planning to hold my own for ‘Not Thomas’ in a couple of months. And while I’ve been planning the event, I’ve occasionally had the scandalous thought that maybe I don’t need a launch at all. Perhaps I can smuggle my new book out into the world without having to stand up and talk in front of people? Cowardly, I know, and pointless too. Surely the whole aim is to get as many readers as possible to notice a new offering. So I give myself a shake and remind myself that the answer to the question ‘to launch or not to launch?’ is a resounding ‘to launch’.

And I have launched books before. This, however, will be my first for a novel intended for adults. In the past, when my children’s books have been published, I’ve gone along to the lovely primary school in Kidwelly, the one where I taught and where my children were pupils, and I’ve celebrated the day with them. The local paper usually covers the event and the children always provide plenty of enthusiasm. And the best thing, of course, is that I never need worry no one will turn up. There’s a captive audience – guaranteed. My next book launch will be different, though. I won’t be skipping around in a comedy hat (thank goodness I’m spared that in front of other adults!). But I won’t have a captive audience either. It’s the kind of thought that keeps me awake at night.

So it was refreshing to hear Jane Mitchell, when she took to the podium at her packed Dublin launch, admit she’d been worried that no one would turn up. Even very experienced authors like her have their doubts and I, for one, appreciated her honesty.

20170315_202319But there was never any real doubt her launch would be well supported. She has written a breath-taking book and it’s already had wonderful reviews. ‘A Dangerous Crossing’ is the story of a thirteen-year-old boy fleeing from the war in Syria. It’s extremely well researched fiction that paints a true picture of the dangers child refugees face. And it is beautifully written. The subject and style make it very difficult to put down, and while it’s described as a children’s novel, it’s a wonderful read for adults too. I’ve almost reached the end of my signed copy and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I love hearing publishers talk about why they publish the books they do and it was interesting to hear Jane’s publisher explain how ‘A Dangerous Crossing’ came about. Little Island is a small, Irish-based press that’s interested in publishing books that give children a world view. They felt there was a need for a book for children about child refugees, so they approached Jane, who they knew from her award-winning fiction for older children and young adults. She was instantly drawn to the idea of writing a story of a child refugee and didn’t hesitate in accepting the commission.

Interesting, too, was the way editor, Siobhan Parkinson, described working with the author. Jane, she said, was professional, dependable, always met deadlines and took on board constructive criticism with good grace. I was busy making mental notes. It’s pretty obvious, I know, but sometimes it’s easy to forget the basics, and here was an experienced editor reminding everyone of good practice.

While the author and editor were both very engaging speakers, the highlight of the evening was definitely their guest speaker. As ‘A Dangerous Crossing’ was going to press, Little Island approached Amnesty International to ask if they might be interested in reading the novel. They were. Not only did they read it but they were more than happy to endorse it too. They also gave the publisher permission to use Amnesty’s logo on the book’s cover. And at the launch, the Executive Director of the Irish branch of Amnesty, Colm O’Gorman, gave a heartfelt speech. His description of the refugee camps he’s visited and the terrifying journeys Syrians – often lone children – are forced to make to find safety was heart-breaking. And so was his view of how little we in more privileged countries are doing to help.

All in all, it was a remarkable book launch for a remarkable book. And yes, as well as the amazing speakers, the fantastic venue and a supportive crowd, there was also complimentary wine – quite a lot of it too (well, it was Dublin during St Patrick’s week). And perhaps that’s everything you need for a great book launch. Perhaps that’s enough. Maybe… whisper it… just maybe you don’t need cake after all.

Here’s where you can find Jane’s new novel:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dangerous-Crossing-TBC-Jane-Mitchell/dp/1910411582

The child at the window – images, ideas and imagination

pexels-photoThere are some images that stay with us. Those that are dark and frightening may haunt us for a lifetime; others sit quietly in our subconscious and float to the surface now and then. One image I’ve carried with me for years is that of a child at a window, and it became a recurring theme in my writing.

People often ask where ideas for stories come from, and it’s something that puzzled me too, until I actually set aside time to write. I was forever thinking up ideas for what might be an interesting basis for a story while I was chopping vegetables or driving around. I’d have a vision of what a story could look like and then, by the time I’d finished preparing dinner or parked the car, I’d promptly forget the whole thing.

Eventually, after starting a writing course, I began to keep a notebook for these germs of creativity. It was the first piece of advice my writing tutor offered. And I slowly trained myself to retain the ideas until I could write them down. At last I managed to corral my sparks of inspiration into a form I could use. Then I found there was inspiration everywhere – on television and in newspapers, in conversations overheard in cafes or on the train. And, of course, in real day-to-day life.

I used to work as a primary school teacher and people sometimes ask if the central character in ‘Not Thomas’ is based on a child I taught. In fact, he’s not based on any one child – he’s a mixture of many disadvantaged children I’ve known from the schools I taught at. Some of these children were already being monitored by social services, while others were on the verge of being referred.

‘At risk’ children tend to stick in your mind. There was the girl left alone every evening while her mother went out with a new boyfriend; the many children who came to school hungry, having not eaten a proper meal since their last school dinner. And the young boy that kept watch from the window to see when other children were setting out for school. His mother never got up early enough to see him off and he couldn’t tell the time, so that was the only way he had of knowing when to leave. He spent a long time looking out of that window.

There can’t be many teachers who haven’t known at least one child like these. Most schools have quite a few. Sometimes they’re the ones that slip through the net, the ones whose lives are difficult but who somehow struggle on. Often the best a teacher can do is make sure social services know about their concerns, and then keep a careful eye on the child.

Tomos, the boy in my novel, spends hours at the window. He’s watching for his neighbour to stop at the gate and walk him to school. And he waits at the window for his mother to come home too. Even though he has visits from a social worker, he’s still suffering from neglect. His supply teacher – he calls her simply ‘Miss’ – knows he’s not being properly looked after and she’s raised her concerns with the school’s head. She’s done what teachers everywhere do, and she’s keeping a close eye on him. She’s not based on any particular teacher I taught with, although there were plenty like her – genuinely concerned people who were always striving to do their best.

But there’s more than concern driving Miss’s actions. She has a shared history with Tomos, and her own reasons for bringing sandwiches and clean clothes to school for him. And it means she’s prepared to do much more than any right-minded teacher would.

She, of course, is a fictional teacher, caring for a fictional child. Over the years I spent writing about them, Tomos and Miss became very real to me. Even so, they’re still simply the products of my imagination. But that image – the one of the child looking out of the window – that’s reality. It’s an image recreated over and over by the many, many children waiting patiently to go to school, or watching all alone for someone to come home.

Those children are completely real.

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