Showing posts with label Anna Wilson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anna Wilson. Show all posts

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Dog Isn't Just For Christmas . . . by Anna Wilson

I have written quite a few books which include canine characters and thus often find myself asked to do strange things in the name of publicity. I have judged dog competitions, judged short story competitions about dogs, been to visit a veterinary surgery with a reader, taken my own dog to an event to publicise my books and "meet" my readers. However, by far and away the strangest event I was invited to was one sponsored by the Kennel Club called "Bark and Read".


In schools where there are a number of children who have difficulty reading aloud, specially trained dogs from the Pets As Therapy scheme can be sent in at lunchtime to sit and listen to children read. I was asked to attend such a session at Vallis First School in Frome in Somerset, near where I live. I took some of my books and was asked to read some of my stories to the visiting dog, Percy, a Clumber Spaniel. Percy was adorably gentle and quiet and sat and listened attentively as I read about my fictional dogs having adventures, getting into scrapes, and solving mysteries. When I finished, Percy patted an electronic button which announced I had done a "Good Job!" The children, who were extremely shy at meeting me, relaxed when they saw Percy listening to me read and were soon clamouring to have a go themselves. The teacher explained to me afterwards that the children in the group all had learning difficulties or were suffering with tricky home lives, and that this time with Percy once a week was giving them a quiet space in which to practise reading aloud and enjoying stories without worrying if they were making mistakes or reading books that were "too babyish" for them, etc.



Recently my sister mentioned that my nephew was not enjoying reading aloud and was becoming quite anxious when asked to do so at school. His teachers had suggested he practise at home, but he was reluctant to do that too. I told her about the Bark and Read scheme as my sister has two lovely Labradors who I thought might be good listeners. She immediately jumped at the idea of her son reading to the pets. And it has worked! My nephew now asks if he can read aloud to Scooby and Teasel, the Labs (and the cat, Wormy, not to be outdone, has slinked his way in on the act as well).





I would highly recommend this approach to anyone who has a child struggling with reading. I have a feeling that any pet would enjoy a good book. I know our tortoise is not averse to a bit of bedtime storytelling. So if you have a reluctant reader and can get your hands on a willing pet, put the two together and you might just see something magical happen.

If you are interested in the Bark and Read Scheme or Read2Dogs with Pets As Therapy, visit these websites:

Anna Wilson

Monday, 29 September 2014

A Box of Delights - Anna Wilson

The village I live in has no pub, no shop - no focal point at all. Days can go by without me seeing any of my neighbours, which can make working at home rather lonely. I was musing over this with a friend one day and we came up with the romantic idea of turning the village phone box into a mini library in an effort to bring people together. Little did I know that it would take a whole year to get the project off the ground.

BT are keen to get rid of the responsibility of maintaining the old-fashioned red phone boxes, as they are costly to keep smart, and of course so few people use the phones these days, that the cost of keeping the lines open is a waste of money as well. I discovered that it was possible to 'adopt' a kiosk for the princely sum of £1. BT would then come and take the phone out, leaving me free to put up shelves and fill them with books.

Sounds easy, right? Well . . .

First I had to contact BT through their website to ask for a contract. I had to do this before I could send my £1 anywhere. For weeks I tried filling in the appropriate page on the website, only to have it crash every time. I asked other friends to try via their laptops and iPads, and they all had the same problem. I ended up Tweeting 'Trying to contact @BritishTelecom to adopt a kiosk, but website keeps crashing'. Funnily enough, I received a response within the day asking me to DM my request. Public shaming gets you fast results.

It turned out that was only the start of a set of hurdles I had to conquer. To get the contract signed and approved, I was told I had to have the signature of someone on the village committee, as the committee is a registered charity. Fine, I thought, I know a few people I can ask. However, at first no one was willing to do this, as they were worried about Public Liability Insurance in the event of anyone using the box having an accident, and the village fund could not cover the cost of this insurance. I also began to receive negative comments from some neighbours who thought that a phone box full of books would be set on fire or used as a urinal.

I was told to contact the local Parish Council to get permission to use the box as a library before anyone would sign the contract, which, to complicate matters further, is in the next-door village because our village doesn't have a church. By this stage, I felt as if I were lost in the corridors of the Circumlocution Office.

Finally I got the contract through and, with the help of my friendlier neighbours, was able to spend last weekend cleaning the box, putting up shelves and attaching stickers to the windows saying 'Village Library'. An invitation went out to everyone in the village to come along at 6pm on Sunday to have a glass of wine and fill the box with books.

