Lisa Heathfield explores hard-hitting topics with years 7-10

Award winning YA author Lisa Heathfield visited Sydenham High today to give a presentation to students in years 7-10. Lisa spoke about her unusual writing style – she doesn’t plan or even know what she is going to write, but is led by the characters telling their story through her. Her first drafts are all written very quickly by hand within 4-6 weeks before being typed up and submitted for editing.

Lisa talked about the background to her novels, all about hard-hitting issues, telling students what inspired the novels and about the research she does to ensure they are accurate.

Seed is Pearl’s story about growing up in a cult which started as the desire to create a perfect community, and tells how the greed for power of one man affects the members of that cult.

Paper Butterflies is June’s story about her life with an abusive stepmother. A raw, emotional read.

Flight of a Starling is about the relationship between sisters Rita and Lo in a travelling circus, and the death of one of them from an overdose of paracetamol. Inspired by the tragic death of one of her former secondary school students, Lisa wanted to raise awareness of the dangers of paracetamol, but also impress on teenagers how everyone goes through grief and trauma, but there is always something worth living for just around the corner and that life is the greatest gift you’ve ever been given.

I Am Not a Number was originally inspired by the Holocaust and ill treatment of refugees in the last couple of decades. In the book the desire for change results in a dictatorial political party in power creating an immediate division in communities between people supporting the opposing parties, leading to the internment of half the population because of their beliefs. Lisa questioned whether she would have the courage to stick to her beliefs if she had a gun to her head or her family were being threatened.

Lisa referred to the millions of people killed under the Nazi regime because of the dislikes of one man who gained power, and raised concerns about increasingly racist, homophobic and misogynistic rhetoric from some politicians of today.

Often asked whether teenagers should be reading about such issues, Lisa responds by emphasising the need to talk about these issues openly and honestly so they aren’t secret, hidden away, causing shame, and so teenagers are not afraid to use their voices to ask for help, because someone will listen.

Lisa feels teenagers today are living in a difficult time but also that they now have a greater voice than ever before and urged them to always use the vote women fought to acquire.

After the presentation, selected students participated in creative writing workshops being encouraged to have the confidence to believe in their own personal writing voices and to let their imaginations flow.

For more information on Lisa’s books please click here.

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