Author Julia Gray inspires young writers

On Thursday 4 October years 9-13 were treated to a special assembly by author Julia Gray about her books and experiences as she navigated the route to becoming a published author. Julia wanted to be an author since she was three years old and used to sit at her father’s Amstrad computer thinking of new stories. Her love of creative writing permeated her time at school but her first foray into publicly sharing a story only landed her second place in a creative writing competition and, as a teenager, she saw this an an unmitigated disaster. Her self-consciousness worsened and embarrassment hindered her progression. She didn’t write again until years later, almost giving up again on several occasions. She ended up focusing on topics that were important to her as a teenager and advised the girls to write what they know. She described in detail the process from initial idea to writing a draft to the multitude of re-writes required before a book is finally on the shelves.

It was fascinating to hear about her time at an isolated artists’ retreat in Scotland, when she had just finished The Otherlife and didn’t have a plan for Little Liar. She had a month with the bare necessities and pouring rain allowing her the space to simply focus on her writing. She then showed us the photo she took of her book on the shelf at Daunts in Holland Park, four years after she had started writing. It was interesting to hear about the process of writing and that, though each book was very differently composed, they have similar themes of loss and grief and friendship. Julia spoke of her attraction to unreliable, amoral narrators and asked the audience for suggestions of characters who do things wrong but somehow we are still on their side and why that might be.

There was plenty of opportunity to ask questions and she was certainly impressed by the level of questioning from our students. Her next books will be historical fiction, children’s literature and a ghost story and she highly recommended Margaret Atwood, Diana Wynne Jones, Stephen King, Penelope Lively and Agatha Christie for some inspiring reads. As it was National Poetry Day she was also asked about her favourite poem, which is My Last Duchess by Robert Browning. She had a strong message about the importance of resilience and wished that she had been told as a child that it is ok to make mistakes, as you learn from them and they drive you forward.

Thank you to Mrs Pett, our Librarian, for organising the visit.

Find out more about Julia here.