And they did! It was a joyful evening, in which I discovered that our village boasts four other authors, one of whom is a naturalist who is now helping my son with his various wildlife projects. There were many conversations about people's favourite books, what people are reading in their various book clubs and which titles they would recommend. So in the end, a love of books has overcome negativity and red tape, and I have made some new friends in the process. (Sometimes it is worth battling the Parish Councils of this world, however circumlocutory they may be . . .)




(It wasn't until this photo was taken that we realised we were Team Turquoise . . .)


www.annawilson.co.uk
www.acwilsonwriter.wordpress.com

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Wanted: No Change by Tracy Alexander

Penny Dolan’s post Wanted: One Technical Geek made me think of how the departure of my three teenagers over the next few years will affect my writing. I have a technical director in the shape of my husband, so there’ll be no service interruption on that front, but many other problems may arise.

Being current
I use words that label me as a teenager from the 70s and 80s.
Fab. Cool. Get off with. Pictures. Snakebite. Purdey. Bimbo. Sloane.
With no idea what bands, series, gameware and social media are ‘happening’, I lazily slot in One Direction and Gameboy, knowing that my hopelessly yesterday attempts will be crossed out, sometimes with a sarcastic comment, and Que Sera by Justice Crew and Xbox One popped in.

Plotting
Meal times are essential for solving problems with my plot, or lack of. I outline the issue and let the four heads around the table come up with the answer, for which I take credit. How well this works seems to be directly proportional to the number of brains involved. A decline is inevitable.

Writing for older audiences
My first four books were for ages 7-11. Uncannily, I had exactly that age range in my family. My two news books are YA. Uncannily, I have exactly that age range in my family. Does that mean my future will see me attempting an adult novel?

School visits
I take a dustbin of props on my school visits. Most of the props do not belong to me. I will lose my light-up skull, my night-vision goggles, the tardis and everyone’s favourite, Dangles the Monkey. I expect I will be allowed to keep the lime green fairy wings and the Harry Potter glasses.

Excuses
I cannot write full-time, and sometimes hardly at all, because I have all sorts of important jobs to do with the kids, like watching The Great British Bake-Off together, going to Costa for hot chocolate, and making banana muffins. When I do not have anyone to do these things with or for, will I have to spend more time in my study?

Structure
The school day provides a fixed hour to get up, a chunk of time when I have the house to myself, and a reason to cook a meal sometime around six. I am grateful for the routine because left to my own devices I can imagine lolling around in my pyjamas until late in the day and then writing in the dead of night, still wearing boots.

Company
If I’ve spent a good few hours in the study, I am desperate to talk to someone. This usually means I go to the local shops and talk to strangers. With less people to talk to in the house, the shopping trips and liaisons with strangers will increase.  This seems dangerous.

Encouragement
I moan about writing. When I moan, rather than telling me to shut up, my children say encouraging things.

Enough of the negatives.

In order to not end this post dreading what’s to come, I can see that all of the problems have potential upsides.

I may find writing in boots at three in the morning produces wonderful results.

I may, through my idle chats with fellow shoppers, find a friend, or a story . . .

I will, almost certainly, find new excuses like ice-skating, or trying out recipes from The Great British Bake-Off – that would certainly kill a few hours.

I may, take the plunge, and abandon my dustbin, because I have been doing the same thing for five years now and it’s probably time for a change. I can entertain without a tardis!

I won’t write for adults, because I don’t want to. And anyway, as Anna Wilson pointed out in her post Childish Things? "Booksellers now estimate that almost half of young adult books are being read by people who are over the age of 18,” so I’m there already.

There must be other people I know who might enjoy plotting in return for a meal.

And being current, well, there’s a novel set in the twenties that has been hovering . . .


There we are – I feel better now. Off to watch X Factor – with a child, obviously.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Childish Things? by Anna Wilson

I have read a lot of teen fiction this summer because I like to keep up to date, and also so that I can recommend titles to my own teenage children.

Actually, who am I kidding? I read these books because they are so damn good! I would go so far as to say that often so-called “teen fiction” is better written and more original than that on offer for adults.

Of course I am not alone in thinking this. Gillian Tett, writing in the Financial Times earlier this week, discussed the fact that:

“Booksellers now estimate that almost half of young adult books are being read by people who are over the age of 18.”

