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Transcript of brief interview between Grace Sachs and Lesley Atherton 13/02/2019

G: My first question for you is a very simple one, and you must get sick of answering it. Why would anyone want to write? It doesn’t pay well unless you’re very famous, and it’s a lot of hard work. Why not get a ‘real’ job?

L: Hahaha! Have you transmogrified into the school careers adviser? Well, I’m in my early fifties so have had plenty of ‘real’ jobs that paid the bills. Writing is something I wanted to do from an early age.

G: Yeah, sorry for being facetious. I think I’m envious that you’re out there and doing it, and I haven’t done it yet. Probably never well. Too bone idle.

L: I was like that for years. Every time I saw someone else actually writing I felt one step away from the reality I wanted. I’d assist others in living their dreams, but was too busy working in up to four jobs to follow my own dreams. But I always said I’d do it when I retired. I’m quite a few years from retirement but came into a little money which enabled me to resign from other paid work and use my previous writing and publishing experience to get started on my own. And that’s where Scott Martin Productions was born. Scott Martin was my mum’s maiden name, and I’m deeply grateful to her for teaching me to read before I began school, and also to read music. She was a primary school deputy head, and a very hard worker and great role model, and she was rather good at correcting my written work too. But writing and reading were things that meant a lot to me from an early age. I remember writing a poem mid-way through high school about ‘Blackberry Picking’. My English teacher, Mrs Nash (Emma, I think) was so supportive. My report for that school term praised my use of language and said she thought was going to bloom into being a fine writer. You remember things like that. I still also remember the first line of the poem ‘Blackberry picking, sweet and sticky…; then there was something about the stains on the hand being like an open wound. I wish I still had that poem.

G: But most people who like writing at school or later, don’t actually make a career of it. How did you know that writing and publishing were the way to go for you?

L: I don’t suppose that anyone really knows the difference between dreams that should be fulfilled and those which are best to remain as dreams. Not until they actually achieve them, anyway. So you might as well just try to live those dreams, if you can. Provided the personal risk involved isn’t too great. If it works out, brilliant, and if it doesn’t, well at least you can go to your grave knowing you’ve tried.

G: And on that cheerful note…

L: Yes. Sorry. I don’t mean it in a negative sense. It’s more that we’re here for such a short time so we might as well try to follow our hearts!

Cat with a Hat – written by six year old

The cat with a hat

Was eating a rat
Whilst looking at beautiful flowers.

He jumped out the hat
And captured a bat
To get back his magical powers!

The eyes of the bat
Gave the cat with a hat
Loads more magic for hours.

But that terrible bat
Put cat with his hat
In prison up high in a tower.

So then the blind bat
Told cat with the hat
Be nice to get out of the tower.

And the cat with a hat
Was considering that
‘Cos he desperately needed a shower!

Written by a 6-year-old.

Only Time Will Tell

Her bed is too high – a midi sleeper – and I can barely reach over to her as she lies on the other side.  She faces the wall and I can see the bodily signs of tears.  Big, heaving body shrugs of misery. ‘I really hate having autism, she sobs.  ‘It stops me doing what I want to do.  It makes everything wrong.’

I know what she means.  Right from the start, from the beginning of this fictionalised life, based on the reality of our daily lives, it’s felt as if something, for her, is ‘wrong’.  She’s not ill, she’s not unhappy, she’s not unpopular either – but she’s ‘out there’.  She’s the child who, frequently pallid and withdrawn, has suffered with various childhood problems just that little bit more intensely than her counterparts and managed to cope just that little bit worse. 

It has always been said that her cleverness is her salvation.  She is bright, and well known for being ‘geeky’, but recently her school work has fallen off, her hair has become greasy and string-like, and her skin has erupted on temples and chin.  ‘Poor kid,’ I find myself thinking. ‘Poor kid.  She’s got enough to contend with – why make her go through puberty as well?’

And yes, I know that despite her frequent difficulties and ups and downs, she’s still better off in body and mind than a great many, but that is almost part of the problem.  It’s as if her invisible disability is worse for her than expected because people hear her speak, listen to her articulations of deep and intense ideas and see her looking older and wiser than his years.  And as a result they expect something more of her.  They expect greatness and achievement well in advance of her years.  They certainly don’t expect the duvet-hiding, the tears of emotional pain, and the rest.

I worry for her.  I’m her mother – that’s my job.  But that doesn’t make it less troubled worry.  My little girl needs what I’m not sure I can give – the confidence and skills to take herself outside of the autism diagnosis and the restrictions inherent only within her own neural make-up.  She needs to learn skills – I can help her with that.  She needs to learn from her mistakes, and grow through experience. Only time can give her that.