MY BOOKS by a creative writing adviser including the one that saves her from 3am dark thoughts
The books that made Marcia Humphries, the National Creative Writing Adviser for U3A.
The University of the Third Age is a UK-wide movement formed over 30 years ago which brings together people in their ‘third age’ defined as time after you have finished working full-time or raising your family and have time to pursue your interests or try something new. There are now over 1,000 U3As across the UK, with more than 400,000 members.
Marcia’s role is to “help those setting up new creative writing groups and to encourage and support existing group leaders.”
What’s the first book you remember reading (or being read to you)? Words always fascinated me, some before I knew what they meant. I remember my father reading me a story called Rupert and the Lion Rock, which thrilled me to the core. I still have the book, and in my forties, seriously ill, had it brought to the hospital for the comfort of reading it again.
Can you name a book from your childhood that made a big impact on you? I was delighted to discover the Famous Five, who led me via books like The Lone Pine series to the novels of Daphne du Maurier. I remember deciding that the best books started by putting you in a situation you didn’t immediately understand. I think of that now when explaining to Writing groups how to grab readers’ attention at the start of a short story. What book are you reading right now? I am currently re-reading E M Forster’s A Passage to India, because the last book I read was How to Read Literature Like a Professor, by Thomas C Foster. I’m hoping to use the tools outlined in his book when re-reading this classic. (At present, as with most re-readings I’m just struck by how little I remember!) Burning books is wrong. What contemporary book (written in the last 30 years) would you save from a bonfire? Should a fire be raging, I would save A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. One of his characters is so like my late mother that half way though I decided the author must have known her! With it, I would save The Diary of a Provincial Lady, by E M Delafield. The gentle observational humour of this work has saved me from many a 3am dark thought. Favourite non fiction book? My all time favourite non-fiction book is The Uses of Literacy, by Richard Hoggart. I discovered it at University where I was in a minority as a working class student . It helped me understand how the World works. Favourite short story? The short story that has lived with me & been most re-read is Katherine Mansfield’s achingly poignant Miss Brill. I was pleased to find that Thomas C Foster praises her short stories in his book, even setting out one in full for analysis. What book (if any) have you found yourself re-reading over the years? Apart from the Delafield, I’ve most often read Gerald Durrell’s My Family & Other Animals; beautiful writing and tremendous humour. For years I dreaded the moment on Desert Island Discs when I had to confess something so light would be my book of choice. I’m accepting now that that moment may never come. Finally, what do you prefer: a real book with pages that move, an ebook, an audio device? I initiaIly despised Kindle, but now love mine for the convenience of being able to carry around a whole library. But for any book where you need to turn back quickly to earlier sections, it just doesn’t cut it.……only a proper book will do. Books sit quietly on the shelves or lurk in the Kindle, but each contains a world. I am so grateful that I can read them.
Would you like to take part in MY BOOKS? I would love to hear from you. Drop me a line at bridgetwhelan AT hotmail.co.uk and I will send you a list of questions to ponder over. Please put MY BOOKS in the subject line.