She pondered on why this was, coming to the conclusion that:

“Teenagers now face a world where boundaries are becoming blurred on many fronts [. . .] the lines between childhood and adulthood, good and evil, friend and foe, male and female are no longer clear-cut. Once teenagers expected to know what “side” they were on (even if this was the anti-adult side); today, the world is no longer black and white. There is category collapse.”

“Category collapse” is exactly right if by that Tett means that we are reading back and forth across the age ranges. However, exactly the opposite has happened when it comes to how books are shelved. The boundaries that have been created to delineate adult novels from those considered to be for teens are surely artificial?

What makes, say, Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden an adult novel but puts E Lockhart’s We Were Liars squarely in the teen category? Morton’s book tells a story from the point of view of characters between the ages of ten and ninety, so it cannot be the age of the protagonists. The subject-matter in Morton’s novel would not be an issue for teens either, and as the mother of a fifteen-year-old girl I would almost prefer her to read Morton’s book for the content than some other teen titles which have much more troublesome subject matter. Equally I delighted in the writing in Lockhart’s novel and gasped aloud at the reveal and have been recommending it to adults and teens alike.

Why was Claire King’s The Night Rainbow published for adults but Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur for children? Both books tell a story about grief, loss and depression from the point of view of a young child and both have content that is perfectly suitable for young teens. There are many other examples I could give, some of which, such as Joanna Nadin’s Eden, have been promoted by publishers as a “cross-over” read, openly acknowledging that age-banding is a conceit, and at times a not very helpful one. And what about Plath’s The Bell Jar and du Maurier’s Rebecca . . .?

Is the answer that, actually, “category collapse” has happened in general, across the media and in our choice of leisure time activities? I am quite happy to sit and watch Friday Night Dinner or The Big Bang Theory with my kids, for example, and they will happily watch The Village or Downton Abbey with me. I will read a book and hand it on to them and they will do the same. We will go as a family to swing between the trees at Go Ape or take surfing lessons together. None of this was the case when I was growing up. Kids’ books were for kids and kids’ activities were for kids. Adults kept their lives quite separate.

Nowadays, though, we seem to actively turn away from the edict: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

I, for one, am happy with this “category collapse” as it gives me licence to stay in touch with my inner child and even (she says, hopefully) to be in with a chance of understanding my own children’s lives. I also feel that the calibre of writing in teen fiction is excellent and this is something that the world has woken up to.

We are giving the “adults” a run for their money, and this can only be a good thing.



Sunday, 29 June 2014

Fifty Shades of Safe - Anna Wilson

In The Guardian last weekend Matt Haig commented on the publishing industry's obsession with jumping on bandwagons. I am not going to repeat everything he said, but one phrase in particular sent a chill of recognition through me and so prompted me to write this post. He said that we are heading towards a situation where 'the once kaleidoscopic book world risks becoming fifty shades of safe'.

Those words could so easily apply to the majority of books bearing my name, I thought. After all, I am the woman who has 'churned out' (as some would see it) fourteen animal books, and my publisher now wants more of the same. Or, failing that, the Next Big Thing, which frankly is rather an Unknown Unknown, so what I am supposed to do about that?

Thing is, I am not sure I want to try and second-guess the market; a fickle thing at the best of times. I am also clear I do not want to write more of the same, just as I am not convinced that readers necessarily want to read more of the same.

I know I am not alone as a writer in feeling that the industry seems to have changed in the blink of an eye. So much has happened so fast in the way that books are sold in to retailers and sold on to the public that it was bound to affect writers and the way that publishers deal with us. However, I suppose I was not prepared for the current approach which seems very much to be along the lines of 'books as product'. I am naive, I guess. The minute that supermarkets were in on the game it was unlikely that books would be perceived to be anything other than 'product'. If you are Mr Tesco and you are looking at what books to stock, you are only interested in how the last title from a particular author performed. In other words, no matter how much blood, sweat and tears went into your new novel, no matter how good it is, how exciting, how fresh, no matter how you have performed over a number of years in the market, if your last title did not shift a respectable number of units, you will not find your name on the shelves next time around. And you will certainly not have room to develop as a writer because the market views books much as it views tins of beans - if they taste good and sell well as they are, why change them?

Except that books are not tins of beans - we all know that.

