farewell and adieu
Many years ago, I saw an art show at the Hayward Gallery in London which included an installation piece by the film-maker Peter Greenaway. It's stuck with me ever since. The installation incorporated a large table of angled perspex slots, one for each day that the exhibition was going to run. Every day, a fresh newspaper was inserted along the row, domino-like. I must have visited about midway through the exhibition's course, because the slots were half filled. There had been particularly horrific news in the most recent headlines: the Dunblane Massacre. Of course, when the exhibition opened, Greenaway had no idea what news would unfurl over the coming weeks. There was something very powerful about seeing the further empty slots reaching ahead, the impossibility of foreseeing what was was yet to occur. Things would happen, time would pass, news would be generated - there was a solemn inevitability to it all.
I remember thinking about that art piece when I started this residency and was faced with the prospect of writing this blog. I knew that I wanted to keep it very much in the present. To write about what was happening in my life and to cover the things I was doing. But of course, at that point, I couldn't predict what lay ahead. I guess it's rather how people who keep an annual diary feel when they open it to January 1st at the commence of a new year. All those blank pages that will assuredly be filled. For myself, who had never previously kept a blog or even a journal, it was exciting, but also somewhat terrifiying. I was worried I wouldn't have enough to write about. Frantically, I emailed round to friends and acquaintances, begging them to give me ideas. I owe a huge thanks to everyone who came back with suggestions. A number of these I have covered in the past few months, but once I started, I rapidly found that it wasn't difficult at all to come up with things to blog about. On the contrary, I ended up with more ideas than I could possibly have time to cover.
And now, here I am almost at my residency's conclusion. I will shortly be passing the baton to the next mystery resident. Their identity will be revealed very soon, I promise! It will coincide with the launch of the newly redesigned Booktrust site. Be patient just a little longer.
I have to admit that I'm feeling rather sad that my time as resident is so quickly hurtling to a close. Having said that, it's also immensely satisfying to reflect back now and to have a record of so many of the things I've been thinking about and doing during my residency - I'm some way to understand now why people do blog or write journals. It's been a very different type of writing for me - I am so used to fictionalising everything.
It's been an honour to be the Booktrust writer-in-residence. I've felt proud to own the title; I've long held Booktrust in such high esteem. It's been an incredible privilege to be given this public platform upon which I can make my voice heard. The Booktrust team have been unfailingly wonderful - Nikesh, Meg, Simon, and Claire, you deserve a special mention for the support you've given me. Nikesh especially, any time you might start to forget me, just click here
Booktrust, thank you for having me.
So, as a final celebration of my residency, all that remains for today is to remind you to download the new story I've written for you all. It's called Before Their Very Eyes. It's one I've had quietly simmering for a while but finished only this past weekend. When I started working on it, I specifically wanted to write something with my grandmother Doris in mind. She's ninety-seven, and has always been a strong supporter of my writing, even on the occasions when it's strayed into territory alien to her generation. With this story, I wanted to write something placed in a world and a time that she has known. It is set shortly after the second world war. Whenever I read up on that period and imagine how life would have been during wartime, it still staggers me to remember that this is history my grandparents lived through. This was real for them.
Please enjoy this new story. I'll be hunkering down now to continue on with my new collection - Faber will publish it as soon as I have it ready, so please look out for it. I'm also busy thinking up new ideas for picturebooks. Thank you for accompanying me during my residency. Thank you for following along with the blog. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.
Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep loving books.