7 February 2020
Pupils from Bolton Muslim Girls School, Canon Slade School, Sharples School and The Derby High School joined the whole of Year 8 and Year 9 at Bolton School Girls’ Division and the Girls’ Division YA book club for the event.
Lisa talked about her pathway to becoming an author, which began with writing short stories as a small child. She described how boredom can be good for writers as it develops imagination and said that ‘shyness is a superpower that allows you to observe everyone else’. Despite being shy herself, she went on to become an actor and has done panto with Basil Brush and even featured in a John Lewis Christmas ad!
However, after a while she decided she wanted to be in charge of the story and this led her to remember how much she loved writing. She wrote her first book over the course of two years while temping in offices but when it wasn’t picked up by any agents she began to look for other ideas.
While working as an administrator for the Tavistock Centre for Gender Identity, she was inspired to write her first published YA novel, ‘The Art of Being Normal’. As well as dealing with gender identity, the story is about being a teenager and not fitting in: something she said that everyone feels sometimes, no matter what age. Her second novel, ‘All About Mia’, follows a middle child whose behaviour spirals out of control and who has to deal with the consequences of her actions. Her latest book ‘Paper Avalanche’ was inspired by a TV documentary about hoarders. Lisa said that she wondered what it would be like to be a child or teen who has to live amongst all of the things their hoarder parent has accumulated, with no control over their living situation. This eventually became the story of Ro in ‘Paper Avalanche’.
Lisa peppered the descriptions of her books with readings of key moments in the story. She also teased the audience with a reading from her new book ‘First Day Of My Life’, which is about three friends and a stolen baby. It will be published in July.
After Lisa had read from and talked about her books and her path to becoming an author, the floor was opened for questions.
When asked if there was any character she would like to be, she replied that she has put a lot of herself into her characters, but there are also traits of theirs she would love to have, for example Mia’s confidence. She admitted that her favourite character is Leo from ‘The Art of Being Normal’, because despite being quite grumpy on the surface he is sweet and kind underneath. She said that it takes her between two years and six months to write a book, and her favourite so far was ‘First Day Of My Life’ because she wrote it wrong first and when she came back to try again the story ‘poured out’ onto the page. On inspiration, she said that she likes putting herself in other people’s shoes and takes ideas from memories, other writers, books and television, snippets of conversation: ‘story ideas are everywhere.’ She also gave her writing tips, including reading a lot, writing books you would enjoy reading, writing a lot and trying things out.
After the talk, there was the opportunity to buy books from an Ebb & Flo Bookshop pop-up shop and Lisa spent time signing and chatting to pupils.
Pupils commented on the event:
‘What I liked most about seeing Lisa Williamson was listening to her talk about her journey. It’s really told me basically anything is possible and you should never stop trying because she eventually got where she wanted to be.’ – Bolton School Girls’ Division
‘I liked hearing about her inspiration and passion for writing. It also helped me a lot with tips as I want to be an author when I’m older.’ – Bolton School Girls’ Division
‘I really enjoyed the talk about ideas and inspiration. I also enjoyed hearing about her history and places that have inspired her.’ – Canon Slade School
‘She is a very interesting author and seeing her has inspired me to do more and follow my dreams.’ – Bolton Muslim Girls School
‘I loved how optimistic and positive Lisa was and how she spoke about her book almost as if she was narrating her life whilst speaking.’ – The Derby High School
‘I liked hearing extracts from her books. I think she is a great writer, I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books.’ – Canon Slade School
‘I got to listen to her struggled and how she progressed throughout her years. I loved listening to her talk about how much she loved writing when she was young.’ – Sharples School