It probably sounds as though I don't understand the publishers' point of view. I do. Things have changed for them, too, obviously. Faced with the demands of the Mr Tescos of this world, 'building an author' is sadly a luxury most publishers cannot now afford, so I can hardly blame them for wanting to make money out of 'fifty shades of safe'.

However, I wanted to write this post to see how others feel. Are you expected to come up with 'the next you', i.e. more of the same, reliable writing that conveniently places you where marketing and sales people are confident of how to pitch you in their publishing plan? Or are you throwing caution to the wind and using this climate to your advantage, to write what you really want to write, oblivious to the increasingly bland demands of the marketeers, and sending it out with all fingers and toes crossed? Is this the way forward: to write what we really want and hope it gets into the hands of readers? Or is this professional suicide?

I have decided to take the risk: to write a couple of books that have been swilling around in the back of my mind for a while, but which I have not had the confidence to develop. It may all end in a damp squib of disappointment and rejection. But I cannot sit around waiting for the crystal ball of the market place to make up its mind which tin of beans is going to be the next big thing. And I certainly do not want to be stocked on the shelves with 'fifty shades of safe'.

(with apologies to Matt Haig for nicking his excellent phrase)

Anna Wilson
www.annawilson.co.uk
www.acwilsonwriter.wordpress.com

Thursday, 29 May 2014

To Write is an Awfully Big Adventure – Anna Wilson

Last week my son was in a school production of Peter Pan. It was a wonderfully colourful and often humorous production which left many of us adults feeling nostalgic for childhood and its gift of imagination. It also had me immediately reaching for Finding Neverland, a film about J M Barrie’s friendship with the Llewelyn Davies family which was the inspiration for the play of Peter Pan. We watched it as a family last weekend to prolong the magic we had enjoyed while watching the play.



While watching the film, my daughter made a comment to me about writers and how they get their ideas. There is a scene where Sylvia Llewelyn Davies’s mother bends down to talk to Peter and his brothers, a coat hanger in her hand, which she points at the boys, emphasizing her opinion. The link with Captain Hook is clear, as we see the old lady through Barrie’s eyes. She leans into Peter, seeming to brandish the coat hanger aggressively, much as the Pirate Captain uses his hook to threaten Peter Pan.

My daughter whispered to me at this point in the film: “Is that what it’s like when you are writing – you see something like the hook in the sleeve and it makes you think of what to write?”

Of course, it is not always like that: most writing is an uphill climb with pitifully few flashes of inspiration such as the one in the film, and who knows how J M Barrie really pieced all the images together into a finished product? However, I have had a couple of eureka moments, and they have come when I was least expecting them – often when I have not consciously been thinking about a story at all.

The most recent occasion was nearly two years ago (which goes to show just how infrequently they happen!) when I was listening to an old friend talk about a terrible disaster she had suffered. Her house had burnt down. As she told me the incredibly strange circumstances surrounding the fire and the events that followed, I felt a shiver run down my spine. She was giving me the perfect missing link to a story I was struggling with. Everything she said was offering me answers to plot problems. As I drove home I could not believe this had happened. There was no other way of looking at this: it was a gift.

I wrote it all down the moment I returned to my desk – and it worked! Everything fell into place. I immediately felt guilty that I was robbing my friend’s life to fix my story, so I phoned to tell her what had happened and to ask her permission. Luckily she was thrilled and even said it was wonderful to think something good had come out of her misfortune. Of course I changed a few details to make her story fit with mine, just as J M Barrie changed things, turning Peter’s grandmother into a male pirate (so the film leads us to believe).

Writing, to paraphrase Peter (not to mention the name of this blog) is an “awfully big adventure”. A writer never knows where ideas will come from; they can come at us sideways, from an unexpected source. The trick is to keep our eyes and ears open at all times. And always to believe in fairies.

Anna Wilson
www.annawilson.co.uk
www.acwilsonwriter.wordpress.com


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

In Praise of the Pram in the Hall – Anna Wilson

Last Thursday, a fellow Bath author, Clare Furniss, launched her first novel for teens, The Year of the Rat, at Mr B’s. The little shop was heaving with friends, family and well-wishers as Clare talked about how she had come to write the book, before reading a tantalizing extract, which now has me itching to read my copy.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding the novel as it has already received high praise, and was also announced as one of Radio 2’s Book Club choices the very day of the launch.

