Monday 16 February 2015

My brillig adventures in English

Guest Blog by Jane Thomas, Director, Milton Contact Ltd

Jane next to Betjeman
Holding a brand new book in your hand is like walking in newly fallen snow or perhaps like discovering buried treasure. You will be the first to open it up and discover the delights inside. Imagine how this must feel if you wrote the words printed on those crisp white pages.

It is said there is a story in all of us; that we are all able to tell the tale of our lives, or that of others, or use our creativity in ways only limited by our imaginations.

This is my story.  As every other little girl, I had thoughts of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Definitely not a ballerina (that was cissy stuff) and definitely not a fairy princess! At age 6, I wanted to be a poet.  Where this urge came from I do not know, but that was what I aspired to.

At primary, I remember having to write stories and do projects. I recall eagerly recounting the Christmas story over and over and writing vast amounts about foreign lands, their flags, main exports and landscapes. The urge to study geography was strong even then!

Any spare moment was spent outside, building bonfires, planting seeds or even with my head under the bonnet of my father’s car as he tinkered with this and that. Reading was for the acquisition of information; I’d spend hours ‘reading’ maps and atlases or scouring encyclopaedias just for the fun of it. I could probably count on one hand the number of novels I had read from beginning to end.

By secondary school I remember spending many an English lesson watching the sport outside the classroom. I could speak English perfectly well. Why would I need to learn it?!  Two lessons stick in my memory, however. One was learning Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’, with its amazing jumble of rhyme and nonsense and the other was reciting ‘The Tiger’ by William Blake – the first verse of which is still with me.

Thankfully, I passed my ‘O’ Level English language, despite an oral exam that asked three of us to discuss marriage in Victorian times. That I can remember the topic means it must have been traumatic. I was fifteen and knew nothing about marriage and even less about the Victorians (I gave up history at 13). Thanks in part to reading a library book the day before the essay paper and regurgitating the content as best as I was able, I added English to my list of exam successes, which later allowed me to pursue my real interest in Geography.

However, just like many an avid reader and book worm, I always had an insatiable love of books. As a child, my own collection of ‘Puffins’ lined the shelves in my room and each was issued with a carefully written library ticket; even if it was never read, it was treasured. Libraries and bookshops are still like heaven to me: Rows of colourful tomes just waiting to be picked up; waiting to take the reader on an adventure.

This love took me to a variety of jobs involving the printed word, from cataloging old regional newspapers in a Welsh library, to running the book department in a well-known stationers’ chain, to checking manuscripts and proofs for a learned scientific society.

I now find myself as a co-director for a small publisher and love helping others realise their dream to publish their own words; to create their own adventure. Whether fiction or non-fiction, the shared journey from initial draft, through editing, design and formatting to the final printed copy is exciting for author and publisher alike. And to see the face of the author when they first hold that brand new book with pride is always a moment to treasure.

Will I ever write my own? Will it be poems as dreamt of by that little girl? Who knows? At least it will be a journey full of discovery and adventure from start to finish.

Milton Contact Ltd has been helping people self-publish since 2006. Chris and Jane offer a wealth of knowledge from a wide variety of disciplines and pride themselves on their friendly and sympathetic approach to every new project.  Jane has been a co-Director at Milton Contact Ltd since 2013. 

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