Almost more remarkable, some might comment, is the fact that Clare wrote this book whilst looking after two pre-school children. Almost as if to illustrate the enormity of this task, her two young sons were at Mr B’s with her, clambering over her while she spoke, evidently keen to share the limelight. Clare did a fantastic job in delivering a speech while encumbered in this way, and it led her to make a passing comment on ‘the pram in the hall’; a phrase which, more often than not, is used negatively as a metaphor for how motherhood can prevent women from reaching their full potential in their careers. However, as Clare said, for her, ‘the pram in the hall’ actively helped her to achieve her dream of writing a novel, as it meant she had to concentrate her efforts into the small amount of free time she had available.

‘I worked while the boys were sleeping, or while my parents took them off me for short periods; I wrote late into the night – I took any and every opportunity I could to sit and write,’ she said.

This resonated strongly with me, for I share Clare’s conviction that if it were not for that pram in the hall, I too would not have found the drive necessary to get on with it and become a writer.

When my son was born and my daughter was just two years old, my husband’s career took us to France. I had been working in London and had to give up my job to go with him. I found myself thinking I should use my enforced career break to finally do something about being the writer I knew, deep down, I had always wanted to be.

It was tough. I was exhausted a lot of the time and had no friends or family to call on. My husband worked long hours and often travelled, leaving me with the kids for days and nights at a time. Although my daughter went to a little garderie des enfants a couple of times a week, I still had a newborn baby to look after. 

I decided that the only way to get anything done was to use the children’s rest times to my advantage. Luckily my son was a good sleeper, so while his sister was out, I would feed him, put him in his car seat and rock it gently with my foot while I sat at my computer. He would eventually drop off to sleep while I tapped away at the keyboard.

Recently Maggie O’Farrell wrote an article in the Guardian on how she combines motherhood with her working day:

‘How to write looking after a very young baby: get a sling . . . Walk to your desk, averting your eyes from the heaps of laundry on the stairs, the drifts of cat hair on the carpets, the flotsam of toys in every doorway . . . Do not check your email, do not click on your favourites . . . do not be tempted to see how your eBay auctions are faring: go to work, go directly to work . . . Write. The clickety-clackety of the keyboard will soothe [the baby] and you. Write without looking back, write without rereading . . . Write until you feel her twisting her head from side to side, until you lift her out and into your arms. You might be in the middle of a sentence, but no matter. Type “HERE” in capitals and then push yourself away from the desk, carrying her out of the room, shutting the door until next time.’

I am sure many mothers will recognize this description of making the most of the free time they can grab for themselves. O’Farrell’s experience mirrors my own: this is pretty much how I wrote my first picture book, my first short stories and it is how I began to see myself as a writer rather than a mother taking a break from work. The added bonus of motherhood was that it actively contributed to my writing life: I was seeing the world through my children’s eyes on a daily basis, and realizing that was how I wanted to write it.

The kids are teens now, so I have a lot more time to myself than I did when they were babies. The demands are different and sometimes writing time is still broken up, particularly in the school holidays when I am asked to drive them here and there and everywhere. And of course I still have to walk past the laundry, the drifts of cat hair, the piles of washing up . . .

It hasn’t always been an easy ride, mixing writing with motherhood, and I am certain I would not want to go back to those sleep-deprived days, those snatched half hours of writing time interspersed with breast-feeding, nappy-changing and Lego-building. Yet there is no doubt that having only tiny amounts of time to write did focus the mind and keep me keen, not to mention giving me valuable material. I agree with Clare Furniss: in the end, it was the pram in the hall that set me on the road to being the writer I had always wanted to be.

So if you want to write, but think, ‘I haven't got the time’, draw strength from the fact that it can be done, how ever little time you have. I have learnt that one concentrated hour (or even thirty minutes) is a golden opportunity, not to be wasted; and all thanks to the pram in the hall.

Anna Wilson

Saturday, 29 March 2014

TIME TO MAN-UP! – Anna Wilson

A couple of things have happened this week which have made me think about how I promote myself as a writer who also happens to be a woman. I would like to share these things to get your opinions, which I know will be many and varied!

On Wednesday 26th March I went to an event organized by the wonderful Bristol Librarians. It was, as much as anything, to say a fond farewell to Margaret Pemberton and to thank her for her inspirational and tireless work in the Library Services over the years.




It was also a fantastic opportunity for authors to network, as it was advertised as ‘Speed-dating with Librarians and School Teachers’ – every bit as scary as it sounds, but not quite as dubious.

We children’s authors were invited to bring along samples of our work and be prepared to talk about our books and what we can offer for events. Every five minutes or so, a bell would be rung and the teachers and librarians would move on to another author. Clearly the idea was for us to sell ourselves convincingly in a succinct and engaging manner in order that the teachers and librarians would remember us, buy our books for their establishments and hire our services for events.

I was on a table with Che Golden, whose Mulberry pony books are hilarious, action-packed tales about (in her own words) ‘evil’ ponies - definitely ‘not your average pony books’. She has also written a series about ‘homicidal’ fairies, the first title of which The Feral Child, has sold in the US and already has a large fan base. Sitting with us was Rachel Carter: her debut novel for 9-12s, Ethan’s Voice, has been extremely well received. Rachel is a Bath Spa graduate from the MA course, Writing for Young People. She is a talented writer with more stories in the pipeline.

So, of course, the three of us sat there telling the teachers and librarians how marvellous we were, blowing our own trumpets and generally setting out to impress . . .

Did we, hell. (I know Che and Rachel will agree, because we discussed it afterwards!) We were bashful and self-deprecating, we had brought no books to sell and we shared each other’s business cards as we had not thought to bring much in the way of promotional material.

Then there was John Dougherty: he had a stack of books to sell and a pile of beautifully put-together, carefully thought-through leaflets which helpfully and concisely laid out what he does, how much he charges, what a school can hope to get from a day with him and how good he is at doing it. He had added selected quotes from happy readers, teachers and librarians who could testify to how good he was and what benefits his visits had brought to their schools. It was brilliant! And it gave a very professional impression. (I have since showed his leaflet to friends and family who have said, ‘Why don’t you do this?’ Why, indeed?)

Che and I also discussed events and festivals with Wendy Meddour (author of the wildly funny Wendy Quill books). Wendy said at one festival she was on after two well-known, hilarious male authors, and that it made her anxious as it was ‘like following two stand-up artists’.

I went home thinking, ‘Why is it that women writers do not put themselves out there as confidently as men?’

The next morning the headline below featured in the Guardian. It provoked some heated debate on Facebook amongst a few female authors I know:

Discover the Booktrust 2014 Best Books awards shortlist!
David Walliams, Jeff Kinney and Jonathan Green [sic] make the shortlist for the Booktrust's Best Book awards – which children's books do you think should win?


Apart from the glaringly obvious mistake that it is in fact John Green’s name on the list, not the mysterious Jonathan, the thing that riled me and more than a few of my friends was the lack of women’s names in the headline. If you scroll down through the shortlist, you will see many prominent women writers included on the list, some of whom (Lucy Cousins, Joanna Nadin, Sarah McIntyre, for example) are well-known, well-loved writers who have already won or been nominated for prestigious awards, and so are hardly also-rans who deserve to be tacked on after the men.

Both the article in the Guardian and the ‘speed-dating’ event made me wonder about how we women promote ourselves. I know that in an ideal world it would be great if there was an entirely level playing field to start with, and it would also be lovely if publishers did not leave the lion’s share of promotion to us authors who really only want to get on and write rather than be cajoled into the role of performing monkeys . . . But with John Dougherty’s leaflet sitting on my desk and Wendy’s words about men’s events being ‘like stand-up’ ringing in my ears, I did wonder what I could do to change things for myself.  

My husband works in the food industry: I asked him if women were as backwards at coming forwards in business as I felt I was in the book world. His reply:

‘Oh yes, the women I work with admit that if they have only 20% knowledge on a certain subject, they will hold back until they feel they know about 80% before they voice an opinion, whereas I would say that men are happy to chip in confidently with their views when they know only 20% of what they are talking about.’

This would certainly back up what teachers have said to me about the differences in male and female behaviour in the classroom, too. Girls will tend to sit quietly and wait until they are sure they know the answer, whereas boys will have a go even if they are not 100% (or even 80%) confident.

So, I have made a decision. If I want people to take my writing seriously, pay me what I charge for events and (maybe one day) put my name in a newspaper headline, I shall have to take a leaf out of the men’s book and talk myself up a bit.

As Caitlin Moran says in her marvellous book, How to Be A Woman:

The boys are not being told they have to be a certain way, they are just getting on with stuff.

Now, where is that excellent leaflet of John Dougherty’s? I feel a copy-cat session coming on . . .

Find me on the web at http://annawilson.co.uk